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Sunday, May 22, 2016

16-05-22 PHOTOS: NS Savannah

The NS Savannah is the United States' first (and so far only) nuclear powered merchant ship. It was built around 1960, back in a time before Medicare and other social spending sapped our collective ability to do big/cool things. Part of the "Atoms for Peace" program, the NS Savannah was mostly a propaganda vehicle to convince the rest of the world that nuclear technology was about more than blowing up the Soviets (Hint: it wasn't). The Savannah had the additional distinction of being a passenger liner built just before such travel was rendered obsolete by jumbo jets and a loose cargo vessel built just before that was rendered obsolete by containerized freight. The ship was mothballed in 1972 due to the cost of operating the nuclear plant compared with oil fired ships...just before the 1973-74 oil crisis. Talk about not being able to catch a break! After being decommissioned the ship spent decades in the James River Ghost Fleet before being moved to the Port of Baltimore for preservation. There it is open occasionally for tours, including every year on National Maritime Day in late May. This year I was able to coordinate with nuclear enthusiast Phil Nasadowski to take full advantage of the open house and some additional rail related sights in the vicinity. You can view the entire set of photos here. The Savannah is best described as a Silver Age comic book come to life or, in perhaps somewhat broader terms, imagine what Tony Stark's yacht would be like. It's half luxury liner, half cargo ship and all nuclear powered.
The 60's styling doesn't hurt the impression much either. People forget that the Metroliners used to be this cool/advanced as well.
Not that some parts of the ship don't come across like your grandmother's house.
Here we see the most important part of anything in the Mad Men era...the bar. Note that the tables, which were also electro-luminescent, all come with integrated ash trays because back then smoking was good for you.
You won't find any computers in this control room. Here we see the main reactor control panel. Other parts of the big board controlled the steam plant and electrical system so it looks more complicated than it is. Also remember that compared to older steam ships this was miles ahead of their brass gauges and valves. 
The manual control rod control panel was the other nuclear specific part of the control console.
Once the steam is generated it was dealt with in the standard way. Here we see the engine room with a typical high pressure/low pressure compound turbine setup.
Of course the big question is, "Is it all safe?" The answer? Sure...
Of course given what else people had to worry about at the time I don't really think it mattered.
Honestly, I'd be more worried about the radiation from this prehistoric microwave oven.
Unlike naval ships that often have to be cut apart to have their reactor's refueled, the NS Savannah took the innovative step of fitting a hatch.
View of the bridge.
View from the bridge showing the cargo portion of the ship. Rated cargo capacity was a measly 7000 tones, however container anchors were fitted so raise this somewhat.
A short distance away from where the Savannah is berthed lays the Canton Railroad, which provides switching and yard services to this sector of the Port of Baltimore. SD1200RS #1204 and GP7U #1364 were parked next to the road.
North of the Canton Railroad yard was the Penn-Mary diamond crossing between the former B&O and former PRR running tracks to the Port. Both of these come from the respective Bayview yards on the respective main lines. The crossing is signaled, but employs some sort of automatic operation. It is also features some of the few remaining B&O CPL signal left in the B&O's home city.
I mentioned previously how CSX was replacing an 1885 vintage Whipple through truss bridge that carried its trains over the NEC at Bayview. Well not to worry, the B&O was forced to built a nearly identical bridge over the PRR's tracks to the port just a mile or so away in the Greektown neighborhood.
Well that's all for today. Next time join me as I hit the PRR Main Line for a walk between Narberth and Ardmore.

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