SHF – John Oxley

John Oxley Restoration

Update July 2009



The progress made so far is, even to the hardened veteran volunteers, nothing short of surprising. All those that are , or have taken part in the past, can take a great deal of pride in what they have achieved. What seemed almost impossible to a small band of volunteers is now showing results. The success of the restoration is very visible in the progress of the hull plating. It is exciting to see almost all the port side plating in place and riveted. We look forward to similar progress under the counter stern and then onto the starboard side midships.

JO-Driving-keel-rivetsWe must thank our volunteers, our small team of fabricators and our supporters for their enormous contribution so far. You are participating in the restoration of one of a few coastal steamers worldwide, and preserving a skill set that has almost been lost from the modern commercial and industrial landscape. Well done!

Riveters and riveting – Sydney Heritage Fleet is about actively preserving the traditional skill sets of riveted ship building and repair. A current program focuses on increasing the number of volunteers who can undertake this work.

We are actively recruiting volunteers who can rivet and those who wish to learn to rivet. Volunteers to learn the associated skills of rivet cooking, holding up and rivet passing are also sought.

Please call (02) 9298 2888 if you wish to be part of this program.

Hull Plating – At the time of this report, the port side up to the sheer strake is fully plated and almost completely riveted.


JO-Port-side-midshipsBilge keel – The bilge keel port side has also been manufactured and has been riveted into place. The bilge keelson port side has also been riveted.

The struts supporting the hull under the main engine have been removed and the weight of the hull here is transferred back onto the bilge blocks. Similarly, the supporting struts under B-strake on the port side have also been removed.

Air heater – The fabrication team have been working on some future tasks, including the structure of the air heater. This component was started as the materials were on hand, plus there has been some spare capacity within the volunteer workforce.

Main injection water box – The fabricators have also been making a new main injection (sea inlet) water box to replace the original casting that failed to pass survey. This assembly will be inserted into the hull port side aft.

Sea valve – A new sea valve will be installed and the adjoining component pictured below connects in with the original piping to the circulating pump and the bilge injection piping. It has been important to keep the original pipe run as engine room tread plates pass between sea valve and circulating pump.

JO-Circ-pump-standCirculating pump stand – On board, the fabricators have been refitting the various stands for pumps and auxiliary engines. Most of these stands were badly rusted, especially where sea water has been leaking through pump glands. On the port side, the circulating pump stand is shown being fastened down.

With this stand in place, the circulating engine and pump can be returned and the various 9″ copper pipes replaced and joined with temporary bolts. This must be done to provide the correct location of the main injection water box in the hull.

Ballast pump stand – On the starboard side, the stand for the large Dawson and Downie ballast pump has been riveted back in place. Slightly above and outboard is the stand for the Worthington fire and bilge pump. It was generally found that gland leaks from any pump that handled sea water badly affected the steel work beneath the pump and repairs to stand and support structures were necessary.

Condenser aft water box – The workshop fabrication team has also been fabricating a new aft water box for the condenser. The original cast iron water box was badly rusted and had cracked. After much discussion, it was decided to fabricate a new water box in steel. Heavy steel sections, including a new outer and associated flanges were rolled up in steel and are now being welded together.

AJO-Scaffold-counter-stern frame has been made around the old water box and flanges to match the old flange positions were welded in place. The new water box can then be positioned in this jig and the new pipe connections fitted to exactly match the original.

Counter stern – The team is about to start the plating under the counter stern. This part of the vessel is much higher than other parts, and a more elaborate scaffold system is needed. Additional scaffolding has been supplied by sponsors and volunteer rigger and scaffolder Stuart Harvey has been erecting this scaffold.

This scaffold is higher than earlier scaffolding. As well as being erected and signed off by a scaffolder, legislation requires a regime of monthly inspections and sign off.



JO-New-milling-machineWorkshop ashore – Sydney Heritage Fleet has established a shore based workshop in which comprehensive fabrication, engineering and shipwrighting support services take place. Most of the equipment and machinery in this workshop has been donated and over the years, the gradual accumulation of machinery and skilled volunteers allows the Heritage Fleet to undertake practically all of the tasks needed to restore a ship like John Oxley.

The John Oxley engineers recently altered the fitting & machining section of the workshop to accommodate a recent donation of a milling machine, 60 ton hydraulic press and a lathe. These items were offered to the Heritage Fleet at nominal cost and one of the Fleets regular sponsors met this cost plus transport.

The engineers spent a couple of weekends removing some older machine tools and installing these new machine tools.

JO-Circ-pumpCirculating pump – With the fabricators needing to install the main injection sea valve water box, there is the need to install the circulating engine and pump. The circulating pump engine was overhauled in 2008 and the pump itself is being assembled so that both can be installed into the ship.

This pump is a replica made by Sargeants in Brisbane – for some reason the original circulating pump was replaced with the pump pictured.

Stern tube – Engineers have also been measuring and drawing the stern tube and shafting so that a commercial stern tube seal can be fitted. The original seal fitted by Bow McLachlan is thought to be a Vista design. This seal is supposed to keep lubricating oil from leaking into the environment.

It is known that this seal leaked and the NSW Maritime Authority have indicated a commercially supplied replacement seal is required. Funds for this expensive seal are in place and the search is on for a new stern seal.

Propeller – work on the propeller continues. Volunteer Dusty Miller has finished removal of all the concrete fairing form the hub.

The nuts securing the separate blades are being loosened so that blade fastening nuts and nuts can be replaced. This is a precaution as the propeller is such a vital piece of equipment and these fastenings must be in first-rate condition.


This restoration is a community based project. Our workforce is a mix of a couple of paid staff who work with our many volunteers. Project direction and initiative is completely in the volunteer based.

Financial support from sponsors and donations of materials from business and industry is the only way we have of continuing this ambitious project.

We are always seeking additional support. If you wish to become a part of the support team, please make contact through the number below.

Funding – always the lifeblood of projects like the John Oxley restoration. Can you help in fund raising or for further information please contact us on (02) 9298 3888.

Support – are you in business or industry? Are you able to provide steel, tools, fastenings, or products and services useful to engineering projects? Please contact Jon Simpson on (02) 9298 3888 or simply drop in on a weekday or Saturday and introduce yourself.

Volunteer workforce – we need you!

Sheet metal workers
Carpenters and shipwrights
Fitters / machinists / engineers
Fabricators and riveters
Iron workers
Electrical types
Machinery restorers

Also we are always seeking people with practical skills to work with our existing workforce – new volunteers are surprised at how fast they become contributing members of a team And remember, not all of our volunteers arrive with the above skills. Simple enthusiasm is far more important. There will be people there to show you what to do. Just start volunteering and see where it takes you!



The project has a need for the following items…

Horizontal borer – not too large…
3MT drill press
Any blacksmithing tools
Any riveting tools
Air tools, power chisels, needle guns…
Ditto for electrical tools…drills, grinders…
Chain blocks – industrial rated
Any oxy-acetylene equipment
A plasma cutter
Nuts and bolts, especially the larger sizes
Used or new sheet roofing material