A Doxford Engineer

Duration: 3:39 minutes
Accession No: TWCMS : 2009.147
This story has been viewed 20244 times

John's story is about his life working in the shipping industry as a Doxford engineer.

By John W Jordan

Other information

This story was inspired by the shipbuilding gallery and collections at Sunderland Museum & Winter Gardens, Tyne & Wear Archives & Museums.

This story was also inspired by the Doxford engine from the collections at Tyne & Wear Archives & Museums.

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Video transcript

I was born in 1935 at Sunderland, which at that time one of the finest shipbuilding towns in the world. 

I was born into a shipbuilding and engine designing and manufacturing family, so it was no surprise to anyone that I also wanted to continue with the tradition.

My father, Robert Alexander Jordan had been a Doxford Engine Designer in the 1920s and then a Section Leader in the early 1960s, and my Uncle John Gardener a Doxford Engine designer in the mid 1920s. My Grandfather Gardener was a foreman boiler maker and my Grandfather Jordan an accountant in the shipyard with at least three more of his brothers working in various shipbuilding trades. Even my younger brother Bob worked in the Design Office with me.

In Sunderland near to the New Glass Centre, there was once a thriving shipyard and engine works, and one that Doxford Engines used as a test station for prototype engines. This was then called the Palmers Hill Research and Development test station.

This works in the early 1950s was used to produce spare parts for Doxford Engines as well as acting as a test site for Diesel Engines.

My involvement was with the R & D Department, testing the prototype “P” Doxford Engine.      At that time, which was the latter part of my apprenticeship I worked under the authority of the Technical Director, Mr Percy Jackson and Chief Research Engineer Mr John G Gunn. The Chief Designer at the Pallion site was a Mr George Jackson who is still fit and well at the ripe old age of 91 years. These three men were the nicest person you could have ever wished to be employed by.

On completion of the tests in the mid 1950s, I was then sent for by Queen and country to do my National Service. As my employment so far had been in the marine business, I obviously chose the Merchant Navy to train as an Engineer Officer. My first vessel, the MV Hurunui was fitted with Twin Doxford Engines.

On completion of my sea service, I returned to Doxford Engines, just about where I’d left off, back in the drawing office as a designer.

The Doxford Marine Diesel Engine is commonly termed a cathedral engine due to its size.

Beamish Museum now house the last of  the smallest range of engines, this is a  3 Cylinder, Opposed Piston, Constant Pressure Turbo-Charged 580mm bore machine, designed, built and tested at the Doxford Engine Works. This remains as testimony to the skills of the workforce involved over their entire working lives. Doxford Engines was not only a place of work, but was a family of engineers and many other skills who are unfortunately fast disappearing from this country. The drawings are still available and the skills can be again learned, so maybe, just maybe someday we will see the Doxford Engine again in future ships, who knows?

I remain for the time being one of those engineers who can still remember the halcyon days of the Doxford Engine.  

Brilliant detail, it paints a vivid picture. Posted on 02/07/2010 at 12:52:06

I have overhauled Enterprise marine engines and did my apprenticeship in iron foundries - doing every job in the foundry. Alas, it's just about all gone... I'd love to visit a big doxford engine...but have to be content with my old lister 6 hp. living off grid in california. best to you, sir!Posted on 24/10/2012 at 21:54:39

I would love to see a full size Doxford running again. ! served my apprenticeship at the Pallion works before joining B.I.S.N. in 1958. George Jackson was my Manager at that time. Before leaving I was Ass. engineer on sea trials. A. thompson. 21.02.2013Posted on 21/02/2013 at 12:15:35

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On this and other websites there are stories of Doxford crankshaft repairs that involved misalignment of the crank pin with the web when the shrink fit slipped. Can anyone with direct knowledge of the Doxford crankshaft confirm that the side crank pin is part of a single piece forging that includes the pin, the side web, and the main journal and if possible, what was the source of this forging. My interest is as a model engineer, discussing this with other model engineers.Posted on 06/03/2013 at 14:39:50

can send you details would need a contact addressPosted on 13/05/2013 at 22:57:20

We can best respond to your interesting query about crankshaft design and maufacture by personal email. If you send a message to cultureshock@twmuseums.org.uk and ask for it to be forwarded to the Keeper of Science & Industry I'll gladly get back to you.Posted on 17/06/2013 at 16:57:29

I worked, as an apprentice, at Hawthorn Leslie's where the Doxford-Hawthorn Seahorse engine was developed at great cost. I still remember working from the drawings on the SD 14 engines and the feeling of every new engine firing up in the workshop. I am happy to claim my relationship with Doxford Engines and the past history of a once great company. John R McCallumPosted on 22/06/2013 at 08:58:06

Dear Sir, When my father finished his Fitter & Turner Apprenticeship in Portsmouth Dockyard in the mid 50's he went to sea with British India on Doxfords. When I went to South Shields college as a cadet I actually staretd the Engine in the DOXFORD workshop. I understand now that this Engine is in storarge near Liverpool. Does anybody now know how to put it back together and make it run? PS My understanding is it was only the 3 cylinder Doxfords that won us the Battle of the Atlantic?Posted on 08/09/2013 at 00:45:44

Sirs, I worked for Bank Line who ran the majority of the fleet with Six cylinder Doxfords. I worked on several 67J6 and 76J6. Still have a soft spot for them. Now involved in the Offshore industry running Gas Turbines, half the size and twice the power. Rob Walker robwalker53@me.comPosted on 10/06/2014 at 18:42:36

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