Quotes Engineers II

January 8th to 14th.

Format: Triple

I went into the dock under her. Her plates were pitted till the men that were paint, paint, paintin’ her laughed at it. But the warst was at the last. She’d a great clumsy iron nineteen-foot Thresher propeller—Aitcheson designed the Kite’s—and just on the tail o’ the shaft, before the boss, was a red weepin’ crack ye could ha’ put a penknife to. Man, it was an awful crack!


This is from “Bread upon the Waters” (1895) collected in The Day’s Work.  McPhee, Chief Engineer of the shipping line of Holdock, Steiner and Chase is sacked, unreasonably, for refusing to force his ship, the Breslau, to commit to  timings across the Atlantic that he insists she cannot keep.

He keeps tabs on the doings of the company, and finds out that they are intending to send a big freighter, the Grotkau, to sea with a great crack in her propeller shaft,  McPhee, now working for a rival shipping line, is now  Chief Engineer of another vessel, The Kite. He  trails the Grotkau in heavy weather, down the Irish Sea, and round Ireland, until she is disabled when her propeller falls off.

Providentially, the crew are rescued by a Mail steamer, which is not allowed to tow, leaving the Kite to pick her up and tow her to safety., after McPhee, at peril of his life, has taken a line across to her. The Kite‘s crew get salvage money, McPhee becomes a rich man, and Holdock’s are ruined.

It seems to them that they stood through days and nights slowly sliding a bar backwards and forwards through a white glow that was part of the ship. They remember an intolerable noise in their burning heads from the walls of the stoke-hole, and they remember being savagely beaten by men whose eyes seemed asleep. When their shift was over they would draw straight lines in the air, anxiously and repeatedly, and would question one another in their sleep, crying, “Is she straight?”


This is from “The Devil and the Deep Sea” in The Day’s Work.

A British crew, illicitly gathering pearls in East Indian waters, have been caught by a local gunboat, which fires on them, disabling their vessel. Later, by heroic efforts, they repair the damaged engines, and get their revenge by wrecking the gunboat.

… as he pointed out, the pressure-gauge was jumping up and down like a bottle-imp. The stoker had long since gone away into the night; for he was a prudent man.

“Doocid queer thing altogether,” said the subaltern, “but look here, if you like, I’ll chuck on the coals and you can drive the old jigamaroo, if she’ll go.”

“Perhaps she will blow up,” said the gunner-guard.

“Shouldn’t at all wonder by the sound of her. Where’s the shovel?” said the subaltern
… She moved quite seven miles an hour, and—for the floods were all over the line—the staggering voyage began.


This is from “The Bold ‘Prentice” in Land and Sea Tales.

Young Ottley, an apprentice locomotive engineer is travelling north by train one dark night in Bengal through rain and flood. The driver overstrains the engine, which blows up one of its cylinders. With the aid of some British soldiers, also on the train, and a guide written by an elderly colleague, he dismantles the engine, gets up steam, and drives the train to safety.