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The Clyde from the Source to the Sea
Chapter VI. Steam Navigation


The Clyde has the honourable distinction of being the first European river on which the steamboat was used commercially. Various attempts had been made from time to time by many ingenious inventors to apply the steam-engine to propel vessels. Amongst the earliest of these is the patent of Jonathan Hulls, in 1736, for a tow-boat, having a rotatory paddle at the stern, driven by a steam apparatus placed in the boat. It is said, however, that Denis Papin, in 1707, invented a steamboat in which he ascended the river Weser. The inhabitants on the banks, resenting this innovation on their boating privileges, are said to have destroyed his vessel. Curiously enough, since history is said to repeat itself, the same sudden termination to another and like effort of applied science seems to have taken place nearer home, as tradition says that the boatmen of Loch Katrine were so indignant at the appearance of the first steamer which was placed on this beautiful sheet of water that they managed to sink her. These stories seem probable enough when we find that the feeling at coast places was so strong against the steamboats that they were not allowed to approach the quay, and it is said that a steamer lying off one of the coast towns had her cables cut, some of the old boatmen being of the belief that she was aided by the powers of evil.

Papin, who appears to have been a very able man, turned his attention, so far back as the year 1690, to improvements in the cylinders of the rude steam appliances of his day, and it is said that he conceived the idea of moving a piston in a cylinder by the alternate action of the pressure and condensation of steam effected in the cylinder,—the great improvement of Watt, in 1761, was the condensation of the steam in a separate vessel called the condenser, whereby the loss of power due to the alternate heating and cooling of the cylinder, as in Newcomen’s engine, was overcome.

An important attempt to utilize steam to propel vessels was made by Patrick Miller of Dalswinton, on Dalswinton Loch, Dumfriesshire, in the year 1788. The boat used in the experiments had a double hull, thus anticipating the twin boats afterwards tried from time to time, one now working successfully, on the English Channel. It measured 25 feet in length by 7 feet in breadth, and was fitted with two paddle-wheels, one before and the other behind the engine. It appears that Mr. Miller was endeavouring to find some means of turning paddles fitted into small boats with which he was experimenting, and a Mr. Jas. Taylor suggested the steam-engine as a propelling power. This suggestion was, however, met by the following reply from Mr. Miller: “That is a powerful agent, I allow, but will not answer my purpose, for when I wish chiefly to give aid it cannot be used. In such cases as the disastrous event which happened lately, of the wreck of a whole fleet upon a lee-shore, off the coast of Spain, every fire on board must be extinguished, and, of course, such an engine could be of no use.” Later on it was determined to try the steam-engine, and a young mechanic,

Wm. Symington, was employed to superintend its construction at Edinburgh. The result was very satisfactory, as the vessel moved at the rate of 5 miles an hour. The boat was afterwards laid up, and in 1789 Mr. Miller, with Taylor and Symington as assistants, made another experiment, this time on the Forth and Clyde Canal near Carron, at which works the engine was made. The first trial was unsuccessful, as the paddle-wheels gave way when full power was put on. This defect was soon remedied and a successful trial made, the speed being nearly 7 miles an hour. The expense and trouble in connection with this experiment caused Mr. Miller to have the boat dismantled, although he still intended to work out his ideas on steam propulsion.

In 1801 Lord Dundas employed Symington to fit up a steamboat for trial on the canal, and in 1802 the vessel named Charlotte Dundas was tried on the Forth and Clyde Canal. In this vessel Symington introduced the important addition of a crank connection with the paddle-wheel, whereby a direct rotatory action was kept up. The engine was, in this way, much in advance of those previously tried, and curiously enough remained in advance of many of the after-made machinery for propelling the Clyde steamers, where, instead of the action being directly applied, as in this case, the motion of the wheels was obtained through intermediate levers and spur-wheel gearing. In reference to this, Professor Rankine, in his Manual of the Steam Engine, says: “The Charlotte Dundashad one paddle-wheel near the stern, driven by a direct-acting horizontal engine, with a connecting-rod and crank. The arrangement of her mechanism was such as would be considered creditable at the present day; and she has been justly styled by Mr. Woodcroft ‘ the first practical steamboat.’ ”

It may be mentioned that one of the first iron vessels was built at Faskine, on the Monkland Canal, a few miles east of Glasgow. She was named the Vulcan, and started with passengers from Port-Dundas to Lock 16 on the loth September, 1819. Forty-five years afterwards she was still in good condition, but doing service as a cargo boat.

The following verses, written by William Muir, Bird-ston, near Kirkintilloch, in March, 1803, on seeing the Charlotte Dunclas pass on the canal, are interesting, as giving us a humorous glimpse into the past, enabling those of the present day who are familiar with such splendid achievements in marine architecture as are seen on our ocean highways, to appreciate to some extent the difficulties which at that time had to be overcome, and the wonder and amazement of the beholders of the early attempts at steam propulsion:—

“When first, by labour, Forth an’ Clyde
Were taught o’er Scotia’s hills to ride,
In a canal, deep, lang, an’ wide,
Naebody thocht
That winders, without win’ or tide,
Would e’er be wrocht.

To gar them trow that boats would sail
Thro’ fields o’ corn or beds o’ kail,
An’ turn o’er glens their rudder’s tail,
Like weathercocks,
Was doctrine that wad needed bail
Wi’ common folks.

“They ca’d it nonsense, till at last
They saw boats travel east and wast,
Wi’ sails an’ streamers at their mast,—
Syne, without jeering,
They were convinced the blustering blast
Was worth the hearing.

“For mony a year, wi’ little clatter,
An’ naething said about the matter,
The horses haul’d them through the water,
Frae Forth tae Clyde;
Or the reverse, wi’ weary splatter,
An’ sweaty side.

“But little think we what’s in noddles,
Whar Science sits an’ grapes and guddlcs,
Syne darklins forth frae drumly puddles,
Brings forth to view
That the weak penetration fuddles O’ me an’ you.”

The author then refers to the new lighter as being driven

Wi’ something that the learned ca’ steam;” 

and adds:—

By it she through the water plashes,
An’ out the stream behiut her dashes
At sic a rate, baith frogs and fishes
Are forced to scud,
Like ducks and drakes amang the rashes,
To shun the mud.”

And after this vivid description of the rapid movement of the novelty, he proceeds to speculate on what he has seen:—

Can e’er, thought I, a flame o’ reek,
Or boiling water’s cauldron smeek,
Tho’ it war keepit for a week,
Perform sic wonders,
As quite surprises maist the folks
O’ gazin’ hunders?”

And finally finishes in a philosophic and prophetic vein:—

“But facts, we canna well dispute them,
Altho’ we little ken about them;
When prejudice inclines to doubt them
Wi’ a’ her might
Plain demonstration deep can root them,
An’ set us right.

“Or lang gae now, wi’ whirligigs
An’ steam engines we’ll plough our rigs,
An’ gang about on easy legs
Wi’ nought to pain us,
But flit in tethers needless nags
That used to hain us.”

Returning, however, to the Clyde, we come upon a notable period in our history, as in the year 1811 Henry Bell arranged with John Wood, of Port-Glasgow, to build a vessel for him, to be fitted with an engine by John Robertson of Glasgow. This vessel was launched in June, 1812, with steam up, and made her first trip to Helensburgh. She was named the Comet, after a famous meteor which had shone across the heavens for some time previous. This vessel, the precursor of the long line which followed, year by year, in growing numbers, was fitly named. She was to many as much an apparition as the strange and uncanny visitor of the skies, and, as with it, her train of successors has spread, like a tail, far out in ever-widening sweep.

The Comet was a wooden boat, 42 feet long, 11 feet broad, and 5 feet 6 inches deep. She had the usual long funnel of the early steamers, and it occasionally did duty as a mast, a large square sail being hoisted on it when the wind was favourable. The engine was made by John Robertson, and was a condensing one of 3 horse-power, the diameter of the cylinder being 11 inches and the stroke 16 inches. The crank worked below the cylinder; and the engine shaft was of cast-iron, square in section, and measured 3J inches on the side. A fly-wheel was added to equalize the motion. The vessel was originally fitted with two pair of paddle-wheels, 7 feet in diameter, having spur-wheels of 31 feet diameter attached, so that, by means of another spur-wheel of the same diameter, placed between these, and gearing into them, each pair of paddles was rotated at the same speed. This arrangement was obviously very inefficient, as the one pair of paddle-wheels worked in the wash of the other pair, besides the loss of power due to working through the toothed wheels. It is said that Robertson, the engineer, tried to dissuade Bell from arranging his wheels in this manner, but the latter stuck firm to his idea, and the boat was tried with them, but proved a failure. The double wheels were then removed, and Robertson made another engine of about 4-horse power,having a cylinder of 121 inches diameter. The workshop where the engine of this famous steamer was made was situated in Dempster Street, a small street off North Frederick Street, in the north part of Glasgow. The original model of the Comet is in the possession of Messrs. John Reid & Co., shipbuilders, Port-Glasgow, and shows the double set of paddle-wheels as originally proposed and tried. See plate, which is a facsimile from a photograph of the original draft of this vessel, kindly supplied by Henry M. Napier, Esq. The drawing shows the vessel in both plan and section, with the first-tried arrangement of the double paddle-wheel on each side, also the spur-wheel gearing connecting the engine with the paddles.

The navigation of the river had up till this time been managed by boats, which, with the combined exertions of sail and oars, made the passage up and down the river at more or less regular intervals, as the time of the passage depended much upon wind and tide. Thus Pennant, visiting the Clyde in 1772, tells us that after passing Dumbarton, on his way to Greenock, they had “a long contest with a violent adverse wind and very turbulent water.”

Bell appears early to have turned his attention to the use of the paddle with hand power, some attempts having been also made in this direction by a Mr. Bennie of Greenock. As in later trials of this method of propulsion, the labour was found greater than that required with the oar. It might, however, be supposed that, by the use of ball-bearings, which have so much conduced to the success of the modern velocipede, the resistance due to the friction of the shaft of a paddle-wheel open pleasure-boat might be greatly reduced. It is said that Brunei fitted a collar to the rudder-post of the Great Eastern, which, resting on cannon balls, became really an early form of ball-bearing.

The boiler of the Comet was made by David Napier, a name to be afterwards widely associated with the progress of steam shipping on the Clyde. The following is a copy of Bell’s advertisement of his new boat: “The Steamboat Comet, between Glasgow, Greenock, and Helensburgh, for passengers only.—The Subscriber, having at much expense fitted up a handsome vessel to ply upon the river Clyde from Glasgow, to sail by the power of air, wind, and steam. He intends that the vessel shall leave the Broomielaw on Tuesdays, Thursdays, and Saturdays, about mid-day, or such an hour thereafter as may answer from the state of the tide; and to leave Greenock on Mondays, Wednesdays, and Fridays, in the morning, to suit the tide. The elegance, comfort, safety, and speed of this vessel require only to be seen to meet the approbation of the public; and the proprietor is determined to do everything in his power to merit general support. The terms are for the present fixed at 4s. for the best cabin and 3s. for the second, but beyond these rates nothing is to be allowed to servants or any person employed about the vessel.

“The subscriber continues his establishment at Helensburgh Baths, the same as for years passed, and a vessel will be in readiness to convey passengers by the Comet from Greenock to Helensburgh.    

“Helensburgh Baths, 5th August, 1812.”

This advertisement of Bell’s in which the power of wind is referred to, brings up forcibly the condition of the early navigation of the Clyde when the passenger communication with Greenock and the other lower ports of the river was carried on by means of what were termed Fly-Boats, which made their passage to and fro by means of the power of wincl and oars, occasionally, it is said, being helped by horse power. The incidents in such journeys must have been frequently of a humorous description, as the following graphic sketch which appeared some years ago in the Glasgow Herald will show: “The passage to Greenock in favourable circumstances was accomplished in about ten or twelve hours; as much depended on the flow of the tidal wave, not unfrequently the passage was interrupted for a night at Bowling. It was surmised that the flies were intercepted there by a net or web in the shape of a tavern. The passengers had frequently to remain in their ark, or get quarters in the ‘public’ until the morning. A story was told and vouched that when a ‘fly ’ had been thus arrested for the night, and the crew were called in early and dusky morn to avail themselves of the favourable tide, the two boatmen, who had been meantime indulging in strong drink, set to work with their oars. With the dawn the passengers had a dreamy notion that they were making little or no progress as the outline of the castellated rock, still phantom-like, appeared in the mist. Calling the attention of the rowers to their apprehensions, the fact was painfully realized by the following colloquy between the ancient mariners: ‘Tonalt, did you lift t’ anchor?’ and the discouraging reply,‘Na,Tougal, not me, but ’twas your duty.’” From the Memorials of James Watt we learn that these Flyboats were built by W. Nicol, a Greenock boatbuilder, and that they were a great improvement on the smaller packet boats. They measured about 28 ft. in length by 8 ft. beam, and were wherry-rigged. The passengers were protected from the weather by a cover over the after part of the boat. A projecting platform ran round the deck outside of this cabin for the crew to pass and repass, and on fine weather by favour of the commanding officer some of the passengers were allowed to sit upon the roof with their feet on the passage way. The boats generally left Greenock with the flood-tide, and if the wind was also favourable Glasgow might be arrived at in from four to five hours. As late as 1820-1830 fly-boats without sails were used; these were simply large stout open boats, which were rowed by four men. They plied to Greenock from the foot of a long flight of stairs at the Broomielaw. About that time the passage to Greenock by the steamers took sometimes three hours, and the cost was 5s. in the cabin and 2s. 6c?. in the steerage. A wherry sailed from Greenock to Helensburgh and the Gareloeh in opposition to the steamers.

To facilitate this traffic there was a towing-path down as far as Renfrew, and it is interesting to read in Cleland’s Annals of Glasgow under “Abstract of Regulations for Steam Boats and other Vessels.”—“That none of the said Steamboats shall cross the tracking or towing lines of the vessels plying on the river where there is room to pass on the off side, under the penalty of £5 for each offence.” And further “ That none of the said Steamboats shall ply in the twilight or in the dark without having lights ahead fitted up properly.” This regulation does not intimate the colour of the lights, or if they were to be fitted to the paddle-boxes; and it was no doubt at a later date that the well-known red and green paddle-box lights were introduced, which, on first sight, frightened some of the boatmen who happened to be out on the river during a heavy spate, one of them declaring that an apothecaries’ shop had been carried away and was drifting down on them.1

Even after the introduction of the steamboats the shallow condition of the Clyde at low water, together with the numerous sandbanks, made the navigation difficult and somewhat uncertain, as the boats frequently got aground and had to lie till the tide rose, the passengers sometimes assisting in getting a start by running from side to side to loosen the keel out of the sand. Besides the use of coloured lights for the more complete guidance of vessels meeting or crossing each other’s path, the position and method of fixing the lamps are now specified. Thus a steamship shall carry on the front of the foremast at a height of not less than twenty feet a bright white light, on the starboard side a green light, and on the port side a red light. A sailing vessel shall carry the red and green side-lights only. The rules for the mariner’s guidance have been humorously put into rhyme by Thomas Gray, C.B., secretary to the Board of Trade, thus:

TWO STEAMSHIPS MEETING.

“When all three lights I see ahead,
I port my helm and show my Hed.

TWO STEAMSHIPS PASSING.

Green to Green, or Tted to Ped—
Perfect safety—go ahead !

Very safe and good advice is given in the last stanza:

“Both in safety and in doubt,
I always keep a good look-out;
In danger, with no room to turn,
I ease her! Stop her ! Go astern!”

The connection with places further down the river was accomplished by the steamboats carrying the passengers to Greenock, who then went by sailing packets to their destination. It is recorded by a traveller in 1815 that he sailed in the Comet from Glasgow for Greenock, leaving in the morning and arriving at Greenock after a seven hours’ passage, three hours of which had, however, been spent lying on a sand-bank at Erskine. At Greenock he went on board the Rosa packet and landed in Rothesay the same day, much to the surprise of the residen-tcrs there, as the passage was an extraordinarily fast one.

The Comet was followed by the Elizabeth, of 33 tons, built in 1812-13, by John Wood. She measured 58 ft. long over all, 51 ft. keel, 12 ft. beam, and was 5 ft. deep. The engine was made by James Cook of Trades-ton, Glasgow, and was of 10 h.p. The following copy of an advertisement in reference to this steamer is given in a work on Steam and Steam Navigation, by J. Scott Russell, and is interesting as giving us a good deal of insight into the appearance and management of the early Clyde steamers: “The Elizabeth was started for passengers on the 9th of March, 1813, and has continued to run from Glasgow to Greenock daily, leaving Glasgow in the morning and returning the same evening. The passage, which is twenty-seven miles, has been made, with a hundred passengers on board, in something less than four hours, and in favourable circumstances in two hours and three-quarters. The Elizabeth has sailed eighty-one miles in one day, at an average of nine miles an houv. The Elizabeth measures aloft tifty-eight feet; the best cabin is twenty-one feet long, eleven feet three at mid-ships, and nine feet four inches aft, seated all round, and covered with handsome carpeting; a sofa, clothed with maronc, is placed at one end of the cabin, and gives the whole a warm and cheerful appearance. There are twelve small windows, each finished with marone curtains, with tassels, fringes, and velvet cornices, ornamented with gilt ornaments, having altogether a very rich effect. Above the sofa there is a large mirror suspended, and at each side book-shelves are placed, containing a collection of the best authors, for the amusement and edification of those who may avail themselves of them during the passage—other amusements are likewise to be had on board. The engine stands amidships, and requires a considerable space in length, and all the breadth of the vessel. The forecastle, which is rather small, is about eleven feet six by nine feet six inches, not quite so comfortable as the after one, but well calculated for a cold day, and by no means disagreeable on a warm one; all the windows in both the cabins are made in such a way as to shift up and down like those of a coach, admitting a very free circulation of fresh air. From the height of the roofs of both cabins, which are about seven feet four inches, they will be extremely pleasant and healthful in the summer months for those who may favour the boat in parties of pleasure. Already the public advantages of this mode of conveyance have been generally acknowledged; indeed, it may without exaggeration be said that the intercourse through the medium of the steamboats between Glasgow and Greenock has, comparatively speaking, brought these places ten or twelve miles nearer to each other. In most cases the passages are made in the same time as by the coaches; and they have been, in numerous instances, done with greater rapidity. In comparing the comfortableness of these conveyances, the preference will be given decidedly to the steamboat. Besides all this, a great saving in point of expense is produced; the fare in the best cabin being only four shillings, and in the inferior one two shillings and sixpence; whereas the inside of a coach costs not less than twelve shillings, and the outside eight shillings.”

The Clyde, 69 tons, was also built by John Wood. She was 76 ft. long over all, 72 ft. keel, by 14 ft. beam, and depth of hold of 7½ ft. The engine was made by John Robertson; the cylinder was 22 in. diameter, with a 2-foot stroke, and of 14 H.P. The speed attained was six miles per hour.

The Glasgow, 74 tons, was built by John Wood, and was 72 ft. long by 15 ft. beam. The engine was a side-lever one, of 16 h.p., with a cylinder 20 in. diameter, stroke 2 ft., and was made by James Cook. This vessel ran to Largs and Millport, and must have been the first boat on this station. She could run from Glasgow to Greenock with the tide in two hours and ten minutes. The form of these early boats is shown by the annexed plan and section.

In 1814, six steamers appear to have been built—viz. the Industry, Trusty, Princess Charlotte, Prince of Orange, Marjery, and Argyle. The Industry, still existing, was built, it is said, by Fyfe at Fairlie in 1814, her builders being afterwards celebrated for their racing yachts; a reputation which the firm, still flourishing, maintains. Her dimensions are as follows: Length, 68 ft.; breadth, 17 ft.; depth, 8 ft.; gross tonnage, 69; register, 42; one cylinder, 16 in. in diameter. She had at first a copper boiler, not an uncommon arrangement in those early days, of low pressure; but it was afterwards replaced by an iron one. The original engine was also replaced about 1826 by the one now on board. One special feature of interest, which can still be inspected, is the spur-wheel gearing to connect the engine with the paddle-shaft. From the grinding sound caused by the spur-wheels she was known at Greenock as the “ Coffee-mill.” The original engine was by Thomson, of Tradeston, and the second engine by Caird, of Greenock. The paddle-wheels are 11 ft. diameter, with floats 2 ft. 9 in. long, ten on each wheel; stroke of engine, 2 ft.; diameter of shaft, 51 in.; spur-wheels, 2 ft. and 1-1 ft. in diameter. TheIndustry was the seventh steamer on the Clyde, and must now be the oldest steamer in existence. She plied between Glasgow and Greenock, principally as a luggage boat, but occasionally ventured down the firth as far as Campbeltown.

Strangely enough, at the present time the Clyde contains two of the greatest curiosities in marine architecture, viz. the oldest steamer extant—the Industry— and the largest vessel in the world—theGreed Eastern, which for some time has been lying at the “Tail of the Bank,” oft' Greenock. The dimensions of the latter, as given in the advertisement of bill of sale, is: Length, 670'6 ft.; breadth, 82-8 ft.; depth, 60 ft. Tons B.M., 22,927; tons gross, 18,915; tons nett register, 13,34k Screw engines, 1,600 h.p. nominal; paddle engines, 1,000 H.P. nominal. On comparing these dimensions with those of the Industry, we find that the Great Eastern is ten times longer, about five times broader, and seven and a half times deeper. The tonnage is about three hundred times greater.

It may be interesting to note that the combined length of these seven precursors of steam traffic on the Clyde was little over 400 ft., so that, if placed end to end, they could all have been carried by such a vessel as the Anchor Line steamer Furnessia, now sailing from the Clyde, which measures 445 ft. long.

The Trusty was a boat like the Industry, and is said to have been the first steamer built at Dumbarton; the builder being Wm. Denny. She was 68 ft. long, with a breadth of 17 ft. 6 in., having a geared side-lever engine of 10 h.p. made by George Dobbie, Tradeston. Like the Industry, she got a new engine of greater power at a later date. This boat appears to have sunk in the river after a collision, but was afterwards raised and converted into a schooner, and wrecked in 1854 off* Loch Ryan.

The Princess Charlotte and Prince of Orange were built by Mr. Munn of Greenock, and engined by Boulton & Watt.

The Marjery was built at Dumbarton by William Denny, and engined by James Cook, with a single side-lever engine of 10 h.p. Her dimensions were 63 ft. long by 12 ft. beam. This vessel was sent to the Thames about 1815. When the Marjery sailed past the Nore, at which part of the British fleet was lying, she was closely scrutinized by the old salts on board; one of them, who belonged to Dumbarton, gave her a cheer, adding, “Well done, Dumbarton! ”

The Argyle, 78 tons, was built at Port-Glasgow, and engined by James Cook, with a single side-lever engine of 14 h.p. She was a similar vessel to the Albion, and appears to have gone to the Thames in 1815.

In 1815 other six steamers appear to have been added, viz. the Waterloo, Argyle No. 2, Greenock, Caledonia, Dumbarton Castle, and Britannia.

The Waterloo, 90 tons, was built and launched after the celebrated battle was fought, and was similar to the Argyle. She plied on the Helensburgh station. The engines were by James Cook, and were of 20 h.p.

Among the songs which appeared from time to time in reference to the early boats, one refers to the Waterloo as follows:

“And now amid the reign of peace
Arts guiding stream we ply,
That makes our wheels, like whirling reels,
O’er yielding water fly.
As our heroes drove their foes that strove
Against the bonnets blue,
On every side the waves divide
Before the
 
Waterloo.”

The Greenock, G2 tons 10 h.p., appears to have been built by Archibald M'Lauchlan at Dumbarton. The Caledonia, 102 tons, was built by Messrs. Wood, Port-Glasgow. She measured 95 ft. 6 in. long by 15 ft. beam; draft 4h ft. to 5 ft., and had two engines of 16 h.p. each, made by the Greenhead Foundry Co. This vessel went in 1816 to the Thames, and was afterwards placed on the

Rhine. The Dumbarton Castle, 81 tons 32 h.p. (two of 16 H.P. each), built by Archibald M'Laucldan, Dumbarton, and engined by Duncan MArthur & Co., Camlachie, was the first steamer to make a trip to Rothesay, and the event was marked by the presentation of a handsome punchbowl to the captain, James Johnston. This vessel appears to have been wrecked in the Clyde in 1829. The Britannia, 109 tons, 32 h.p., with a draft of 4 ft. G in., measured about 80 ft. long by 16 ft. beam. Her engines were made by James Cook, and consisted of a pair of beam-engines and spur-wheels to raise the power to the paddle-shaft, similar to those of the second Waterloo (see cut p. 183). The cylinders were 20 in. diameter, with 2 ft. 6 in. stroke. This vessel plied to Campbeltown and made a trip to Londonderry, thereby opening up the trade with the latter port. She appears to have been wrecked off Donaghadee in 1829.

The following is a copy of an advertisement appearing in the Glasgow Herald of June, 1815:—“The proprietors of the Britannia steamboat beg leave to inform the public that she, according to advertisement, performed her voyage to Largs, Rothesay, and Campbeltown, and returned in such a short time, and gave so great satisfaction, that, owing to an agreement with the public of Campbeltown, they will be under the necessity of abandoning the voyage to Inveraray, as advertised for tomorrow, but will upon Monday first, at ten o’clock, sail for Greenock, Gourock, Rothesay, and Campbeltown, and return on Wednesday. As the voyage is far, the passengers will be accommodated with refreshments, suitable and agreeable for them.”

The Britannia appears to have had a beam-engine. The Industry engine is of the side-lever type; very much like a beam-engine inverted. Beam-engines are still used in America to a large extent; one of the largest examples of these being the engine of the Pilgrim, built in 1882, and now plying on the Fall River route by Long Island Sound, between New York and Boston. These engines have not found favour on the Clyde, but occasionally boats fitted with them for the China river service may be seen at the works of Messrs. A. & J. Inglis. About the last large mail paddle-steamer to be fitted with the side-lever engine was the Persia, of the Cunard Co., engined by Messrs. R. Napier, Glasgow. Another existing example of the side lever can still be seen at Dumbarton, and from its position can be readily inspected. There, the engine of the Leven, the first marine engine made by Robert Napier in 1824, has been erected on a pedestal at the foot of the great rock which has for so long silently looked down on the productions of the toiling hands and inventive brains of the workers of the Clyde.

In 1816 we have further additions, viz. the Neptune, Albion, Rothesay Castle, Lord Nelson, Lady of the Lake, and Duke of Wellington. This latter vessel appears to have been built by William Denny in 1817, but was a few years afterwards lengthened and named the Highland Chieftain, running to the Highlands till about 1838. Of these the Albion, 92 tons, was built by J. Wood, and measured about 70 ft. by 13 ft. beam, with draft of 4 ft. The engine (side-lever) of 20 h.p. was by James Cook, the cylinder being 22 in. diameter, with a 2-ft. stroke. She plied to Largs. The cost of this vessel is stated as—

The Lady of the Lake, engined by James Cook with a single side-lever engine, appears to have been transferred to the Firth of Forth, and after plying there was sent to the Elbe, but was afterwards brought back. In 1817 only two boats appear to have been added, viz. the Marion and the Defiance. Of these the Marion appears to have been the first steamer on Loch Lomond, where she plied in 1820 in connection with the Post Boy steamer from Glasgow. The year 1818 brought several additions, viz. the Rob Roy, Marquis of Bute, Woodford, Active, and Despatch. The Rob Roy is the most interesting, as she was the first steamer to ply to Belfast. She was 90 tons and of 30 h.p., with a draft of 7 ft., and was built by William Denny, at Dumbarton, engined with a single side-lever engine by David Napier, and was latterly transferred to the Dover and Calais service. Previous to starting this steamer it is said that Mr. Napier crossed to Belfast during a storm in a sailing vessel, and watching the effect of the waves was convinced steam could be utilized to overcome them. He then by means of experiments on model boats determined to give his proposed steamer a sharper entrance at the bow than was at that time common for the river steamers.

In 1819 the second Waterloo was built by Scott of Greenock, and was the longest steamer afloat at that time, measuring about 120 feet long by 22 feet beam. She had two beam-engines with 30-inch cylinders and 3 feet stroke,with spur-wheels to connect with the paddle-shaft. See annexed cut.

In 1819 Mr. David Napier had the Talbot built for him by Messrs. Wood. She was 150 tons, and had two of Mr. Napier’s engines of 30 h.p. each. The Talbot plied between Holyhead and Dublin, and appears to have been a very complete and efficient vessel. Another vessel, the Ivanhoe, was added to this route. She was 170 tons burthen, built by Scott of Greenock, and engined by Mr. D. Napier with engines of 60 h.p. In the same year

Mr. D. Napier established the first line of steamers between Glasgow and Liverpool, the Robert Bruce of 150 tons and 60 h.p. being the first to start. She was built by Messrs. Wood and engined by Mr. D. Napier. Two others were added, viz. the Superb, in 1820, of 240 tons and 70 h.p., and the Eclipse, in 1821, of 240 tons and 60 h.p. The former was built by Scott, and the latter by Steele of Greenock, the engines in both cases being by Mr. D. Napier.

We may now look at one or two pictures of the early boats, and their successors of the present day. Compare the Superb of 1820, and the Etruria, one of the largest and most powerful vessels now 011 the Atlantic service. The Steamboat Companion for 1820 tells us that “The Superb, is at this moment the finest, largest, and most powerful steam vessel in Britain. She registers 241 tons, and is impelled l>y two very fine engines of 36 H. P. each, to which copper boilers are attached. The average duration of the passage from the Clyde to Liverpool does not exceed thirty hours; fare, £2, 15s.” Contrast this with what the Times for 1885 says:

“The Etruria is a sister ship to the Umbria, both built by John Elder & Co., of Fairfield, Govan, the largest, most finished, and fastest vessels in the Atlantic service. She is built entirely of steel, and is divided into ten water-tight compartments. She is 520 ft. long by 57 ft. 3 in. broad, and 41 ft. deep. The coming season will be an interesting one to the Atlantic traveller and to those who watch the performance of the vessels. The list is filled up for the present. There is nothing on the stocks and nothing projected to compete with what is on the water, and the public interest will centre in nine vessels, constructed within the last eight years, as follows:—

“The Etruria is fitted to accommodate 720 first-class passengers. Several of the state-rooms are fitted en suite for family use, and every advantage has been taken of the breadth of the vessel to afford variety and greater space in the accommodation. The saloon will seat 280 people at dinner, and as the electric lamps are fixed high up near the ceiling by slender pendants the view is unobstructed throughout the chamber. The panelling of the saloon is all in light wainscot oak, with a dark walnut sideboard at the service end and a bookcase at the other. Above, in the form of a sort of gallery, is a music-room; and on the same upper deck are a number of superior state-rooms in the middle of the ship. Above these, and running for 300 feet in length throughout the entire breadth of the ship, is a promenade deck. Here is the captain’s room and a large saloon, exclusively set apart for ladies, sumptuously upholstered in green velvet and panelled in maple. Below, on the main deck, on a level with the saloon, is a boudoir, which forms a vestibule to the baths and lavatories set apart exclusively for ladies. Altogether there are 13 marble baths, fitted with steam and shower apparatus; and lavatory accommodation is dispersed throughout the ship. On the main lower decks are placed the major portion of the state-rooms. Each of them is provided with a hot-water heating apparatus, an electric light, and a life-saving cork jacket for each berth. The smoking-room, which is unusually large, is fitted with red leather benches/and is panelled in maple and oak. It is placed on the upper deck. The electric light is produced by four of Siemens’s machines, each with its own three-cylinder engine. Three of them are sufB-cient to maintain the whole 850 lamps of the ship, so that one is always in reserve, and oil lamps are entirely dispensed with. The passages, the engine-room, and boiler-house are lighted day and night, and some of the lights of the saloon are also maintained during the night. The engines are marvels of construction, and are unequalled, except by those of the Umbria, for strength, power, and simplicity. With good coals they are capable of indicating upwards of 14,000 horse-power, with nine boilers, but the speed attained by the Etruria has been secured by some thousand horse-power less than the maximum. The boilers are fired by 72 of Fox’s corrugated furnaces. They work at a pressure of 100 lbs., which was maintained during the cruise with a total absence of smoke, even with inferior coals.”

In speaking of the progress of steam navigation, Dr. Cleland says, “ The success of steamboats on the Clyde induced some gentlemen in Dublin, to order two vessels to be made to ply as packets in the channel between Dublin and Holyhead, with a view of ultimately carrying the mails. They were built by Mr. James Munn, Greenock, have engines of twenty horse-power, made by Mr. James Cook, Tradestown, Glasgow, and are named Britannia and Hibernia. Mr Cook, whose eminent abilities as an engineer, have enabled him to make numerous improvements on machinery, has been very successful in constructing the paddles of these packets, so that one man can easily raise them from five to six feet out of the water, while the engine is at work, in the event of a heavy gale making that measure necessary.” The author is indebted to Mr. Robert Cook, a nephew of the Mr. Cook referred to, for much personal information of the sizes, powers, and general appearance of these early steamers.

We have clearly in the Superb reached a point, eight years later only than the launching of the Comet, when steam navigation on our coast may be considered completely and efficiently established. Certainly the time stated as taken on the voyage to Liverpool is long, but it took some years and many improvements in both vessels and machinery to reduce it to 18 hours from Greenock by the Unicorn in 1837, and in 1841 to 16½ hours by the Princess Royal. The Liverpool steamers about 1837, the Unicorn and Actceon, appear to have been very handsomely furnished, and even carried a chaplain with them who conducted divine service on Sunday. The chaplain had a special room to himself with a brass plate marked “Chaplain’s Room.” Notwithstanding all these advantages it was still considered a serious event to make the Liverpool journey, some travellers making their “will” and taking a special farewell of their friends ere they started.


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