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Text from the English magazine "Engineering", 26 October 1866, page 322:


The torpedo-boat "Spuyten Duyvil" of which we give illustrations on pages 320 and 321, was designed and constructed early in 1865, just before the fall of Richmond, and was intended for employment during the later American war. Owing, however, to the struggle being brought to an end soon after the vessel was completed, she was never taken into action; but by her aid the whole of the obstructions in the James River were removed before the passage of the President to Richmond. The torpedo-laying machinery was designed by Captain William W. W. Wood, Chief Engineer, U.S.N., and constructed by Messrs. Clute Brothers, of Schenectady, while the hull of the vessel was designed by Mr. Samuel H. Pook, naval constructor, and was built at Fairhaven, Connectiuct. The whole construction of the vessel only occupied three months.
The general appearance of the vessel is shown by the side elevation and plan, Figs. 1 and 4, whilst in Figs. 2 and 3 are given, respectively, a longitudinal section and sectional plan, which show clearly the arrangement of the torpedo machinery. The length of the vessel over all is 84 ft. 2 in., and her length from the after edge of her stern post to the forward edge of the gate frame is 73 ft. 11 in., whilst her breadth moulded in 19 ft., and her extreme breadth 20 ft. 8 in. The depth of her hold is 9 ft. 11½ in., and her draught when launched with 10 tons of torpedo machinery and 2½ tons of her propelling engines on board was 4 ft. When fully equipped, this draught was increased to 7 ft. 5½ in., and, by pumping water into compartments provided for the purpose, as will be explained presently, this draught can be increased to 9 ft. 1 in. when the vessel is going into action. At this latter draught the water is about level with the gunwale, but, owing to the arched form of the deck, the vessel has still under such circumstances 250 tons of floation left, or, in other words, an additional load of that amount would be required to sink her. {see note below}
As will be seen by the engravings, she is constructed of timber, and the deck, as well as the sides near the water line is protected by iron plating 1 in. thick. A little ahead of the middle of the vessel a look-out tower or pilot-house is provided, this tower, which is shown in elevation in Fig. 1, and section in Fig. 2, being 5 ft. in diameter outside, and being constructed, for a height of 2 ft. 8 in. above the deck, of twelve layers of iron plates, each 1 in. in thickness. {see note below} The total weight of this pilot-house is 25,000 lb., and its construction is clearly shown in Fig. 2. The vessel is propelled by a single four-bladed screw, and the engines for working the propeller were constructed at Mystic, Connecticut, by Messrs. Mallory and Co. When at her usual draught the vessel will steam 9 miles per hour; but when immersed to the gunwale, ready for going into action, her speed is reduced to from 3½ to 4 miles per hour; her movements are stated to be quite noiseless. She is provided with stowage for 160 tons of coal, equal to eight days' consumption. The pumps used for filling and emptying the compartments, by which the degree of immersion of the vessel is regulated, are a pair of Andrews's centrifugal pumps of the size known as "No. 6." These pumps are situated a short distance ahead of the pilot-house, as shown in Figs. 2 and 3, and they are each driven by a small oscillating engine, the crank-shaft of each engine being coupled direct to the shaft of the pump to which it belongs. One of these pumps--that on the port side--has its suction pipes so arranged that, in addition to drawing from the water compartments or the sea, it can draw from the reservoir or tank in the fore part of the vessel, in which the torpedoes are placed, as will be explained presently.
We must now proceed to describe the machinery by which the torpedoes are laid, and for this purpose we must refer principally to Figs. 2 and 3. The lower part of the bow of the vessel, instead of being made solid as usual, is composed of two iron flaps, each hinged at the top, as shown in Figs. 1 and 2. When closed, the outer surfaces of these flaps correspond to the general shape of the bow, and, when the torpedo machinery is not being worked, they are kept down in their places by means of chains attached to them near their lower edges, and passing in through a pair of hause-pipes situated between the flaps. Each chain, after entering its hause-pipe, is attached to an iron rod, these rods passing into the vessel through stuffing-boxes at the inner ends of the hause-pipes. From the inner ends of these rods chains are led, over guide pulleys, to the ends of a winch, situated as shown in Figs. 2 and 3, and by means of this winch, which is worked by hand, the flaps can be closed when required. The opening of the flaps is effected by the arrangements shown in Figs. 1 and 4, from which it will be seen that each flap has a chain attached to the outside of it, and that these chains, after being led up over guide pulleys supported by brackets placed a the level of the gunwale, are crossed and then led down through hause-holes in the deck to the winch below. The chains for opening, in fact, form continuations of those for closing the flaps, or vice versa.
At the bow of the vessel, within the space enclosed by the two flaps already described, there is formed an opening fitted with a sluice valve, as shown in Fig. 2. This valve slides vertically, and is raised and lowered by means of a screw, which can be worked by hand through the intervention of suitable gearing. The arrangement of gearing employed is shown in Fig. 3. When the sluice valve is opened, it admits the water into a strongly constructed iron tank or reservoir 6 ft. 2 in. long, 4 ft. deep, and varying from 2 ft. 3 in. to 3 ft. wide. At the top of this tank there is a manhole fitted with a cover, hinged and fastened so that it can be readily removed and replaced; and from the lower part of the tank, a suction pipe proceeds to one of the Andrews's pumps already mentioned. The after end of the tank is fitted with a gun-metal sphere 18 in. in diameter, this sphere being held by two flanges as shown in Fig. 2, so that it forms a ball-and-socket joint. Through an opening in this sphere provided with a stuffing-box, there is carried the tube by the aid of which the torpedoes are projected from the vessel. This tube is about 20 ft. long, and has an external diameter of 5 in. and an internal diameter of 3 in. It was made by Messers. Morris, Tasker and Co., the well-known tube makers of Philadelphia, and is a very superior specimen of workmanship.
The end of the tube which projects into the tank is furnished with a bell-mouthed casting of gun-metal, and to this is attached a light cylindrical casing of sheet iron, within which the torpedo to be fired is placed, the inside of the casing being furnished with ribs, upon which the torpedo rests. Each torpedo is furnished at its rear end with a knob, or button-shaped projection, and, when a torpedo is placed in the casing just mentioned, this knob is clipped by fingers carried at the end of a tubular rod, which slides through the main tube already described; and by this means the torpedo is held in its place in the casing until it is desired to release it.
Within the spherical joint, the main tube is led through a kind of guide tube, which is capable of turning, in a vertical plane, upon side trunnions; These trunnions being supported by bearings which work in vertical guides, and are capable of being raised or lowered by the arrangement shown in Fig. 2. This arrangement is as follows: From each bearing a chain is led, over a guide pulley situated at the top of the guide belonging to that bearing, to an arm fixed on a rocking-shaft placed close to the floor of the vessel. On this rocking-shaft there is also fixed another arm, and from this a chain proceeds aft to the piston-rod of a horizontal steam cylinder, placed as shown in Fig. 2. This cylinder is provided with a slide-valve, by which the steam can be admitted to or released from the forward end of the cylinder at pleasure; and, when the steam is so admitted, it drives back the piston, and, by means of the arrangement of chains and rocking-shaft already described, raised the guide tube, through which the main tube passes, and thus depresses that end of the latter which carries the torpedo. The extent to which the piston in the steam cylinder is driven back, and, consequently, the extent to which the guide tube is raised, is regulated by means of a screw which passes through the back cylinder cover, this screw, which is furnished with a hand-wheel and check-nut, forming a stop against which the piston rests when driven back by the steam.
The machinery for projecting and withdrawing the tube carrying the torpedo, consists of a couple of chain drums worked by gearing which is driven by a rotary engine made by Mr. Root, of New York. One of these drums is placed in the tank or reservoir in the bows of the vessel, and the chain from it is used for hauling in the tube. In order to prevent the chain from overriding on the drum, it is guided by passing through a suitable block which, as the drum revolves, is moved transversely along the drum and deposits the chain in regular coils. The transverse movement of the guiding block is given by a screwed spindle which has a pinion fixed on it gearing into a spur wheel on the chain drum. The hauling out of the torpedo carrier is effected by means of a chain attached to its inner end and led to the second chain drum which is placed above and slightly abaft the tank, as shown in Fig. 2. The arrangement adopted for guiding the chain is the same in this case as in that of the hauling-in drum. Each drum is loose upon its chaft, but is capable of being connected to it by a clutch, the two clutches being connected by levers so that they can be thrown into gear alternately. The tube can be run in and out by the machinery we have described at the rate of from 8 to 12 double strokes per minute.
The manner in which the torpedo machinery is worked is as follows:--Supposing the tube to be charged with a torpedo, the two flaps forming the lower part of the bow would be opened, the sluice raised, and the tube projected by means of the chain leading from the inner end to the hauling-out drum. The torpedo would then be thrust from the case at the end of the tube by means of the tubular rod to which the holding fingers are fixed, and, the torpedo being detached, the main tube would be withdrawn by means of the hauling-in chain. In order to place another torpedo in the case at the end of the tube the sluice has to be closed, and the tank having been emptied of water by the centrifugal pump already mentioned, the manhole at the top of the tank can be opened and access thus obtained to the torpedo holder. The emptying of the tank can be effected by the centrifugal pump in about four seconds, and the whole of the operations which we have described can be performed at such a rate that a torpedo can be discharged every three minutes if required.
The vessel was intended to use torpedoes containing 400 lb. of powder; but those actually employed by it contained 60 lb. of fine powder of the kind known in the American service as No. 7. The "obstruction shells" have each an air space left round the powder, so as to allow the free expansion of the gases, and the torpedoes intended for use against vessels are of slightly less specific gravity than water, so that when released from the holder they rise slowly until they come against the bottom of the vessel under which they are placed. We must now describe the means exployed for firing the torpedoes. As will be seen by the section, Fig. 2, the powder is so placed in the torpedo that, when the later is released, it floats nearly upright with its point downwards. Within the torpedo case, on one side, is placed a tube, at the lower end of which is a percussion fuse in communication with the powder. At the upper end of the tube is a ball, which is held from falling upon the percussion fuse by a sliding pin placed beneath it. This pin passes out through the torpedo case, and has an eye formed at its outer end, as shown in Fig. 2. When the torpedo is placed in the casing at the end of the projecting tube, that side of the torpedo through which the sliding pin just mentioned projects is placed downwards, and one end of a cord is attached to the eye of the pin, and the other end to another eye fixed to the casing at the end of the projecting tube. The length of this cord is regulated according to the distance at which it is desired to fire the torpedo--the length generally employed being about 20 ft.--and it acts in the following manner: When the torpedo has been projected by means of the tube and released, the tube is of course drawn back, and as this movement takes place the cord is tightened, and the sliding pin is withdrawn from the torpedo case, this movement releasing the ball and allowing it to fall upon the percussion fuse, and explode the torpedo.
For working the vessel and torpedo machinery nine persons only are required, this being the total number of the staff on board, including the officers in command, engineers, &c. Since the "Spuyten Duyvil" was constructed, another torpedo boat has been designed by Captain Wood to steam from 14 to 15 knots, the torpedo machinery being, in this case, so arranged that the tank at the fore part of the vessel is dispensed with. Although drawings of the "Spuyten Duyvil" were furnished to our Admiralty some months ago by Mr. Donald McKay, no account of the vessel has been published before the present one, and the illustrations of the vessel which we now give have been prepared from tracings kindly lent to us by Captain W.W.W. Wood.


Note by Naval Historical Center staff: The details of Spuyten Duyvil's armor given in this article differ from those provided in Frank M. Bennett's "The Steam Navy of the United States", page 482 (published in 1896). That work states "The deck was covered with three inches of iron; the sides with five inches, and the pilot-house with five inches." Bennett (and other sources) also give the Spuyten Duyvil's displacement as 207 tons, which seriously calls into question the 250 tons of reserve bouyancy cited above for the vessel as fully ballasted down.

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25 April 2002