Owasco Class 255

Owasco Class 255

The 255s

The bow and the stern for each other yearn, and the lack of interval shows …” Myths have long shadowed the design history of the 255-foot class. These cutters were to have been much longer ships, and two theories persist as to ■why they were shortened. The first is that these cutters were built to replace the ships given to Great Britain under lend lease, and Congress stipulated that the Coast Guard had to build these replacement cutters to the same size and character as those provided to the British. The second is that their length was determined by the maximum length that could pass through the locks of the Welland Canal from the Great Lakes to the St. Lawrence River. The Great Lakes shipbuilding industry brought pressure to bear on Congress to ensure that it had the potential to bid on the contracts. The first theory seems to be correct, but the seccond cannot be ruled out.

The Coast Guard had prepared a design for a 316-foot cutter that was to have been an austere 327. This design was cut down into the 255-foot ship. To accomplish this, everything was squeezed down and automated to a degree not before achieved in a turbo-electric-driven ship.

The machinery design of the 255s was compact and innovative, but overly complex. It had pilothouse control, variable-rate (10 to 1) burners, and automatic synchronizing between the turbogenerator and the motor. Westinghouse engineers developed a system of synchronization and a variable-frequency drive for main-propulsion auxiliary equipment, which kept the pumps and other items –. about two-thirds the power required for const ant-frequency operation. The combined boiler room/engine room was a break with tradition.

The turbo-alternators for ship-service power exhausted at 20 psi gauge pressure instead of into a condenser. This steam was used all over the ship before finally going to a condenser. Space, heating, galley cooking, laundry, freshwater evaporating, fuel, and feed-water heating were all taken from the 20 psi back-pressure line.

The 255-foot class was an ice-going design. Ice operations had been assigned to the Coast Guard early in the war, and almost all new construction was either ice going or ice-breaking.

The hull was designed with constant flare at the waterline for ice-going. The structure was longitudinally framed with heavy web frames and an ice belt of heavy plating, and it had extra transverse framing above and below the design waterline.  Enormous amounts of weight were removed through the use of electric welding.  The 250 foot cutters’ weights were used for estimating purposes. Tapered bulkhead stiffenerscut from 12″ I-beams went from the main deck (4′ deppth of web) to the bottom (8″ depth of web).  As weight was cut out of the hull structure, electronics and ordinance was increased, but at much greater heights.  This top weight required ballasting the fuel tanks  with sea water to maintain stability both for wind and damaged conditions.

The superstructures of the 255s was originally divided into two islands in order to accomodate  an aircraft amidships, but this requirement was dropped before the units became operational.  Construction of this class received a low priority, and none of the cutters served in the war.  Following the completion ofthe preliminary design by the Coast Guard, the work was assigned to George G. Sharp of New York to prepare the contract design.

The number of units — 13 of them — had an interesting origin. Three were to be replacements for overaged cutters– the OSSIPE, TALLAPOOSA, and UNALGA; ten units were to be replacements for the 250′ cutters transferred to Britain under Lend-Lease. For ecconomy all 13 were built to the same design.

Note: If you have a story, event, or picture of any of the 255s you may have sailed please share it with your fellow shipmates. It can be submitted to me via this EMAIL ADDRESS or through the CONTACT FORM to the webmaster

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