The Comet Replica.

Provost Lucas suggested a week long celebration to mark the to mark the 150th anniversary of the launching of "Bell's Comet". This was to include a procession and he thought that it would be good if a model Comet could lead the celebrations. Up untill this point celebrations were only held every 25 years and organised by the town council.
Discussions followed and a decision was made not to build a model but to build a full size replica, in addition they would sale her on the river and follow her original route.

The ship was built by enthusiastic experts great difficulties of research, design and engineering had been overcome and it is their wish that the new "Comet" should act as a symbol of the traditional qualities of British shipbuilding skills.
What more fitting than that the "Comet" was to be used as a focal point in the collection of money with which to provide the cream of Britain's shipbuilding and engineering apprentices and students with the opportunity of travelling and learning abroad.
The Comet Trust hoped to provide as many of these travelling scholarships as possible to selected apprentices.
Their target was £50,000 enough to provide for some thing like six scholarships and give enough over to erect a home for the "Comet" in Port Glasgow

The original drawings and plans "did not add up" . For every problem faced the great skill of the men involved and the experience of their own judgment a decision was reached, a compromise agreed on. Mr James Ferrier was to be the co-ordinator for the project which truly was a community effort with each of the yards on the lower Clyde playing their part.

A gentleman by the name of Mr A A Mumford who was Kincaids chief draughtsman at the time even travelled to the South Kensington Science Museum on more than one occasion in order to photograph, measure ever aspect of the engine.

Two items from Henry Bell's Comet" of 1812 have largely made possible an authentic reproduction of the vessel. These are the original lines plan of the hull and the original engine which is on display in the South Kensington museum.

The greatest single difficulty was in determining the correct engine position. This problem was resolved by using a sketch of 1848 appearing in Napier's autobiography, which is assumed correct, since he himself was involved in the "Comet" project.
This sketch shows the engine to starboard. Other references show it to port.

Mr A Barber/Kincaids

Mr Alfred Barber mills the crankshaft at Kincaids. The original was hammered out by a blacksmith.

The engine had been 'pirated' at some point after the Comet herself was wrecked and changes had been made. It was rusted solid and assumptions had to made about what it was like on the inside by examining the outside.

Any part of the engine that could actually be seen was copied with meticulous detail. When you consider that the hexagonal nut was not invented until 1860 they then had to make square nuts and a bolt for each.

The skill shown by each and every man and boy involved is admirable.

The hull, by George Thomson of Buckie, is of carvel construction, planked 11/2 in. larch on 3 in. oak frames. Framing is at 11 1/2 in centres.
Keel, hog, stern and sternpost are of oak as are all deck beams. Iron fastenings are used throughout.
Excluding the peaks, the ship is divided into three compartments. Forward there is a small second class passenger cabin approximately 7 feet long. The after cabin is entered through double doors in a sunken well. It is about 9 feet long with standing headroom available throughout its length, under the deckhouse roof.
The machinery space is open and occupies the full width of the ship. It is protected from the seas by a low bulwark

The boiler being hoisted into the replica at Lithgows yard August 1962

Such problems, however, were eventually overcome while attention was continually paid to the task of redesigning the missing parts, just as they had been made in 1812.
When designing the slide valve it was decided to make the mean cut off at 83 per cent. of piston stroke and it has been found that the engine runs very quietly and steadily with this valve setting.
The various crossheads, side rods, etc. have all been copied as closely as possible and, indeed, the main difficulty was to restrain the workmen from making a better job than the original.
The gear wheels on the paddle shafts are mounted on squares on the shafts, the square hole in the wheel hubs being 1A in. clear all round. The wheels are centred by the eight keys in the hub, the method adopted to hold the gear wheel to the crankshaft on the original engine.
Engine drawings were made from the original at the Kensington Science Museum. At the same time the work of designing a boiler was under way. As the only information about the original boiler was contained in a promissory note given by Henry Bell to Napier (who built the boiler) the task was far from easy. Finally, it was decided after some investigation that the original boiler was of the wagon type with the fire below the boiler. A design along these lines was drawn up.
To obtain sufficient draught at the boiler for combustion of the coal, a 25 ft. high funnel of 12 in. diameter was found necessary. The funnel also acts as a mast, on which, when the wind serves a yard and square sail can be hoisted. A jib sail can be carried on the fore stay.
The engine of the new "Comet" gives approximately 10 brake horse power. Fuel consumption is about 11 lbs. of coal per horse power per hour.

The engine is a single cylinder, double acting, side lever, jet condensing type with a cylinder of 12 1/2 in bore and a piston stroke of 16 in. The throw of the crank is 7 1/2 in. and there is only a single overhung crank. The original engine worked with steam at 7 lbs. per square inch gauge pressure, and the present engine has been designed to give similar performance.
The power from the engine crankshaft is transmitted to the two paddle shafts by means of gearing. The primary wheel on the crankshaft has 51 teeth and the secondary wheels on the paddle shafts each have 86 teeth. Thus, by gear ratio, the paddle shafts and paddles revolve at 41.5 r.p.m. when
the crankshaft is revolving at 70 r.p.m.
Various problems were encountered, such as the inside of the air pump, the design of the jet condenser, the circulating pump and boiler feed pump. All that was available on which to base the design of the circulating and feed pumps was a thumb nail picture.

The return trip was somewhat wet and nearly 15,000 people turned out at Coronation Park to see her arrive back in Port Glasgow.

Replica Sets Sail

On 1st September 1962 at 12.30  the new Comet replica took the water, correct in every detail. She took a party of local people, all dressed in period costume, across to Helensburgh where the provost laid a wreath on Henry Bell's memorial and called in at the hotel which was once Bell's bathing establishment.
Among the "Comet" passengers was Mr. William Bell, great grand nephew of Henry Bell with Provost Lucas, Mr John S MAcclay MP, Sir Gordon MacMilan and Sir WilliamLithgow.

Lithgows had a plaque made to commemorate the launch of the replica from their East Yard, close to where the original had been built.
This plaque was on the outside of their office building but relocated  when the building was knocked down.
It was then placed on a wall across from the replica on the A8 through Port Glasgow(1973) but this area was under redevelopment and the wall was removed as part of this when the Tesco store and further improvements were being made.(2006). Although part of the stone now stands near the replica the relocation plaque has not made a reappearance.

old photograph of the plaque in its original setting.
Comet commerative plaque

The replica was situated on display in Port Glasgow town centre within a pond which at one time had a working water pump. Sadly she fell into dis-repair given our climate and the fact people had acess to her. The pond was drained and a fence erected around her. It was removed for repairs and spent a short time on display elsewhere before being returned to the town.

Redevelopment seen her on the move again and each time the people of Port Glasgow turn out on mass to see the spectical. She was finaly given a new spot after road realignment and the completion of the new retail development.

In 2007 the replica was repositioned and now enjoys a more central and permanent spot in the town centre and a new memorial with details of both the boat and Mr John Wood has been erected  giving visitors and locals information about her .
It did not last long.The replica was again removed in 2010 and taken to Fergusons yard for repairs as she was in a very poor state.

This time we can follow the work being done at the Comet Rebuilt blog and also their Youtube page.
While work continues the local school children have completed some art work to brighten up the space - the plaque reads:
This work is inspired by pupils from Port Glasgow Primary Schools: Newark, St Francis, Lilybank, St Michael's, St John's along with Port Glasgow Heritage Group and Branching Out.
Artist Janie Nicoll worked with each group and collated all their work, creating panels to celebrate both the Comet and the town of Port Glasgow.

This page last modified on Friday, July 02, 2010

© Carol W 2000-2014 all rights reserved, all trademarks hereby acknowledged.
The photographs in this site have not to be shared or otherwise used without permission!
Please do not submitt them to any other site for display