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Stephen McMullen 11-05-2011 10:27 AM

Can a Stern or Sidewheeler go in reverse?
I was thinking......can a steamboat with paddlewheels go in reverse? I mean, the steam piston can only go in one direction. A steam locomotive has a special armature attached to the piston rods to transfer motion in a reverse direction if needed. But a steamboat? A stern wheeler? If it does, HOW can that be?

Who else but we steamboat nuts would be in bed at night and come up with that question? And where else but here could it be answered?

Many thanks.

Bob Reynolds 11-05-2011 10:35 AM

They can and do all the time. They use a gear similar to a steam lcomotive. Frank Prudent is your man on this one.

I recommend Alan Bates' book "Engineroom Cyclopeadeum".

Jon Tschiggfrie 11-05-2011 11:12 AM

In fact, the Str. NATCHEZ in New Orleans uses the same Walschaerts valve gear commonly found on steam locomotives of the nineteenth century.

Frank X. Prudent 11-05-2011 01:18 PM

Gosh, Bob, thank you very much. I greatly appreciate the compliment, but Dan Lewis is the licensed Chief Engineer here. Kenny Howe might have posted once or twice too.

Jon is right about the NATCHEZ. That type of valve gear saved her life; she can be shipped up without stopping. Right before her impending meeting with the EXXON BALTIMORE, "Doc" rushed up into the pilothouse to ring her to back for all she was worth. The striker or chief could just throw her into reverse, which was done, and the damage was probably lessened a great deal when the two did meet.

There are different types of reversing mechanisms that were used over the years. The DELTA QUEEN and NATCHEZ has a Stevenson (sp?) link. The BELLE OF LOUISVILLE has a yoke. Whatever the set up, their job was the same. In simple terms the reversing set up adjusted the engine's valves to take in live steam and exhaust the spent steam from the cylinder in order to come ahead or back. On a horizontal marine engine The after admission valve is opened to push the piston forward to bring the wheel ahead . At that time the forward exhaust valve would also be open to let the used steam escape. To back the forward admission valve is open first along with the after exhaust valve. This will push the piston aft to back the wheel.

Jim Blum 11-05-2011 05:34 PM

A side wheel steamboat with horizontal engines can be hung on center-----a rare occurrence I'm sure---but possible. To her last days of steam the Admiral has a pry bar mounted on the inside wheelhouse bulkhead on the starboard side--Just In Case!

The SP RR Sidewheel Ferry Eureka at the California Maritime Museum/NPS pier in San Francisco has a pry bar in place and she was a walking beam side wheel automobile and motorcar ferry.

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