Railway Preservation News

Early Stephenson type steam locomotives under the Arctic ice
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Author:  survivingworldsteam [ Thu Jun 03, 2010 8:06 pm ]
Post subject:  Early Stephenson type steam locomotives under the Arctic ice

No, this is not another "locomotive in quarry" tale; it has quite a background to it.

The Franklin Expedition was a doomed British voyage of Arctic exploration led by Captain Sir John Franklin that departed England in 1845. Two ships were used for the expedition; the HMS Erebus and HMS Terror. Both ships became trapped in ice off King William Island in September 1846 and never sailed again; it is assumed the ice crushed them, and they sank.

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Franklin%2 ... expedition

Now, here is the interesting part. Both vessels were originally built as sailing ships. (Bomb vessels, to be more precise; the HMS Terror was involved in the shelling of Fort McHenry, which inspired Francis Scott Key to write "The Star-Spangled Banner".) However, for the Franklin Expedition, both vessels were converted to auxiliary steamers. The engines were only intended to be used when the wind was calm, or to help the ships pass through leads in the ice. Their "Smith" patent propellers could be raised when not in use.

Regarding the steam engines installed ...
‘Researches demonstrate that the two ‘Planet’-type locomotives, dating from the mid-1830s, were actually a Robert Stephenson & Co. built 0-4-0 Samson-type, sold second-hand by the London & Birmingham Railway (one of its ‘ballast’ engines, not listed in the capital stock), and a 2-2-0 Planet-type built by Marshall & Co. and sold secondhand by the London & Greenwich Railway (its No. 4, called Twells, the surname of the railway’s Deputy Chairman). They were each fitted as auxiliary engines, minus their wheels, to drive propellers to provide some manoeuvrability around the ice flows in northern Canada. The search for the two vessels on the sea-bed around King William Island continues, ironically potentially aided by the presence of the locomotives, their iron theoretically responding to magnetometer searches.’ Dr Michael Bailey, Former President of the Newcomen Society, personal communication

You can barely see the smokestack of the locomotive blowing smoke in this picture:

To make matters even more interesting; the ships original system for providing heating and fresh water for each ship was changed out for another system which generated more fresh water for use by the auxiliary steam engines. It is thought that the lead in the piping and joints of the system caused lead poisoning in the expedition's members; and may have contributed to their demise.

There is no telling what shape they are in; but given the cold water of the area, it may be fairly good. Canada has launched several expeditions over the years to try to find the wrecks; it is not know if any sort of salvage attempt would be made if they were found.

References/For further reading:




http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Franklin%2 ... expedition

Author:  survivingworldsteam [ Fri Jun 04, 2010 2:35 pm ]
Post subject:  Re: Early Stephenson type steam locomotives under the Arctic ice

This blog gives a little more detail about the locomotive installations; including which locomotive was installed in which ship, and an assement of what their present condition may be.

http://visionsnorth.blogspot.com/2009/0 ... error.html

It also makes reference to an "Operation Iron Horse," which involved recovering engines from an 1857 shipwreck off the coast of the Hebrides in 1981. I don't believe I have heard of this before; does anyone know anything about it. (There is a link to a book about the operation; but it is not available online.)

Author:  sbhunterca [ Tue Jun 29, 2010 12:47 pm ]
Post subject:  Re: Early Stephenson type steam locomotives under the Arctic ice

According to a CBC report posted today, the search for Franklin's ships "Terror" and "Erebus" is set to resume. Last year's planned search failed to materialize because no suitable ships were available.

Hopefully they'll find remains of these ships, or at least their engines. Depending on condition, we could learn a great deal about early locomotive design.

Steve Hunter
Cardinal, Ontario

http://www.cbc.ca/canada/north/story/20 ... earch.html

Search for Franklin's lost ships to resume
Icebreaker's sonar will scan ocean floor for wrecks

Last Updated: Tuesday, June 29, 2010 | 11:29 AM CST Comments12Recommend41CBC News
Canadian officials will return to the Northwest Passage this summer in search of Sir John Franklin's long-lost ships, after efforts were postponed last year.

Federal searchers say they will take sonar equipment to the waters southwest of King William Island, in the Northwest Passage, in the hopes of finding the ships underwater. (CBC)
Parks Canada began a three-year effort in 2008 to find the famed British explorer's ships, HMS Erebus and HMS Terror, which went missing more than 160 years ago in the High Arctic.

The government-sponsored search was postponed last summer because Parks Canada could not get on a military or Canadian Coast Guard icebreaker.

This time, federal searchers say, they will be on board the coast guard icebreaker Sir Wilfrid Laurier for three weeks in August. The icebreaker will deploy two smaller vessels that will carry sonar equipment on board.

"There's little doubt that Franklin's lost ships are probably the most sought-after shipwrecks in Canada," Ryan Harris, a senior marine archeologist with Parks Canada, told CBC News on Monday.

Ships may be intact
Historians have been fascinated with Franklin's doomed 1845 journey to the Northwest Passage, but previous search expeditions have not found the Erebus and Terror.

Inuit historian Louis Kamookak speaks at a 2008 announcement unveiling the federal government's three-year search effort for the Erebus and Terror. (CBC)
The Parks Canada search team will focus this summer on the waters southwest of King William Island in the Queen Maud Gulf, where Inuit oral history suggests the ships may have sunk intact.

"One of the ships drifted to the west and was crushed in ice," said Inuit historian Louis Kamookak of Gjoa Haven, Nunavut, who has been working with the federal team.

"The other ship managed to go down the channel towards the southwest of King William Island into the safer waters, where there's less current and the ice movement is a lot calmer in the area in the summer," he added.

The federal searches were in the same area for six weeks in 2008, primarily mapping out the ocean floor. Harris said that this year searchers will use the sonar instruments to search for the wrecks.

Ships, crew disappeared
In 1845, Franklin had set out from England aboard the vessels, in hopes of exploring and mapping the Northwest Passage. Neither he nor any of his 128 crewmen ever returned.

By 1848, two ships and an overland party were searching for traces of the ships and crew.

A total of eight expeditions were launched in the 12 years following Franklin's disappearance, funded by a range of financial backers, from the British Navy to the Hudson's Bay Company to Franklin's wife.

Only traces of the expedition have ever been found.

"It's a very exciting story — Victorian, Gothic, a horror story that essentially unfolded across the Arctic expanse," Harris said

Read more: http://www.cbc.ca/canada/north/story/20 ... z0sGFMGgAk

Author:  Randy Gustafson [ Tue Jun 29, 2010 1:13 pm ]
Post subject:  Re: Early Stephenson type steam locomotives under the Arctic ice

PBS did a special on this a while back - Nova?


It's a very chilling story, no pun intended. The fact that they may be a railroad angle to it just makes it more compelling.

I don't recommend viewing this or reading this in the winter. You'll start to shake uncontrollably. You just can't imagine being stuck up there for something like two years, slowly dying of what is now imagined to be lead poisining.

Author:  Alexander D. Mitchell IV [ Tue Jun 29, 2010 8:57 pm ]
Post subject:  Re: Early Stephenson type steam locomotives under the Arctic ice

"Tracing one warm line through a land so wide and savage,
And make a Northwest Passage to the sea....."

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=th-WDf42 ... re=related

Sorry, what were we talking about again?

Author:  Howard P. [ Wed Jun 30, 2010 9:23 am ]
Post subject:  Re: Early Stephenson type steam locomotives under the Arctic ice

Who the heck would set foot on a ship named "Terror", and then go to the Arctic on it??!!!

And why would anyone name a ship "Terror"??

Howard P.
Phobia, NY

Author:  JimBoylan [ Wed Jun 30, 2010 11:08 am ]
Post subject:  Re: Early Stephenson type steam locomotives under the Arctic ice

The Pennsylvania RR had a locomotive named "Tiger". The purpose was probably the same, to put fear into the enemy. The Philadelphia & Reading RR had some English money in it, so it was doubly an enemy.

Author:  survivingworldsteam [ Wed Jun 30, 2010 12:58 pm ]
Post subject:  Re: Early Stephenson type steam locomotives under the Arctic ice

Howard P. wrote:
Who the heck would set foot on a ship named "Terror", and then go to the Arctic on it??!!!

And why would anyone name a ship "Terror"??

Howard P.
Phobia, NY

Because, it was built as a warship, and was a terror to those who recieved it's awesome (for the time) firepower.

The story behind this two ships is truely facinating. Both ships were built as bomb ships; the Terror had one 13 in (330 mm) and one 10 in (250 mm) mortar mounted in that gap you see between the foremast and mainmast. These mortars were angled upward and forward, and were used to bombard shore installations.

The Terror was one of the participants in the shelling of Fort McHenry during the War of 1812. The "rockets red glare" that Francis Scott Key wrote about in the Star-Spangled Banner were in fact the mortar rounds launched by the Terror and other bomb ships at Fort McHenry. (A neat tie-in this weekend's Fourth of July.)

To resist the recoil of their three-ton mortars, bomb ships were built extra stout, with stronger rigging for the foremast. So, after the bomb ships were retired and disarmed; it was realized that their stout construction made them ideal for use in Arctic exploration. In 1836, command of Terror was given to George Back for an expedition to the northern part of Hudson Bay, with a view to entering Repulse Bay, where landing parties were to be sent out to determine whether the Boothia Peninsula was an island or a peninsula. However, Terror failed to reach Repulse Bay and barely survived the winter off Southampton Island, at one point being forced 40 feet (12 m) up the side of a cliff by the ice. In the spring of 1837, an encounter with an iceberg further damaged the ship, which was in a sinking condition by the time Back was able to beach the ship on the coast of Ireland at Lough Swilly.

Both the Terror and Erebus were also used in the Ross Expedition from 1840-1843; which explored Antarctic waters, the Ross Sea in particular. The volcano Mount Terror on Ross Island was named for the ship.

Further modifications were made to both ships for the Franklin expedition. Wikipedia says iron plating was added to the bow of both ships, but I believe it was copper plating; some of these plates were recently found. Each ship was also fitted with the retired steam locomotives driving "Smith" patent propellers to use when navigating channels in the ice, or when becalmed. (The propellers could be raised when not in use.) Having the steam locomotives on board meant the system for generating fresh water had to be replaced with a larger system; and it is believed the lead solder used in the pipe joints contributed to the crew's lead poisoning, along with the canned food.

So you can see, the story of the two ships has many interesting twists and turns. Thanks for the link to the PBS series. The contrast between the attitutes, gear, and outcomes of the two arctic expeditions made for interesting reading.

Author:  elecuyer [ Wed Jun 30, 2010 2:25 pm ]
Post subject:  Re: Early Stephenson type steam locomotives under the Arctic ice

Before he died, the owner of the company that I worked for had built a luxury yacht specifically for Artic exploration. It's name is Turmoil.


Author:  sbhunterca [ Wed Jul 28, 2010 11:08 am ]
Post subject:  Re: Early Stephenson type steam locomotives under the Arctic ice

CBC reports that some success has been made already in the search for Franklin's ships. The HMS Investigator, abandoned in the ice in 1854 while searching for HMS Erebus and HMS Terror, has been found.

While not the main focus of the Parks Canada sponsored search, there was hope that the Investigator could be discovered as well.

Hopefully this is a good omen, and at least one of Franklin's ships, with the converted steam locomotive aboard, will be located.

Steve Hunter
Cardinal, Ontario


Abandoned 1854 ship found in Arctic

Last Updated: Wednesday, July 28, 2010 | 10:54 AM ET

A ship abandoned in the Arctic 155 years ago while searching for Sir John Franklin's expedition has been found.

The HMS Investigator, whose crew found the western entrance to the northwest passage while stranded in the Arctic, was discovered this week by Parks Canada archeologists in Banks Island's Mercy Bay in the Northwest Territories.

They had started the search just days earlier with equipment such as sonar and magnetometers, which can detect metal objects.

The Investigator, captained by Robert McLure, was sent in 1850 to search for Franklin's crew and their two ships, the Erebus and Terror. Franklin's party had disappeared while searching for the Northwest Passage in 1848 following their captain's death partway through the expedition.

Crew members of the Investigator became trapped in the ice at Mercy Bay for more than two years and ultimately abandoned the ship.
They were eventually rescued by a Royal Navy sledge team, and departed on another ship after burying much of the cargo on Banks Island.

Author:  big-bad-2666 [ Thu Jul 29, 2010 12:08 pm ]
Post subject:  Re: Early Stephenson type steam locomotives under the Arctic ice

The full story here.
http://news.yahoo.com/s/ap/20100729/ap_ ... ship_found

Author:  sbhunterca [ Tue Aug 31, 2010 8:19 pm ]
Post subject:  Re: Early Stephenson type steam locomotives under the Arctic ice

Franklin's ships and the locomotives they contained are still missing after this year's expedition. Maybe next year!

Steve Hunter
Cardinal, Ontario


Franklin's ships still missing after new search

Last Updated: Monday, August 30, 2010 | 12:52 PM CST

CBC News

Another search for John Franklin's lost 1845 Arctic expedition has failed to turn up the wrecks of HMS Erebus and HMS Terror.

"We're quite confident that neither of the wrecks lies in the area we have scanned to date," lead researcher Ryan Harris of Parks Canada said during a teleconference Monday.

His expedition returned to Ottawa over the weekend after a search involving the Canadian Coast Guard icebreaker Sir Wilfrid Laurier and two smaller launch vessels in the waters southeast and northeast of O'Reilly Island in Nunavut's Queen Maud Gulf.

The search launched Aug. 18. It used sonar to scan 150 square kilometres of sea floor over six days, but was unable to find any sign of the missing ships.

"I'm always disappointed if we don't find something right away," said Harris, a senior marine archeologist.

But he said researchers were aware that they would have to survey a large area due to conflicting accounts of where the vessels might be located. He added that Parks Canada has committed to a three-year search.

In 1845, Franklin and his party set out from England aboard the vessels in hopes of exploring and mapping the Northwest Passage. Neither he nor any of his 128 crewmen returned.

This was the second year of the effort that started in 2008, as Parks Canada was not able to get on a military or coast guard vessel to do any work in 2009.
Investigator wreck uncovered

Harris said the 2010 survey provided valuable underwater mapping, even if it didn't turn up Franklin's ships.

"The fact that we know more about the surface of Mars than this part of the Arctic, I think is quite telling," he said. "Even if we never locate a shipwreck in the area, we're sounding depths of an uncharted part of our country."

He said Parks Canada is consulting with its project partners to figure out when they will resume the search.

Many searches for the remains of Franklin's expedition have been conducted since it went missing, but only traces have ever been found.

In the mid-1980s, University of Alberta researchers discovered the graves of three of Franklin's men on Beechey Island, where they had died in 1846 as the expedition wintered there.

In 2008, Parks Canada researchers retrieved about a dozen remnants of copper sheets, believed to be from Erebus and Terror, from three islands near O'Reilly Island.

The search for Franklin's ships was one of two undertaken by Parks Canada's 2010 Arctic Surveys.

On July 25, Parks Canada archeologists turned up the wreck of the HMS Investigator, a ship abandoned in 1854 during its search for Franklin's expedition. That ship was found in Banks Island's Mercy Bay in the Northwest Territories.

Read more: http://www.cbc.ca/canada/north/story/20 ... z0yESnYSpa

Author:  sbhunterca [ Thu Jun 30, 2011 1:17 pm ]
Post subject:  Re: Early Stephenson type steam locomotives under the Arctic

Hi, all:

This year's chapter of the search for Franklin's ships, HMS Terror and HMS Erebus, begins in August. Hopefully this year's search will yield results... and with any luck the locomotives converted to propel these ships will be located.

Steve Hunter
Cardinal, Ontario

http://www.cbc.ca/news/canada/north/sto ... ition.html

"Arctic search for Franklin's lost ships continues
CBC News Posted: Jun 30, 2011 11:13 AM CT Last Updated: Jun 30, 2011 11:13 AM

Canadians are heading back to the Northwest Passage this summer to continue searching for the wrecks of Sir John Franklin's lost ships from 1845.

Parks Canada will use an autonomous underwater vehicle to aid with this year's search for HMS Erebus and HMS Terror, Federal Environment Minister Peter Kent said Thursday.

The ships were lost during the British explorer's ill-fated 1845 expedition to chart the Northwest Passage. Neither he nor any of his 128 crewman returned.

The search is scheduled to begin Aug. 21, weather permitting, in an area west of King William Island in Nunavut.

Parks Canada archeologists will also spend this summer exploring the wreck of HMS Investigator, a ship that was abandoned in 1854 during its search for Franklin's expedition.

HMS Investigator and a cache belonging to captain Robert McClure and the graves of three crew members were found in July 2010 in Banks Island's Mercy Bay in the Northwest Territories.

Archeological teams will study the Investigator between July 10-25, diving underwater to capture images of the wreck."

Author:  sbhunterca [ Sat Aug 10, 2013 10:49 am ]
Post subject:  Re: Early Stephenson type steam locomotives under the Arctic

Well, another summer has arrived in the arctic, and the search is on once again for Erebus and Terror.

Here is a CBC report posted yesterday:


Typically, CBC maintains good coverage of these missions, posting updates nearly every day until they wrap up.

Steve Hunter

Author:  survivingworldsteam [ Sat Aug 10, 2013 1:04 pm ]
Post subject:  Re: Early Stephenson type steam locomotives under the Arctic

Thanks for keeping us posted, Steve; looking forward to more news.

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