View Full Version : Monitor - some early marine engineering background

Peter S
02-16-2008, 09:51 PM
I was going to post this in the Monitor engine thread, http://bbs.homeshopmachinist.net/showthread.php?t=27572 but it occurs to me it might be a bit too off topic and distracting from Rich's most excellent engine. I am greatly interested by his engine, and also the recovered original engine. Marine engines of this type and age are very uncommon, I wonder if there is anything else like it left. Hopefully the original engine will be put on display sometime.

It is not my purpose to take anything away from John Ericsson, he was a great inventor and deserves to be well known. None the less, it is always good to take a wider look at the times to see what was going on. Ericsson was one man in a time of great invention and revolutionary change as first the steam engine and then iron construction went to sea.

It is quite a story, and I can recommend books like “Steam at Sea” by Denis Griffiths, “Steam at Sea” by K.T. Rowlands (older, less illustrations, but a good read), “A History of Marine Engineering” by John Guthrie (written by a marine engineer), “A Short History of Marine Engineering” by E.C. Smith (a classic book from 1937, it’s not short either, but the author recognises that a single volume can do no more than touch on such an extensive subject!).

Iron hulls and screw propulsion date back to the 1700’s, but they were not used successfully until many problems had been sorted out. By the 1830’s, iron steamboats were becoming reasonably common for short distance work, but not for large ocean-going ships. William Fairbairn had greatly improved construction techniques and promoted the use of iron ships, and rolling mills were able to roll plates of large size and sufficient quantity. I.K. Brunel launched his second ship the “Great Britain” in 1843, the first iron ship with screw propulsion built to cross the Atlantic. By 1846 the Royal Navy had 16 iron warships, some screw driven and a further 9 being built, though wooden vessels remained the backbone of the fleet. In 1858 the “Great Eastern” was launched, the great iron screw and paddle-driven ship able to carry 4,000 people.

There were many pioneers associated with screw propulsion; there were at least 28 patents in Great Britain before 1850. However, there were also many problems to overcome. For example, screws required higher revolutions than engines of the age could deliver, so it was usual to find gears, belts, ropes or chain drives to increase the screw revolutions. These systems were often troublesome, for example, gears wore quickly, were expensive and noisy. Stern tubes were an immense cause of trouble – brass bushes wore at an alarming rate (5lbs per day on one Royal Navy sloop is recorded) and water leaked into the vessel. Shafts and screws corroded when vessels were laid up. In 1855 John Penn patented the lignum vitae bearing, so one of these problems was solved. Thrust from the screw was another big problem – early thrust bearings were troublesome primitive affairs. Another complication was the need on some ships to be able to raise the screw out of the water when under sail. It is no wonder that conservative companies like Cunard stayed with the tried and trustworthy paddle ships (or sail) for as long as it took for screws to prove themselves reliable. It is often thought that the Royal Navy was conservative when it came to steam power, but actually they tested the screw intensively in the first half of the 19th century, and the Navy was in advance of the merchant ships in this regard. For example, the Royal Navy’s first iron screw driven ship was purchased in 1842 (HMS Dwarf) and in one year (1845) she had 24 different screws fitted for trial.

It seems like iron armour was first used by the French in action during the Crimean war as their ships were suffering from land-based Russian batteries. The Royal Navy copied the idea and built two floating armoured batteries. In the late 1850’s, France built the famous “Gloire”, an armour-plated wooden battleship, and then Great Britain followed quickly with Warrior and Black Prince, iron screw-driven warships with armoured hulls. These ships displaced 9,210 tons and had massive engines of 5,470 hp, with cylinder bores of 104.6 inches diameter and could move at over 14 knots. With these ships the wooden sailing warship was made obsolete, but it was in the American Civil War that began shortly afterwards that armoured, steam driven, screw-propelled ships were used in a form of fleet action, firstly on wooden ships, then in the famous encounter between Merrimac and Monitor.

I know this period was also a fertile time of invention in the USA as the use of high pressure steam and steam boats were developed there. None the less, it was Great Britain that was to lead the world in marine engineering, right into the 20th century, and on a scale that made all other countries (especially the USA) almost irrelevant.

I hope this is of interest, and welcome any comments and corrections, this old stuff is of great interest, there is nothing dry and dusty about gearhead history I reckon.

02-16-2008, 10:09 PM
Hi Peter.

A fabulous post.

This is a bit more local history of one such in OZ (Oceania? = OZ and NZ).


It seems that these vessels which as I recall were used on rivers to subdue and over-awe the "natives" were not good "sea-goers".

I spent a good bit of my OZ navy time in HMAS Cerberus "the cradle of the OZ Navy/RAN".

It seems that these vessels were the predecessors to the "Dreadnought" class built by the British Navy (RN) which in turn preceded the huge battle-ships that so many countries and navies "just had to have". These in turn were relegated to the rubbish bin of history by the use of air-craft for engaging Naval ships/targets.

I hope I've got this right - please do feel welcome to correct me if and as needed.




Rich Carlstedt
02-16-2008, 10:42 PM
Fastenating posts guys.

a little bit of history to add here. As Peter said, the wear rate was phenomonal for engine parts and drive train components

In my research, I came accross references to many terms that we no longer use or are familiar with today.
One of the prints from the National Archieve for the Passaic, the 2nd monitor built used words like "Anti-Attrition Metal" for the drive shaft thrust bearing and certain Valve train parts. Intrigued by these, I had to find out what such a metal was.
At first I thought it was a type of bronze, but usually bronze parts were called "Composition Metal" so off to the books.
Well, it turns out that about (~) 1843 a Man named George Babbitt invented a metal that did not disappear, (as Peter mentioned) it had outstandingly low friction and was comparitively tough, and most important, could be be re-casted right in the engine room when used for bearings.
You got it, It was Babbitt Bearing metal, but up to the late 1800's it had the name Anti-Attrition name, until different versions of the metal came out, then a number system was used, like Babbitt #3
The US Navy was so impressed, they issued an order in 1844, that all steam ship components "henceforth" were to use this metal.

So on my model, the thrust bearing face, along with the translator lever bearings use Babbitt, in accordance with the practice.

for your knowledge, one of the greatest reducers of friction, is the metal TIN.
It is awesome in it's use and a or "the" main component of Babbitt Metal .
Of course other metals are combined like Bismuth ,lead etc. but thank George for the later sucessful use of Marine Steam !


Bill Pace
02-16-2008, 11:18 PM
Geez, were these guys amazing, or what??

I just cant imagine ---- sitting in a, usually, small, dimly (very) lit space, freezing or sweating bullets, using just raw brain power, many times on their own, and coming up with these magnificent devices!!

Ah, those were some awesome periods.

These nautical tales remind me of something my wife quoted me from a novel she was reading about England around 1900. She asked did I know what a "penny hang" was?

It seems that when the sailors came ashore, they had trouble getting rid of "sea legs", so many establishments would hang ropes about in the Inns and charge a penny for the sailors to "hang" on the ropes and sleep --

They were used to sleeping in any way they could, one of the more common was to "hang" on the riggings, so when coming ashore, they had to ease back into sleeping on a firm bed! Hence, the "penny hang"

02-16-2008, 11:44 PM
It must be very confusing to read such accounts with unfamiliar terminology. If I read "anti-attrition" metal in a marine setting, I would jump to the (wrong!) conclusion they were talking about sacrificial electrodes like zinc to stop electrolysis from eating the metal.



02-16-2008, 11:51 PM
Thanks Rich.

I am getting paranoid about ensuring that I don't impinge or intrude upon nor "hi-jack" on your marvelous "Monitor Engine" post - so please bear with me.

You are dead right about tin and babbit metal - a real mile-stone in Marine Engineering.

A lot think that the use of Tin is new - far from it.

These too are a great read.



I have an air quill on my T&C grinder which uses the "fluid" bearing principal - that shaft will start to slide with about 1 degree or there-abouts of tilt - minimal friction.

When I was working on Naval Gunnery and Weapons systems we had air bearings in vertical reference and rate-tracking gyroscopes - again almost no friction - but it was toast if the air supply failed and the back-up supply failed as well.

the mention of the "Michell" thrust bearing was a huge advance in naval propulsion as it used an "oil wedge" just as plain bearings do and did in South Bend lathes!!. And marine and land-based steam and gas turbines.

A Destroyer I was on had 54,000 shaft horsepower on 2 shafts - 27,000 per shaft - all taken with Michell (type) bearings. It was not just steady load either in a Destroyer. It was common to go from "Full Ahead" to "Full astern". The boilers (2) almost jumped off their pads and you can imagine what happened to the steam turbine engines and the reverse and forward shaft thrust pads. The ship shook like it was about to come apart!! But those Michell bearings did the job.

Of course the "A" brackets - suspended under the stern of the hull to support the end of the shafts and lateral/vertical re-action forces from the engine and propeller/s were made from "Lignum vitae" as you describe

It is as heavy as ............... but does its job and machines beautifully.

"Tufnol" is widely used now - in the OZ Navy at least. It is a great material.


And check this HSM page and the included links.

I hope I have not intruded in any way on Rich's engine which is a magnificent thread and effort all round.

02-17-2008, 12:19 AM
When reading about the Monitor and Merrimac and seeing the details of the construction I wonder about the heavy manufacturing processes of the day.Is there any information of the processes used to produce the plating and other materials?That had to have been a sight,IIRC both ships used some impressive iron plating and components.

02-17-2008, 02:09 AM
For Rich C and Peter S:

I had a look for more "Monitor" or related stuff. It is getting scarcer now.

I thought that these might help - some are directly related and others not so much.

Sorry about the jumble but it took some time.

I hope it helps the discussion.












Woolwich Arsenal (UK):



I would recommend reading all of the items of the menu on the left of the post above but particularly those on:
- Iron-clads and Gun-boats:

- warship - age of sail:

- bronze gun-founding:

- convicts:
(and you think YOUR wages and conditions are poor!!)

- infernal devices:

- paper cartridges (and the Sepoy rebellion):
(and you think YOU are "doing it tough")
(and how to sort out recalcitrant employees or "hired help")

- the Dust Hole:
(what a place to live in).

- the Innovators:
(some familiar names here)




(note the triple-expansion steam engine demo *.gif file - and propulsion systems)



02-17-2008, 05:52 AM
I spotted a WP article on marine propellers/screws and propellers generally that might be of interest as the screw on the "Monitor" gets a mention.


02-17-2008, 05:57 AM
It seems that "monitor" had a smooth bore Dahlgren gun/s.

Some details that might help follow:

Peter S
02-17-2008, 06:36 AM

Prompted by Asquith, I have been reading bits from the autobiography of William Fairbairn (mentioned in my first post, one of the great engineers of the 19th century, and in the context of this discussion, particularly involved with iron shipbuilding and later, iron armour plate development).

In the book (around page 350) it explains that armour plate was extensively trialled around 1860 by the Government of Great Britain, and that wrought iron, as soft and tough as possible (and free from hardness and brittleness) was found best.

It explains that plates at that time could either be hammered or rolled. If hammered, "large lumps of iron, previously prepared from 'scrap' or from 'puddled bars' were brought to welding heat, and being laid together, were placed under heavy steam hammers, the repeated blows of which welded the masses together, and shaped them to the required form and dimensions".

This is how the first armour plate was made, for example for the "Warrior" mentioned in my first post. Warrior had 4 1/2" armour over its iron hull (in places).

Continuing to quote from the same book; "Shortly afterwards a firm in Yorkshire adopted another plan, namely, by rolling - a process in fact the same as that used for ordinary boiler-plates, but on a much larger scale. The masses of iron, first prepared, were flat in shape, and several of these, being laid one on another, were heated to the welding point in a furnace, and then passed between large rollers, which rolled them out into one solid plate of the required size. The process was a difficult one, from all the apparatus requiring to be of such great size, and the machinery of such immense power."

The Iron Committee (established in 1860) tested both types and found that the rolled type was preferable, being more uniform in quality, and softer (but still liable to 'lamination' i.e. imperfect welding between layers).

Hammered iron plating was found to be less perfectly welded together and also harder in places where the hammer had worked it repeatedly, thus an unequal plate.

This is just the beginning of the story of armour plate, books such as "Warrior to Dreadnought" by D.K. Brown explain later developments of hardened steel armour, e.g. Harvey armour (c.1891-93) and Krupp armour (c.1896), the latter in particular requiring a very complex, time-consuming process. In brief - low carbon steel was alloyed with nickel, chromium, manganese and possibly molybdenum, cast into a 60 ton ingot, pressed into slab, trimmed (up to 1/3rd removed), rolled using 15,000 hp rolls, each pass reducing the thickness by 1/4" -1/2", softened in a low-temperature furnace, set flat and planed over its entire face. Then covered with a mixture of animal and vegetable charcoal to a depth of 6", another plate laid on top, covered with sand and run into a furnace and kept at high temperature for up to three weeks, bent to shape while hot, toughened by reheating and cooling in an oil bath. Edges cut to final shape, all holes drilled and plugged with clay. Face then reheated to a higher temperature than back, and plate suddenly cooled with water jets. The face was now very hard, while the back, which was not carburised, was heated to a lower temperature, remained tough. Shape checked, and corrected in the press when nearly cold. Final adjustments made by grinding, the face too hard to cut, but the back could still be drilled and tapped. Nine months quoted as time required for delivery. Very expensive, yet made in vast quantities, e.g 28,000 tons in 1899-1900 at £95 per ton.

02-17-2008, 07:05 AM
Excellent thread, Peter.

I’d like to contribute a bit more when I have time, but regarding HMS Warrior, I posted some photos here (but beware, dial-uppers, there’s quite a few photos). One photos shows the 4.5” armour for the ‘citadel’.:-


Here are the replica engines:-


I was under the impression that Warrior was the first armoured all-iron ship. The Gloire was a wooden ship, clad with iron. Neither ship had gun turrets. Having looked at drawings of Monitor, I don’t know what to make of it. Although there was a great deal of wood used in its construction, I assume that this was protective rather than structural, and that it was, therefore, and iron ship?

Apparently the launch of Warrior was delayed because it was frozen to the slipway!

Peter S
02-17-2008, 05:04 PM
Was reading last night that the 'armour' cladding on the Merrimack was 2 layers of 2" thick iron plate, "rolled from iron railroad rails". Would be interesting to know if this is correct, and how they rolled them. Maybe 2" was accomodated in plate rolls of the time?

02-17-2008, 05:26 PM
I hope this is of interest, and welcome any comments and corrections, this old stuff is of great interest, there is nothing dry and dusty about gearhead history I reckon.


I love those old slow-revving engines. I crossed the North Atlantic in 1960 on a liner powered by a pair of quadruple-expansion engines, and I spent some time in the engine room, mesmerized by the motions.

You write in the polished prose of a professional. I'm wondering if you have been published, and if so, where I can read some more.

02-17-2008, 06:55 PM
Trivia: the iron plates for the monitor were made in North Adams, Massachusetts, from iron ore dug from Mt. Greylock, the highest mountain in Massachusetts and located partly in North Adams.
If you drive from Williamstown into North Adams on Route 2, and bear right to go down into the center of North Adams, there's a commemorative plaque on the left a short way down the hill.

02-17-2008, 08:51 PM
Thanks for that Peter,laid up forge welding had not dawned on me.

Rich Carlstedt
02-17-2008, 11:40 PM

but first, H.M.S.Warrior although IronClad, was still a sailing ship, a square rigger.
The thing about the Monitor was it was all Iron, Steam Only, which made it, First, and Turreted. really a first.

And Second, The wood that was used by Erricsson was for a specific purpose, as a shock absorber.
The Oak was encapsolated and no wood was exposed to water or air outside the ship.
It was classified as an Ironclad ship as most all war ships were with Iron hanging on them.
By running White Oak about 2 feet thick behind the five armour belts of one inch iron, he spread the forces of a direct hit, and it worked, as evidenced by the results. However the Turret with 8 inches of armour has dents in the sides, he obviously didn't want Oak in the turret , but did provide "covers" for the rivets . they became grenades if a cannon ball made a direct hit.
The Virgina (Merrimak) took direct hits from the Monitor and the OAK braces inside exploded and almost all injuries ( I think 20 ) were from splinters ( think 4 x 4's)

Third and last. I found that all the sheets of iron (steel) were only 9 feet long.
On the front Bulkhead, supporting my engine, the plans call out 9 feet, and so were many others.
So, I may assume that 9 feet was the longest they rolled sheet (1/2" plate) was 9 feet at that time. Not sure if this is right, but it is interesting.

And NOW for some great history guys

You can follow the construction steps of building a Monitor turret in this series from Harpers Weekly from 1862.
As a retired Engineer, I was really impressed by the accuracy of the steps and descriptions.
Cornell University has done an out standing job bringing this to the Public.

Select Browse
Select Harpers new monthly
Select 1862
Select September
Select Ironclads.....enjoy pages 442 +
hit the hand on the top right to go forward, top left to go back

This was done through the following
"Making of America is made possible by a grant from The Andrew W. Mellon Foundation.

Tank You Mr Mellon and Cornell !

Sorry there is no direct link to the pages.

Peter S
02-18-2008, 05:46 AM

I suppose it is difficult to compare Warrior and Monitor as regards all-steam propulsion, because Warrior was a large ship made for ocean-going use, and reliability and fuel availability would still make use of sails sensible. I doubt Monitor was ever intended to venture far from land, and probably not intended to go into unsheltered waters.

Interesting to read about the timber used in these ironclads. Fairbairn’s book (mentioned earlier) discusses this in some detail, saying that the British copied the French in fitting their armour over timber, initially without understanding why this was required. Warrior apparently had 18” of timber between the armour and the iron hull. The book says that some ship building experts of the time thought this timber unnecessary, but tests showed it was very important for several reasons.

Because of its softness, it deadened the blow from the shot, thus lessening breakage of bolts and rivets.

It distributed the blow over a wider area of the hull plate. Tests showed that armour fastened directly to the iron hull would penetrate more easily “but with the large thickness of wood between, the area of operation enlarged backwards, like a cone, thereby increasing materially the power of the thick skin to resist the damaging effect.”

If the armour became broken under heavy fire, the pieces would not fall off, but become embedded in the timber, and so continue to provide some defence.

Finally, the timber would catch pieces of shot and shell and keep them from entering the ship.

I read in another book that timber continued to be used between armour and hull, I think until the last of the battleships. When hardened armour began to be used, the thickness could be greatly reduced, but there was still about 2 ½” of teak packing interposed to give a fair surface.

I really know very little about this, but one thing that becomes obvious in reading, is that armour development was tied to the “improvement” of guns, explosives and shells. Rich mentions the wooden splinters flying about in Merrimack – when you read the warship stories of the last two World Wars, shell splinters were flying around – except these splinters would penetrate thick steel and destroy not just flesh but machinery and ships as well.


Regarding early materials, books often mention the unreliability of early marine engines – an example is given (taken from the ships log) of the British-built steamboat “Enterprise” which went out to India in 1825 under steam and sail. Maudslay Son and Field had built the machinery, and the report sent to Henry Maudslay from India listed numerous small defects such as broken brass bolts in the boiler and broken valve spindles. The author says that brass refers to copper-zinc alloys, and that special bronzes with higher tensile strength were not invented until the latter half of the 19th century, e.g. manganese bronze (high-tensile brass) and phosphor bronze. I was interested to read that, I assumed bronze had been around for thousands for years (e.g. ancient statues etc); I guess we need more info on which alloys were used when throughout history.

Interesting to read that the Royal Navy used gun metal (copper-tin-zinc alloy, good casting qualities) for the Smith-design two-bladed screw fitted to “Rattler” around 1845. I think most of the early screws were fabricated from iron and riveted together, or cast in one piece from cast iron.

Rattler is well-known in stories for being tied stern-to-stern in 1845 with a comparable frigate fitted with paddle wheels. The paddle boat was allowed to get underway at full speed, before Rattler was permitted to start its screw and proceed to first stop, and then tow the paddler astern at 2.8 knots.

BTW, for anyone’s interest, there is a survivor of the early ironclad days in Chile, with fairly amazing and colourful history – the Huascar, built in 1865 by Laird Brothers, Birkenhead, England. Poor photos on this link.




Thanks for your kind words, however my "writing" extends only to the often over-long postings you read here and the PM forum.

02-18-2008, 06:22 AM
Regarding Rattler’s propeller, I was surprised to find that it was preserved. More surprised to see it with my own eyes, at a travelling exhibition visiting the SS Great Britain a year or two ago. Here it is:-

http://i3.photobucket.com/albums/y54/Asquith1/2007/th_GB03.jpg (http://i3.photobucket.com/albums/y54/Asquith1/2007/GB03.jpg)

The topic of steam vs sail in naval vessels, like so many other areas of policy including the incorporation of rams, was the subject of much debate and bizarre decision making. The British Admirality was not renowned for revolutionary changes, and one argument put forward against the abandonment of sails was that ‘masts and canvas were necessities for building the strength, character and every virtuous quality of British Seamen, and for training officers’. An over-reliance on steam ‘induces carelessness on the part of those who would act differently if they were trimming or working the sails or ropes of a vessel not under steam….. This constant steaming and useless expenditure of coal produces ignorance in the rising officers of all ranks’.

In Britain’s de facto role as world policeman in Victorian times, the use of ships with inefficient engines did pose logistical problems in supplying coal. This was compounded by the fact that the Royal Navy favoured steam coal from one source, South Wales, due to its ability to burn smokelessly. So there were practical reasons for retaining sail on ‘long distance’ vessels. However, combining steam and sail certainly wasn’t economical. One study showed that the effect of the weight and resistance of the masts and rigging resulted in more coal being burnt when steaming than was saved when sailing.

Of course a major drawback wast the restriction imposed by the presence of masts and rigging on the use of gun turrets.

With regard to armour, one interesting development in the 1870s was ‘compound armour’, made by pouring molten steel on red hot iron plate, fusing the two. This allowed thinner armour to be used, for example 15” instead of 12”, with a considerable saving of weight.

Source of much of this information: ‘Birth of the Battleship’ by John Beeler, Chatham Publishing.

02-18-2008, 08:08 AM
I mentioned SS Great Britain earlier. This has been preserved in the dry dock in Bristol where it was constructed. I K Brunel was responsible for both the ship and the dock. Launched, or rather floated, in 1843.

After years of under-funded preservation, money was found to revatilalise the project. One of the problems was that salt had diffused into the hull below the water line, and corrosion continued relentlessly. The problem was tackled in a way that was imaginative and visually outstanding. The lower part of the hull was enclosed by a glass floor, and the space below is supplied with dehumidified air. There’s a shallow depth of water on top of the floor, so from the right angle it looks as though the ship is afloat.

When you walk round at keel level, you get a very good impression of the ship’s size, which must have been regarded as breathtaking when it was new. It was quite a leap forward in iron steamship construction. Originally designed as a paddle steamer, Brunel was won over by screw propulsion as construction proceeded. The engine was intended as a paddle engine, so to overcome the problem of the crankshaft being too high, too slow, and too transverse, the engine was turned round and a chain drive incorporated!

Many artefacts are on display in the adjacent museum, including the stern frame and rudder and replica propeller (I don’t know which phase the prop represents). Kids enjoy operating the propeller disengagement/lifting device.

Click on thumbnails:-

http://i3.photobucket.com/albums/y54/Asquith1/2007/th_GB04.jpg (http://i3.photobucket.com/albums/y54/Asquith1/2007/GB04.jpg)

http://i3.photobucket.com/albums/y54/Asquith1/2007/th_GB02.jpg (http://i3.photobucket.com/albums/y54/Asquith1/2007/GB02.jpg)

http://i3.photobucket.com/albums/y54/Asquith1/2007/th_GB01.jpg (http://i3.photobucket.com/albums/y54/Asquith1/2007/GB01.jpg)

02-19-2008, 04:07 PM
I came across the name Captain Cowper Coles of the Royal Navy, who appears to have used turnable shielded guns on makeshift rafts in the Crimea. He developed his ideas and proposed gun turrets in ships, running on rollers. The Admiralty were impressed, and had HMS Trusty fitted with a turret, with 4½“ armour, in 1861. It came out of ‘giving and receiving’ trials with impressive results, and the Admiralty ordered a new ship, HMS Prince Albert, to be fitted with four turrets. I thought it would have been easy to find information on Trusty, but it was not to be. However, I did come across some interesting discussion about the early armoured ships here:-


Apparently the first use of iron armour on a boat was in Korea - in the 16th century!

Peter S
02-19-2008, 06:15 PM

BTW, for anyone’s interest, there is a survivor of the early ironclad days in Chile, with fairly amazing and colourful history – the Huascar, built in 1865 by Laird Brothers, Birkenhead, England. Poor photos on this link.



I was just reading more about the American civil war - Laird Brothers of Birkenhead, Liverpool (builders of the commerce raider Alabama) are mentioned as builders of two powerful steam ironclad warships fitted with rams for the Confederacy in 1863. However, such was the potential threat of these two vessels, the North threatened Britain with war if they were delivered. The book suggests these two "Laird Rams" might have changed the outcome of the civil war as well as causing war between the North and Britain. In the event, the British Government ordered the rams held, then the Royal Navy purchased them.

Speaking of steam warships and sail, I have been reading about the sea battle of Manila Bay in 1898. From the photos and diagrams, it seems that most of the ships and gunboats, both US and Spanish, still had masts and sails. Even the USS Olympia, a cruiser and the most powerful in the squadron, and flagship of Admiral Dewey, had sails. No doubt in the Pacific, sail was still a help when traversing the great distances of this ocean.

02-19-2008, 06:29 PM
I've followed the links on Huascar (designed by Captain Cowper Coles) and came to this website, which has quite a few photos:-


02-20-2008, 05:41 PM
Laird’s, later to merge with the Sheffield steelmaker Charles Cammell Ltd, became Cammell Laird,. They made some interesting, famous and perhaps infamous ships in their long history. These included, in no particular order,

Robert F. Stockton, designed by Ericsson and launched in 1838 or 1839, which I’ve read was the first screw-propelled vessel to cross the Atlantic, when it went to its American owners;

HMS Scorpion and HMS Wivern, being the ‘Laird Rams’ referred to by Peter, ironclads destined for the Confederate forces and seized by the British Government. Twin turrets, 3 – 4.5” armour.

The ill-fated HMS Captain of 1870, designed by Captain Cowper Coles, which was overweight, over-rigged, and overturned.

Fullagar, believed to be the first merchant ship with an all arc-welded hull, 1920.

HMS Achilles of Battle of the River Plate fame, and the battleship HMS Prince of Wales which took part in the sinking of the Bismarck;

Many submarines, including three nuclear subs.

A gas turbine-driven tanker (the Sepia) in 1956,

Cammellaird-Fullagar diesel engines:-

More information on some of their more interesting vessels here:-

Information on HMS Wivern and Scorpion:-

Laird/Cammell Laird’s yard was in Birkenhead on the River Mersey. One of their paddle steamers was the ‘Birkenhead’, which struck a rock of S Africa in 1852 and sank. The Birkenhead was carrying troops and their families, and became famous for the order ‘Women and children first’, and for the bravery and discipline of the troops as they stood awaiting their fate:-

Frederick William IV of Prussia was so moved by the Captain Wright’s words that he ordered them to be read to his regiments.

Mention of Cammell Laird’s gives me another excuse to show one of my favourite photos:-

And finally, in more ways than one, Britain honours its pioneering manufacturers by letting them go without a struggle, so here’s a last look at Cammell Laird’s yard (clickable thumbnail, but put your sunglasses on):-

http://i3.photobucket.com/albums/y54/Asquith1/2007/th_Cammell01.jpg (http://i3.photobucket.com/albums/y54/Asquith1/2007/Cammell01.jpg)

It is there, across the River, where those big building halls are just visible, fittingly disappearing into the sunset. Viewed from the tower of one of Liverpool’s cathedrals.