Trial Trip of the Caloric Ship Ericsson

Source : From the New York Daily Times
Title: Trial Trip of the Caloric Ship Ericsson - Complete success of the experiment
Date: Unkown - Probably January 1853

The success of the new motor invented by Captain Ericsson was yesterday exhibited for the first time in presence of a select company of invited guests. By the courtesy of the inventor, the trial trip was confided mainly to the consideration of the press of this city, and a few gentlemen whose scientific abilities render them amply qualified to pronounce judgment upon a project fraught with such momentous results.

The company scarcely exceeded fifty in number, and abundant opportunity was afforded for a minute and careful investigation into the principles involved in the construction of the caloric engine. The trip was most satisfactory, and its results conclusive. The success of the new principle may be deemed certain, and there are no doubts which can now be suggested which may hot readily be removed.

The performance of the engine, during the entire trip down the bay and returning, was such as to exceed the most sanguine anticipations of the gentleman in whose name the vessel has made her first appearance. Against wind and tide, with the machinery in but imperfect order, the ship made ten knots an hour with ease. Her motion is steady, her machinery compact, and her appointments superb. Of the power by which she is propelled we must speak at length, believing that this first success of the principle in its practical application is to mark a new era in navigation, and perhaps produce a speedy revolution of the marine of the world.
No mechanical event since the time of Fulton has promised so well for the interest of mankind as the enterprise now so happily inaugurated by Ericsson.

The Ericsson lies at anchor off the Battery, in full view of admiring throngs, to whom she is an object of profound interest. The company of yesterday reached her by means of a small steamer provided for the purpose. At a few minutes past 9 O’clock, the anchor of the Ericsson was hoisted, her head was turned to the Narrows, and we sped down the bay at a uniform rate of ten knots against wind and tide. The appearance of the ship at this time, as, with everything trim and taut, she made her first bow to the public, was remarkably attractive.

The company were all in high spirits, and the trip was agreeably accomplished. The ship, having reached a point about nine and a half miles from the city, tacked and wore away toward her anchorage at the Battery; the guests on board, meanwhile, doing ample justice to the generous cheer provided by the officers. The ship again cast anchor at noon, having accomplished the trip out and back—a distance of nearly twenty miles—in about two hours and a half. It should be observed that it was not intended on this occasion to exhibit the sailing qualities of this vessel; so that this rate of speed should be considered rather as the minimum than the maximum of her capability.

Capt. Ericsson proposed only to demonstrate at this time the possibility of producing effective motion; a promise which he has very fully redeemed. The unavoidable imperfections of the machinery, although trifling, are still such as to prevent any remarkable exhibition of speed. The existence of the new power is fully demonstrable by tile fact of motion. Speed is but a secondary consideration.

On the way down the bay we had the fortune to exchange compliments with the Collins steamship Baltic, which reached port at noon, on her return trip from Liverpool. As the two noble vessels passed each other, they saluted, and the welkin rang responsive to the plash of the waves against the wheels, as the explosion of the guns and the shouts and cheers of the passengers and guests were wafted from one to the other. The scene was striking, and the coincidence noteworthy and remarkable.

Steam, in one of its most noble personifications, politely doffed its hat to its new antagonist, and Caloric returned the compliment with interest. The meeting of the craft was an event to be remembered. The Ericsson sailing quietly down the Narrows, the Baltic whizzing with all the paraphernalia and bustle of the steamship—the one with no perceptible motive power, the other bearing marks of hard usage, and a fight with the elements well won, but still strong and lusty—made up an interesting tableau, which the eye could not choose to rest upon without somewhat of a prophetic vision.

The company on board the Ericsson, availing themselves of the invitation of Capt. Ericsson and Capt. Lowber, spent an hour in examining the machinery and appointments of the ship. They descended to the fire rooms—down small ladders, past which corpulent gentlemen could not hope to Penetrate—tip impracticable landings, and through the intricate passages of the vessel, and varied the exercise by riding upon the head of the working cylinder of the engines, passing up and down the cylinder with the motion of the piston, and finding the temperature in this place—the hottest of the premises—cool and parlor like.

The sensation of a ride upon the piston of a first-class marine engine, without damage to person or property, was certainly novel and attractive.

Curiosity satisfied, and the minutiae of the engines having been examined with satisfaction, the guests retired, by invitation, into the saloon, where Capt. Ericsson, in compliance with the generally expressed wish of the company, and in accordance with his own desire to impart all possible information in regard to the peculiarities of his invention, gave a very lucid and succinct explanation of the principles which he has applied, aided by a small model of the engines.

The readers of the Daily Times have already been apprised, by former articles in our columns, of the leading characteristics of the new motor; but the importance of the subject seems to demand, in this connexion, a still more complete and detailed description of the mode by which the caloric engine performs its work. We avail ourselves of Capt. Ericsson’s plain narrative to complete the sketches given before.

Capt. Ericsson, in explaining the power of his engine, commenced with the furnaces at the base of the lower pairs of cylinders, showing that a very small quantity of fuel is required, and that the attendance of many hands is needless. To produce the power, he remarked, we first pump into the receivers, by hand, a volume of cold air. This air, injected by force pumps, is made to pass down a tube leading from the supply cylinder to the working cylinder below, and enters the lower chamber by forcing up the piston.

The pistons in the cylinders having a corresponding action, this upward motion presses more air from the upper cylinder into the lower, and the action continues until the required elevation of the pistons is obtained. The air passing through the regenerator of the engine, is rendered capable of that degree of expansion which is necessary to the operation of the machinery, and of which we shall come to speak hereafter.

The cylinders are peculiar in their construction. They consist of two pairs, and are placed, not side by side, as in the ordinary marine engine, but longitudinally in the vessel. Into each cylinder is fitted a piston corresponding exactly to its own diameter, but so arranged as always to operate simultaneously with the larger piston of the working cylinder. The dimensions of these cylinders, it should be mentioned, are as follows: ‘the working cylinders, 168 inches each in diameter; supply cylinders, 137 inches diameter; length of stroke, six feet. The air passing through the cylinder to produce the desired effect upon the pistons, is compelled to receive its caloric in advance by the action of the regenerator.

A series of wire nettings, placed side by side, to the thickness of twelve inches, presents a metallic surface of 15,000 square feet, in which are contained upwards of 100,000,000 of meshes—minute cells, through which the air is forced, and in which it imbibes or parts with caloric to the amount of 450°. The maximum temperature which is requisite for doubling the volume of atmospheric air is 480°, of which 30° are afforded by the furnace, and the residue by the regenerator.

It was ascertained by careful experiment that air will acquire or evolve heat very rapidly when placed in contact with a metallic surface. This action is instantaneous. The minute subdivision of the cells attained by the construction of the regenerator of the caloric engine, produces the full effect of this simple law of nature. As the volume of air taken in by the action of the cylinders passes through this contrivance, it takes up continual additions of heat, increasing in temperature as it approaches the furnace, and when it is admitted to act upon the cylinder, it is with such expansive force that the piston is driven up with great power, carrying with it the corresponding piston of the upper cylinder; while the air, having performed its duty, now returns into the regenerator, is deprived of its heat, save about 300o, and is ejected into the air nearly as cold as when it entered; the, loss of heat being but 30° out of 480° previously absorbed. It will thus be observed that the loss of power is very small, compared with that of the steam engine, where the escape and waste of material is very great.

The cylinders being connected by a walking beam, the centre shaft of the steam engine is done away with, and the action of the engine is reciprocating. As one pair of pistons ascends, the other in consequence descends, and the reverse; so that a continual reciprocating motion is given to the machinery operated by the cylinders, producing a steady revolution of the paddle shaft.

The explanations of Capt. Ericsson were frequently interrupted by queries respecting important principles adopted in the construction of the engine, a few of which we note.

Q. What are the relative degrees of heat in the upper and lower surfaces of the regenerator?
A. The first layer of wire is very hot, but the temperature decreases as the distance from the furnace is increased.

Q. What is the superficial area of the regenerator?
A. Six feet by four, or twenty-four square feet.

Q. What is the amount of resistance to the air as it passes through the regenerator?
A. Only one-half of the space occupied by the regenerator is pierced for the meshes. The resistance will be about one-half of an ounce to the square inch.

Q. What is the diameter of the wire?
A. About one-sixteenth of an inch.

Q. What is the number of meshes to the square inch?
A. About five or six.

Q. What quantity of air is taken in by the cylinders when in full operation?
A. When the ship is under full headway, the engine making 13 strokes per minute, the cylinders take in 75 tons of air per hour.

Capt. Ericsson - resuming. As to the objections which have been raised to the application of this principle of heated air, I must make some explanation. It has been objected, first, that our packing will burn out. Now, the piston is a hollow chamber, six feet deep, filled with plaster of Paris and charcoal, a non-conducting medium, which prevents it from becoming so heated as to endanger anything. The lower side of this piston is exposed to all the heat of the furnaces, while its upper surface is almost cold. The reason why it is so cool, is because of the non-conducting quality of the packing. So far, therefore, from the packing being liable to burn out, it is not even hot; you may put the hand upon any part of the cylinder.

Q What is the method of oiling the machinery?
A. The lubrication of the pistons is easily effected by the peculiar conformation of the cylinders. The cylinder is not hot enough to prevent free access to any part of the piston, and the machine might grease itself; but it so happens that the engineer has nothing to do. [Laughter]
The engineer, in short, is nothing but the “greaser.” [Renewed laughter] The pistons do not chafe, and hence there is little or no friction. If the ship careens, and it is necessary to lubricate the pistons more on one side, the engineer meets the want and applies the remedy where it is needed. The temperature of the fire room also, as gentlemen will have noticed, continued the Captain, is very low. The men are now firing in their pea-jackets.

Q. What is the amount of cold air drawn into the cylinders in a given time?
A. An average of 60 to 70 tons per hour.

Q. What is the amount of power obtained in this vessel, and at what rate do you estimate the power of the caloric engine?
A. Twelve pounds to the square inch is the highest degree of pressure which we deem it advisable to employ, and even less than this is sufficient for ordinary purposes. As the pistons are 22,000 square inches in area, a pressure of 10 pounds for the square inch gives 220,000 pounds of mechanical force. If it be deemed advisable to obtain an augmentation of force, it is only necessary to enlarge the cylinders, and thus augment the power. We now know that we can make cylinders large enough to supply any want. My original calculation (added Capt. Ericsson,) was to use cylinders of 16 feet diameter, but it was deemed impracticable to exceed at first the present dimensions of 14 feet.
Were I to build the engine anew, I should adhere to my original plan, and make the larger cylinder each 16 feet. The feasibility of the enlargement of the cylinders is now so well established, that a house in this city, Messrs. Hogg & Delamater, the builders of these engines, will now engage to furnish cylinders of twenty feet diameter, and to bore them at their own risk. [Great applause]

Were we able to introduce cylinders of 20 feet, we should be able to surpass anything that floats upon the ocean, and the effect of the improvement would be extraordinary. The enlarge of the cylinders would not cause them to occupy a much greater space in the ship, so that there would be no appreciable loss in room; and the larger the cylinder, it will give more power. In other words, the power of the engine is in proportion to the square of the diameter of the cylinders. [Applause]

There is another objection which has been urged. It has been said that the application of dry heat will produce the effect of burning out the furnaces, but it is obvious to the most careless spectator that this can never happen, because the fire is removed to a distance of five feet from the bottom of the cylinders, and the fuel used is anthracite. We don’t want flames, because we operate simply by radiated heat. We might make the bottom of the cylinders red hot, but the most common trouble is, that they cannot be made hot enough.

There is a radical difference between the caloric engine and the steam engine in this respect. The action of heat upon our cylinders produces no ill effects, and it is only necessary to replace the furnace when it shall become unfit for use; though that contingency occurs but rarely; whereas, in the steam engine, in four years the boiler is destroyed, and must be entirely replaced. Nothing of this kind being required in this engine, there being no boiler to be corroded, the saving is very great, perhaps $30,000 to $40,000 every four years in a large ship. I have built several engines since I started the plan of this, and have known some of them to last for four years without a renewal of the furnaces.

Q. What is the thickness of the bottom of the cylinder?
A. One and a half inch.

Q. Do you find no trouble from oxydation?
A. None whatever. There is a slight red oxyde formed; but it is so slight as to be of no trouble. The oxygen is all consumed in the fire, and no residuum is left to occasion oxydation of the cylinders.

Q. Could wood be used to like the furnaces, as in vessels navigating the Mississippi river?
A. Wood would hardly answer; it would consume too quickly, and the boats would be obliged to fall back upon coal.

Q. What amount of coal do you consume per day?
A. On an average, from five to six tons; it would be almost impossible to consume more than six tons. The steamships consume forty to fifty tons daily. There is accordingly a great saving here.

Q. What is your opinion of coke as a fuel?
A. It would answer admirably.

Q. Does the extent of the power depend upon the degree of heat or the size of the cylinder, or are both indifferently increased?
A. We increase the size of the cylinder to obtain an augmentation of heat.

Q. How high is the power of this vessel?
A. About six hundred horse-power.

Q. Can the power be applied to small machines?
A. Undoubtedly. I made a machine a foot in diameter which ran with half horse-power. The principle is of easy application.

Q. In what ratio does the increase of the diameter of the cylinder increase the power?
A. Just the same as the increased area of the piston.

Q. Are you perfectly satisfied with this trip as a first trial?
A. It has exceeded my highest anticipations. With the low-pressure which is now employed, the engine has already effected more than I had any reason to anticipate. [Cheers.]

Q. In regard to the amount of friction, what is it?
A. The amount of friction is less than that of any other engine.

Q. What amount of pressure is required to commence operations?
A. So little that a half pound pressure to the square inch is sufficient to give motion to the whole.

Q. What is the number of valves?
A. Thirty-six in each piston.

Q. Is it any cheaper to run at a moderate rate of speed?
A. It is somewhat so; the amount of resistance of the water being as the square of the velocity.
Q. Is there any difficulty in keeping the piston valves in order?
A. None. If anything gets out of order, there is a man-hole in the top of the supply-cylinder, so that a man goes in with a light, looks about, remedies the evil, comes out, and shuts the door behind him, and there is an end of it. [Laughter]
In the steam engine, on the contrary, whenever the valves are deranged, we must take off the head, weighing some five tons, then wait three hours for the engine to cool. Not so here.

Q. How long a time do you take to pump in the air for starting?
A. A very few minutes.

Q. What would happen if the engines were neglected?
A. The worst would be that the machinery would stop.

Q. How long since did this idea occur to you?
A. It has been cherished for twenty years. In 1833, I brought out in London my first model caloric engine, which ran with five horse power; and since that time I have built twelve or thirteen such machines.

Q. Do you remember the name of the British reviewer who commented favorably upon your invention about that time?
A. Nearly all the English mechanical journals of the day discussed the subject. Professor Faraday, however, and Dr. Andrew Ure, regarded my enterprises favorably. When the subject was first agitated, it was denounced as involving, among other things, the “chimera of perpetual motion,” but experiments caused some of these doubts to be removed.

Mr. Faraday was much interested, and lectured upon the new principle before crowded audiences at the Royal Institution. For nearly twenty years, therefore, I have pondered on this invention. During all this time, I have never been at a loss for means, (applause,) and on reaching New York and making representations to your capitalists, I met with a number of merchants, supported by other gentlemen of capital, who afforded me ample opportunity of testing the caloric principle on this large scale. (Cheers)

The thing is accomplished; there is no remaining difficulty in the way which cannot be met; there is no doubt that cannot be answered. The principle has been tested long enough to prove that it is reliable, feasible and successful. (Cheers)

Q. Will you state what is the relative cost of the caloric ship and steamships?
A. The cost will be about two-thirds that of the steamships; that is, there will be a saving of one-third in expense.

Q What is the ratio of expense as regards the employment of engineers and firemen?
A. About in the proportion of Ito 5.

This ended the explanations and their accompanying colloquies. We have sketched briefly and rapidly from recollection of the salient points of a very interesting and instructive discussion.

An expression of the sentiments of the company seeming to be appropriate to the occasion:

Mr. Charles A. Dana, of the Tribune, made a few remarks, alluding very happily to the clearness and pointedness of the illustrations given by Captain Ericsson of his new invention. The time had come when the wants of commerce called for more safe and trustworthy agents. The genius of Captain Ericsson has inaugurated a revolution in the world of business. All classes are looking anxiously forward to this event, and the world will hail the success of this important enterprise as the commencement of a new and prosperous era in history.

The Press is especially indebted to Captain Ericsson for the opportunity he has afforded its members, not to criticise, but to examine his wonderful invention; and the representatives of that body will cherish a gratifying recollection of the triumph they have witnessed this day, and the prospect which opens brightly upon the future.

Similar remarks followed from Messrs. Solon Robinson, James J Mapes, H. J. Raymond, E. W. Stoughton, and others, and the guests dispersed—only, as it afterward appeared, to reassemble in due form for the passage of the customary resolutions which end off and smooth the last scenes of steamer trial trips.

There can be no better place to introduce a subject which attracted general attention in this interim “between meetings.” The freight deck of the Ericsson is not the least among her beauties. The method of construction of the engine, and the small amount of fuel required to feed the furnaces, produces a remarkable economy in the stowage capacity of the ship. The amount of freight that may be received will be 1,400 tons.

The freight deck, strongly secured from accidents, is roomy and cleanly. It is perfectly clear from stem to stern, in consequence of the small space occupied by the machinery of the ship, and affords, beside the freighting space proper, storerooms and recesses, always useful for the stowage of precious articles. The coal hold is below the freight deck, and is abundantly spacious to contain the entire mass of fuel required for the outward and return voyages of the ship. It is ascertained that the vessel will be able to carry her coals for the longest trips out and back, even should the voyage be extended beyond the customary route of our packet steamers. The steamships can carry a supply sufficient only for a single trip.

Of the internal arrangements for the comfort of passengers, it is only necessary to say that the saloons, state-rooms, and appurtenances are of the best stamp. No ship sailing out of this port will surpass the Ericsson in beauty and completeness of interior appointments. Curled hair mattresses, the daintiest of linen, with marble stands, gilt ornaments, and carpets of the newest pattern, compose the furniture of the state rooms. Gothic entrances open into the cabins; the chairs and sofas are covered with crimson plush; the carved-work is of the most chaste and elegant pattern; and a carpet design, representing the flag of America embowered in the midst of forest foliage, lends a sort of enchantment to the understanding of the passer-by. The saloon, forward and aft, are heated by the customary appliances. A neat little bijou is the ladies’ boudoir in the after cabin—a semi-circular apartment, elegantly finished and very retired.

The complete dimensions of the Ericsson are as follows:

  • Length between perpendiculars: 250 feet.
  • Breadth of beam: 40 feet.
  • Depth of hold: 26 ft 6 in
  • Tonnage, register measure: 1,903 tons
  • Working cylinders (diameter of each.): 168 inches.
  • Working cylinders, length of stroke: 6 feet.
  • Working cylinders, (diameter of each): 137 inches.
  • Supply cylinders, length of stroke: 6 feet.
  • Chimneys, two in number, (diameter): 30 inches.
  • Ventilating tubes, two in number, corresponding to the chimneys, (diameter): 30 inches
  • Paddle wheels, (diameter): 32 feet.
  • Paddle-wheel buckets: 10 ft. 6 in.

The owners of the vessel are a company of gentlemen of wealth and influence, among whom is John B. Kitching, esq., a prominent merchant of this city. Her builders were Messrs. Perrine, Patterson & Stack, of Williamsburg; the engines were constructed by Messrs. Hogg & Delamater, of New York.

The destination of the Ericsson is yet undecided. In fact, some time must necessarily elapse before she can be made ready for a sea-vogyage. We append a list of her officers, so far as they are appointed:

Captain: A. B. LOWBER.
First Mate: HENRY C. BACON.
Surgeon: Dr. A. A. LINES.


At the suggestion of several gentlemen present, for the purpose of making some more formal expression of opinion concerning the trip, a meeting was organized, of which, on motion of Mr. Stoughton, Mr. H.J. Raymond was appointed chairman, and C.D. Stuart, secretary. Mr. R.G. White moved that a committee of three be appointed to prepare and report resolutions expressing the sense of the meeting.

The motion was adopted, and the chair appointed R.G. White, esq., Prof. J.J. Mapes, and Mr. Freeman Hunt on the committee. After they had withdrawn for the performance of the duty assigned them, E.W. Stoughton, esq., made some remarks upon the practical difficulties encountered in the prosecution of this work—the objections raised, and the ridicule indulged by various parties interested in business projects which might be injured by the success of this invention, and the noble manner in which a few men had come forward with money and personal aid to carry it on.

Mr. Raymond made some remarks upon this case, as an illustration of the extreme difficulty with which anything new, no matter how true or important it may be, forces itself upon public attention, and is finally admitted into the recognised order of things; of the vast importance of Captain Ericsson’s invention; of the true nobility of character evinced by those who had faced obloquy, and risked their wealth in carrying forward this great experiment; and of the just appreciation by Captain Ericsson of the true function of the Press, in not asking its judgment, or its aid, in advance of success, but in simply soliciting its attention to the question, after everything had been done and the machine constructed, whether its performances were successful or not.

Erastus Brooks, esq., followed in some very felicitous remarks upon the importance of the invention to the world and the general progress of science. Several other gentlemen also spoke, until the committee returned, and Mr. White, on its behalf, reported the following resolutions (see article of the Courier and Enquirer)

The company, upon the invitation of Captain Lowber, then sat down to a bountiful lunch which lie had provided. After this had been despatched, Mr. Raymond proposed Captain Lowber’s health, speaking of him as a noble specimen of a noble class, the ship captains of our port, and as entitled to special credit for the manliness with which he had devoted himself to the realization of the grand idea of this new motive power.

Captain Lowber replied in a very handsome speech, thanking the company for the honor done him, and declaring his full conviction in the entire success and certain triumph of the caloric engine.

The health of the inventor of the Magnetic Telegraph was next drank, which Mr. Sidney E. Morse acknowledged. Capt. Ericsson’s health came next, and was received with long and loud applause. In reply; he declared that he could not, make a speech, that he should not try, and that he had wily to express his cordial thanks for the compliments paid him.

Prof. Mapes was toasted, and made a speech full of humor, both in matter and in manner. E.W. Stoughton, esq., responded to a complimentary toast, and in closing gave the health of those gentlemen who had so promptly and generously furnished the money for the construction of the Ericsson. Mr. Hutchinson, being designated as one of the persons alluded to, said that when he was applied to by a friend to aid this enterprise he thought but little of it, until he was told that if the experiment should succeed there would be an end to steamboat explosions.

Upon that hint, he said he subscribed $10,000, feeling that any experiment which promised to put an end to the dreadful scenes of death by steam we are almost daily called to witness, deserved to be aided by every man who had friends to love, or sympathies for the sufferings of his fellow men. He said he had thought but little more about it; he had paid his money cheerfully, been laughed at a good deal by his friends, which he had borne with a good deal of philosophy, and began to think now that his turn for laughing was not very far off. Mr. Hutchinson’s remarks were received with warm applause.

After he had concluded, Mr. Raymond proposed his health, as that of the Merchant who cared more for human life than for ten per cent.; which was responded to with hearty acclamations.