NEW ZEALAND'S GIFT. LAYING THE KEEL-PLATE. A VISIT TO FAIRFIELD. [FBOM OT7R OWN COEBESPONDENT.] LONDON, 22nd April. Roaming round the shipbuilding yards of the Clyde to-day, it is impossible- for a colonial not to feel some thriU of emotion in the reflection that here, within a distance of a few miles, are in embryo the first modest navy of a British colony and the most notable contribution, of an oversea State to the. naval power of the 'Empire. As stated a week or two back, the order for the Dreadnought cruiser which New Zealand is to present to the British Navy was given to the Fairfield Shipbuilding and Engineering Company, Ltd., whose yards are at Govan. When I called at the works, in accordance with an appointment, 1 found that the drafting staff had already started on their work in connection with the new leviathan, a task which will keep them fully employed until the vessel is afloat and after. Meanwhile in the yard itself preparations are being made for the laying down of the keel of No 477, as our battleship will be known in tho' yard. Along the seafront, lying high and dry on the blocks, with shores and flcaffolding gradually rising skyward, stand the skeleton forms of four torpedo boat destroyers, flimsy-looking shards, which are to enclose the deadliest of war weapons and the most powerful of engines. In a few months they will come to the fullness of maturity, and drop off ripe from the stocks into the aea. But ere then their bulwarks will be overtopped, their proportions overwhelmed by the rising sides of the great New Zealand battleship hard by. So 'far 'there are no signs of it. THE BLOCKS LAID. And yet there are. There is a long row of heavy blocks, fifteen inches square, lying two deep, in a straight line gently inclining to the water's edge. Battens stand up at the side in perfect alignment, and along the centre of tne blocks is a chaßdine. That is where the keel-plate of th© New Zealand Dreadnought will be laid down during the next week or so. To keep that keel perfectly stationary there must be no danger of subsidence, > for, somehow or other, a - weight of 20,000 tons has to be supported until the hull is ready to take the water. The rigid; firmness of the foundation is secured by the underpinning of the earth with huge piles, and the possibility of movement is so i-emote that the finest drawings would not be appreciably departed from. The Fairfield yards cover an area of 85 acres on the south side of th© river, to which they have a frontage of 2600 ft. .Withm the walls 7500 men of all allied trades are at work. Our order may keep them more busy than usual, but it will not necessarily increase the staff, since pressure is met rather by adjustment and re-arrangement. To 1 pass through the works from end to end is like a tour of some busy industrial centre in a colonial town. Every branch of engineering as we know it in New Zealand, and more than one branch that we have not yet aspired to, is represented here by a iully-equipped shop employing hundreds of hands. THROUGH THE SHOPS. Here is a joiner's shop with three or four hundred men, and, incidentally, amongst the timber in process of working up for fittings for merchant ships, is a large pile of our own kanri, specially imported for panelling. But neither that nor this shop as a whole matters much in the present connection, for woodwork is reduced to an irreducible minimum in the warship- of to-day. Here! again, are the engine works, oiie of the most remarkable features of the yard. Altogether, they 1 cover 1 twenty acres of ground, and the average production of the works, since the beginning of the century has- been 57,000 horse-power per annum. Here is a maufactory of the ruthless turbine, the greatest English invention of the last twenty years. It was not invented here, of course, but the Fairfield Company makes its own turbines, and at the present moment you may see engines lying about for most of the numbers from 465 to 476. They are robber engines in the worst sense. They have robbed the British workman of the making of thousands of pounds worth of the old order. And now they rob him again •xn. their own making. The myriad blades of the turbine engine can be fitted into the rotors by ordinarily intelligent labourers, and hundreds of ■"bulled men who would be employed on \3ie fitting of the old triple-expansion engines have now lost theiT vogue. Within three years seven steamers have been fitted with turbines at. theFairfield works, and the turbine machinery at present in course of construction, aggregates over 100,000 horse-power. In a single- installation recently carried out there were over one million blades, varying from |in to 15|in in length. Placed end to end they would extend fifty miles. Boiler-making is a branch which shows no signs of facing away. The watertube boilers alone constructed at the "Fain-field works during the last ten years are as follows : I.H.P. Belleville 170,500 Small tube 100,000 Babcock and Wilcox ... 64,000 Durr 22,000 Yarrow 18,800 375,300 WHAT WILL THEY BE? It is a constant source of interest, in passing from shop to shop, to ask for the reference number on the pieces of machinery, material, and plates that lie about. This huge pile of timber, seasoning this twelve months, is for 476, some smallish mechant ships which are in hand for Turkey. Halr-a-dozen water-tube boilers standing up together are towards the dozen that will be required for the cockleshell on the slips outside. When she is afloat, and embowel'led and gunned and painted black, with her back bumped and her eyes glaring, she will be the destroyer Nubian, or Zulu, or something of a frontier nature, one of the wickedest, swiftest, and flimsiest shells in the British Navy. No pretence is made at protecting torpedo boat destroyer*. They are made of quarter-inch plates, and if anything bumps into them so much the worse. But it is no part of the business of a destroyer to come within bumping distance. Until they approach launching time, ships on the stocks look strikingly like centipedes lying on their backs with legs waving in the air. One cheerful little bunch of destroyers in various stages looks in the distance just like a clump of bare trees with thick undergrowth. Lonely and apart is a destroyer perched up high above the ground. There is evidently something wrong with her, for the garboard plates are absent, and sky shows through above the keel, and there are many rows of empty rivet holes. Yes, she is the Warrego, the second of the light destroyers for the Australian Navy. The reason the rivet-holes are empty is that the Warego is only bolted together. She is to be taken to pieces again, carefully marked and packed, and shipped off to Australia, where native mechanics will put her together. She means something, too, in her own way 5 a good deal
'more than a mere finished ship despatched under her own steam to a foreign purchaser. We are not far now from the fittingout basin, where the launched hulls receive their machinery and gear. Three torpedo destroyers are snorting and champing at the hawsers waiting for their trials. One of them, blowing off noisily, will go out on the Clyde tomorrow. No stranger is allowed aboard these Admiralty possessions, whose sides and deck-houses and gun-screenfe are still decorated with chalked tracings and figures and instructions in token of what is still to do. Ahead is the rruiser Glasgow, painted navy grey and almost ready for commission. AN EXPENSIVE EXPERIMENT. Abeam are two interesting vessels. Not long ago, to meet the supposed necessities of the new Egyptian tourist traffic, a company ordered from the Fairfield Works, at a cost of about a quarter of a million pounds each, two very elaborate steamers to carry passengers between Marseilles and Alexandra. The venture was a complete failure. The boats, the Cairo and Heliopolis, were expensive to operate, and the passengers did not patronise them They worked for some time at a loss, and were then disposed of at ridiculously low prices. They have now been purchased to run in the Royal Line, a new service across the Atlantic from Canada to Avonmouth, in which the Great Northern Railway is interested. The different requirements of this service necessitate considerable alterations in the vessels. For one thing, the heavier seas of the Atlantic would have played havoc with the flimsy hulls of the vessels, and the shells are now being doubled, new plates being riveted on. The names, too, are changed to Royal George and Royal Edward. So much for the work m hand at Fairfield. The keel plate of the New Zealand Dreadnought may be laid next week or the week after, and twelve months should suffice to see the hull afloat. When a Fairfield hull is afloat it means more than in most yards, for the Govan builders make a practice of launching their vessels with the armour plating on, whereas other yards generally do that work afterwards. Fairfield has generally been first in tho delivery of vessels for which contracts were let in a class.
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Evening Post, Evening Post, Volume LXXIX, Issue 126, 31 May 1910
THE DREADNOUGHT. Evening Post, Volume LXXIX, Issue 126, 31 May 1910
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