1. HistoricalScience
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    HistoricalScience Active Member

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    Does Anyone Know Steamboats/Steam Engines?

    Discussion in 'Research' started by HistoricalScience, Feb 9, 2016.

    I have some questions regarding steam engines, specifically ones that would be on a fairly large cargo river steamboat in 1868. What exactly is the procedure for starting and shutting down the engine on a steamboat from that era? Any knowledge you think would be helpful is appreciated! Thanks!
     
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  2. GingerCoffee
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    That's a Google question. Search for: "the workings of a steamboat engine".
     
  3. jannert
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    jannert Contributing Member Supporter Contributor

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    I just googled "the workings of a steamboat engine" and got a lot of history of steamboats. Also two videos ...one made by a passenger on a modern steamboat, watching the wheel turn, the crank shaft pumping in and out, etc. Useful, but didn't answer the original question at all, about starting and shutting down a steam engine from that era. Ditto the video of a modern steam engine, recently invented, made of stainless steel parts, and working on its own without a visible source of power. It's apparently not actually installed in a boat at all.

    I think what the OP was after was a more specific idea of what it was like to work a steamboat engine, back in the day. Google isn't always your friend, and doesn't always lead you to what you need to know. It can get you tantalisingly close at times, and sometimes it's spot on. Other times you can search for ages, and the answer you need just isn't there. If there is a person on the forum who has made a study of the subject, it's perfectly okay to ask for their help.

    I have suffered a similar amount of frustration, attempting to get a full picture of what it was like to travel by rail on the Northern Pacific route in the summer of 1886. There is no END of information about building railroads, the design of the engines, etc etc. But I'm double damned if years of googling and research (and buying umpteen books on the subject—writing to rail preservation societies and museums) has given me a readable timetable for that route and year—I got close ...found a photo of the correct timetable, but it wasn't clear enough to be readable ...or told me how in the hell people ascended to the top bunks on sleeper cars ...or even if two people could sleep in one. It's little details like that a writer needs to know, and google doesn't always hold the answers.

    If there is anybody on the forum who can give me those answers, I'd be incredibly grateful.
     
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  4. GingerCoffee
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    Yes, you do have to sort through history of and other general websites on the Steamboat engine to get to the mechanics of the engine. But that's going to get you better information faster than asking if someone in the thread is knowledgeable about the mechanics of steamboat engines.

    I'm not saying don't ask. You never know, someone might be a steamboat enthusiast. But when you want mechanics and you get history, just keep tweaking the search string.
     
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  5. jannert
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    jannert Contributing Member Supporter Contributor

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    I know how hard it is to find this kind of information. (I'm researching rail travel on the Northern Pacific in 1886 - from a passenger's point of view - and there are lots of frustrating gaps in what information is available—even in specialty books on the subject.)

    I would suggest you start by reading Mark Twain's Life on the Mississippi, if you haven't already done so. He was training to be a riverboat pilot during that era, and there certainly might be clues about how a steamboat actually ran. I read it many MANY years ago, and seem to recall there was a lot of information about that kind of thing. Of course he was studying to be a pilot, so he didn't spend much time in the engine room. But that would be a good place to start. You'll walk away knowing more than you did, that's for sure.

    I would also do some creative searches of Amazon books, to see what you come up with. Keep an eye out for any memoirs written by people who used to work the steamboats during that time. Dover Books publishes very odd replicas of old books at very cheap prices, so you might want to look at their website as well.

    You might want to check YouTube for videos. Occasionally the most amazingly informative stuff pops up. Worth a try.

    If you live where it's possible to visit any museums that showcase steamboats, that would be another way to learn. Or google 'steamboat museum' and see if you can get contacts to write to, to ask for help in finding the information you're after.

    Good luck in your quest!
     
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  6. jannert
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    jannert Contributing Member Supporter Contributor

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    Yes, I know. Google is one of the first places I go when I'm checking out information. It's just that what you need is not always there—especially if you're researching detail about how something used to be done. As my best friend, who is a librarian and whose specialty is online library resources said: Stuff is only online if people have put it there!
     
  7. GingerCoffee
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    The way I search is to get clues and go from search string to search string. So the Wiki entry on steam engines gives you steam engine names.

    That gave me one name, The Newcomen atmospheric engine.

    That gives you this:
    That was successful. So now you try, 'different kinds of steam engines'. On Wiki you find, Types of ships. Given the names of types of steam engines you can look at the specific mechanics.

    And on and on you go.:)
     
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  8. GingerCoffee
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    But it is there, you just need to know how to go from clue to clue.:superidea:
     
  9. jannert
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    jannert Contributing Member Supporter Contributor

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    Trust me, the answers are not always online. I have turned myself inside out over a period of years trying to dig out certain bits of information. I'm experienced at this. There are gaps.

    Here's another one. What was the INTERIOR of a packet steamship like ...the kind that ran between Boston and Yarmouth NS in the summer of 1886? I've got close ...but not quite close enough. Lots of stuff available for transatlantic steamships of the era, but the overnight packets? Nope.

    There is a scene I want to set on board a particular boat (The Dominion - I have a picture of the boat itself, from the outside AND a copy of the timetable as well - yay!!!) but I need to know what the setup was like down below. The closest I can come is a muddy drawing of the main dining compartment of a different steamship interior from several years before that traveled a different route, and a detailed, first-hand account of somebody (Isabella Bird) who traveled in a steamship that plied the St Lawrence in the late 1860s—where all the women slept in one room, and all the men in another. So I'll need to wing it. I've even written to the Boston Historical Society (no reply) and the Yarmouth Historical Society (unable to provide the information.)

    And for total frustration, this: DOM05 DOMINION (Dominion) Superb color coded tissue Deck Plan. Opens to 12.5x22.5". Shows First, Second and Steerage Classes. Near mint condition. Issued 1898. Very Rare! $350.00 Is this the same flipping boat??? I'm not going to pay $350 to find out.

    Google doesn't always contain the answers. It's a great resource and portal to hallways of information, but those hallways don't always lead where you want them to. My point wasn't that Google doesn't work, it's that Google doesn't always work. And if somebody out there has specialist knowledge of a subject, it's great to make contact with them.

    I know I'd be a little bit miffed if I asked for specialist help on the interior layout of The Dominion steamship in 1886, and was told to go to Google. I've already been to flipping Google. I've been to Dogpatch as well. Nada. Or more accurately, close, but no cigar.

    I've always maintained that the quickest and most accurate way to do this kind of research is to write the damn thing wrong and get it published. Indignant experts will come thundering out of the woodwork to point out your mistakes. :geek:
     
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  10. GingerCoffee
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    Not that every single thing can be found online, but I accept your challenge. What's a packet steamship?

    So let's see (you know I love you, right?).

    Is this a packet steamship?
    Let me know and I'll keep going. And I'll look further into The Dominion. What was your question that you didn't find the answer to specifically?

    I love a challenge.
     
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  11. jannert
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    jannert Contributing Member Supporter Contributor

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    Well, if you can find the answer to my question via Google, I will happily eat not only MY hat but everybody else's who wants to donate one.

    My question is simple: I need to know the interior layout of the steamship The Dominion (formerly the Linda) that ran the Boston to Yarmouth (Nova Scotia) passenger route in the summer of 1886. This was an overnight run that went several times a week, but not every day. I have a good photo of the exterior of the ship in Yarmouth quay, and a couple of drawings of the ship. I also have enough of a timetable to construct my story as to when it left Boston and arrived in Yarmouth. But nothing of the interior, stairwells, rooms, dining areas, lounge areas, or anything about what the passengers did for sleeping accomodation on board overnight.

    My characters will be traveling on this ship, and I have a scene on board that I'd like to portray—which is difficult because I have no idea what it was like below the open deck that's visible in the photos and drawings. I'll settle for simply the layout of the ship, as regards passenger accomodation. A deck plan would be ideal, and photos are more than I could hope for. Another bonus would be anything about the difference between first and second class passenger accomodation, if that even existed.

    Incidentally, the term 'packet' didn't always apply to a steamship. It was a term denoting a fairly basic (non-luxury) ship that made regular runs over a fairly short route carrying both passengers and freight. They existed in the days of sail as well as steam. Sometimes 'packet' was applied to regular transatlantic crossings as well, just to make things even less clear.
     
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  12. ChickenFreak
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    ChickenFreak Contributing Member Contributor

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    There seem to be a lot of hits when I search for either

    fire a cold steam locomotive
    or
    boot a cold steam locomotive

    I realize that the OP isn't looking for trains, but maybe these would give some other keywords to search on.
     
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  13. HistoricalScience
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    HistoricalScience Active Member

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    I have obviously googled the hell of it but haven't discovered the specific information I am searching for. Sure, I will continue to do my own research but figured it wouldn't hurt to create a thread to see what others know/discovered. There seems to be a lot of bright people on here.

    I appreciate all the responses! And also willing to donate a hat :)
     
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  14. jannert
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    bread cap.jpg
    Fill it with french fries or bread, and you'll be right on trend. :)
     
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  15. Shadowfax
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    Not the actual Dominion, but a vessel of similar class at about the same era.:

    http://www.gjenvick.com/HistoricalBrochures/DominionLine/BookOfViews/1900/05-NewEngland-ThirdClass.html#axzz3zgb37F1I

    Third Class Accommodations, S.S. New England, Dominion Line, circa 1900
    These areas depect what most immigrants would have seen traveling on the Dominion Line circa 1900 as passengers in the Third Class - often called steerage areas of the steamship New England.

    [​IMG]

    Third Class Dining Room (Looking Forward), Steamship "New England."

    [​IMG]

    Third Class Bedroom with Two Berths, Steamship “New England"

    [​IMG]

    Third Class Smoking Room, Steamship "New England"



    Read more: Third Class Accommodations, S.S. New England, Dominion Line, circa 1900 http://www.gjenvick.com/HistoricalBrochures/DominionLine/BookOfViews/1900/05-NewEngland-ThirdClass.html#ixzz3zgcmybxP
    Follow us: @GjenvickGjonvik on Twitter | GjenvickArchives on Facebook
     
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  16. jannert
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    jannert Contributing Member Supporter Contributor

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    Oh, thanks, @Shadowfax! But wrong steamship, wrong steamship line, wrong route and 14 years later. The Dominion Line was a transatlantic company running from Liverpool (in England) to Canada and the USA. These were basically immigrant ships that took the best part of a week to get to their destinations.

    The one I'm researching is this one, which was a much smaller ship on an overnight service between Boston and Nova Scotia:

    Yarmouth Line to Boston

    In May 1885 L. E. Baker established the Yarmouth Line after purchasing the Clements wharf and the SS Dominion from the Nova Scotia Steamship Company. Previously, in November 1884, Baker and Captain Harvey Doane had bought the SS City of Saint John; subsequently Baker acquired the SS Alpha in January 1886. With these steamers the Yarmouth Line offered passenger and freight services from Yarmouth to Halifax, Boston, and Saint John.


    I'd settle for an interior shot of the City of Saint John or the SS Alpha, but none exist that I've been able to find.

    You see, there is a lot I need to know for my story. One very important question: did married couples share a room on that particular ship during that summer? They did not do so on the ships that plied the St Lawrence 15 years earlier. Men and women, married or not, were segregated on board ship.

    This is the closest I've come to a picture ...and the ship isn't named. It is the right era though, going by the clothing the women are wearing. The 'sailing' designation is a bit dubious, though. Did this mean it was sail-powered or just 'sailing.' And this appears to also be an immigrant ship. http://americanhistory.si.edu/onthewater/exhibition/2_3.html Dunno. (Resumes hair plucking....)
    interior.jpg
     
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