An account of the early developments of power propulsion, and of the many successful experiments made in Great Britain and elsewhere between 1630 and 1820
A CENTURY AND A HALF AGO, Patrick Miller, an Edinburgh banker, experimented with this pleasure steamer. A trial in 1788 was completely successful, and William Symington’s original engine was used as the motive power. The paddle-
FOR centuries the world’s shipping was dependent for its movement on natural forces. The winds drove vessels from ocean to ocean, and in the narrow seas many-
As early as 1630 David Ramseye was granted a patent for a steam engine that was intended to propel a barge or boat. In 1702 Thomas Savery suggested that his steam pumping-
The first real step in the application of steam to marine engineering was the patent taken out by Jonathan Hulls in 1736. Hulls, who lived at Campden, in Gloucestershire, patented a form of steam tug-
The method of passing steam under pressure into a cylinder and then cooling it by means of a jet of water was wasteful and inefficient. In 1765 the famous James Watt invented a separate condenser, and this, with his other improvements to the stationary steam engine, brought nearer its application to the propulsion of ships.
A Watt steam engine was used by a distinguished Frenchman, the Marquis de Jouffroy, in a remarkable boat built in 1776. This vessel was fitted with paddles, driven by a steam engine; the paddles worked in the same way as the webbed feet of a duck. In 1783 the Marquis de Jouffroy launched a steamer with paddle-
Yet another form of mechanical propulsion was achieved by John Fitch, of Pennsylvania, in 1787. Fitch fitted a boat with paddles, six on either side, driven by a 12-
WILLIAM SYMINGTON’S FIRST MARINE ENGINE, patented in June, 1787, was built in 1788 and drove a double-
Another inventor who played an important part in the development of the steamboat at this period was Patrick Miller, an Edinburgh banker. His first ship comprised three separate hulls, the central one having a pair of paddle-
The original engine, which may be seen at the Science Museum at South Kensington, London, was built up on a framework shaped in the form of an inverted T. Placed vertically in the frame are two open-
THE VALVE GEAR of Symington’s engine was operated by the long weighted rod seen in this picture. The ratchet wheels on the paddle-
Each ratchet consists of two loose pulleys, on the paddle-
The cylinders rest on a tank, forming the condenser, and in the lower end of each is a piston that serves as an air pump. The air pump pistons are connected at their lower ends by a small pivoted beam below the condenser tank. Either cylinder is provided with a valve-
The valve gear comprises a system of tappets worked by a rod provided with four pins that lift the steam and exhaust valves of the cylinders. This rod is operated by a chain passing over a pulley on the end of the overhead drum-
Symington’s engine is an atmospheric engine, similar to that described earlier in this chapter but fitted with a separate condenser. The action is as follows: when one of the working pistons reaches the bottom of its stroke, the cylinder steam valve is opened and a valve in the air pump piston is closed. The piston is forced down by the steam until the pressure in the condenser rises to that of the atmosphere.
The valves of the condenser then lift, and the air, steam and water are discharged into the tank. While one piston is ascending, the other is being forced down by atmospheric pressure, this being the working stroke of the engine.
This vessel was built by A. Hart of Grangemouth (Stirlingshire), and was 56 feet long with a beam of 18 feet and a depth of 8 feet. The engine was by Symington. Although it was similar in working principles to his earlier engines, many important improvements were introduced in the power plant of the Charlotte Dundas. A single direct-
THE CHARLOTTE DUNDAS was successfully tried on the Forth and Clyde Canal in 1802. Built by A. Hart at Grangemouth, this ship was engined by William Symington. The engine was placed on deck and drove the paddle-
Steam was supplied by an internally fired boiler, and the engine drove a paddle-
In 1802 the Charlotte Dundas successfully towed two loaded vessels of 70 tons burden each for a distance of nineteen and a half miles on the Forth and Clyde Canal.
The cautious canal owners, however, decided not to incur any risk to the canal banks from the wash of the paddle, and the Charlotte Dundas was moored in a creek adjoining the waterway until she was finally broken up in 1861. During the building and trials of the Charlotte Dundas, an American, Robert Fulton, had been studying marine problems in France. Fulton was able to profit by the work of his contemporaries and particularly of his fellow-
In 1803 Fulton carried out some successful experiments on the Seine and later ordered a marine engine from Boulton, Watt and Co. of Birmingham. This engine was sent to America, and in 1807 was installed by Fulton in his ship, the Clermont. Fulton’s Clermont was built to his order by Charles Browne of New York, and was a wall-
The total length of the ship was 150 feet, with a breadth of 13 feet and draught of 2 feet. Displacement was 100 tons. The engine had a single cylinder, 24-
The Clermont’s engine was fitted with a fly-
The twin propeller shafts were geared together and driven by a single inverted cylinder. The piston rod was fitted with a long crosshead, to the ends of which were attached connecting rods, one for each propeller shaft. This little steamer, or launch, was not decked, and has been preserved in a museum at Hoboken, New Jersey, U.S.A.
In 1807 Robert Stevens launched his paddle steamer Phoenix. This vessel went, in a gale, from New York to Philadelphia and plied on the Delaware River for six years as a passenger ship.
FORERUNNER OF CLYDE-
The first steamship to run on a regular service in Britain (and first also in Europe) was Henry Bell’s Comet of 1812 -
The building of the Comet was begun in 1811, and she was named after the great comet of that year. Construction was carried out by John Wood and Co. at Port Glasgow, to the instructions of Henry Bell of Helensburgh (Dumbartonshire). The Comet began her service on the Clyde between Glasgow and Greenock in August, 1812, but was withdrawn by Bell for financial reasons. From the mechanical point of view, however, she was successful, and, because the public appreciated the new mode of travelling, three other steamers were laid down immediately. With the Comet these vessels, the Elizabeth, the Clyde and the Glasgow, may justly be described as forerunners of the mighty fleet of British steamers built on the banks of the Clyde. Incidentally the district still has a large proportion of the world’s engineers.
One century and a quarter after the launch of the Comet, the Clydesiders built the R.M.S. Queen Mary, of nearly 180,000 hp, described in an earlier chapter.
The engine of the Comet, which is illustrated here, is of special interest, as it has been preserved and can be inspected in the Science Museum at South Kensington, London. Part of the original is in Kelvingrove Park, Glasgow.
STEAM POWER ON THE CLYDE. The first steamer to run commercially in Europe was the Comet of 1812. Part of the original engine, shown here, is preserved in the Science Museum at South, Kensington. The single cylinder is 12½-
Built by John Robertson of Glasgow, the engine has a vertical cylinder 12½-
The crankshaft carries a 6-
The engine was on the port side of the ship and the boiler was on the starboard side. The boiler, made by David Napier, was of low-
Some interesting experiments were carried out with the Comet. The original cylinder was only 11½-
The Comet had a single tall funnel, and this might be described as the forerunner of the modern steel mast, as it carried a yard and sail. In 1816 the famous little steamer (she was only 40 ft 3-
In 1815 a rebuilt barge, the Elizabeth, was engined by Charles Baird at St. Petersburg (now Leningrad) for service on the Neva. In this vessel also the engine was of the side-
The earlier marine engines were generally arranged with the cylinder inverted, as was the practice on land. The stationary engine on shore, however, had a large pivoted beam supported on a pillar, above the cylinder, that actuated the fly-
BRICK FUNNEL AND FEATHERING FLOATS provide a striking contrast in this picture of Charles Baird’s paddle steamer Elizabeth, converted at St. Petersburg (Leningrad) for service on the Neva in 1815. The brick funnel served a rectangular externally fired boiler supplying steam to a single-
[From part 10, published 14 April 1936]