A Winton Survivor – Ambrose Lightship

Over the course of this summer, I began to build a spreadsheet of all (known) surviving Winton and Cleveland Diesel engines.  The short story is there is not a lot, especially when it comes to Winton’s.  I only have 25 on my list (so far – when I get it closer developed, I will post it here). One such survivor is the Winton 6-149 in the Lightship Ambrose LV87/WAL 512, at South Street Seaport Museum in New York City.  The Ambrose was built as a steamer in 1907 by New York Shipbuilding in Camden, New Jersey.

Ambrose Lightship at South Street. Note one of the 5000lb mushroom anchors on the bow. Will Van Dorp photo.

In 1932, Ambrose would leave station under steam for the last time, and would be repowered with a new direct reversing Winton 6 cylinder model 149 engine. The 149 was introduced in 1929, and offered as either a generator engine or direct reversing marine engine. The 4 stroke engine had an 11″ bore and 15″ stroke.

While the Ambrose is a large ship – the engine room is not all that big. These lightships were only meant to make short distance jaunts between the nearest port and the duty station, never more then a few miles at a time, thus a large powerplant was not needed.

Swinging around to look at the other side of the engine. The yellow set of wheels controls engine direction and speed. Ambrose is the name of the channel entering New York Harbor. After her 1932 refit she was designated as Relief ship – which would take station in place of various other lightships while they would be in for drydock, etc. She would then go on to take station at Scotland, NJ, Vineyard Sound, MA and roles as an examination vessel and more relief work.

Ambrose was officially retired in May 1966, and donated to the new South Street Seaport Museum in 1968, where she has been on exhibit since. While once operation many years ago, the engine in Ambrose unfortunately took a significant hit with massive freeze damage (note the cracking in the following two photos). The engine was taken apart, and is how it currently sits. When I took these photos a few years ago, the plan was to put the engine back together in one piece, as an operational restoration is out of the question.

The cylinder heads on this engine (and this is one of the smaller Winton diesel’s!) are absolutely massive! The elbow on the lower portion is the water jacketed exhaust. To the right is the blow down valve, and under it a cylinder relief valve.

Ambrose has a few other smaller generator engines, as well as a unique combination engine/compressor (as in, its the same thing), however I did not get any photos of them. While Ambrose is open to the public, the engineering spaces are not. Thanks to SSSM for allowing me to photograph these. For those that like to read, be sure to check out George Rongner’s book “Life Aboard a Coast Guard Lightship” https://www.amazon.com/Life-Aboard-Coast-Guard-Lightship/dp/0741438623

Top photo by my friend Will Van Dorp of Tugster – https://tugster.wordpress.com/

More on Ambrose:

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