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USS Pampanito Emergency Escape Ascending Line Reel Project 2011


This note is a description of the project to replicate the emergency submarine escape ascending line reels and their brackets on USS Pampanito. It is also thank you note to the individuals and corporations that made it possible.

The reels contain line that is deployed and then followed to the surface by men escaping a submarine unable that is on the bottom and unable to surface. For more information see submarine escape arrangements.

These reel and the brackets in the aft torpedo room, and the reel in the forward escape trunk were missing from Pampanito when opened as a museum in 1981. We researched these in photos from other US submarine museums, drawings from microfilm that was scanned to digital format and indexed in 2008, and the two surviving brackets in the forward escape trunk. No photos from Pampanito have been found of these.


We started by creating a full 3 dimensional model of the parts in Autodesk Inventor CAD software. The software was then able to calculate the correct bend radius adjustments and create unfolded drawings of the brackets. Vectric VCarve Pro was used to prepare the CAD files for cutting. We then cut the ends of the reels and the brackets on the TechShop waterjet. TechShop also provided the tools we needed to TIG weld the ends of the reels, bend the 1/8" steel brackets, sand blast the parts, and powder coat them.

We currently have display line wound on the reel. Someday this will be replaced by 200 foot of 3/8" cotton clothesline with coded thread wraps ("knots") every 33 foot (measured from the top down.) We are not sure how the markings were made.

More research is needed to determine if Pampanito also had special buoys for the ascending line. These buoys are mounted in some of the other museum boats, but we cannot find any sign of mounting brackets on Pampanito. In addition, at least during the 1950s, USS Volador used a life preserver instead of a special buoy. This makes a lot of sense and so we need to do more research before replicating the buoys.


We appreciate the advice, help, donations and discounted products and services from individuals and companies that made this project possible:


Volunteers and Staff of USS Pampanito,
The "dream consultants" and class instructors of TechShop,


Vectric Ltd.,
Cardinal Industrial Finishes,
Argon Masking,
Richard Pekelney, project manager.


flange and brackets
Empty brackets in the forward escape trunk.

flange between frames in the overhead
Empty flange in aft torpedo room.

excerpt of scan from microfilm
Drawing from microfilm.

parts after waterjet cutting
These were the first parts we waterjet cut ourselves (at TechShop) instead of paying a commercial supplier.

assembled reels
Welded reels before prep and paint.

painted and loaded with line
Ready for installation.

Installed in escape trunk
Installed in forward escape trunk.

Installed in aft torpedo room
Installed in aft torpedo room.


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