Paddle steamer

Paddle steamer

A paddle steamer is a ship or boat driven by a steam engine that uses one or more paddle wheels to develop thrust for propulsion. It is also a type of steamboat. Boats with paddle wheels on the sides are termed sidewheelers, while those with a single wheel on the stern are known as sternwheelers. Paddle steamers usually carry the prefix "PS". Although generally associated with steam power, paddleboats or paddlewheelers have also been driven by diesel engines, animal power, or human power.

The paddle wheel was the first form of mechanical propulsion for a boat, but has now been almost entirely superseded by the screw propeller and other, more modern, forms of marine propulsion.

Paddle wheels

The paddle wheel is a large wheel, generally built of a steel framework, upon the outer edge of which are fitted numerous paddle blades (called "floats" or "buckets"). The bottom quarter or so of the wheel travels underwater. Rotation of the paddle wheel produces thrust, forward or backward as required. More advanced paddle wheel designs have featured "feathering" methods that keep each paddle blade oriented closer to vertical while it is in the water; this increases efficiency. The upper part of a paddle wheel is normally enclosed in a paddlebox to minimise splashing.

Types of paddle steamer

There are two basic ways to mount paddle wheels on a ship; a single wheel on the rear, known as a "stern-wheeler", and a paddle wheel on each side, known as a "side-wheeler".

Stern-wheelers have generally been used as riverboats, especially in the United States, where they still operate for tourist use on the Mississippi River and some other locations. On a river, the narrowness of a stern-wheeler is preferable.

Side-wheelers are used as riverboats and as coastal craft. While wider than a stern-wheeler, due to the extra width of the paddle wheels and their enclosing "pontoons", a side-wheeler has extra maneuverability since the power may be directed to one wheel at a time.

Early developments

The use of a paddle wheel in navigation appears for the first time in the mechanical treatise of the Roman engineer Vitruvius ("De architectura", X 9.5-7), where he describes multi-geared paddle wheels working as a ship odometer. The first mention of paddle wheels as a means of propulsion comes from the 4th–5th century military treatise "De Rebus Bellicis" (chapter XVII), where the anonymous Roman author describes an ox-driven paddle-wheel warship:

Robert Temple asserts that the first mention of a paddle-wheel ship from China is described in the "History of the Southern Dynasties", compiled in the 7th century but describing the naval ships of the Liu Song Dynasty (420–479) used by admiral Wang Zhene in his campaign against the Qiang people in 418 AD.Temple, 192.] Temple also writes that the mathematician and astronomer Zu Chongzhi (429–500) had a paddle-wheel ship built on the Xinting River (south of Nanjing) known as the "thousand league boat". When campaigning against Hou Jing in 552, the Liang Dynasty (502–557) admiral Xu Shipu employed paddle-wheel boats called "water-wheel boats". At the siege of Liyang in 573, the admiral Huang Faqiu employed foot-treadle powered paddle-wheel boats. A successful paddle-wheel warship design was made in China by Prince Li Gao in 784 AD, during an imperial examination of the provinces by the Tang Dynasty (618–907) emperor.Needham, Volume 4, Part 3, 31.] Temple, 193.] The Chinese Song Dynasty (960–1279) issued the construction of many paddle-wheel ships for its standing navy, and according to historian Joseph Needham:

"...between 1132 and 1183 (AD) a great number of treadmill-operated paddle-wheel craft, large and small, were built, including stern-wheelers and ships with as many as 11 paddle-wheels a side,” Needham, 476] .

Temple writes that the standard Chinese term "wheel ship" was used by the Song period, whereas a litany of colorful terms were used to describe it beforehand.Temple, 194.] In the 12th century, the Song government used paddle-wheel ships "en masse" to defeat opposing armies of pirates armed with their own paddle-wheel ships. At the Battle of Caishi in 1161, paddle-wheelers were also used with great success against the Jin Dynasty (1115–1234) navy.Needham, Volume 5, Part 7, 165–166.] The Chinese used the paddle-wheel ship even during the First Opium War (1839–1842) and for transport around the Pearl River during the early 20th century.

In 1543 the Spanish engineer Blasco de Garay in Barcelona made an experimental vessel propelled by a paddle-wheel on each side, worked by forty men. In the same year he showed Carlos I of Spain (also known as Charles V, the Holy Roman Emperor), a new idea - a ship propelled by a giant wheel powered by steam. Carlos was not interested in it. [Kurlansky, Mark. 1999. "The Basque History of the World". Walker & Company, New York. ISBN 0-8027-1349-1, p. 56] citation
url =
title = Steamboat Days
first1 = Fred Erving
last1 = Dayton
chapter = Two Thousand Years of Steam
publisher = Frederick A. Stokes company
page = 1
year = 1925

In 1787 Patrick Miller of Dalswinton invented a double-hulled boat, which was propelled on the Firth of Forth by men working a capstan whichdrove paddles on each side.cite book
last = Smiles, Samuel
title = Men of Invention and Industry
publisher = [ Gutenberg e-text]
date = 1884
location =
id =

The first paddle steamer was the "Pyroscaphe" built by Marquis Claude de Jouffroy of Lyon in France, in 1783. It had a horizontal double-acting steam engine driving two 13.1-ft (4 m) paddle wheels on the sides of the craft. On July 15 1783 it steamed successfully up the Saône for fifteen minutes before the engine failed. Political events interrupted further development.

The next successful attempt at a paddle-driven steam ship was by the Scottish engineer William Symington who suggested steam power to Patrick Miller of Dalswinton. Experimental boats built in 1788 and 1789 worked successfully on Lochmaben Loch. In 1802, Symington built a barge-hauler, "Charlotte Dundas", for the Forth and Clyde Canal Company. It successfully hauled two 70-ton barges almost 20 miles (30 km) in 6 hours against a strong headwind on test in 1802. There was much enthusiasm, but some directors of the company were concerned about the banks of the canal being damaged by the wash from a powered vessel, and no more were ordered.

While "Charlotte Dundas" was the first commercial paddle-steamer and steamboat, the first commercial "success" was possibly Robert Fulton's "Clermont" in New York, which went into commercial service in 1807 between New York City and Albany. Many other paddle-equipped river boats followed all around the world.

eagoing paddle steamers

The first sea-going trip of a paddle steamer was that in 1808 of the "Albany"', which steamed from the Hudson River along the coast to the Delaware River. This was purely for the purpose of moving a river-boat to a new market, but the use of paddle-steamers for short coastal trips began soon after that.

The first paddle-steamer to make a long ocean voyage was the SS "Savannah", built in 1819 expressly for this service. "Savannah" set out for Liverpool on May 22 1819, sighting Ireland after 23 days at sea. This was the first powered crossing of the Atlantic, although "Savannah" also carried a full rig of sail to assist the engines when winds were favorable. In 1822, Charles Napier's "Aaron Manby", the world's first iron ship, made the first direct steam crossing from London to Paris and the first seagoing voyage by an iron ship anywhere.In 1838, "Sirius", a fairly small steam packet built for the Cork to London route, became the first vessel to cross the Atlantic under sustained steam power, beating Isambard Kingdom Brunel's much larger "Great Western" by a day. "Great Western", however, was actually built for the transatlantic trade, and so had sufficient coal for the passage; "Sirius" had to burn furniture and other items after running out of coal. [Men of Iron : Brunel, Stephenson and the Inventions That Shaped the Modern World by Sally Dugan ISBN 978-1405034265 ] The "Great Western"’s more successful crossing began the regular sailing of powered vessels across the Atlantic. "Beaver" was the first coastal steamship to operate in the Pacific Northwest of North America. Paddle steamers helped open Japan to the Western World in the mid-19th century.

The largest paddle-steamer ever built was Brunel's "Great Eastern", but it also had screw propulsion and sail rigging. It was 692 ft (211 m) long and weighed 32,000 tons, its paddle-wheels being 56 ft (17 m) in diameter.

In oceangoing service, paddle steamers became obsolete rather quickly with the invention of the screw propeller, but they remained in use in coastal service and as river tugboats, thanks to their shallow draught and good maneuverability.

Modern paddle steamers

Few original paddle steamers remain in existence, and those that do are mainly preserved for tourists or as museums. Some paddle steamers, such as the "Delta Queen", still operate on the Mississippi River and Willamette River, [ [ Str. Portland] ] [ [ Oregon Maritime Museum] ] as do a few in the United Kingdom and elsewhere in Europe.

The "Washington Irving", built in 1912 by the New York Shipbuilding Company, was the biggest passenger-carrying riverboat ever built with a capacity for 6,000 passengers. It was operated on the Hudson River from 1913 until it was sunk in an accident in 1926.

PS "Waverley", built in 1947, is the last sea-going paddle steamer in the world. This ship sails a full season of cruises every year from ports around Britain, and has sailed across the English Channel to commemorate the sinking of her predecessor of 1899 at the Battle of Dunkirk.PS "Skibladner" is the oldest steamship in regular operation. Built in 1856, she still operates on lake Mjøsa in Norway.

PS "Adelaide" is the oldest wooden-hulled paddle steamer in the world. Built in 1866, she operates from the Port of Echuca, on Australia's Murray River, which has the largest fleet of paddle steamers in the world. The paddle steamer "Curlip" is currently being reconstructed in Gippsland Australia.

The Elbe river Saxon Paddle Steamer Fleet in Dresden (known as "White Fleet"), Germany, is said to be the oldest and biggest in the world, with around 700.000 passengers per year. [ (the biggest and oldest)] The 1913-built "Goethe" is the last paddle steamer on the River Rhine. [] It is the world's greatest sidewheeler with a 2-cylinder steam engine of convert|700|HP|abbr=on, a length of 83 m and a height above water of 9.2 m.

Switzerland has a large paddle steamer fleet, most of the "Salon Steamer-type" built by Sulzer in Winterthur or Escher-Wyss in Zürich. There are five active and one inactive on Lake Lucerne, two on Lake Zürich, and one each on Lake Brienz, Lake Thun and Lake Constance. Swiss company CGN operates a number of paddle steamers on Lake Geneva. Their fleet includes three converted to diesel electric power in the 1960s and five retaining steam. One, "Montreux", was reconverted in 2000 from diesel to an all-new steam engine. It is the world's first electronically remote-controlled steam engine and has operating costs similar to state-of-the-art diesels, while producing up to 90 percent less air pollutionFact|date=March 2007.In the USSR, river paddle steamers of the type "Iosif Stalin" (project 373), later renamed "Ryazan"-class steamships, were built until 1951. Between 1952 and 1959, ships of this type were build for the Soviet Union by Obuda Hajogyar Budapest factory in Hungary. In total, 75 type "Iosif Stalin/Ryazan" side-wheelers were built. 'They are 70 m long and can carry up to 360 passengers. Few of them still remain in active service. [ [ Russian river ships (in English)] ] [ [ Russian passenger river fleet (in Russian)] ]

In Italy, a small paddle steamer fleet operates on Lake Como and Lake Garda, primarily for the benefit of tourists.

On the Isle of Wight, PS "Monarch" (one of the smallest passenger-carrying vessels of her type) takes trips on the River Medina. "Monarch" is a side wheeler built at Chatham Historic Dockyard in Kent.

The restored paddle steamer "Waimarie" is based in Wanganui, New Zealand. The "Waimarie" was built in kitset form in Poplar, London in 1899, and originally operated on the Whanganui River under the name "Aotea". Later renamed, she remained in service until 1949. She sank at her moorings in 1952, and remained in the mud until raised by volunteers and restored to begin operations again in 2000. [ [ Whanganui River Boat Centre] ]

Paddle tugs

The British Admiralty used diesel-electric paddle tugs in recent times. Each paddle wheel was driven by an individual electric motor, giving outstanding maneuverability.

ee also

* Delta Queen
* Roller ship
* Technology of the Song Dynasty



*Needham, Joseph (1986). "Science and Civilization in China: Volume 4, Part 3, Civil Engineering and Nautics". Taipei: Caves Books, Ltd.
*Needham, Joseph (1986). "Science and Civilization in China: Volume 5, Part 7, Military Technology; The Gunpowder Epic". Taipei: Caves Books, Ltd.
*Temple, Robert. (1986). "The Genius of China: 3,000 Years of Science, Discovery, and Invention". With a forward by Joseph Needham. New York: Simon and Schuster, Inc. ISBN 0671620282.

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Look at other dictionaries:

  • Paddle steamer — Paddle Pad dle, n. [See {Paddle}, v. i.] 1. An implement with a broad blade, which is used without a fixed fulcrum in propelling and steering canoes and boats. [1913 Webster] 2. The broad part of a paddle, with which the stroke is made; hence,… …   The Collaborative International Dictionary of English

  • paddle steamer — (also paddle boat) ► NOUN ▪ a boat powered by steam and propelled by paddle wheels …   English terms dictionary

  • paddle steamer — paddle .steamer also paddle boat n BrE a large old fashioned boat that moves by using steam to drive a large wheel attached to the side …   Dictionary of contemporary English

  • paddle steamer — UK / US noun [countable] Word forms paddle steamer : singular paddle steamer plural paddle steamers a large boat that moves by using steam which pushes a set of paddles joined together in the shape of a large wheel …   English dictionary

  • Paddle steamer Stadt Zürich — Stadt Zürich in 2009 Career (Switzerland) …   Wikipedia

  • Paddle steamer Stadt Rapperswil — Stadt Rapperswil in 2009 Career (Switzerland) …   Wikipedia

  • paddle steamer — noun a steam vessel propelled by paddle wheels • Syn: ↑paddle wheeler • Hypernyms: ↑steamer, ↑steamship • Hyponyms: ↑side wheeler, ↑sternwheeler …   Useful english dictionary

  • paddle steamer — a vessel propelled by paddle wheels and driven by steam. [1885 90] * * * …   Universalium

  • paddle steamer — noun A steam powered vessel propelled by one or two paddle wheels …   Wiktionary

  • paddle steamer — noun a boat powered by steam and propelled by paddle wheels …   English new terms dictionary

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