By Ken Stewart
My father, Glenn P. Stewart, instilled in me
an interest in steam engines. He frequently
talked about his early experiences (about
1930) working in a sawmill powered by a
A thought went through my mind: "here I
am a graduate mechanical engineer and I
don't even know how a steam engine
works." So I went to several steam engine
shows in the area and got more interested in
them while learning how they operate.
My wife and son Mike bought me a steam
launch kit with a boiler and engine kit which
I enjoyed building and operating with radio
The completed Woodville Queen with a full head of steam.
Since I am a sailor it was only natural to look
for a marine steam engine. My search ended
with Mel Lugten of Hamilton, Michigan,
who sold me a steam launch and an antique
marine steam engine. It was double acting
with a 3" bore and 3" stroke. It didn't have a
nameplate. About 100 years ago any city or
town that had a good foundry and machine
shop also had someone building steam engines. For fear of being sued for patent infringement they didn't put nameplates on
I joined the International Steamboat Society
and read all the material I could about boilers and engines. Around 1977, I designed and built a vertical fire lube boiler in my
shop. I built a wooden base for the boiler
and engine mounting, everything as it would
be in a boat. This allowed me to test the
boiler and engine, running them under load
(with a prony brake) to determine horsepower, RPM, pressures, temperatures, water
consumption and the amount of wood used.
The major revision I made was adding a water leg to cool the fire box, preventing the
lagging from burning.
Satisfied with the boiler and engine performance, my next step was to find a suitable
hull. I'd spent a couple of years looking,
when in 2002 someone told me about a
steamboat stored in a back yard. The boat
was outdoors but covered, and was filled
with junk. The owner had passed away about
20 years earlier and his widow was happy to
sell it. The boat was a 21' double-ended ship
lifeboat made of ribbed galvanized steel. The
engine was missing and the former owner
had built a wooden canopy with a windshield, sort of like a cabin cruiser. It looked
pretty rough but I liked the lines and the fact
that it was steel. My shop is much better
equipped to weld steel than for working with
wood and fiberglass.
I bought a boat trailer and with the help of
our sons, Jim and Mike, we loaded the boat
and put it in the shop. My sons were embarrassed to be trailering it, but they did it for me.
I worked on the boat only during winter
months because I have a sailboat to care for
and sail throughout summer.
I discarded the collected junk (mostly car
parts) and stripped the hull by removing the
cabin, seats, boiler, prop and shaft. The parts
I salvaged were a 38" Penberthy injector, a
20"X 27" three-blade propeller, a large steam
whistle, a brass six-spoke steering wheel and
a 1" brass stuffing box with outboard bushings.
I carefully measured the hull in order to
make reasonably accurate AutoCAD drawings of it. The only wooden members left were the gunwales, keel (3"X 6"), stem and stern. The stem and stern pieces were covered with galvanized metal and had rotted. I
decided to build a new tubular steel keel
(3"X 10"X 3/16") and stem and stern
(2"X 6" X 3/16"). The deeper keel would eliminate the need for a skeg and allow the addition of ballast for increased stability.
The hull was attached to the wood keel with
two 1/4" X 2" bars and seventy 1 X 4" bolts which I
chiseled off. Under the bars were about a
thousand rusty nails I had to remove by
hand. I fabricated the stem, stern and keel including the prop shaft tube and shaft thrust
bearing support. Then I welded continuously
inside and outside to the keel (hull and keel
flush). All the supports for the boiler, engine,
floor and bulkheads I also welded in place.
The hull had over one-hundred 1/4" bolt holes
which I plugged with rivets.
With the welding complete I sand blasted the
hull and painted it with ZRC, a cold galvanize coating. I built a storage building that
included a 30'X 20' boat shop, a two-ton
overhead crane and a large wood stove. After
I moved the boat into the boat shop and I
spent my spare time in the winters there for
the next four years.
I bolted the existing oak gunwales to the
steel hull and removed all protruding nails,
bolts and screws. Then I rough sanded the
gunwales for gluing with WEST SYSTEM Epoxy, as well as the cabin coaming and the
new oak covering the old gunwales. For
bending the coaming, which has an 18" radius at the corners, I built a steam chamber
and a clamping/bending fixture. I made the
coaming of red oak and glued it to the inside
of the original gunwales, which I covered
with new oak. Next, I painted the hull inside
and out with two coats of industrial white
I built the fore and aft decks with curved 3/4"
pine deck beams, 1/4" fir plywood and
1/4" X 1 1/2" oak strips epoxied to the plywood.
So the deck could receive mooring cleats, I
reinforced it with 2 x 4s. Then I drilled over-
sized screw holes for the cleats and chocks
and filled them with epoxy. Finally, with everything finish-sanded, I applied four coats
of Sikkens™ finish.
For the interior I selected beaded oak veneer.
However, all I could find was 1/4" thick so I
glued 1/4" plywood to each piece. I bolted the
fore and aft bulkheads to a 18" angle iron
(previously welded to the keel and hull) and
epoxied it to a deck beam and the hull. I
trimmed the doors and openings with
1/4"x 1 1/2" oak.
To install the boiler and engine I used bolts
threaded into holes in angle steel welded to
deck and hull. Directly under the boiler engine I placed a stainless steel plate.
I machined a 1 1/4" galvanized pipe for the
brass stuffing box at one end and coupled it
to a 1 1/4" threaded stainless steel tube welded
into the 6"x 2" stern post. This tube I machined to receive the cutlass bearing. I installed the 1" diameter polished stainless steel
prop shaft with the thrust bearing and machined the adapter to receive the propeller.
The rudder is 1/8" stainless steel welded to a 1"
diameter stainless steel shaft. I keyed a 10"
diameter V-belt pulley to the shaft for steering.
The anonymous double
acting marine steam engine with a 3" bore and
From a local boat builder I bought 3/4" teak
and holly veneer plywood for the cabin sole.
I cut the five pieces and fastened them with
machine screws in tapped holes in floor angles.
For the seats, I repurposed plyform restaurant booth seats. I cut these to about 24" long and cut the backs to match the bottom
of the coaming. From the bottom of the
coaming to the edge of the cabin sole, I glued
seat boxes of beaded oak and 1/4" plywood.
Firewood is stored under the seats.
I glued a steering console of the same beaded
oak and 1/4" plywood to the hull, adjacent to
the boiler, then installed the steering wheel with cable steering. An aluminum grooved rope drum and the 10" V-belt pulley allows 1 1/2 wheel-turns for 45 degree rudder travel. Delrin pulleys turn the cable and Delrin guide blocks installed along the underside of the gunwale get the steering cables to the aft cabin and the rudder.
I was a little apprehensive, but since
everything was operable I put the
boat in the water on clear, cool
spring morning. I went over a check
list and determined everything was
in order, then built a fire and went
for a ride. I had three other 200 lb
men on board. Everything went
well and I was very happy.
I removed the cabin sole (floor
boards) to install the electrical wiring. In the stern cuddy I mounted a
12-volt marine battery. All the wiring would be hidden under the floor
and terminated in the console. I installed overhead lights in both cuddy
cabins. The instruments mounted on
the console were a Delco AM-FM
radio/MP3 player, a Raymarine
Tri-Data (speed, depth, log), a West
Marine™ DC fuse panel, a tachometer (bicycle speedometer) and a compass.
Before reinstalling the floorboards I
gave them four coats of Sikkens finish. I glued a two-step ship's ladder
to the starboard side of the hull. To
form a "soundcoat" I covered the remaining exposed portions of the
steel hull with an 8" baseboard strip
of cushioned black floor tread, and
up to the gunwales with gray perforated 1/2"-thick vinyl foam.
I designed the canopy on AutoCAD
using a square 1" aluminum tubing
support frame and a vinyl covering.
Using 38" stainless steel threaded
studs epoxied into the oak, I attached the 14 gold anodized vertical
tubes to the oak coaming. I hid the
wiring for the two cabin overhead
lights, the navigation lights and the
radio antenna in a 1 1/2" brass tube
between the console and the over-head canopy frame.
Muskegon Awning Company sewed
the canopy at their shop. It's navy
blue vinyl with 14 zippered windows. To install it, I had to remove
the smoke stack.
With the stack reinstalled, cabin
lights mounted, and navigation lights
mounted to the exterior of the canopy, the Woodville Queen is now
ready for excursions. But keep in
mind that the boat is only an excuse
for running the steam engine.
EPOXYWORKS Number 27, Fall 2008
Copyright © 2008, Gougeon Brothers, Inc. All rights reserved.
Reproduction in any form, in whole or in part, is expressly forbidden without the consent of the publisher. EPOXYWORKS, Gougeon Brothers, WEST SYSTEM, Episize, Scarffer and Microlight as used throughout this publication, are trademarks of Gougeon Brothers, Inc., Bay City, Michigan, USA.