HC Deb 14 April 1899 vol 69 cc1123-5

On behalf of the honourable Member for West Belfast, I beg to ask the First Lord of the Admiralty whether, since completing her 60-hours trials, H.M.S "Niobe" has had another breakdown; and, if so, what was the nature of the accident; whether he can state what is the total number of breakdowns which have occurred on this ship since delivery by the contractors; and whether, in view of the public interest in the experiments made by the Admiralty with water-tube boilers of various types, he will furnish a complete history of such of Her Majesty's ships as have been fitted with the Belleville or other water-tube boilers, giving an account of their trials, of all accidents or failures occurring in connection with their boilers or machinery, a statement as to their coal consumption, and the reports of the engineers in charge with regard to their performances?


The "Niobe" passed through her contractors' trials satisfactorily and carried out the usual three-hours full speed trial on commissioning with satisfactory results. She was then ordered to carry out a 30-hours' trial at 7,000 h.p. and a. 60-hours' trial at 10,000 h.p. before joining the Channel Squadron. After the 30-hours' trial the port high pressure cylinder cover was found to be leaking, and the springs of the high pressure piston were found to be broken. A difficulty was also experienced in 6start-ing the engines under certain conditions. This latter defect was made the subject of investigation, after winch it was decided to fit larger starting valves and pipes to the engines. This was done, and after trial the results were reported as satisfactory. After starting for the 60-hours' trial at 10,000 h.p. the other high pressure cylinder cover was found to be leaking, and the joint had to be re-made. Later, the port foremost low pressure piston rod was allowed to get hot, and consequently bent so that the trial had to be abandoned. When these defects had been remedied the 60-hours' trial at 10,000 h.p. was carried out with satisfactory results, and the ship was sent to join the Channel Squadron after three leaky tubes in condensers and a few bent boiler tubes were straightened. It will be observed that the defects, although numerous, were of a very ordinary character, and that they were mainly connected with the machinery, not the boilers. With regard to the latter part of the Question, the Admiralty will furnish a statement giving the principal results of the recent official steam trials of H.M. ships, with the indicated horsepower, weight of machinery and boilers, coal consumption, and other particulars, but they cannot undertake to give the complete and elaborate history of ships fitted with water-tube boilers asked for. There are at least 11 different kinds of water-tube- boilers under trial in the Service, each possessing numerous special features, whose value can only be determined by experience. Under these circumstances it would be unfair and misleading to publish a bare account of accidents and failures without a full discussion of their causes, how far those causes were preventable, and of all the compensating advantages. To do this would not only involve more labour than can be spared by Admiralty officers in the performance of the arduous duties pressing upon them, but it would compel them to express decided opinions on many points on which, at this stage, it-is very desirable that they should maintain open minds.


Is it not the fact that the accident on the "Niobe" was due to the priming of the boilers?


I must ask the honourable Member to give me notice. I have given all the information supplied to me.