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A History of the Growth of the Steam-Engine

In later examples of the Woodcroft screw


Woodcroft had also used the screw experimentally as early as 1832, on the Irwell, near Manchester, England, in a boat of 55 tons burden. Twin-screws were used, right and left handed respectively; they were each two feet in diameter, and were given an expanding pitch. The boat attained a speed of four miles an hour.

Experiments made subsequently (1843) with this form of screw, and in competition with the "true" screw of Smith, brought out very distinctly the superiority of the former, and gave some knowledge of the proper proportions for maximum efficiency. In later examples of the Woodcroft screw, the blades were made detachable and adjustable--a plan which is still a usual one, and which has proved to be, in some respects, very convenient.

When Ericsson reached the United States, he was almost immediately given an opportunity to build the Princeton--a large screw-steamer--and at about the same time the English and French Governments also had screw-steamers built from his plans, or from those of his agent in England, the Count de Rosen. In these latter ships--the Amphion and the Pomona--the first horizontal direct-acting engines ever built were used, and they were fitted with double-acting air-pumps, having canvas valves and other novel features. The great advantages exhibited by these vessels over the paddle-steamers of the time did for screw-propulsion what Stephenson's locomotive--the Rocket--did for railroad

locomotion ten years earlier.

Congress, in 1839, had authorized the construction of three war-vessels, and the Secretary of the Navy ordered that two be at once built in the succeeding year. Of these, one was the Princeton, the screw-steamer of which the machinery was designed by Ericsson. The length of this vessel was 164 feet, beam 30-1/2 feet, and depth 21-1/2 feet. The ship drew from 16-1/2 to 18 feet of water, displacing at those draughts 950 and 1,050 tons. The hull had a broad, flat floor, with sharp entrance and fine run, and the lines were considered at that time remarkably fine.

The screw was of gun-bronze, six-bladed, and was 14 feet in diameter and of 35 feet pitch; i. e., were there no slip, the screw working as if in a solid nut, the ship would have been driven forward 35 feet at each revolution.

The engines were two in number, and very peculiar in form; the cylinder was, in fact, a _semi_-cylinder, and the place of the piston-rod, as usually built, was taken by a vibrating shaft, or "rock-shaft," which carried a piston of rectangular form, and which vibrated like a door on its hinges as the steam was alternately let into and exhausted from each side of it. The great rock-shaft carried, at the outer end, an arm from which a connecting-rod led to the crank, thus forming a "direct-acting engine."

The draught in the boilers was urged by blowers. Ericsson had adopted this method of securing an artificial draught ten years before, in one of his earlier vessels, the Corsair. The Princeton carried a XII-inch wrought-iron gun. This gun exploded after a few trials, with terribly disastrous results, causing the death of several distinguished men, including members of the President's cabinet.

The Princeton proved very successful as a screw-steamer, attaining a speed of 13 knots, and was then considered very remarkably fast. Captain Stockton, who commanded the vessel, was most enthusiastic in praise of her.

Immediately there began a revolution in both civil and naval ship-building, which progressed with great rapidity. The Princeton was the first of the screw-propelled navy which has now entirely displaced the older type of steam-vessel. The introduction of the screw now took place with great rapidity. Six steamers were fitted with Ericsson's screw in 1841, 9 in 1842, and nearly 30 in the year 1843.

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