SEAMS News Archives

P.L.U.T.O. (Pipe Line Under The Ocean) follow up

A follow up by Cliff  Noble

I was very interested in John Moss’s article about P.L.U.T.O. in the last Engine Torque.

When we were dismantling and removing the 13HF Gardner from the McAlpine site at Hayes in 1971, some of the older staff interested in its survival mentioned that 12HF’s had been used on P.L.U.T.O. to drive the pumps, so on my visit to Gardner’s in 1972 I enquired whether this was correct. Again there were one or two older staff

who said they could remember assembling engines on the Isle of Wight, but there did not appear to be any records! I contacted McAlpine’s and asked if there were any records and they replied to the effect that all work done for the MOD during the War had to have all the documentation destroyed at the end of the contract and therefore they could not help.

I also contacted the late Dion Houghton to see if he could confirm the supply of 12HF’s from his Gardner records, but he also came back with the fact that there were many blanks in the sales records of units during the War years

However, once the 13HF was on the show circuit, we were at the Kent Show and a gentleman who took a long time to read and digest all the information boards, introduced himself, and in the course of conversation, he confirmed that he had

worked for the MOD during the War, and in particular on the P.L.U.T.O. project, and could confirm that McAlpine’s had been involved in the construction and that Gardner Engines were used to drive pumps, but he had no information as he confirmed that the orders to destroy all records were correct. When the BBC put on the ‘War and Peace’ programme, there were one or two shots with the pumps working at the P.L.U.T.O. Pumping Station, but they did not stay there long enough to be able to recognise the Engines, but with all these rumours and confirmations, I think we can rightly assume that Gardner 12HF’s 65hp were used to drive some of the pumps, if not all, and when we were allowed into the Stores at Hayes to remove spare parts for the 13HF, there were considerable numbers of 12HF spares on the shelves but, no 12’s in use anywhere by McAlpine!

..and more from Keith West

In the last Newsletter, the Article by John Moss about the Pipe Line Under The Ocean (PLUTO for short) reminded me about an article I read some while ago in the Steam Plough Times about a local connection and the role played by Fowler ploughing engines.

So where did the Fowler ploughing engines come into the story? It became apparent early on in the trials that getting the pipe-line ashore was going to be a problem, especially at low tide. That was until someone remembered the strong and steady power of a ploughing engine. Two pairs of Fowler BB1s, nos 15166/7 and 15220/1 were hired from James Penfold of Arundel. The engines are reported to have been sent to Harland & Wolff, where the winding drums were converted to the bollard type, the cable being wound round the drum with enough turns to get a grip and then the cable was laid off to be coiled away from the engine.

It is not clear which engine or engines were stationed where, as the operation was highly secret and few photographs have come to light, but certainly one of them was sent to Cherbourg soon after it was liberated. After the war, the engines were returned to Penfolds, where in 1951 they were reconditioned for the Colonial Development Corporation and sent out to Nigeria. It is understood that eventually they were scrapped and their part in the ‘PLUTO’ project is now largely forgotten.