Liberty ship in a novel

I’m rereading a book that I bought back in the 80s, Alistair MacLean’s ‘San Andreas’. As in most novels of the sea a lot of what happens is not really feasible. However, the ship is a Liberty and at a couple of points MacLean has her steaming along with no generators running. Was this possible with a Liberty, in other words was their auxiliary machinery that wasn’t driven off the engine all steam powered? Thanks in advance.

Yes, all the auxiliary equipment relevant to the propulsion plant is operated by steam. The generators are only used for lighting and magnetic mine counter measures. The engine room has sky lights and it doesn’t too dark. I’d hate to be oiling in the dark though.

The only electric motor I can think of in the engine room is the diesel light off pump, but that would have been hand crank operated during the war.


Thank you rustbucket, I sailed as Engineer on a T2 but not a Liberty. I think I would have enjoyed some time on a steam reciprocating engined ship. The nearest I came was forty years firing and driving standard gauge steam locomotives on a UK preserved railway. Made possible by working on ferries running from Dover which gave a near ‘normal’ life style.


Then you must be a masochist. :grinning:


Not too long though!

During WW2 there was a huge demand for steam turbines and gearing for warships that left little capacity for merchant shipping. Locomotive manufacturers stepped in with triple expansion steam engines and we had the T2 tanker where the gearbox was replaced by making the ship turbine electric.
In Australia they built a whole class of minesweepers with steam reciprocating engines built in locomotive factories. The Bathurst Class minesweepers had inward turning screws and a single centre rudder and ship handling was more a case of seeing what the ship wanted to do and helping it with the least possible drama.
The plates between the engines were not the best places to be as emulsified oil filled the air from the open crank cases.
All auxiliaries were steam reciprocating.