During the period when Kingston Shipbuilding Co., a division of Collingwood Shipyards, carried on shipbuilding and repair operations, it leased its drydock, pump house and administrative office building from the Department of Public Works. Some of these former shipyard buildings, as well as the remaining former government building, now form the facilities of the Marine Museum of the Great Lakes at Kingston.
Starting at the head of the drydock, the buildings were used in shipyard days as follows:
1. Present Archives and Library
This building, dating back to 1917, was the paint shop, home of the painting gang and storage space for bulk drums of paints for separate tanks for thinners, varnishes, solvents, paint removers, etc. …
2. Present Lobby and Special Exhibit Area
This was the pipe shop. The process consisted of filling pipes with sand, heating them, hammering them, and forcing them to conform to the shape of a template that had been laid out. After bending, connecting flanges would be welded at the ends.
After bending, excess materials were filed off or ground off to ensure perfectly flat flange faces necessary for tightness on final fit-up.
The next step was undertaken by the stress relieving gang. This took place across the drydock in the plate shop where there was an immense furnace chamber heated by oil burning units along each side. Pipes would be exposed to heat of 1,000 degrees F., for a fixed time, after which they were allowed to cool. This was done to relieve all stresses within the steel structure of the pipes and flanges to ensure that under full loads in heavy weather the pipes would not crack or rupture.
Pipe testers would then carefully examine all the welds of the flanges and began to bolt together, with suitable gaskets, the lengths of the pipe work for each run. Pipes were then pressure-tested up to two and a half times the normal working pressure, and held there until the Naval and Classification surveyors and inspectors had seen and accepted the pipes.
If the pipe was to be a steam of exhaust system pipe, it could now go to the ship. If it was to be a salt water pipe, it had to be galvanized, that is, coated with liquid zinc to resist the quick decay caused by corrosive sea water. The shipyard did not maintain a galvanizing shop. The nearest was in Montreal or Hamilton, thus all pipes to have this treatment had to be sent away and recovered as soon as possible. If the pipe was a component of a lubrication system for a steam turbine, a reduction gear box or a diesel engine, it had to be clinically clean inside. This was to ensure that no piece of rust, dirt, or scale might free itself and move along the pipe to block nozzles or oil outlets, which could cause engines or gear boxes to fail. Thus, such pipes needed to be shot blasted, hammered all over once again to remove loose scale, and then treated in acid, and thoroughly rinsed.
The pipe shop also had the equipment to thread pipes. In addition, large volumes of pipe-hangers were made. These pipe supports were placed along the length of the pipe to support it, and to guard against vibration, its worst enemy.
At the end of the pipe shop, near the blacksmith shop was the foreman’s office. During the War years, George Pridham, trained by the Royal Navy in Portsmouth Dockyard, presided over this large, noisy, and busy shop. Between ship and shop, he had forty to fifty pipefitters, helpers, welders, brazers, and labourers under his command.
3. Forge and Blacksmith Shop
This small, dark, and dirty area had but one denizen. Old "Jack" the Blacksmith, without doubt one of the older employees and certainly one of the crabbiest, but a master of his craft. In former years, in other marine engineering works around the lakes, he had forged connecting rods, eccentric rods, crankshafts, and other engine components. At Kingston, however, he was engaged in making steel door hinges, hasps, hook backs, stanchions, sockets, and all the myriad small fittings necessary to a ship’s outfit.
The shop had two blacksmith’s fires, which were circular built-up fire pots. Here, a coke fire could be laid under the hood which was hung over the fire. Between the fires was a series of anvils on which to hammer out or bend the metal. Behind the fire was the steam hammer connected to the boiler plant and ready under Jack’s skilled hand on the throttle lever to hammer very hard or just a gentle blow, all depending on the fierceness of the nod of Jack’s head as a signal.
4. Present building #1
This area originally held the air compressor and air tool room the dynamo room, the boiler house and drydock pump house.
The air compressor room, along with the blacksmith shop, was an addition built early in World War I of a steel siding meant to imitate cut stone. As steel ship construction began in Kingston, the need for compressed air to supply pneumatic riveters, reaming and caulking tools became urgent. Consequently, the company purchased the finest steam-driven air compressor of the day from Chicago Pneumatic Company. This compressor ran quietly from 1912 to sometime in 1955, when steam was no longer available.
Next, past the heavy limestone base of the smokestack, was the dynamo room.
This room was included in the original limestone building which houses the drydock pumping plant, and was completed in 1890. Electricity was in its infancy then, and the designer of the plant was very forward looking indeed to include electric light in the buildings as part of the design. History does not record the number and type of generators, but they would have been of the Direct Current Type, as the Alternating System was yet in the future.
During World War II, the capacity of the steam air compressor was sadly inadequate to meet the demands. For that reason, a new electrically-powered compressor of higher capacity was purchased from Ingersoll-Rand and installed in the centre of the former dynamo room.
Next was the boiler room. It contained the source of power to operate the pumping plant 24 hours a day. Originally, there had been four coal-burning boilers, which were replaced in 1938 with three larger ones. This, however, did not solve the problem of getting the coal from the coal pile on the end of the wharf to the boiler fronts in the boiler room. Coal had to be wheel-borrowed the 60-yard distance for 65 years at a rate of 1,500 tonnes per year, an impressive pile of coal indeed.
The final room, the pumping engine room, is a Victorian ship’s engine room moved ashore. Steam-driven pumps sat in a deep well whose stone floor was about level with the floor of the drydock outside, and drew water from a well below them. All of this machinery was built by John Inglis Co. of Toronto.
The pump room also contained smaller auxillary pumps, and an exhaust food water heater for the boilers. In later years, an insulated tank was installed to store heated cooling water from the air compressors, along with a powerful steam pump which was retrieved from the burned steamer Hamonic, and which was used to pump this hot water through the tanks of drydocked ship sheathed in ice. The heated water performed wonders in removing heavy accumulations of ice in the drydock encountered with every winter drydocking.
The whole pump house plant, from the air tool room to the pump house, was presided over during the wartime years by "Captain" W. Geoghan, the Chief Engineer. He had been working in the pump house since that day in 1890 when the pumps were operated for the first time, and he continued until 1950. He was a fine old gentleman, with a sense of history, who clearly remembered Sir John A. Macdonald unveiling, in his last public appearance, the cornerstone of the new drydock in June 1890.