Unlocking North Vancouver History

A Riveted Community: North Vancouver’s Wartime Shipbuilding

Triple-Expansion Steam Engine

The triple-expansion steam engines that powered World War II merchant ships had a rugged and simple design. Mass-produced in eastern Canada by Dominion Engineering, they were shipped in parts to the West Coast by rail. In this photo, the engine’s top section containing the main cylinder is being dropped into a hull. Engine construction had to be co-ordinated with hull construction to avert delays. As it turned out, no ship was ever delayed waiting for an engine, partly because engines for Canadian and American designs were identical and so could be exchanged if necessary to keep production on schedule. The North Vancouver Museum and Archives has retained one of these engines for display, taken from the HMS Flamborough Head, Canada’s last surviving Victory ship. Built at Burrard Dry Dock from 1944 to1945, she was scuttled in 2001 to become an artificial reef. The stern was also saved for the exterior of the new museum, located in the shipyard’s old machine shop on the North Vancouver waterfront.

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In a dramatic moment, this 35-ton engine block was dropped into position by the big crane, which lowered it slowly into the engine-room hold.

This work took place at Burrard Dry Dock’s Pier 3 in the north yard.

Following the installation of the ship’s propulsion, steering gear, rudder and propeller, the boiler and engine block were put in place and the ship was launched.

Outside engine fitters, who were machinists and journeymen machinists, installed the engines at Burrard Dry Dock.
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