Coast Guard

Training Never Stops on the SS John W Brown

Prior to becoming a historic ship in Baltimore, the Liberty ship JOHN W. BROWN was moored in New York and served the city’s Board of Education as a vocational high school.  Students came to the ship and learned the skills needed for a maritime career.  The ship filled that role for 35 years, from 1946 to 1982.  Now as an operating historic ship in Baltimore, JOHN W. BROWN continues to be an educational resource for a variety of local organizations.


Several different groups conduct training on the BROWN.  Local first responders (police, SWAT, EMTs, K-9 teams) train aboard the ship to gain experience working in a realistic shipboard environment which they may encounter in the Baltimore and Annapolis areas.  Local maritime schools, operated by two of the major maritime unions, bring students to the ship when the class room training can be enhanced by doing a portion of the course aboard an operational ship.  JOHN W. BROWN offers STEM internships to local high school students enrolled in that curriculum.  Those students get a close look at some of the science, technology, and engineering found in the engine room of an operating steam ship.  Classes from local schools, including the Naval Academy, tour the ship to learn about World War-II merchant marine operations and shipbuilding.


However, one of the most important training programs on the BROWN addresses the needs of our own volunteers.  The Liberty ship steam plant is an old design, no longer found operating elsewhere.  The only place to train our volunteers to operate the engineering plant is right here on the ship.  A formal training course was prepared and approved by the Coast Guard so that we can instruct volunteers to be JOHN W. BROWN firemen/watertenders.  These are the watchstanders that operate the ship’s boilers to produce the steam used by the main engine and the auxiliary machinery.


Three volunteers are presently taking the fireman/watertender course.  The course includes classroom training, demonstrations of practical knowledge of associated machinery and procedures, homework assignments, and a final exam.  Completion of the course, along with having the requisite amount of sea service, enables the volunteer to gain a Coast Guard endorsement in their merchant marine credential as fireman/watertender without having to take a Coast Guard examination.  The course was first approved by the Coast Guard in October 2012 and to date 10 volunteers have completed the course.


In addition to being an operational historic ship, JOHN W. BROWN continues her role as a training facility.  In this case, by training the firemen/watertenders who will operate the ship’s boilers in the future.


[FWT Course instructor: M. J. Schneider]

[Present students: Jay Jacobs, John Stratman, and Kris Lindberg]


Project Liberty Ship, Inc is a 501(c)3 non-profit, all volunteer organization engaged in the preservation and operation of the historic ship JOHN W. BROWN as a living memorial museum. Gifts to Project Liberty Ship are tax deductible.

Valve Maintenance

Valve Maintenance – A never ending task aboard ship


Hundreds of valves are present in the piping systems found on Liberty ships to control and direct the flow of fluids and gases, including steam, that are part of the ship’s engineering systems.  The proper operation of these valves is essential for the safety and efficient operation of the engineering plant.  A system of regular inspection, maintenance, and repair is necessary to ensure the valves operate as designed and this is included as a normal part of the ship’s work schedule. In other words, we'll be having some Coast Guard Inspections soon...  :)


Most of the engineering maintenance on JOHN W. BROWN is scheduled during the winter months when the ship is not steaming to conduct Living History Cruise and port visits.  This year’s valve maintenance effort is focused on the boiler-mounted valves.  These are valves located on the boilers or are the first valve from the boiler on a system connected to it and is subject to full boiler operating pressure (~200 psi for a Liberty ship).   Coast Guard requirements call for these valves to be removed from the boiler at periodic intervals for inspection and that milestone occurs this winter.


The valves are completely overhauled for the inspection.  This includes disassembly of the valve, cleaning the individual components, lapping the mating surfaces of the valve disc and seat to insure the valve doesn’t leak when shut, replacing the packing around the valve stem to prevent leaking around this part of the valve that is turned during operation, and replacing the gaskets where the valve is connected to the flange of adjacent piping.  If a part is found to be defective, it is repaired or replaced.  In addition, all the hardware used to secure the valve to the adjacent pieces of the piping system is being replaced with studs and bolts that are rated for the temperatures and pressures present in the system.


Volunteers have removed the first 16 valves and have begun overhauling them to prepare for inspection.  The valves include a range of sizes and designs.  As work is completed on the initial valves, additional ones subject to the inspection will be removed and overhauled in the coming weeks.  When the inspection is complete, the valves will be reinstalled on the boiler until the next inspection milestone.

This is just more proof that the work is ongoing and will never be done on the JOHN W BROWN.  We are always looking for individuals that are good with their hands and willing to help out. And no experience is needed.  Project Liberty Ship and our wonderful gray lady, is always doing on the job training in many different ways. On this specific day, there were men painting, grinding, disassembling, reassembling, making new gaskets, working with wire brushes and this was just in one section of the engine room. Thanks for reading and thanks for the interest in the SS JOHN W BROWN. 

Project Liberty Ship, Inc is a 501(c)3 non-profit, all volunteer organization engaged in the preservation and operation of the historic ship JOHN W. BROWN as a living memorial museum. Gifts to Project Liberty Ship are tax deductible.

Maritime Day Expo at Pier 13

Volunteers from the JOHN W BROWN were at this year's Maritime Day Expo. This annual event hosted by NS SAVANNAH and other maritime organizations is held at Pier 13 in Canton.  Armed Forces Day and National Maritime Day  fall in the month of May and it is a great way to celebrate those days. There were several ships to visit including the NS SAVANNAH, an Army Tugboat, an Army Corps of Engineers vessel, a Coast Guard vessel, a fire boat and a NOAA survey boat. The crews on each were happy to talk about their ships and to listen to us talk about ours! There were lots of other fun things to see and do and some good food to eat too.


We  love to say hello and had lots of people stop by to enjoy the day with us. Here are some pictures of some of the BROWN's volunteers working and enjoying the day.

The NS Savannah dedicated the #2 lifeboat as an Armed Forces memorial.   Each Armed Forces branch was honored and a representative from each branch carried their service flags up to the lifeboat.  The BROWN's crew represented two branches in the ceremony.  Mike carried the flag for the Navy and Liam carried the flag for the Merchant Marines.

Baltimore has a long history as a working port.  Many different companies and organizations were represented at the event.  Some companies were offering jobs, some represented the history of the port and others  were educating the public.  An incredible amount of goods and people move through Baltimore each year. For more info about commodities in Baltimore, click here.  Whether you're curious about working in the industry or interested in services offered by the industry you'll find it here.

A special pool is filled with water for model enthusiasts to race their vessels. These radio controlled boats are fun to watch. If you've never seen one or would like to know more this is the place to ask questions. If you ask nicely you may even get a turn at the controls.

The TEACH FLEET was built by Commodore Wilbert McKinley to promote careers in Science, Technology, Engineering, and Math (STEM). The TEACH FLEET consists of almost 200 Lego ship models of every type from tugboats to aircraft carriers. This display is a crowd favorite! The BROWN also has a STEM program and this year 3 students finished the program in May.

There are vessels of all types at the Expo. Diesel powered, nuclear powered, radio powered and steam powered. The crews of each ship welcomed visitors and patiently answered all kinds of questions.

We enjoyed all the Maritime Expo had to offer and are already looking forward to next year.

We enjoyed all the Maritime Expo had to offer and are already looking forward to next year.

Project Liberty Ship, Inc is a 501(c)3 non-profit, all volunteer organization engaged in the preservation and operation of the historic ship JOHN W. BROWN as a living memorial museum. Gifts to Project Liberty Ship are tax deductible.

Back to Top ↑