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Caloric Ship 'Ericsson'

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Note: This is a sub-section of John Ericsson

John Ericsson designed the Ericsson, powered by an enormous hot air engine. Ericsson, and many others, had devoted much time and effort to the development of hot air engines. He envisaged that they would supplant steam power by virtue of reduced fuel consumption and increased safety.

'Caloric' is an archaic and obsolete term for a hypothetical elastic fluid.

The ship was built by Perine, Patterson and Stack, with massive engines constructed by Hogg and Delamater. The engines had a stroke of 6 ft., with four working cylinders of 168" (14 ft) diameter surmounted by four air compressing cylinders of 137" (11 ft 5") diameter. Ericsson stated that he had wanted 16 ft diameter working cylinders, but that these were beyond the capacity of the makers. There were four "regenerators", each containing 50 sheets of 1/16" wire mesh, each sheet measuring 6 ft by 4 ft.

The ship was launched on 15 September 1852, just five months after laying the keel, and her first trial trip was on 4 January 1853. It is a remarkable illustration of Ericsson's industry, energy, thoroughness, and skill in management, as well as his ability to persuade financial backers that this was the power source of the future, despite the known mechanical hurdles and Ericsson's flawed understanding of thermodynamics (here he was in good company).

The Ericsson's engine was said at the time to be extremely frugal in its consumption of coal, but the engine's power output and the ship's speed fell far short of expectations. It also seems that there were other serious problems that needed to be addressed. Modifications were carried out, but A veil of secrecy was thrown around all activities concerning the ship, but the magnitude of the changes under way could not long be concealed. The news leaked out that the huge low pressure caloric engine was a complete failure in spite of the eulogies of the press. It could not drive the ship at more than five or six knots at sea and required such extensive repairs after the short voyage to Washington that it was being removed from the ship. In particular the bottoms of the working cylinders had been so badly burdened [burned], buckled, and distorted by the heat of the furnaces that complete replacement was necessary, and furthermore a great deal of trouble had been experienced with lubrication when the engine became thoroughly warmed up by continuous operation for seventy hours or more. Only by the use of prodigious quantities of tallow had the engine been kept running on the return trip from Washington.

'Ericsson was convinced, however, that the principle of the engine was not at fault and persuaded his financial backers that the construction of an improved engine was justified. The new machine had two double-acting cylinders only 6 feet in diameter with a stroke of 6 feet. These were supplied with air at relatively high pressure by charging cylinders, the air being heated by passage through pipe coils in the furnaces on its way from the charging to the working cylinders. The machine thus resembled very closely the experimental engine built in London in 1833 except that much higher pressures were used.'

Trial trips with the new engine were undertaken on 15 March and 27 April 1854. It was claimed that a speed of 11 mph was acheived, but the fuel consumption was not determined, before the ship was struck by a tornado and quickly sank (in shallow water). The ship was rapidly salvaged, but the owners replaced the 'caloric' engine with a steam engine.

Despite the fuel economy, it took up too much space, and too great an outlay of machinery to permit competition with the steam engine. According to Ericcson, The ship after completion made a successful trip from New York to Washington and back during the winter season ; but the average speed at sea proving insufficient for commercial purposes, the owners, with regret, acceded to my proposition to remove the costly machinery, although it had proved perfect as a mechanical combination.

The above information is largely condensed from 'An inquiry into the hot air engines of the 19th century'[1].

On the need for major alterations after the 1853 trial trips, Ericsson wrote of the cylinder bottoms or heaters having proved too elastic and yielding to remain air-tight, ot to admit of full pressure being carried. [2]. Regarding the disappointing speed attained, Ericsson wrote much later (20 July 1875)that:

After having completed the general design of the motive engines of the caloric ship, and finding that in proportion to the power exerted by the 72-inch trial engine, a speed of five miles an hour called for cylinders of 168 inches diameter, 6 feet stroke, I hesitated in undertaking the construction. But for the encouragement received from some of our leading commercial men who were consulted on the subject, the caloric ship would not have been built. Let me add, that all united in the opinion that if a speed of seven miles could be produced, the work ought to proceed. [3]

Whatever the conceptual failings, the construction of the first enormous engines, in such a short timescale, was a most impressive engineering acheivement.

Ericsson subsequently put a positive spin on the failure, actually claiming a positive benefit from the experiment! The resources of modern engineering having been exhausted in producing the motors of the caloric ship, the important question has for ever been set at rest : Can heated air as a mechanical motor compete on a large scale with steam ? The commercial world is indebted to American enterprise to New York enterprise for having settled a question of such vital importance. The marine engineer has thus been encouraged to renew his efforts to perfect the steam-engine, without fear of rivalry from a motor depending on the dilatation of atmospheric air by heat.[4]

Ericsson subsequently designed hot air engines of much smaller output, and these were a commercial success. He was awarded the Rumford Prize of the American Academy of Arts and Sciences in 1862 for his hot air engine developments.

'John Ericsson and the Age of Caloric' by Eugene S. Ferguson

'John Ericsson and the Age of Caloric' by Eugene S. Ferguson.[5] provides an excellent review of the ship's machinery and its problems, and of the development of air engines in general.

The article includes a conjectural illustration of the engines in the ship, complete with top-hatted gents standing on top of the working pistons. No drawings of the actual engines were ever published, and the manufacturing drawings have not survived.

The aeticle also includes a well-known scale drawing showing the test engine constructed by Ericsson before embarking on the ship's engine. Those drawings, together with a description, may also be seen here [6]. It had two working cylinders of 72" diameter, and two compressing cylinders of 58" diameter, with 2 ft stroke. The piston rods acted on an overhead beam via short connecting rods, the beam's trunnion being located centrally between the pistons. One end of the beam is connected to the crankshaft via a long connecting rod. Valves controlled the admission and release of air to and from the upper cylinder, from the air receiver to the 'regenerator', and from the 'regenerator' to exhaust. The bottom of the working cylinder is concave, conforming with the convex base of the cylinder whose underside was directly above the fire. This shape was required in order to withstand the pressure, but it would also help to limit the thermal stresses in the iron as the temperature changed on each stroke and as the intensity of the fire varied. The drawing shows that the diameter of the bore of lowest portion of the cylinder was slightly enlarged. Clearly this eliminate the need to machine this part of the cylinder. The working pistons were filled with gypsum and charcoal to prevent transmission of heat from below.

Ferguson's conjectural drawing of the ship's engine suggests that the rocking beams were set at a low level and were actuated by short connecting rods connected to the working piston (as for a trunk engine).

Note: Ericsson stated that The engine of the caloric ship, again, was a perfect copy of the large test-engine, differing only in size and in having four instead of two pairs of cylinders. The magnitude of the ship and the consequent heavy responsibility forbade the slightest deviation from the engine which had been found to work satisfactorily. [7]

For the first engine, Ericsson envisaged an engine output of 600 HP with a pressure of 12 psi[8]. However the consensus was that a pressure of only 8 psi was acheived, and using the best data obtainable, Ferguson calculated the power output to be only about 250 HP. He further estimated that to increase the ship's speed from 6½ to 13 knots would require an output of nearly 2000 HP.

Press Reports

The ship's second trial trip was attended by invited reporters. The newspaper reports were universally rapturous, and were evidently written with the aid of press handouts. In terms of technical revelations, there was not much to choose between them, although some interesting information is presented, including the fact that the file was anthracite 'which is preferable to other fuel, because it does not blaze — only its radiating heat is employed.'; 'The cylinder-bottom is 1½ inches thick. Before the engine is put in motion it may get to a brown heat, but at that distance it cannot get hotter. As soon as the cold air is let in, it cools much below that point. Thus there is no danger either of fusion, cracking, or oxydizing of the cylinder-bottom, all of which have been predicted by the sceptical.'[9]; of the working pistons: 'The top as well as the sides are of iron, but the space between is filled with gypsum and charcoal, non-conductors of heat. Thus while the bottom has the temperature of the hot air in the cylinder, the top is perfectly cool. The heat there is barely sufficient to keep the tallow used for lubrication in a fluid state, not to burn it. In fact one can stand upon it as it plays up and down, and many gentlemen amused themselves yesterday by riding there. This enables the engineer at any time to grease just the part of it which he may desire; when the ship is careening for instance, and the friction of the piston is all on one side, that side can be directly lubricated. This is a point of great practical importance, which cannot be attained in a steam engine. Nor is there any danger of burning the packing, for it is at the top of the piston, and never comes within less than six feet of the fire.' This latter point hints at the losses due to friction in these massive mechanisms, although Ericsson claimed 'little or no friction'.[10]

Eugene Ferguson does mention one dissenting voice among the media attending the trial trip: that of Orson Munn of the Scientific American, who was an uninvited guest. On the positive side, Munn wrote that Ericsson was 'far more modest of what he has done than they [newspaper writers] are.

1853 'SECOND TRIAL OF THE NEW CALORIC SHIP ERICSSON. (From the York Herald, Jan. 12.)
This wonderful vessel, the success of which is exciting so much attention among all classes at home and abroad, went down the bay yesterdav on another trial trip, having made what is called an " engineer's trip" some days back, an account of which, together with a full description of the vessel, appeared at the time. This second trip was determined on to dispel, by another ocular demonstration, the evil reports that, in spite of the success of the first trial trip, have been raised against the practicability of the experiment. Accordingly, a party of about 60 invited guests, composed of members of the press and several scientific gentlemen, assembled on board a towboat at Whitehall, at 9 o'clock, from which they were transferred to the Ericsson, which was waiting for visitors in the North River, off pier No. 1. At half-past 9 exactly the first turn of the wheels was made. At 15 minutes before 10 o'clock she was abreast the fort on Governor's Island, and reached Fort Diamond at exactly 15 minutes to 10 o'clock, a distance of about seven miles and half, against a strong head wind and tide. When between Governor's Island and Quarantine, the steamship Baltic, from Liverpool, was passed, which saluted with cannon, and several hearty rounds of cheers, which were promptly returned. After the Ericsson had proceeded about a mile and a half below the Narrows, she was put about and returned to the city, and arrived at her starting point in the North River a quarter-past 12. The distance from Governor's Island to her turning point and back was about 18 miles, which was accomplished in two hours and a half. The greatest number of revolutions made on the trip was 104;, and the greatest speed attained was at the rate of nine miles an hour. This trip was not made to show her speed, but to convince the public that the parties interested in her have succeeded in their promise of proving the capability of a vessel being propelled by caloric. On the way back the party assembled in the saloon, when Captain Ericsson explained, by the aid of a diagram, the whole principle and method of working his caloric engines. He gave a succinct history of the whole matter, and demonstrated the method by which the atmosphere was drawn in cold, then forced through a wire net-work, forming a surface of 15,000 square inches, into a lower cylinder, where, receiving additional heat from the furnace, it expanded in the larger cylinder so as to raise it, and then, when it had done its work, it escaped through the work of wire gauze into the open air, having imparted the greater portion of its heat to the wirework, which was again absorbed by the fresh draught of cold air passing through the same wire meshes to be heated. There are four double cylinders, set perpendicularly and longitudinally, to the boat, two aft and two forward of the main wheel-shaft. They all move in connexion ; those forward rise, while those in the rear the shaft sink. There are two piston or driving crank rods, which turn the wheel-shafts. One moved by a walking beam, which is moved by the cylinders in front, and the other by a similar beam in the rear. They both work on the same crank of the wheel-shaft, and at inclined angles, rising from below, in the form of the letter inverted, thus, A [inverted V], with the shaft-crank for both at the apex. Hence, while one rod is pushing, the other is pulling the crank —thus avoiding the dead point usually encountered in the ordinary crank motions of steam engines, &c. The pressure was uniformly 12lb. to the square inch. Captain Ericsson estimated the force of his machinery at 600-horse power. The upper cylinder in each case contained a head surface of 14,000 square inches, and the lower cylinders a surface 22,500 square inches. The diameters of the main cylinders were about 168 inches. The main valves were about two feet in diameter. The consumption of coal was at the rate of about six tons in 24 hours. During Captain Ericsson's lucid exposition of his machinery he invited the most rigid scrutiny and investigation. Many questions were put by parties present, which he answered with great clearness and promptness. One question asked regarded the packing of the cylinders, which it had been said would melt and let the air escape. He showed that by filling the cylinder heads with non-conducting materials, the packing, by surrounding the head, being above the surface exposed to heated air, was kept cool. He also showed how a man, by standing on a cylinder head, could, by hand, readily lubricate every part of the surface of the cylinder. The packing also he showed to be at all times in command of the engineer or attendant, which was not the case in steam engines. To a question regarding the oxidization, expansion, and contraction of the iron composing the bottoms of the main cylinders immediately over the fires in the furnaces, he stated that the iron composing them was an inch and a quarter thick, and when they gave out, which would not be over once in five years, new ones could immediately be substituted, without displacing any of the machinery, and, were it desirable to make them endure for a longer period, they could have their surfaces exposed to the fire coated with firebrick clay. He said they did not expand or contract, or vibrate but very little, and not more than was common to metal similarly used in other engines. Many other questions were put and answered regarding the backing or reversing the action of his machinery, and, when stopping her on her course for an hour, more or less, how he would start her again? To the latter question he said, if the detention exceeded many minutes, he would start just as he would in the first instance, by pumping in a supply of fresh air, which would soon become expanded in the large cylinder, and put all in motion ; but a pressure of ½lb. the square inch would start the engine, and the weight of the crank alone was sufficient to put it in motion. The expense of running a caloric engine, he stated, would be but one-fifth of that of a steam-engine of the same power.

'In conclusion, Mr. Ericsson stated that he was induced to go on this trial trip for the sake of the persons interested with him, as to himself he had been all along perfectly satisfied of the successful issue of the experiment; and, owing to the machinery not being tight, which is a thing only to be accomplished by degrees, the engines were not working much more than one-half of their power, but that the trial had fully answered his expectations, and he was confident the principle would, in a short time, be universally adopted.

'So clear were Captain Ericsson's explanations that he was urged to give a lecture at the Metropolitan-hall, illustrated, as yesterday, by his model, on a larger scale, which we trust that he will do. It was conceded by all that Captain Ericsson had demonstrated his success in establishing, beyond all doubt, a new principle of motive power, and that all that was wanted was a proper application to the great end intended. All that is necessary to gain additional power is to increase the diameter of the cylinders. Those in the present ship, it is clear, are too small to give the power and speed that are desirable. Captain Ericsson said he foresaw this difficulty, but was told by ironfounders that they could not cast the cylinder of greater dimensions than 14 feet. Since these were made that size and put into this ship, a firm in New York had offered to guarantee to cast them of 20 feet in diameter. Captain Ericsson estimates that were the present ship's cylinders of 16 feet diameter, she would make a speed equal to the best ocean steamers, or 12 or 14 miles per hour; and that a vessel with 20 feet cylinders would outstrip the speed of anything that now floats on the water.

'We have before alluded to the dimensions of the ship, the great freight room gained by the diminished space occupied by the machinery and coal, and the absence of danger from explosion or collapse, as well as to the great comfort derived from the perfect ventilation of the ship in every part. This is caused by the fresh air being drawn into the lower hold of the vessel before it enters the cylinders. Captain Ericsson thinks it can be modified to propel locomotives on railroads, and applied to nearly all kinds of stationary work, great and small. A locomotive on this plan could be made to traverse a street, without stopping for water or fuel on the way.

'When Captain Ericsson had concluded, a meeting was organized, and a committee appointed to give an expression of those present on the success of this great experiment. The committee reported the following resolutions, which were passed unanimously :
"That this meeting of those present upon the trial trip of the caloric ship Ericsson no less fully and deeply impressed with the grave importance of the subject upon which it feels called to express a judgment, than completely aware of the many advantages to the public which must arise from the now incontestable success of the invention which has to-day been put into practical operation.
"That, upon thorough examination and actual observation, are entirely convinced that the invention of Captain Ericsson is no longer of questionable practicability, but from this day takes rank with the foremost of the great and useful inventions which the world owes to science and genius, and that promises to surpass in efficiency any other adjunct to the advancement of commerce and the industrial progress of the world.
"That, from its economy, safety, and ready applicability to all purposes requiring motive power, the caloric engine cannot fail to minister largely to the happiness of mankind.
"That the peculiar adaptability of sea vessels of the new motor presented to the world by Captain Ericsson is now fully established, and that is likely to prove, in every respect, superior to steam for such purposes.
"That the remarkable economy of fuel necessary for its working, the absence of all risk from explosion, and the low temperature throughout the ship, even in the engine and firerooms, satisfactorily exhibited on this trip, are amongst the most prominent claims of the caloric engine to the attention of the scientific and commercial world.
"That in his lucid, simple, and comprehensive statement of his theory and description of his engine, Captain Ericsson has not only demonstrated the beautiful completeness and perfect working the system which be has brought, by 20 years' elaboration, to the present commanding position before the world, but has shown a fertility of resource and a ready command of his vast scientific knowledge which hardly less entitles him to the admiration of all who heard him.
"That in the admirable construction of the Ericsson, and the beauty of her model, and in the perfectly successful production of so novel and remarkable an engine, Messrs, Perrine, Patterson, and Stack, her builders, and Messrs. Hogg and Delameter, her machinists, have shown themselves worthy coadjutors in so noble a project — so important an invention.
"That E. W. Stoughton. Esq., the tried friend and legal adviser of the inventor, with John B. Kitching, Esq., and G. R. Lamar, Esq., and others — the men who have invested their capital and lent their influence to insure the success of this great enterprise — are entitled to the enduring gratitude of the entire social, commercial, and industrial world,"

'Among those present we recognized members of nearly all the press in the city, with a representative from Buffalo, and another from Cincinnati. At the conclusion of the meeting the company sat down to a cold collation, having been previously served with an excellent breakfast; after which, several speeches were made and sentiments expressed complimentary to Captain Ericsson, John B. Kitching, and others. On the health of the commander the ship being proposed,
Captain Lowber said, — I offer you, Sir, thanks for your most kind sentiment; and to you, gentlemen, ray most heartfelt acknowledgments for its gracious reception. The hoarse voice of the sailor is more accustomed to the roar and turmoil of the wind and the waves than to speak on such an occasion as this. Yet. gentlemen, I should do injustice to you and to my own feelings did I not congratulate vou on this most auspicious day, which insures the success of an enterprise which our most earnest agitated hopes have been centred. I can but congratulate you upon the complete triumph of that enterprise and the realization of those hopes. I have stood, gentlemen, on the deck when the elements in their fury seemed about to overwhelm the ship, and yet, I never looked forward with more anxiety to a safe passage through such trials than I have done in watching the progress and anticipating the conclusion of this enterprise ; and when the end came, and we stood before the world in triumph, I can assure you every part of my frame was quickened, and the blood rushed with redoubled force through my veins. I need not say it was a proud day for Mr. Ericsson. The mind that for 20 years had cherished and nurtured an idea like this must feel more than pride at its successful application. To him who has conceived and executed it we owe all; and it is my sincere trust that he will be fullv repaid in his day, and I doubt not that posterity will take care of a fame that will rank with a Fulton or a Morse. I can pav but a poor tribute to the father of this — the man who furnished the sinews, and reduced the idea to a fact; the man whose comprehensive mind compassed its entire scope, and whose sagacious foresight anticipated the result. Need I say allude to Mr. J. B. Kitching Through concealed opposition, and sneers often openly expressed, be went straight on, and the end is his own best reward, and the conscious dignity of success his best praise. And to those who have construcled and finished the work I can say they have performed their part most faithfully and well. It speaks for itself, and can point to it with pride; and the gentlemen who constructed the hull have the satisfaction of knowing that a superior does not ride the waves. Gentlemen who represent the insurance interest of this great mart, I welcome you on board the first caloric ship, which, I trust, you will find not inferior to any in naval architecture, and will prove new era in marine insurance. Gentlemen of the press, you are most welcome. I am proud to meet you on such an occasion, and I feel you have witnessed this day a new motive power, in which I hope you have been interested. To you we owe much, as one of the connecting links between thought and mind ; and in presenting the particulars of this new invention before the public I confident that you will "nothing extenuate nor set down aught in malice." The worthy captain concluded giving. " Commerce and justice—Commerce, the great pioneer of civilization and the nurse of content; Justice, the handmaiden. Nations and individuals alike responsible—connected, humanity must advance." The owners and builders of hull and engines were also toasted, and other sentiments given and responded to, after which the company embarked on board the towboat, and arrived in the city highly delighted with their trip, and convinced that the success of the caloric engines was placed bevond all doubt. The opinion was general that, with cylinders of proper dimensions, placed in a boat to correspond, the greatest attainable speed may be realised, and at an expense lower than had ever before been thought possible ; and, furthermore, that all concerned deserved the highest credit, and had placed the people and country under obligations to them. We feel prond that such a triumph has been realized in New York, and that American money has enabled the inventor to accomplish his grand idea. The Ericsson will be taken to-day to her old dock at Williamsburg, to have her engines put a thorough state of completeness previous to starting on her trip to Baltimore.'[11]

The foregoing article clearly illustrates the optimism surrounding the ship's propulsion machinery at that time, and the confidence in its designer. However, at least one informed or perceptive sceptic was present on that voyage, and the significance of the questions and answers will become more apparent from subsequent events. Quoting again from the article: One question asked regarded the packing of the cylinders, which it had been said would melt and let the air escape. He showed that by filling the cylinder heads with non-conducting materials, the packing, by surrounding the head, being above the surface exposed to heated air, was kept cool. He also showed how a man, by standing on a cylinder head, could, by hand, readily lubricate every part of the surface of the cylinder. The packing also he showed to be at all times in command of the engineer or attendant, which was not the case in steam engines. To a question regarding the oxidization, expansion, and contraction of the iron composing the bottoms of the main cylinders immediately over the fires in the furnaces, he stated that the iron composing them was an inch and a quarter thick, and when they gave out, which would not be over once in five years, new ones could immediately be substituted, without displacing any of the machinery, and, were it desirable to make them endure for a longer period, they could have their surfaces exposed to the fire coated with firebrick clay. He said they did not expand or contract, or vibrate but very little, and not more than was common to metal similarly used in other engines. Ericsson's confidence in the endurance of the iron base of the cylinders is difficult to understand, as is the claimed ease of replacement of these 14 ft diameter components.

Mr. Ericsson has addressed the following letter to the editor of the Builder: "My attention has been called to a statement in your journal, from the pen of Mr. John Braithwaite, in reference to the caloric engine. I much regret that my labours perfecting this important matter should have called forth Mr. Braithwaite's disapprobation, through your columns; yet I am fully compensated by the fit opportunity this circumstance affords me of acknowledging, through the same respectable channel, my gratitude to Mr. Braithwaite for past kindness. On my arrival in England, twenty-six years ago, it was my good fortune to meet with his approbation and friendship. In the various mechanical operations we carried out together, I gained experience, which, but for his confidence and liberality, I probably never should have acquired. In relation to the caloric-engine, it so happened that we were not connected. The machine was simply manufactured at his establishment, to my plans. I need hardly add that it was well done, for everything that left his works was characterised by perfection of workmanship. In regard to the original form of my caloric-engine, and the operating with condensed pressure, Mr. Braithwaite may feel assured I have not abandoned either, as he will find, ere long, when welcomed on board the caloric-ship in British waters. As to the new form of my engine, when Mr. Braithwaite shall have had an opportunity of looking a little more closely into the matter, I trust he will find something to approve of. The dispensing with any other heater than the bottom of the working cylinder certainly secures great simplicity of construction; and that so small an extent of heating surface suffices, proves the wonderful efficacy of the regenerator. The difficulty of lubrication, supposed by Mr. Braithwaite, does absolutely not exist in the present engine, for during seventy hours' constant working of the machinery of the caloric-ship, our piston packings scarcely reached boiling temperature. The single action, open cylinders, and the great distance between the packing and the heated part of the cylinder account for this. Mr. Braithwaite overlooks entirely the great simplicity of the new form of my engine, and its universal applicability, and evidently does not consider the important fact that it requires no water or other cooling medium. How unlike in this, as in all other important features, to Stirling's air-engine. The caloric-engine is destined — the efforts of its opponents notwithstanding — ere long, to be the great motor for manufacturing and domestic purposes, from its entire freedom from danger alone. It is destined assuredly to effect much in dispensing with physical toil to the labourer. The artisan of moderate means may place it in his room, where it will serve as a stove while turning his lathe, at the same time purifying the atmosphere by pumping out the impure air and passing it off into the chimney: in fine, it will heat, toil, ventilate, and always remain harmless. All this will soon be proved in practice, and it is hoped will save critics from racking their brains to discover theoretical mistakes and practical imperfections." '[12]

1853 'CALORIC SHIP ERICSSON.- A correspondent of the Journal of the Frankfort Institute says:—-The caloric ship Ericsson has had removed from her the large cylinders of 14 feet diameter and 6 feet stroke, also the supply cylinders, 11½ feet diameter, the air receivers, regenerators, &c., in fact all the peculiar portion of the machinery, which Capt. Ericsson had patented. The shafts wheels end cranks still remain on board, being of the ordinary kind. Captain Ericsson, instead of the 20 feet cylinder which he had required, and which several foundries had been unable to make, has now concluded on using them at about 6 feet diameter. The Secretary of the American Navy had advised Congress to build two ships like the Ericsson, and will, doubtless, regret to find that the two engines will not admit of the two large double pistons, which Captains Sands and Ericsson had reported to be the peculiar feature of this ship, ensuring regularity of motion. In the engines now about to be put in, the large engines have a diameter of 6 feet, and the supply engines a diameter of 3½ feet. The same air is to be used at high pressure over and over again, being alternately heated and cooled as it passes through the tubes immersed in fire, before it enters the large cylinders, and in water after it leaves them.'[13]

1853 'THE ERICSSON.— The caloric ship Ericsson is lying at the dock of Messrs. Hogg and Delamater’s works, foot of North Thirteenth-street, New York. All the supply and working cylinders of the original construction had been removed, with their pistons, heaters, levers, regenerators, and air-pipes. But their had been retained the bedplate, the principal framing, shafts, cranks, the beautiful valve movement, and even the connecting-rods, which, in the old arrangement, transferred the motion from the working beams to the crank. In place of the four huge sets of cylinders standing perpendicularly, there are to be four moderately sized cylinders on the line of the keel and inclined towards each other, making an angle with the keel of about 45 degrees. The supply of cylinders are of the same stroke, four in number. One is placed on each side of each working cylinder, and worked from the crosshead in the same manner as pumps are often placed, on each side of the air-pump, as in condensing marine engines. It will thus be seen that the present engines of the Ericsson comprise two working and four supply cylinders. The working cylinders are each six feet in diameter, with eight feet stroke. Speaking theoretically of both arrangements, these two moderate-sized double acting engines are designed to be as efficient as the four large single acting ones previously employed, in consequence of working with high pressure. In these engines the same air is to be used repeatedly under a high pressure. This is the difference between the present and the former engines of the Ericsson. The regenerator, in a different form, but acting on precisely the same principles, and with, it is presumed, precisely the same effect for good or ill, is retained, and continues to be relied on as as the chief economic feature. This is the fundamental feature of the caloric engine, and the supposition that it had been given up would be equivalent to supposing the caloric engine "an obsolete idea," which is yet far from being the case. — American Journal.[14]

1854 'The Ericsson. — On the 11th the caloric ship Ericsson was raised to the surface of the river, and towed to the flats on the Jersey side. Her hull and engines are comparatively uninjured ; but the damage to her furniture and ornamental fittings involves a loss to the owners and underwriters of about 30,000 dollars. It is said that it will take month or two to get her in order again.'[15]

1889 From The Engineer, 29 March: 'Ericsson was quite unable, from lack of consideration for detail, to see that it could not be made to answer on a large scale. Money was available, however, and on a large scale it was tried on board the Ericsson, a ship 260ft. long, built specially for the purpose. She was fitted with paddle-wheels driven by four cylinders, each 14ft. in diameter, with a stroke of 6ft. The number of revolutions made per minute was nine, and the indicated horse-power of this huge machine was only 300 horses, the effective pressure being, according to Rankine, only 2.12lb. per square inch. It is said that during the trial trip a man was kept in each cylinder - they were open-topped - and well supplied with buckets of melted tallow, with which he lubricated the sides of the cylinder. He stood on the piston and went up and down with it. It was only a detail that the use of hot air was incompatible with any efficient system of lubrication, and that the fires were lighted under the cylinder bottoms - a way of heating the air as inefficient as possible. The engine, however, notwithstanding its unwieldliness, might have achieved a certain measure of success if only the lubrication could have been managed. The ship was altogether too slow for commercial purposes, and Ericsson had the caloric engines taken out and replaced with steam.' See Leading article on John Ericsson.

See Also


Sources of Information

  1. [1] Hot Air Engines website: 'The Story of Ericsson's Caloric Ship - Part 1'
  2. 'The caloric ship "Ericsson" ', Mechanic's Magazine, LVIII, p.469, 1853
  3. [2]
  4. [3] Hot Air Engines website: Ericsson's Caloric Engine of 1852
  5. [4] 'John Ericsson and the Age of Caloric' by Eugene S. Ferguson. Bulletin - Contributions from the Museum of the History of Technology, Issue 228, United States National Museum, 1963, p.42ff.
  6. [5] Hot Air Engine website: Ericsson's Caloric Engine of 1852
  7. [6] Hot Air Engines website: The Story of Ericsson's Caloric Ship - Part 2
  8. [7] Hot Air Engines website: transcription of report in the New York Daily Times - 'Trial Trip of the Caloric Ship Ericsson - Complete success of the experiment'
  9. [8] Hot Air Engines website: transcibed article from the New York Tribune, January 12, 1853.
  10. [9] Hot Air Engines website: transcription of report in the New York Daily Times - 'Trial Trip of the Caloric Ship Ericsson - Complete success of the experiment'
  11. Northampton Mercury, 5 February 1853
  12. Herts Guardian, Agricultural Journal, and General Advertiser - Saturday 28 May 1853
  13. Saunders's News-Letter, 6 September 1853
  14. Saunders's News-Letter - Thursday 29 September 1853
  15. Westmorland Gazette, 3 June 1854