Wednesday, March 31, 2010

USS Triton

When the US Navy started building Atomic powered submarines, the first one, the Nautilus, had Westinghouse machinery in the engine room, and was built at the Electric Boat Works in Groton, Conn.

The second sub was the USS Seawolf, also built at Electric Boat, had GE machinery in the engine room. I was sent to Groton, Conn. to help install the turbo-generators.

I had worked on many ships but this was my first time working on a submarine. To work on a submarine you cannot suffer from claustrophobia. On this sub the turbo-generators were installed with the center line of the turbine and gear box below the level of the of the upper level floor gratings, that meant to get at the bolts of the gear casing one had to lift up a hinged section of the floor grating, climb down into four foot crawl space and work on your knees. To get to the other side you had to climb up out of that space and go around to the other side to lift up another grating and get down on your knees on that side. It was not fun.

The next sub with GE machinery was the Triton. This was the largest sub built up to that time.
It had two separate power plants, with a forward reactor room and engine room, and an after reactor and engine room. And two line shafts and propellers. As far as I know the only twin screw atomic sub. On this one the turbo-generators were up where you could work on them.

After the machinery was installed I was transferred from the Boston Office to Gear Engineering in Lynn, Mass. When it came time for the Triton sea trials, Adm. Rickover wanted the chairman of GE to ride the sub. He declined, and the duty was passed down through each level of management until it reached the low man on the totem pole, me. So I rode it for my first time at sea on a submarine. Of course it was the first time the sub had been to sea, and under the sea.
We ran the surface trials, and then submerged. The first order of business is to look for leaks. and then fix them. After these were fixed we submerged to test depth, which is below operating depth. And again looked for leaks. Again fixing those found.

So the under water sea trial began, this was a duplicate of the surface trials, four hours ahead at full power. But Adm Rickover wanted more then full power, so the reactors were over loaded, and rags stuffed in the reactor alarms to cut down the noise level, and the main propulsion turbines run up to overload condition. So this was the way the four full power ahead was run. At the end of the full power run, the test agenda called for a crash stop and a thirty minute full astern power run. The crash stop was accomplished, and the half hour full power astern run was started. As we picked up astern speed we started to dive down, then up, then down again, up again, then down again, and we just kept going down at about a thirty degree down angle. Adm Rickover told the throttle man "FULL SPEED AHEAD!" To which he eagerly responded "Aye, Aye, Sir" and they spun the astern valves closed, and the ahead valves open, and we started to go forward up out of what we found out later was past test depth in the bow. Adm. Rickover immediately headed for the bridge to have a heated lecture for the Captain.

So this was my first time under water on a sub.

Tuesday, October 13, 2009

More Rodvogen

Harry Rodvogen was a very interesting person. He wanted to practice driving so he could buy a car, so we went out in my car with him driving until he was ready to try for his license. I was working the afternoon shift and did not go to work until 4pm, so it worked out fine.

He baught a Chevy, four door, and the first thing he did was to start decorating it. He got some brass bells of Sarna, and hung three from a knob on the dashboard. He said they were his "Bumpmeter." It was a one bell bump, or a two bell bump, and a three bell bump was a severe one.

He also built a diaorama on the top of the dashboard, and one on the flat space behind the rear seat. He colored in the pattern on the seats with markers. Under the hood he painted a nude woman, so the gas station attendents "would always check the oil." It was a work in progress as long as I knew him.

Some of his abstract paintings, I discovered, were his psychoanalitical catharsis.
I would look at one of his paintings every day, and would comment on it. That what he had painted refered to something that had just happened in his life. The next day that area would be worked on, hiding the event more in the abstraction. I realized I had to stop interpreting the painting so he could get on with it.

The same process is the basis of psychoanalysis. The rich have their Physcoanalists, the Catholics their confessional, the poor their bartender. It is all the same thing, you tell your troubles to some one else to get them off your chest, but the one you tell them to must not repeat them to anybody else. And so it was with Harry's abstract paintings. It was his confession, but it was hidden, just between him and the painting. It was there for everybody to see, but it was hidden.

One of Harry's enjoyments was to sit it the lobby of the Light House Inn smoking a Turkish ciggarette. These stunk terribly. And to laugh to himself when the desk clerk would put the dog outside.

Monday, October 12, 2009

The Light House Inn

When working at the Electric Boat Company in Groton Conn, I stayed where the other GE Men were staying at the Light House Inn, in New London, Conn. This is across the Thames river from Groton. Since I got there after the others had been working there, and I was only helping them, I was given a small room on the third floor. Which was actually the attic. However, my room was next to Harry Rodvogin's studio. His room was actually attic, unfinished. But it was his living quarters, and artist's studio.

Harry Rodvogen was an artist that had lived in New York City, and was living in Hartford, Conn. when the owners of the Light House Inn, the Ronnick brothers, who knew him, invited him to come live at the Inn and take care of the paintings on display, and for sale there. The paintings were by area artists and were hung in the bar, dining room, and rooms on the second floor.

Harry was in his mid 50's. He was an excellent portrait artist. But he also painted abstract art, which was realistic, but a juxtoposition of realism and fantsy. For example he painted a self portrait of his reflection in a shattered mirror. He also painted beautiful paintings of nude women, but usually as part of an abstract painting. For example in a painting he had a beautiful woman's face, but her cheek was opened up to show a seascape with a sailboat.

One time when I came back there, he showed me his latest painting, it was a copy of the "Mona Lisa." As I was admiring it, I said "Harry, it is beautiful, but something isn't right." He pointed out that her breasts were nude. It never had dawned on me. He always painted nudes.

A year when I was in Paris, at the Louve, and standing in front of the "Mona Lisa" I was the only one laughing to myself. And I bought a post card of it and sent it to Harry, Saying "Harry. They have your painting over here in an old building called "The Louve," but somebody has painted clothes on her."

Wednesday, October 7, 2009

The way it happened

I gave her a ring,

She gave me a kiss.

And that turned her,

From Miss to Mrs.


It's spring, and all the birds are singing.

Ouch, where that that Bee bit me is stinging.


From conversation when first married,

"Darling, would you like some more wine?"

"Yes, thank you, sweetheart."

To toneversation after 20 years.



Wednesday, September 16, 2009


Submarines, naval u-boats, not sandwiches.

In the early 1950's Admiral Rickover convinced the the US Navy to put nuclear propulsion power aboard submarines. He had been for a while at the Oak Ridge Atomic works during the war and saw the possibilities of submarines that were not dependent upon air for propulsion. The diesel electric propulsion required the subs to run on the surface to travel any distance. Submerged and running on battery power they only ran at slow speeds, as the batteries would be exhausted in only two hours running at full power.

So the plans were drawn up and construction started on the USS Nautilus, and the USS Seawolf. This is the Seawolf built in the mid 1950's, there were other subs named the the Seawolf, before this one, and after this one.

Westinghouse supplied the reactors and engine room machinery for the Nautilus, and General Electric supplied the propulsion equipment for the Seawolf.

These submarines were built at the Electric Boat Company in Groton Connecticut, which is just across the river from New London, CT. I was working in the Boston Office of GE, and was sent down to Groton the help with the installation of the GE turbines and gears, and the turbo-generators.

Now, I know not many of you have been aboard a submarine, so a little explanation will be helpful. There are certain requirements to work on a submarine. Number one is PATIENCE. This is a must. Other requirements are not to be claustrophobic, not to be fat, to carry a flashlight, it is awfully dark when the lights go out, and to know your job.

The job that required the utmost patience was to be an electrician working on the electrical gear in the Reactor room. The only passage through the reactor room was on the upper level, The reactor and associated equipment occupied the lower level. The fore and aft passage through this space was three feet wide between two rows of electrical cabinets with sliding drawers that could be pulled out to work on the equipment. So anybody going to or from the engine room had to go through this passage. Now electricians would be working on the equipment in these pulled out drawers, and when somebody came by they had to close the drawer, and turn sideways to let the sideways turned passerby squeeze through. Then he could open the drawer and continue work until the next person came through. Now that required a person with the utmost patience.

The Engine Room was the last compartment going aft. Going from forward to aft, There were the electrical switchboards, the turbo generators, the control station, the propulsion turbines, the reduction gear, an electric propulsion motor on the line shaft, the thrust bearing on the line shaft which then went out the stern tube to the propellor.

The layout of the rest of the sub was, starting from the bow, the torpedo room,
bearthing areas. Control room, messhall, more bearthing underneath, and then tha reactor room and finally the engine room.

As I said at the begining, the hull design was a surface ship that could be closed up to be water tight so it could submerge. And was not operated at full power when submerged. In the new atomic powered subs, they had more power than the diesel boats, and could operate at full power when submerged. The Nautilus realized that this was a problem when they could not pull out of a power dive,
and bounced off the bottom of Long Island Sound. It was back to the drawing boards.