The Caloric Ship Ericsson

Source : From the Courier and Enquirer,
Title: The Caloric Ship Ericsson
Date: Wednesday morning, January 12, 1853.

We give a large portion of our limited space to a detailed account of the Caloric ship Ericsson, and of the interesting proceedings which took place on board of her yesterday, during a trip which she made to the lower bay.

It matters little whether this vessel went one mile or one hundred, or whether she was propelled at the rate of two miles an hour or twenty; the great facts to be established were, first, that an engine of considerable power could be driven by another, a better, cheaper, and safer motor than steam; and, second, that such an engine could he effectively used in a vessel of sufficient size to cope with the sea. These the trip of yesterday settled beyond a doubt or a cavil.

But when we add to these that a sea steamer (for so we still call her) of first rate size was upon tier second trial, made with unfinished engines, equal to only seven-twelfths of their power, very materially inferior in size to those designed for her by the inventor, propelled against tide and wind at the rate of nine or ten miles an hour, we record one of the most stupendous triumphs in science and mechanics which has ever claimed the admiration of the world.

No accurate or reliable description of the Ericsson and her engine has been published before this morning; none which could give the reader a just idea of time plan or working of the engine. Such could only be prepared by the aid of the inventor himself, and the minute account which we lay before our readers this morning is made up from information communicated to us by Captain ERICSSON himself, and is published with the sanction of his authority.

The name given to this engine misleads the popular conception with regard to it. It is not a caloric engine, if that name imply that caloric is used as a motive power. It might be better termed an atmospheric engine, for it is upon the elasticity and expansiveness of the air that its action depends.

Caloric is in no greater sense its motive power than it is that of the steam engine. It is the very air we breathe which propels that enormous vessel.

The inventor has seized upon the viewless winds and compelled them to do his bidding; he has harnessed the steeds of time air to the car of commerce. He has by twenty years patient and thoughtful working and waiting, made the most impalpable and innocuous element of which our senses are cognizant, the mighty power which is to produce the most stupendous material effects which they can appreciate or the mind can project.

He has diminished the danger of the traveler by sea, and ultimately by land of the mechanic, of the engineer, of all in fact who now incur the risks of steam, to an inappreciable entity, if he have not removed them altogether. Let the memory of the Henry clay and the Reindeer sadden the heart but for a moment, and we shall then begin to appreciate one of the benefits which Captain ERICSSON has bestowed upon his kind.

Let the merchant think of a vessel whose freight decks are open from stem to stern, and which is vet propelled with the consumption of six tons of coal in place of the fifty used by a sea steamer, and he can then Justly consider one of the particular benefits which the inventor has conferred upon commerce. But the future opens widely before us, when we begin to reflect upon the revolution which this invention is to achieve in commerce, the mechanic arts, and domestic life; and we are compelled to step reluctantly thus upon the very thresh hold of the subject.

We need not commend the matter which follows these remarks to the attention of our readers, for the subject is one which has justly been an absorbing one to all intelligent minds for some clays past; but we must say a word in praise of the modest and dignified manner in which Captain ERICSSON has come before the public.

He has not bowed, save in respectful courtesy, even to the omnipotent power of the press. He, as far as our knowledge extends, has not sought to win the good will of even its humblest member; but has gone on, silently laboring, until his project reached a perfect development which permitted him to present it, without fear and asking no favor, to any intelligent mind. Such a course must commend the statements which are at last placed before the public to an unusual share of confidence and attention. We detain our readers no longer from the following account of the TRIAL TRIP OF THE ERICSSON.

On Tuesday morning, about half-past nine o’clock, the Ericsson, with a small party of invited guests, left her moorings in the Hudson river, and passed down into the lower bay and returned. The object of the trip was to exhibit the working of the Caloric Engines invented by the gentleman whose name the vessel bears. From a detailed examination of the vessel and the engine, we have prepared the following account:

The Vessel

Of the size, strength, and model of the Ericsson, we have before spoken, and that at a time when her timbers were uncovered and open to the inspection of all. Consequently it will now be only necessary to speak of them in general terms. She is 260 feet long on deck; 40 feet beam; 27½ feet hold, and 2,200 tons burthen.

She has inside wheels, which are 32 feet in diameter, with ten feet buckets. Her timbers are of the best seasoned white oak, put together and secured in the strongest manner. Her prow is very sharp, bearing no device; her bottom and lines are slightly curved, and on her stern are a figure of the inventor, and two allegorical figures representing the United States and Great Britain in the act of bin ding a wreath of laurels around his brow. The whole forming a vessel of large dimensions, of unsurpassed strength, graceful in symmetry, perfect in her proportions, and elegant in model.

Her builders, Messrs. Perine, Patterson & Stack, may well be proud of their work. Her equipments, aside from her engines, are worthy of particular notice. She has two masts, brig rigged, which, with the exception of the two exhaust and two smoke pipes, rather an ornament than otherwise, are all the obstructions on the promenade deck.

The spar deck is clear fore and aft, and on it are the dining saloon, pantry, center-house, over the engines; rooms for officers, a library room, smoking room, and firemen and sailors’ rooms in the forecastle, with every necessary convenience. There are four stairways communicating with the berth deck, by one of which we may as well descend, after simply noticing that the dining room is large, with neat and tastefully arranged furniture and excellent ventilation.

The berth deck is fitted up with sixty-four state-rooms, calculated for the accommodation of one hundred and thirty passengers. The construction and appointments of the staterooms are neat, without gaudiness; as is the ladies’ boudoir, the style of architecture of which, together with all the saloons, is gothic, and the wood-work is painted white, with chaste gilding. Forward of the state-rooms are rooms for the waiters. There is a continuous passage around this deck, which is one hundred and sixty feet long, and also thoroughly ventilated. On the after part of the saloon, on this deck, are closets appropriated for the ship’s linen.

By this arrangement, the general appearance of the saloon is improved, as it terminates in a curve. Square or sharp corners are thus avoided, in this as in the rest of the interior of the ship. Next in descending is the cargo deck, which is entirely clear fore and aft, and calculated to carry between thirteen and fourteen hundred tons of freight. The hold, fore and aft of the engines, is also calculated for carrying freight, with the exception of a portion of the space forward of the engines, which is made into a comfortable room, with 12 berths? for passengers’ servants.
By this arrangement accommodations are provided for a class of persons who have formerly had no particular place allotted to them.

The Engines

In entering the engine room of the Ericsson, the proportions of the various parts of the machine, compared to the steam engine, at once strike the eye. Instead of two close cylinders of moderate dimensions, we behold placed over the kelsons of the ship four large cylinders, open at the top, measuring one hundred and sixty-eight inches in diameter, the pistons of which contain upwards of twenty-two thousand square inches area.

Large as these cylinders might appear, yet they are two feet less in diameter than Captain Ericsson required o give the desired speed to the ship. So great, however, was the opposition on the part of engineers to cylinders of that magnitude, that he was compelled to confine himself to those of the diameter stated.

This opposition is now happily annihilated; the four cylinders of the Ericsson having been cast in succession, without the slightest accident or defect; and the skillful manufacturers, Messrs. Hogg and Delamater, now offer to furnish cylinders of any required size, cast and turned at their own risk. All practical limits to the extension of the power, therefore, have vanished; and caloric engines may now be constructed of more than equal power to those of our swiftest ocean steamers.

Such is the progress of the arts. What appeared impossible a year ago, is now perfectly easy of attainment; and thus the apparent limits of human efforts are extended step by step.

Over these immense cylinders are inverted four other cylinders, of one hundred and thirty-seven inches diameter, supported on columns or brackets, resting on the upper flanges of the working cylinders, before described. The office of these upper cylinders is that of drawing in atmospheric air, at each stroke of these pistons, through a series of valves applied in the latter, which air so drawn in is forced through other valves, with receivers placed on the top of these supply cylinders.

The atmospheric air so drawn in, after being expanded by heat, furnishes the motive power of the machine; and the peculiar mode of heating it is the life and soul of the invention. The four working cylinders are divided into pairs; one pair being placed forward of the paddle shaft, and the other aft. The power of the working pistons is transmitted to the paddle shaft by means of triangular beams, supported on strong pillow blocks, firmly secured between each pair of cylinders. These cylinders are not attached to the kelsons at their lower ends; their upper flanges alone being secured to the frame work of the engine, which is remarkably simple, and rests on six iron wrought columns placed on the bed plates of the kelsons.

The attachment of the triangular beams before mentioned to the crank pin of the paddle shaft, is effected by means of two connecting rods; one for each pair of engines, working at a mean angle of about forty-five degrees. By this happy expedient, the centre shaft, which gives so much trouble to our large ocean steamers, has been entirely obviated.

The stated position of the connecting rods is such that when the one engine passes what has been termed the dead centre, the other one acts with full power on the crank, imparting to it a very uniform and steady action. The connexion between the triangular beam and the working piston consists of a single link, by which the usual parallel motion in steam engines is superseded. As compared to the ordinary double marine steam engine, the working parts of the engines of the Ericsson present a remarkable simplicity, side levers, cross heads, and cross tails being all dispensed with, and the liability to fracture and derangement greatly diminished, to say nothing of the reduced frictions consequent on this simple combination.

It is difficult to describe the imposing effect produced on witnessing the operation of the stupendous pistons, working as they do in full view. Our sensation on riding up and down on these huge pistons we shall not soon forget; and altogether we regard the machinery of the Ericsson as one of the sublimest engineering conceptions of our times, remarkable as they are for bold strides in mechanics. Let it not be supposed, that owing to the large size of the cylinders, the entire machinery occupies any great space in the ship, as these cylinders take the place of the huge boilers of time ocean steamer.

The heaters and furnaces for heating the air previous to its entering the working cylinders, are placed under the latter. The fire room is located between these furnaces and the coal bunkers, which extend along each side of the engine room under the freight deck. No heat can therefore be communicated to the coal in these bunkers, whereby great safety is insured, more particularly as the arrangement for admitting the cold atmospheric air to the supply cylinders is such that it circulates through these fire rooms, thus keeping them at a very low temperature.

The regenerators are attached to the side of the heaters, and rest on the bed plates. The cold air from the receivers before mentioned is conveyed through large connecting pipes to the regenerators, the admission being regulated by appropriate valves similar to those of steam engines. The cold air in the wire discs of the regenerator becomes gradually heated; so that, before entering the heaters and moving cylinders, the temperature is nearly but hot quite high enough for working; the office of the heaters being that of supplying the small amount of heat lost during the process of transfer at each stroke of the piston. The main supply of heat, however, is derived from the wire discs.

Next to the simplicity and grandeur of the machinery of the Ericsson, the observer is struck with the absence of that numerous attendance of engineers and firemen demanded in the steamship. A single fireman on duty is all that is required to feed the fires of this caloric ship; and we may add the extraordinary fact, that so light are his duties and so cool the fire room, that we found him performing them in a pea jacket. As to the engineer, his duties arc confined simply to tightening the kegs and lubricating of bearings and pistons, the numerous and important duties of the steam ship engineer, on the strict performance of which depends the safety of all on board, being wholly dispensed with in the caloric ship.

The great objection urged against the caloric engine in regard to the supposed injurious effect of the high temperature upon the packings of the working pistons, we observed to be utterly unfounded. Not only did we find them exposed to a temperature not exceeding that of boiling water, but we found the upper ends of tile working cylinders so cold that we could apply our hands to them without discomfort. So in regard to the bottoms of tile heaters, which have been supposed liable to be burnt out by the action of the fires, we found them remove d from the flues full five feet, and acted upon by a radiating heat only and not in contact with the burning fuel.
Any over-heating whilst the engine is in operation appears to be impossible; the difficulty if any exist, being to heat them rapidly enough to counteract the cooling effect of the air which enters at each stroke of the pistons.

Among the remarkable features of this engine we noticed that the acting medium is supplied just as fast as the action of the engine requires it ; unlike the steam engine, in which the pressure in the boilers is run down by working faster that is generated. This self-sustaining property of the caloric engine, which is almost independent of the fireman at the furnace, insures a remarkable regularity of action; not the slightest change in its speed being observable for many hours.

The caloric engine, so far from being a novel invention, the work of a day, is the result of a whole life devoted almost exclusively to its perfection. Nor is the machinery of the Ericsson the first of its kind which has worked satisfactorily; two other engines on a smaller scale having been in practical operation in this city from time to time during the last two years, without exhibiting the slightest defect, or requiring any repairs. Captain Ericsson, after many previous trials, constructed his first model caloric engine in London in the year 1833.
This, although it fully proved the soundness of the grand principle it embodied, had numerous practical defects, the removal of which have occupied the best part of his time from that period until about two years since.

In that interval he constructed some nine or ten small engines, independently of experimental apparatus in great variety; the whole involving an expenditure of not far from one hundred thousand dollars.

The leading feature of this remarkable engine, viz., that of employing heat over and over again for producing motive power, when presented by Captain Ericsson to the scientific world in 1833, was at first repudiated by the combined scientific wisdom of England; but after the persevering efforts of its author to make himself heard, the celebrated Farraday, Dr. Andrew Ure, Dr. Lardner, and others, concurred in the philosophical soundness of the plan, and readily lent their aid in convincing others of its truth.

But, with all their science, these men could render the inventor no aid in removing the practical imperfections which yet clogged his beautiful conception. These his own indomitable perseverance could alone, combat and finally subdue.

The great feature of the caloric engine, that which distinguishes it from all others, is the use of the heat, once generated, again and again. This discovery, that the amount of mechanical force produced does not depend upon the amount of fuel consumed, is one which entitles the inventor to the lasting gratitude of society; and the discovery, coupled with it that heat requires no appreciable time to be transferred from one material to another, is one of the most important ever made in physical science.

The Regenerator

The most characteristic, remarkable, and essential part of the caloric engine depends upon this latter discovery, it is the Regenerator; an apparatus which cools and heats the air which is expelled from and taken into the cylinder, and does this with au expenditure of heat which may be reduced to three degrees, but which it is of no practical utility to reduce below thirty.

This Regenerator is formed of a series of discs of wire gauze, placed with their flat surf aces together. The size of the discs in the engine of the Ericsson is six feet by four, thus presenting a surface of twenty-four square feet of Wire gauze, so minute that upwards of one hundred millions of cells are formed by it, by which the air that passes and repasses through it is subdivided almost into its original particles.

These Regenerators are the lungs of this breathing engine, and they are not unlike lungs in their construction and action. The hot air, as it is driven through them by the descending piston, becomes cool by the time it has reached the outermost disc, and the cold air which rushes in to supply the place of that which was expelled becomes heated by the time it has reached the innermost disc, and by the same heat which the expelled air gave out. The heat is thus imparted by the air to the Regenerator, and imparted by the Regenerator to the air, in the fiftieth part of a second.
We need make no more explanations, tell no more wonders, about this grand and simple invention.

Proceedings on Board

After all on board had enjoyed the amplest opportunity of examining the engine, and when the vessel’s head had been turned homeward, Captain Ericsson explained in a simple and lucid manner the workings of the wonderful machine which they had just seen for the first time. After he had answered in the clearest and most conclusive manner all possible questions, Mr. Charles A. Dana rose, and expressing in a few happy and pertinent sentence the satisfaction and pleasure which he felt on the occasion in common with all present, offered an informal resolution which embodied the spirit of his remarks, and which was assented to with a hearty unanimity; but it was the general feeling, after further conversation, that so important an event should not be allowed to pass without a more formal and deliberate record of the convictions of those who had had the good fortune to be present on an occasion of such absorbing and universal interest.

Those present, therefore, organized themselves into a meeting, appointing the Hon. Henry J. Raymond chairman, and Carlos D. Stuart secretary. After the chairman had made a few remarks, directing the attention of those present to the object of their organization, on motion of Mr. Richard Grant White, seconded by Professor James J. Mapes, it was resolved that a committee should be appointed to draft resolutions expressive of the sentiments of the meeting upon the matter before it Mr. White, Professor Mapes, and Freeman Hunt, esq., being appointed such committee, reported the following resolutions, which, on motion, were passed unanimously, and directed to be published with the signatures of the committee:

Resolved, That this meeting of those present upon the trial trip of the caloric ship Ericsson is 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.

Resolved, That, upon thorough examination and actual observation, we are entirely convinced that the invention of Captain Ericsson is no longer of questionable practicability, but from tins day takes rank with the foremost of the great and useful inventions which the world owes to science and genius; and that it promises to surpass in efficiency any other adjunct to the advancement of commerce and the industrial progress of the world.

Resolved, 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.

Resolved, That the peculiar adaptability to sea vessels of the new motor presented to the world by Captain Ericsson is now fully established, and that it is likely to prove in every respect superior to steam for such purposes.

Resolved, 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 fire rooms, as satisfactorily exhibited on this trip, are among the most prominent claims of the caloric engine to the attention of the scientific and commercial world.

Resolved, 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 of the system which he has brought, by twenty years elaboration, to its 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.

Resolved, 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 & Stack, her builders, and Messrs. Hogg & Delamater, her machinists, have shown themselves worthy coadjutors in so noble a project, so important an invention.

Resolved, That E.W. Stoughton, esq., the tried friend and legal adviser of the inventor, with John B. Kitching, esq., and G. B. 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.

FREEMANT HUNT, Committee. 

On motion of Solon Robinson, esq., seconded by Erastus Brooks, esq., it was resolved, that in addition to the names of the officers, the proceedings should be signed by all those present on the trip; and it being noticed that several persons had left before the meeting was organized, it was also resolved that a committee should be appointed to procure the names of those gentlemen who had joined in the previous less formal expression of the opinion embodied in these resolutions.

It is right that we should add that this committee has almost entirely neglected to discharge its duties. – EDS.
CARLOS D. STUART, Secretary.

During the absence of the committee to draft the resolutions, the meeting was addressed by the Hon. Henry J. Raymond, E. Stoughton, esq., and T. Rainey, esq. After the adjournment, the day being far advanced, Captain Lowber spread a cold collation before such of his guests as still remained, and, as might have been expected, toasts were proposed, and heartily drunk, in honor of Captain Ericsson, the enterprising proprietors of the vessel, Captain Lowber, and others present. Mr. Stoughton, Professor Mapes, and Mr. Raymond made some very happy remarks upon the occasion; and Captain Lowber, in acknowledging the toast in his honor, said:

I offer you, sir, my thanks for your very kind sentiments, and to you, gentlemen, my most heartfelt acknowledgments for this gracious reception of the proposal of my health to them. The hoarse voice of the sailor is more accustomed to contend with the roar and tumult of the wind and waves than to do duty on such an occasion as this; and yet, gentlemen, I should do injustice to you and my own feelings, did I not congratulate you on this most auspicious day, which ensures the success of an enterprise in which our most earnest hopes have been centered.

I can but congratulate you upon the complete triumph of that enterprise, and the realization of those hopes. I have stood, gentlemen, upon the deck when the elements in fury seemed about to overwhelm the ship and obliterate man, yet I never looked forward to a safe passage through such a trial with more solicitude than I have watched the progress, and have anticipated the conclusion, of this enterprise. And when the end came, and we stood before time world in triumph, every pulse in my frame quickened, and every artery sent the blood through me with redoubled force.

I need not say that this is a proud day for Captain Ericsson. The mind which for twenty years has cherished and nurtured an idea like this, must feel more than pride at its successful application. To him who has conceived and executed we owe all; and it is my sincere trust that he will be fully repaid at this day; and I doubt not that posterity will take care of a fame that will rank with a Fulton and a Morse. I can pay, gentlemen, but a poor tribute to the father of this enterprise—the man who furnished the sinews arid reduced the ideas to a fact—the man whose comprehensive mind encompassed its entire scope, and whose sagacious foresight anticipated the result.

Need I say, gentlemen that I allude to Mr. John B. Kitching? opposition concealed, and sneers often openly expressed, he 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 constructed and finished the work, they have performed their part faithfully and well. It speaks for itself, and I point to it with pride.

The gentlemen who constructed the hull can have the satisfaction of knowing that a superior does not ride the waves. Gentlemen, I will conclude with a sentiment:

Commerce and Justice. Commerce, the pioneer of civilization and the nurse of content; Justice, the handmaid. Nations and individuals alike responsible; connected, humanity must advance.”