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Welcome to the Generator Room

The generator room is located in what used to the the main cargo (fish) hold, alongside what is now the transmitter room. Although built as a DC ship, when converted for broadcasting in 1982 the Ross Revenge was fitted with AC generator sets to power the broadcasting equipment. Initially two six cylinder turbo-charged MAN engines, powering 250kva Stamford 3-phase alternators were fitted - these were later supplemented by a third AC genset, a V12 MAN, with twin turbo-chargers, driving a 500Kva Stamford alternator set. Since 1991, a fourth genset has been present in the generator room, a low power, fuel efficient set to power the ships basic "hospitality" services such as heating, lighting, and conveniences. This became necessary once broadcasting ceased as it was no longer economical to run the large fuel thrsty MAN units. Numerous sets have been installed in this "fourth" position, and some have had a short life as they tend to be run to the limit. As from April 2000, a four cylinder Perkins set with 20kVA alternator has been doing the honours. With a million watts of electricty available in this room alone, the Ross Revenge could easily power a village of 250 houses.

Portside 6 Cylinder MAN genset.
Here we see the portside 6 cylinder MAN set. Although this particular unit was in poor shape during the early 90's, its pistons and liners received attention, and after a rebuild it is once again in good condition. The routine during her broadcasting days was for one or other of the two six cylinder MAN's to run 24 hours for 7 days, after which it would be switched off and the other unit put on line. During it's seven day rest, the unit would be given an oil change and have its three filters, oil, fuel and air replaced. It would also receive a general service, such as valve tappet adjustment, and a check on it condition. Running 24/7 for a week is approximately equal to 9,000 miles running for a engine in road service. With one or other MAN running continuously for nine years, each engine has run for approx 40,000 hours or covered the equivalent of approximately two million miles. Having two identical functioning main generators put the Ross Revenge a league above many other radio ships, and meant that downtime due to generator failure or maintenance could be minimised. Generator problems plagued the Mi Amigo throughout the cash-strapped 1970's, so when the Ross Revenge was converted, reliable power was high on the list of priorities. If a genset should fail during use, the reserve set, if not in a position to fire up immediately, would be no more than an hour or so away. Long term problems with one genset could easily be covered by running the second set for extended periods until repairs have been concluded.
The 6 cylinder sets have a fuel consumption of approximately 25 litres (5 gallons) and hour.

The "new" MAN,
Twelve cylinders, twin turbo-chargers,
seven hundred horse power, half a million watts.
In 1987 prior to the collpase of the antenna mast, plans were afoot to install a second fifty kilowatt transmitter and to provide amplke power for both transmitters and all the ships systems a massive twelve cylinder V12 MAN set producing 500Kva of power was obtained and installed. To build and install such a set in the cramped space of the hold, having transported it to the middle of the ocean and craned it onboard and down through the small access hatch is a feat of engineering. Even more so when you consider that one or other of the existing gensets just a few inches away had to run 24 x 7 whilst install work progressed. However, no sooner had this set been installed than the mast collapsed and with it went the dream of running two 50kw TX's as Caroline entered a four year terminal battle for survival. This third generator has only run a few hundred hours in total since it was installed.
This V12 has a fuel consumption of approximately 50 litres (10 gallons) per hour.

All three of the MAN sets are salt water cooled through a heat-exchanger system. Freshwater from local header tanks, separate for each genset, is pumped round the engine similar to a normal car. However, instead of an air cooled radiator, the hot water is passed through a heat-exchanger, cooled by sea-water taken from the intake sea-chests within the engine room and discharged overboard. The heat exchanger is the cylindrical drum, with the blue and green pipes in the very bottom right corner of the picture of the portside set. Even with this external cooling, the heat radiated by these sets meant that this room, alongside the adjacent transmitter room were the warmest rooms onboard the ship during her broadcast days. This is where the crew would normally hang their washing out to dry!

In the original arrangement, changeover between the two MAN generator sets was performed by a simple but heavy duty (800 amps), four pole (three-phase and neutral) three position changeover switch, with an on-off-on action. With this arrangement either generator could be put online and it was not possible to accidentally put both online together. Today this switch is used to changeover between the two smaller generators: the 20Kva Perkins set, and a deck mounted genset also made by Perkins. With a capacity of only 50 amps, even the bigger of these two generators hardly moves the 800 amp panel meters fitted to this switch unit.

The new Switchboard installed
with the 500Kva set.
Along with the 500Kva V12 a new main switchboard was fitted, and this included a "synchroniser" system. The synchroniser allows both of the original 250kva sets to be run in "parallel" thus enabling them to also provide 500Kva of combined power. Due to the complexities of generating AC it is not possible to simply connect the two sets together, but instead they must be exactly matched, in terms of both rotational speed and "phase" (ie angular) position of the crankshaft before they can be electrically combined into a common load, hence the term "synchronised". Once combined in this manner both sets will normally hold each other in this synchronised position unless a major fault such as fuel starvation occurs. It is the function of the synchroniser system to accurately monitor both systems and if one starts to lag or underperform in any way, the synchroniser must disconnect the combining network immediately. In real life land based systems, generator synchronisation can be a black art, to try and accomplish this on a radio ship with the numerous varibles possible was quite an undertaking. As far as I know no other offshore radio ship has ever attempted synchronised generators, not even the VOA. (Whilst in Holland during the 1990's as a floating transmitter base, the MV Communicator was successfully fitted with synchronised generators. This fully automated system allowed the standby genset to power up, synchronise, then drop the online set, so performing a "hitless" changeover from main to standby)

Close up of metering functions.
The ampmeters are rated to 600 amps per set.
On the switchboard, the two original gensets come up on the left hand panel, through the array of meters showing the condition of each set. The controls to select single or synchronised operation are mounted below the meters. The right hand panel contains the metering for the single V12 set. The large levers along the lower edge are the manual busbar isolators for each set. Although the MAN sets are rarely run these days, the panel is still operational as the smaller generators feed directly onto the busbars and onward distribution to the ships electrical systems.

The 2 cylinder Lister in Dover.
When her broadcasting career ground to a halt in 1990 one of the first tasks for the newly formed "Ross Revenge Support Group" was to obtain a reliable and fuel efficient diesel generator capable of powering the ships basic services whilst saving the expense of running the MAN units. Although a number of small petrol powered units had been pressed into service these were woefully inadequate, and almost dangerous to use in such an environment. The only means of distributing power from these units was by means of lashed up wiring and multiple extension leads, and with only a kilowatt or thereabouts of power available, there was just enough to run some lighting, the ship to shore radio, and a few essentials. The first small diesel set was a two cylinder Lister affectionately known as the "putt-putt" due to it's solitary two cylinder exhaust note. Incredibly, this set was obtained second hand from a refurbished south London police station where it had provided standby power. History does not recall whether its previous owners were aware of its intended new destination! With a three phase output of about 8kw coupled into the distribution busbars and fueled from the same header tank as the MAN's, this little set was to keep the ship running for several years and through her Goodwin Sands ordeal and into Dover.

The new Perkins
Alternator-less and awaiting install
Easter 2000 in and running.
Following the demise of the original two cylinder Lister numerous other sets have been installed to provide economical power to the ship. Many of these were past their best when obtained, and through wear and tear and the rigours they were subjected to, some had a very short life. A particular favourite were "combine harvester" generators, used to provide mains power on the harvester but often available very cheaply second hand. However, in early 2000, following the successful summer on Southend pier, a new 4 cylinder Perkins set, with brand new 20kVA alternator was obtained and installed. This first powered the ship over the Easter 2000 weekend and since then has become the primary power source and proved to be exceedingly reliable. Its 20kVA output is adequate to provide all the ships lighting and domestic services, and can even power a number of electric heaters during the winter months if required. At a push, and with some load-shedding it can even power some of the engine room auxiliary machinary such as a single air compressor or the bulk fuel transfer pump. All of these later generation smaller generators have been forced air-cooled via a conventional radiator system which simplifies their installation and maintenance.

The portside MAN as pictured at the top of this page, apart from a couple of minor items, is in good working order and could be put online with minimal effort. The starboard side set, however, is not so happy. Although the engine is in reasonable condition the main genartor failed in a shower of sparks back in late 1999. Investigation showed that one of the main bearings had collapsed, depositing metal fragments into the copper windings and causing a short circuit. Various parts have subsequently been cannibalised in order to keep the portside unit in shape. Ironically, it was this generator set which powered the pierhead of Southend Pier for several days back in the summer of 1999 during the Ross's stay there, when the main 11KV feed to the end of the pier was accidentally severed during pier maintenance work. This accolade earned a front page article in the local newspaper - probably the first time a Radio Caroline generator made frontpage headlines! Both the portside set and the V12 are turned over and run up from time to time to prevent them deteriorating.