History of the ship machine
The first attempts
Already at the beginning there was the idea of propelling ships by steam. Denis Papin was the first who occupied himself with this topic. He succeeded in designing impellers, which he wanted to use on a steam boat. However, it was too early for that and he had to refuse the construction.
The first patent on a ship machine was given to Jonathan Hull. He designed in 1736 a steamboat which should be used in towing. But the very complicated construction with ropes and roles has never been build.
He was interested in steam engines only after 40 years of living.
Fitch's first model was a boat that was propelled by a machine out of brass, which worked on a series of paddles. Fitch showed this model to the american philosophical society in Philadelphia on september the 2nd in 1785. He received in the following years some patents on the right of using steamships on some rivers in america. In 1787 Fitch build his first real steamboat. The bigest problem for him was the engine. He didn't have any non-leaking cylinder, the condensor wansn't good enough and the valves leaked too. But he could anyway do some travels with it. Henry Voight, a collegue of him invented the surface-condensor, which Fitch used in future on all his boats. The boiler of the boat was also very interesting: Fitch already used a water-tube boiler in 1787. The water was leaded through spiralformed tubes over the fire.
Another boat of Fitch was already very stable and he could make travels with people. This boat did about 2000 to 3000 miles during the regular oparating without having any concrete damages. In 1796, John F. constructed another steamboat that was propelled by some sort of a screw. Two years later, he died.
These two men have been the pioneers in England concerning steam navigation. In 1788, they build a steamboat which was stimulated by two cylinders. The problem was that the engines were atmospheric machines that used a separate condenser and therefore were inside the patent of James Watt. This was probably one of the reasons why Symington continued his attempts only around 1801. Symington build the "first practical steamboat" the "Charlotte Dundas". He was working with a double-acting steam engine by James Watt. This engine worked directly on the impeller through a connecting rod.
He was the first one who made regular travels with a steamboat in Europa. Bell built his "Comet" at the beginning of 1812. After doing some improvements were made. He started the regular steam navigation between Greenock in the first weeks of August in 1812 and his public swimming pool in Helensburg. With the the death of Henry Bell in 1830 his steam navigation ended also.
He was the one who built the first American steamboat travelling on rivers. After him, no significant changes have been made to his technical solutions for this problem. Stevens used an engine from Watt working on a double acting lever. In a few years, he was able to find the technical best solutions. In 1827, he build the North America. This was one of his most successfull ships. Robert S. used two engines inside of it. Each of them had a piston travel of 8 feet. He is said to have reached a velocity of 15 to 16 miles per hour with it. Other of his inventions followed.
He is considered as the pioneer of the today's steam navigation. However, his "genius" was limited to assembling competents, which were designed before him by others. Fulton used one of Watt's engines for his "Clermont" and some technical features which were invented by John Fitch and other men. He combined those things and constructed a steamboat that was able to travel the distance New York - Albany three times as fast as everything before him. He was able to found a growing plant, which built the first profitable steam ships.
Development of steam ships
Probably all of us know them, the big Mississippi steamers. The construction of steamships became a big challenge among the ship designers, who wanted to allure the travelers with as much splendor and elegance as possible. But soon, travelling was not the goal any more. The steamers were used by people because of the atmosphere and not to overcome distances.
Another possibility to gain the travellers favour was to win challenges. The ships had to swim from one point to another as fast as possible. The picture you see beside was taken on such a contest. Mississippi Queen is leading in front of Delta Queen.
The Titanic was (and is still) the biggest ocean steamer that was ever built. It had a length of 269 meters. The whole ship was powered by steam power. Inside, there were 29 boilers, each of them with a height of about 5 meters and a weight of 100 tons. The steam was used in a low pressure steam engine.
Conrad Matschoss - Die Entwicklung der Dampfmaschine
Dean Server - Dampflokomotiven, Dampfschiffahrt
Robert H. Thurston - The growth of the steam-engine (online)
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