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Steam engine on display at Maritime Museum

The pressure gauges are at one side of the engine.

The pressure gauges are at one side of the engine.

The only triple expansion steam engine still in working condition on the island is now the centre of attraction in the former mill room of the Maritime Museum in Vittoriosa.

Museum curator Manuel Magro Conti said in an interview that the 12-ton, 500hp steam engine had belonged to the grab dredger Anadrian, which was used mainly to clear Grand Harbour of bombs and wrecks after the havoc of the Second World War.

A triple expansion steam engine used the same steam three times through a series of cylinders, in order to make use of all the steam's energy. The engine on the Anadrian produced a speed of eight and a half knots.

Other exhibits from the Anadrian include ancillary machinery, pressure gauges, the telegraph and the compass, the diesel generator, lifebelts, a whole rack of tools, and the wheel, among other items.

The vessel was built by Ferguson Brothers Ltd of Glasgow between 1951-52. She cost £80,000, paid for by a grant from the Colonial Development and Welfare Fund.

The Anadrian had a displacement of 403 tons and was 124 feet long.

Mr Magro Conti said that by the early 1950s, steam engines had become obsolete.

The oil-fired engine was powerful enough to operate the ship's crane. Loads were disposed of in open seas through flaps on the ship's bottom.

Visitors to the museum will be able to see how a steam engine works by following the step-by-step sequence with the help of an information panel.

In 1989, the dredger was scrapped, having completed her last task during the construction of the Freeport in Kalafrana. But there were a number of people involved in the setting up of the Maritime Museum who felt that the engine should be preserved.

The vessel was bought by Cassar Ship Repair Yard in Marsa, which assisted with the dismantling of the parts destined for the museum. Her last master was Charles Scicluna.

The museum has a scale model of the Anadrian made by Joseph Abela, museum employee, who repairs and makes ship models.

The museum is in the former naval bakery designed by British architect William Scamp. It was built between 1842 and 1845 on the site of the covered slipway used by the ships of the Knights of St John.

Although the mill room does not have any of the machinery - used for the preparation of bread and biscuits for the whole of the Royal Navy in the Mediterranean - there are a couple of millstones which were retrieved when the floor was dug up to prepare a base for the steam engine.

Other millstones, buried as fillers under the floor of the mill room, were preserved in situ covered by plates of clear glass to be viewed by visitors to the museum. The bakery formed part of the Victualling Yard and supplied the Royal Navy with its daily requirements of bread and biscuit.

After World War Two, it was turned into the headquarters of the Admiralty Constabulary. The building remained part of the naval establishment until the closing of the British base here in 1979.

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