The Trial Trip of the Ericsson

Source : From the New York Sun
Title: The Trial Trip of the Ericsson
Date: January 12, 1853.

At nine o’clock yesterday morning some fifty or sixty gentlemen, about half of whom are connected with the press of this city, met on board a small steamer at the Government barge office, pier No. 1, East river, and were thence taken to the caloric ship Ericsson, for the purpose of witnessing her performances during a short trial trip down the bay. The ship has already been described at some considerable length in our columns. She is all that could be wished for in model and decorations.

Her graceful appearance, while at anchor or in motion, during the last few days, has been the theme of general remark, and the internal decorations are equally deserving of notice. She is chastely, conveniently, and prettily, but yet not expensively, fitted up; is calculated for comfort and use, and not for mere glitter and show. The engines were, of course, the principal attraction to the excursionists, as they will also be to our readers, and we shall be excused for at once entering into a partial description of them.

The advantages claimed for engines constructed on the plan and size of the Ericsson over the steam engines in use, are:

  1. A saving of from six-sevenths to seven-eighths of the fuel consumed.
  2. A saving of from four-fifths to five-sixths of the labor required in managing.
  3. A saving of at least ninety per cent in wear and tear.
  4. Increased facilities for examining into every part of the machinery, and correcting derangements when they occur.
  5. In simplicity of arrangement and ease of management.
  6. Perfect immunity from explosion, and additional security from fire.

On arriving upon the Ericsson’s deck, and passing through the engine room while the ship was moving down the bay, our attention was particularly drawn to the absence of all bustle or confusion among the men employed on board. In fact, we might almost say there were no men employed, for, save the half dozen sailors on the deck, it was a difficult matter to find one. These immense engines were entirely controlled and cared for by two men—one fireman and one engineer—— and they did not seem particularly busy either.

The shifting bar which starts, stops, and reverses the engines, might easily be managed by a mere child, and that is the only part which needs the engineer’s attention. He has no try-cocks to examine, no water-level to keep watch of—nothing to do, except to put on the tallow or other necessary lubricating compound now and then.

The fireman, too, is a man of leisure. He has eight furnaces to be looked after, and they are by no means such ones as are ordinarily in use for steam engines. Each of them contains a slow or dead fire, which requires renewing with coal only once in two or three hours. His cares and labor are those of a man who has to keep eight ordinary coal stove fires going, nothing more.

The engine-room is a model for coolness and ventilation. The fireman, instead of being stripped to the skin, may, and yesterday did, work there with his pea-jacket on. The air which supplies the engine comes down through open hatches into the engine-room, and, having been drawn into the supply cylinder, is afterwards ejected through two of the four pipes above the deck, the other two pipes being the smoke pipes from the furnaces.

The machine itself was, very happily, compared to an immense breathing monster, by some of the gentlemen on board; and the idea is well borne out by the fact. The regenerator may be said to perform the office of the lungs, and then we indeed have the heaving chest and. the sinewy limbs before us. Calling it a “Caloric Engine,” however, seems to us a misnomer. It is, in effect, an “atmospheric” or “air, engine,’ inasmuch as it is operated by means of air, as the steam- engine is by steam.

And here let us turn aside to make a remark on another subject. Some years ago the idea was broached, and to some extent experiments were tried, of ejecting air through perforations in the hull of a vessel, with a view to diminish the friction of the water. How far this was successful, or “whether the game is worth the powder or not,” we cannot say, but if there be anything in it, Captain Ericsson might turn his exhaust air to most excellent purpose in that direction.

The result of the trial trip as to speed is not a point of very great importance at the present time, inasmuch as the engines cannot be considered as in anything like perfect operation. It will be quite enough for intelligent mechanics to know that any motion at all is produced, particularly as the cylinders are of two feet less diameter than Captain Ericsson intended and wished they should be; it being found impossible to induce foundrymen to undertake larger ones.

On starting the engines, the number of revolutions of the wheel per minute was about nine and a half, and during the entire trip they varied from eight and three-quarters, to nine and three-quarters, and the speed through the water was at the rate of between eight and nine miles per hour.

The ship left her anchorage opposite Pier No. 1, North river, and proceeded down to the Narrows, turning about at a short distance beyond Fort Diamond, and returning to her anchorage again; being absent in all about two hours and a half. Starting on the last of the flood tide and returning on the first of the ebb, she had tide against her both ways, lessening her speed, (except through the water,) an average of about one and a half or two miles per hour. The whole distance performed through the water was not far from twenty-two miles.

We can no longer call the Ericsson an experiment, it is an established fact, and one which must stand out as such in all future time. The invention, thus far, is more triumphant than that of Fulton with his steamboat; even more triumphant, after considering the known disadvantages under which Fulton labored. The use of heated air is not, to be sure, a new thing to inventors. Many have tried it, and one or two have been partly successful. But this, instead of detracting from, rather adds to, the merit of Captain Ericsson.

He alone has persevered to the end, and after twenty years of trial and experiment has been rewarded by the fullest success. No one conversant with the attempts and failures of most enterprises can examine the Ericsson in all its parts, without pronouncing her the miracle of the age; for such they must consider the construction of so large and fine a ship, complete in all its parts, moved by a power hitherto unknown in all practical respects. It is indeed a miracle of enterprize for any man, or set of men, to undertake so gigantic an experiment on little more than mere theory. Yes, it is a triumph, and a grand one; one of which our whole country must ever feel proud.

During the trip down the bay an excellent repast was served, a breakfast, to which full justice was done. On the return, Captain Ericsson very lucidly explained, with a working model and diagram, the operation of the engines, and satisfactorily replied to all the objections raised by the company, as to the working of its different parts. During these explanations the deepest interest was manifested by all present, and none failed to understand fully the whole subject.

After this a meeting was organized, H.J. Raymond, esq., in the chair, and a committee appointed to draft resolutions. Many excellent and timely remarks were me by Messrs. Raymond, Stoughton, (the legal counsel, and on this occasion the representative of the proprietors of the vessel,) Erastus Brooks, Professor Mapes, Dr. Jones, and others, after which the following resolutions, presented by the committee appointed for the purpose, were adopted.