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Theperson12345

How come it took to around 40-50 years before paddle steamers began to vanish?

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Players
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Considering that the first screw propellor ship was built in 1839, it took around 40-50 years before new paddle steamer construction vanished, and even by 1900, some ships where still built using paddles instead of scrrw propellors, is there a reason why? Screw propulsion was in almost all ways superior to paddle steamers, thats like the equivalent of steam cars being designed in 1925-35. Does anyone know the anwser?

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[WG-EU]
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WG Staff, Community, Alpha Tester
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Before the screws were perfected, the paddlewheels were simpler to make and maintain, plus contrary to single screw ships offered also advantages in maneuvrability (depending on construction) - which was better for maneuvering in areas first steam warships often operated (shallow waters, rivers...). Screws were good for oceangoing ships though (as there usually main propulsion was still sail and engine was secondary - paddlewheels would increase drag). Still, there were some great oceangoing paddlewheel ships when they were supposed to be under power by default.

It's kinda same as prop planes being still made some time into jet era (or even still, by now), steam trains well after diesel and electric traction was invented etc.

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[HOO]
Beta Tester, Players, In AlfaTesters
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Paddle wheels also have the distinct advantage they can be used on ships with a very shallow draft, paired with having a steam-engine that is rotated so the cylinders are almost in the same horizontal plane as the axle. And also ships without a keel, since they create no longitudinal torque like a propeller does, and they don't get fouled (as much) by weeds & other debris like a screw does. Also later versions had the ability to have both paddles rotate independently from eachother (they weren't rigidly connected to eachother via an axle), which meant that such ships could perform a pivoting rotation (by having one paddle rotate forwards, and the other rotate backwards), which is of great use when you are a tug or other vessel that requires excellent & precise handling in confined spaces. Stuff like that on a ship with a regular screw is virtually impossible. It requires a small battery of bow- & stern thrusters, or screws mounted in rotating pods. The only propulsion that I can think of that is even more  flexible in terms of dynamics is the Voith-Schneider Cyclorotor. 

 

In terms of warships: a paddle wheel is very vulnerable, since a big part of it sits above water in plain sight. A screw sits under a fairly big body of water, making it less vulnerable to damage from enemy gunfire.

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Players
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The screws have an additional problem as the shaft has to go through a hole bellow the waterline, meaning that there are issues on making the hull completely watertight. So gaskets have to be used, but at the same time the gasket must let the shaft rotate with minimal resistance (friction). Materials for those gaskets in the early years were expensive and unreliable, it took some time to develop proper materials and designs. The use of screws also demands the use of thrust bearings, as the force of thrust the the screw generates that has to go from the shaft to the ship, is parallel to the shaft. Thrust bearings are generaly more complex than axial ones. Besides mechanical probles there are industrial problems too. The whole shipbuilding industry has to addapt to the changes. There are changes in the way ships are built, so machinery as well as manpower have to addapt, something that takes time. There are also design related issues. Most new designs are based on older ones, this makes the designing process faster and easier but at the same time the design itself is more reliable, as it is based on something proven and working. The machinery arangement of a paddle steamer, as well as the propulsion way itself, differs from that of a screw propelled one, making the general design different, so the designers in order to save time and money went with the already existing idea instead of experimenting. Most changes are gradual (coal to oil, propellers to jet etc), so is the case here. Keep in mind though that everything has advantages and disadvantages that are very distinct for certain applications.

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[SKANE]
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I would guesstimate (guess and estimate) that it's because paddles we're easier to control at the time, since at the time they went from sails that the captain/officers could see in what direction the wind and thus direction the ship was gaining power in, submerged screws like a propeller would be harder to see just how much movement the ship was gaining, as well a screw is a little more complex in design than a paddle-wheel with blades orientation and other things, a lot of small features that could improve speed or durability.

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