the tiny electric launches

The question of mechanical traction in war is of the gravest importance,
the increasing size of armies and the large area they cover when in
action, necessitating the employment of some form of haulage other than
that of railways or horses.

For bringing up guns and their ammunition at a critical moment
automobiles are of the greatest value. At the Motor-car Reliability
Trials last autumn there was present a military officer of considerable
experience who was much impressed with the possibilities of the motor in
battle. If, he argued, sixty cars could run down from London to the
South Coast easily in three hours carrying an average of four passengers
each, the same number of horseless vehicles could convey sixty
machine-guns to Brighton in a similar time. A corps of these might, he
said, have proved extremely handy in the late South African campaign. To
illustrate this, he pointed out that quick-firing guns carried on
automobiles might possibly have ended the Boer War after the action of
Poplar Grove. He was present on that occasion, and could speak with
authority. All the enemy had been routed out of their far-reaching
trenches and were in full flight. Then was the time to push home the
attack, but cavalry and infantry were thoroughly done up by the great
flanking movement and were unable to follow up their advantage. In full
sight of our army, the Boers scuttled away along the plain with only a
few desultory shells fired after them. “Now,” said the officer, “if we
had only possessed a few automobiles with guns on that occasion we
should have scored very heavily. The veldt was level enough for the
purpose. A big victory at that critical moment might have thoroughly
demoralised the Boers, already much disheartened by Cronje’s defeat a
short time before at Paardeberg, and so caused them to surrender without
much ado.”

No doubt the gallant soldier took rather a sanguine view of the
situation; but of one thing he might have been certain, viz., that at
that time neither an unenterprising War Office, nor a Colonial
Department capable of requisitioning ordinary infantry from Australia to
act against the wily mounted Boer, would for one moment have thought of
sending motor-cars out for the purpose he suggests!

Not only for light artillery, but for heavy guns, motors can now be used
in warfare, and Lord Roberts had a road-train constructed for South
Africa sufficiently armoured to withstand rifle-fire, and powerful
enough to draw a couple of heavy guns with their crews and ammunition,
the motive power being steam.

In the prosaic work of conveying stores, motor-tractors with lorries
are fast becoming integral parts of our complicated war-system, and the
report of the trials held at Aldershot in December, 1901, is decidedly
in favour of their employment on a large scale. The tests were severe,
and included two days’ running (with full loads) of thirty miles a day,
and a march of 197 miles (also with full loads) in six consecutive, days
on roads both hard and soft, and even over boggy ground, the gradients
being various, and in places very stiff. The first prize was awarded to
the Thorneycroft Steam Waggon Company, but although the committee
believed that these steam lorries were serviceable and useful for the
present, they were much struck with the great possibilities of machines
burning heavy oil. Their observations were as follows:–

“Compared with horse-draught, these trials have shown that
self-propelled lorries can transport five tons of stores at about six
miles an hour over very considerable distances on hilly, average English
roads under winter conditions. The load transported by each single lorry
(five tons) if carried in horse-waggons of service pattern would
overload three G.S. waggons, requiring twelve draught horses, besides
riding horses, whose pace would not ordinarily exceed three miles an
hour. Moreover, the marching of 197 miles in six consecutive days would
not have been accomplished by horses even at that speed without the
assistance of spare horses.”

To this report appeared the following appendix of considerable
importance:–

“The committee, in carrying out the tests, travelled in motor-cars, and
as a result of their experience they remark, ‘The committee desire to
bring to special notice the incidental demonstration afforded by these
trials of the great possibilities for staff work, and for work in
connection with the command of long transport trains, of the motor-car.
No vehicles drawn by horses could have possibly covered the distances or
kept up the speeds required; portions of the roads, sometimes miles in
length, had to be traversed and retraversed several times, and at speeds
beyond the capabilities of horse-flesh. Riding horses would have been
knocked up to an extent necessitating large relays. The staff officer,
moreover, instead of being fatigued, is always comparatively fresh at
the end of the day.’”

No wonder that the Army, from the Commander-in-Chief downwards, is
quickly becoming devoted to motoring. The quantity of work that can be
got through by means of the automobile is a revelation to those who have
been used to travelling by means of horses.

[Illustration: FIG. 30. THE “HERCULES” TRACTION ENGINE, AS USED DURING
THE CRIMEAN WAR

_By permission of_ _Sampson Low, Marston, & Co., London_]

During the Crimean War, Boydell’s traction machine was used to haul open
trucks on the road and across country. Its engine, the “Hercules,” was
fitted with a curious arrangement, which, by means of rails attached in
six sections to the wheels, enabled it to lay down and take up its own
track as it went along.

In the South African campaign the military traction engines did some
excellent work, and, as they rolled over the plains, startled the
Kaffirs out of their senses at the unwonted sight of what they probably
thought was some new and monstrous form of rhinoceros.

It has yet to be decided what is the best motive power for lorry cars in
warfare, both oil and steam motors having, as compared with those driven
by electricity, the disadvantage that the machinery moves by a series of
shocks. Doubtless the ideal power would be one that acted evenly. The
electric motor is superior to all others in the regularity of its
action, and its steering is most readily effected. All that is wanted to
adapt electric traction to military purposes is a perfected storage
battery, and the day may not be far distant when extensive use will be
made of light accumulators capable of being safely carried and of being
recharged as readily as a steam engine can be supplied with fuel.

MOTORS IN AGRICULTURE

In England the use of steam for agricultural machinery has hitherto been
confined to the purpose of ploughing and threshing. But coal in some
districts is dear, and farmers are beginning to find that oil engines
are more economical, there being no loss of fuel in the sudden stopping
of work during wet weather; but petrol has a nasty trick of not
vaporising readily when it is frosty, and here electricity steps in with
an admirable _force-motif_.

With a dependable electro-motor, the farmer may work his self-binder all
day long in the harvest-field, and at-night send it up to market with
produce. Moreover, the motor may help to plough and harrow in the
winter, and when there is no work to be done it costs nothing,
having–unlike the horse–no stomach to fill.

In fact, the successful adaptation of the motor to farming may solve the
ever-present labour problem, and do much to resuscitate the agricultural
industry, while fruit and vegetable growers may find it invaluable,
making them independent of high railway rates and bad train service.
But, although the application of the automobile to agriculture is only
in the experimental stage, it cannot be doubted that, in some shape or
other, it will come to the cornfield, the orchard, and the market
garden, while the modern farmer will welcome it gladly.

[Illustration: FIG. 31. A TEN-TON ELECTRIC TROLLEY

_By permission of the_ _Anglo-American Motor Car Co., Ltd., London_]

Probably it will begin, as was suggested by Mr. Rider Haggard before the
Norfolk Chamber of Agriculture at Norwich, in the shape of an
agricultural post. His plan was to enlarge the present system of
parcel-post so that one hundred packages, each of 100 lbs. in weight,
should be carried in the same way as parcels of only 10 lbs., and that
produce of any sort, such as a crate of apples, the carcase of a sheep,
a basket of flowers, etc., should be delivered the next morning to
whatever part of England the goods were consigned.

MERCANTILE MOTORS

The prosaic use of motors is increasing rapidly. In our streets are
frequently seen steam or petrol lorries for the heavy goods of brewers,
stone-merchants, builders, contractors, engineers, asphalt-paving
companies, etc.; substantial vans for wholesale manufacturing houses and
great establishments, such as Bryant and May’s, Maple’s, Harrod’s,
Whiteley’s, and Barker’s; lighter vehicles for smaller tradesmen, carts
for county council and borough council work; a few fire-engines and
ambulance waggons; while in the country any number of motors are used by
shopkeepers to deliver their goods for miles around.

[Illustration: FIG. 32. AN ELECTRIC TRADESMAN’S-VAN

_By permission of the Automobile Co. of Great Britain, London_]

In fact, the mercantile use of motors has grown so much, that before
long we may even see “Black Maria” delivering and picking up its daily
quantum of _détenus_ through the medium of stored-up electricity.

We must just glance at the subject of motor-bicycles, driven by petrol
and “sparked” by electricity. They are beginning to be much used for
getting about quickly, for trailers, and as sporting machines for
“breaking the record.” In September last year, at the Crystal Palace,
some extraordinary results were obtained by them in the matter of speed,
one of them covering no less than fifty miles in an hour and eight
minutes!

Sir Martin Conway’s opinion, humorously delivered this year to the
Society of Arts, respecting “stupid cyclists” and motor-cycles, is worth
recording. He said that the first thing on which he desired knowledge
concerning motor-cycles was how he was to fall off, as he fell off every
machine on wheels some time or other; next, how long it would take a man
to understand the parts in a motor-cycle, or whether they were
hopelessly removed from the range of the ordinary stupid person; then,
how the thing vibrated; and, finally, which of them did not break down.
He said that he had been told that the pleasure with a motor-car was
considerable when it went, and the annoyance even more considerable when
it did not go.

Motors are everywhere, and are used for every purpose. There are motors
in the Equatorial Free States of the Congo, where there is no energetic
policeman, stop-watch in hand, to time the “driver” and summon him; and
one day–who knows?–there may be motor-cars in use at the North Pole.

The motor has even been the indirect cause of political upheavings, for
it is said that the revolution in Morocco came to a head because the
fanatical tribal allies of the Pretender resisted, amongst other
European articles, the introduction of automobiles into the country, and
opposed their use by the enlightened emperor, as too progressive, and
not in accordance with the Mussulman faith.

[Illustration: FIG. 33. ANOTHER TYPE OF THE “FISCHER” COMBINATION
OMNIBUS

_By permission of the_ _Fischer Motor Vehicle Syndicate, London_]

Meals are sent out in motor-vans by the London Distributing Kitchen
Company from its well-equipped premises near the Army and Navy Stores,
the breakfasts, luncheons, and dinners being placed in air-tight baskets
in aluminium receptacles. In Manchester, for some time past, “meals by
motor” have been an accomplished fact, and most popular and lucrative
the scheme has proved.

Motoring has its romantic side. For instance, in France–the birthplace
of the automobile–abduction by motor has been initiated, and our lively
neighbours may possibly contemplate the revival of that mediæval custom
of wedlock by force. This young lady, however, seems to have been a not
unwilling party to the transaction.

Going to school by motor has also been made practicable across the
Channel. For some months the Ecole Lacordaire, in Paris, has been
running a Serpollet steam omnibus, which collects the pupils and conveys
them to and from the school. The day’s run gives a total of sixty miles.
Monsieur Serpollet has lately carried out an interesting test with the
vehicle. He made a run of sixty miles with twelve passengers, and the
cost for petrol was 1_s._ 2_d._ per passenger, or rather more than four
miles for a penny. The omnibus averaged eighteen miles an hour.[8]

To motorists the pressing question of the day is _speed_. In England the
motor-car was in its infancy when the present law came into force.
Before its birth, no mechanically propelled carriage could travel along
the highway faster than four miles an hour; but six years ago a
determined attempt was made to adapt the law to the exigencies of modern
traffic. Fourteen miles an hour was decided upon as the maximum speed,
and the Local Government Board subsequently reduced the limit to twelve
miles. But these regulations are now out of date.

A few years ago there was a great outcry against cycle speeds. That has
died out, not because cyclists ride more slowly, but because the public
has come to realise that, with a readily controllable vehicle like the
bicycle, the greater speeds are not dangerous. Similarly the public is
now much exercised in mind concerning speeds of twenty to twenty-five
miles an hour by motor-cars. It will not be long before they realise
that these velocities are quite safe under certain conditions, and that
the motor-car might almost under any circumstances be allowed to travel
twice as fast as a horse, indeed even faster. It is said that this year
the speed of the motor-car is expected to approach a hundred miles an
hour. The Hon. C. S. Rolls came very near to attaining it at Welbeck
last February, when he made an attempt on the flying kilometre record.
The best of four runs gave the time of 27 seconds, which is a speed of
82⅘ miles per hour, and 1⅕ seconds better than Mr. Jarrott’s run over
this course last year. Whether it will rank as a world’s record is not
certain, as the road in the Duke of Portland’s park has a slight
favouring gradient. The French official record on the Dourdan road is
twenty-nine seconds, a speed of seventy-seven miles per hour,
accomplished by both Fournier and Augières. Mr. Rolls drove an 80
horse-power Mors, which he entered for the Paris-Madrid race.

Estimates of speed differ in the most extraordinary degree, and the Hon.
J. Scott-Montagu gave to the _Car_ the following humorous table, the
result of an inquiry at a police court:–

Miles.
“Private opinion of mechanic in charge 12
His opinion when talking to his friends 20
His opinion when in court 8
Policeman’s private opinion 14
Policeman’s opinion in court 28
Farmer’s opinion when a pony was frightened 50
Maker’s guaranteed speed 16
Actual speed 10”

Motorists are evidently assumed to be made of money, if we may judge by
the following statement made by a correspondent of _Motoring
Illustrated_ this year. He says, “One curious result of a car case, in
which I was fined £10 for ‘scorching,’ is that in less than a week I
have received upwards of seventy begging letters from charitable
societies or individual beggars. Motor owner and millionaire are
apparently one and the same thing in the popular mind.”

Mr. Leopold de Rothschild, who is entitled to speak with authority on
the subject, frankly admits that there is much justification for the
irritation in the public mind against motor-cars. He strongly condemns
rash driving, but, at the same time, maintains that when motor-car
owners obey the law and observe the courtesy of the road, they ought not
to be looked upon by coachmen, cyclists, and pedestrians, as the enemies
of mankind.[9] Nevertheless, he firmly believes that the dislike of
motor-cars will die away in due time, just as did the dislike of cycles.
The utmost caution ought, he concedes, to be exercised by drivers in the
crowded thoroughfares of large towns.

On the question of their importance generally in relation to British
industry Mr. Leopold de Rothschild says, “We should foster them by every
means in our power. At the beginning not a single one was produced in
this country, but at the present moment some of the machines turned out
in English workshops rival those of the very best French make. In recent
contests on the Continent, too, English cars have more than held their
own. It is sometimes complained that the machines make a great noise.
That defect is being gradually cured. Then it is urged that they raise a
tremendous dust as they speed along. That evil is also being remedied,
and will disappear altogether if the experiment of pouring petroleum on
the roadways should prove successful. Where the motor-car is extremely
useful, I consider, is in enabling people to go across country to attend
hunt meets and visit distant golf links. Then, again, see what
encouragement is given to wayside inns. When in Scotland the other day I
visited a friend who lived twenty-five miles off, and did it comfortably
between luncheon and dinner, and that, too, without endangering the life
of myself or anybody else. I regard the motor-car as a source of intense
enjoyment. Allow the owners greater freedom, but take care that in
return they loyally observe the regulations which are framed by
competent authorities for the safety of the public.”

MOTOR-CARS AND PUBLIC HIGHWAYS

Who can place a limit to the development of motors! The time may arrive
when tram lines will disappear, the roads themselves being of steel and
forming a broad rail upon which self-propelled coaches, omnibuses, cabs,
and cars will ply in every direction, and far and wide into the suburbs.
This is the idea of Mr. A. A. C. Swinton, who also thinks that
eventually motor-cars will drive tram-cars out, because, as he says,
“Tramways are merely a smooth place on a rough road, with a groove to
keep the wheel in a smooth place,” and as one day the whole road will be
smooth the tram-rails will disappear.

Something similar, I take it, was in Mr. Balfour’s mind when, in 1901,
writing to the Warden of the Browning Settlement in Camberwell on the
subject of homes for the workers, he said:–

“What I am anxious people should bear in mind is that trams, railways,
and ‘tubes’ by no means exhaust the catalogue of possible improvements
in transit; indeed, I am not sure that they are the means of
communication for relatively short distances which some years hence will
find most favour. What I should like to see carefully thought out by
competent authorities would be a system of radiating thoroughfares,
confined to rapid (say, fifteen miles an hour or over) traffic (that is
absolutely essential), and with a surface designed, not for carts or
horses, but for some form of auto-car propulsion. If the local authority
which designed and carried out such a system chose to run public
auto-cars along them, well and good. But this would not be necessary,
and private enterprise would probably in time do all that was wanted. In
such a thoroughfare there would be none of the monopoly inseparable from
trams, the number of people carried could be much larger, the speed much
greater, the power of taking them from door to door unique, while there
would be none of the friction now caused when the owners of the tram
lines break up the public streets. It may be urged–and, perhaps, with
truth–that at present the auto-car industry has not devised an
absolutely satisfactory vehicle; but we are, I believe, so near it that
the delay ought not to be material.”

“It is, of course, obvious,” he continued, “that the present difficulty
of locomotion in our streets is almost entirely due to want of
differentiation in the traffic. We act as the owners of a railway would
act if they allowed luggage trains, express trains, and horse-drawn
trams to run upon one pair of rails. The radiating causeways, as I
conceive them, would be entirely free from this difficulty. Neither the
traffic of cross streets, nor foot passengers, nor slow-going carts and
vehicles would be permitted to interfere with the equable running of
fast cars. There would be no danger and no block; and as the causeway
would be connected at intervals with the ordinary road and street system
of the district, and would melt into that system at either end, every
village in which there were enough residents who had to be in London at
a fixed hour every day could have a motor of its own. It might be well
worth a manufacturer’s while, I should suppose, to lodge his workpeople
out of London, and to run them to and from his works.”

No electrician living can predict with certainty what the motor-car may
_not_ result in.

One thing only is probable–that our metropolitan streets will soon be
congested with vehicles to such an extent as to leave no space for
horses. And then will come the complete victory of the automobile.

“And knowledge shall be increased.”–DANIEL xii. 4.

DEVELOPMENT IN SIZE OF SHIPS AND STEAMERS

“Don’t give yourself away,” shrewdly remarked an eminent engineer, as I
discussed with him the outline of this work, and the probability that in
the near future, gigantic ships, as long as the Crystal Palace, and
propelled solely by electricity, would traverse the seas. “I have not
yet come across any form of accumulator that could be adapted to such a
purpose, though I admit that the next quarter of a century may produce
some startling results. Still, I would not, if I were you, write about
it.”

My friend, like many scientists, was cautious, and did not like to
commit himself; but I am not professionally restricted, and may freely
indulge in a dream containing many elements of reality, and “take the
wings of fancy,” nay, may also “take the wings of foresight,” and try to
describe a mail-packet of the future.

But before entering into particulars of that phenomenon, the _Princess
Ida_, and to prepare ourselves for the contemplation of her large
proportions, we should note the evolutionary process which has gone on
steadily for the last seventy years, and rapidly during the close of
the Victorian Era, in regard to the size and tonnage of ocean steamers.

To go far back for the purpose of comparison–_i.e._ to the days when
Britain as a maritime nation was in her infancy, or even to Tudor and
Stuart times, when the _Great Harry_ floated proudly in English waters,
and Elizabeth’s _Ark Royal_ defied the Spanish Armada, or when Phineas
Pett reconstructed Charles the Second’s navy and planned those famous
men-of-war, the _Royal Sovereign_, _Royal Charles_, and _Royal
Prince_–is misleading, because up to Nelson’s time the practice of
building ships with an extravagant amount of “sheer” (the forecastle
and stern towering upwards to protect the fighting men, and producing
the outline of a doubled-up old shoe), together with the pronounced
“tumbling in” of the ship’s sides, rendered it difficult to arrive at
any correct estimate of length and beam. Approximately, 1,500 tons might
represent the _Great Harry’s_ measurement, and 150 feet her length, the
Carolean _Royal_ being about the same.

This method of shipbuilding began to be modified while Pepys was at the
Admiralty, but it was very gradually abandoned, and had almost
disappeared at the beginning of the century, the _Victory_, slightly
over 2,000 tons, and some 152 feet in length, showing but a slight trace
of it in her high poop.

In 1834 a merchantman of 1,000 tons was considered a big craft, the
largest on Lloyd’s register for that year being 1,500 tons, upon which
there was not much advance until the “fifties” and “sixties,” when all
the adventurous of England’s manhood were irresistibly attracted to the
goldfields of Australia, and vessels of large tonnage began to be laid
down on the stocks. Of such were the _British Empire_, 2,676 tons; the
_Donald McKay_, 2,636 tons; _Red Jacket_, 2,000 tons; and many others
of from 1,000 to 1,800 tons registered tonnage. These in their turn gave
place to iron “sailers” of immense capacity, the tendency being to build
them bigger and still bigger–“five-masters” of from 3,000 to 4,000
tons–it having been found that they are worked more economically than
smaller craft, and are able to compete with the larger vessels of other
countries, and with the syndicates that threaten to monopolise the
nation’s carrying trade. Foreign examples are _La France_, 3,624 tons,
and the _Preussen_ (biggest in the world), 4,700 tons.

In steamers the development of size has been great, and astonishingly so
since the universal adoption of the screw-propeller. For instance, the
paddle-wheel _William Fawcett_, that pioneered the P. and O. Company,
built in 1829, was but 74 feet long; the Cunard _Britannia_, that took
Charles Dickens to Boston, was a paddle-boat of 1,154 tons, and 207 feet
long; the _Great Britain_ (1843) was 3,400 tons register, and regarded
as phenomenal.

Presently the shipping world arrived at the awakening period of its
history, when steamers of from 350 to 500 feet long, and of from 4,000
to 7,000 tons, began to be common; but old stagers shook their heads,
and asked where and when this enlargement was going to stop. Time went
on, and splendid mail boats, such as the Cunard _Scotia_ and _Persia_,
in their day considered perfect, were looked upon as obsolete, and even
their successors, the _Servia_, 7,392 tons and 515 feet long, the
_Etruria_, 7,718 tons and 502 feet long, and others of similar
dimensions, soon ceased to be wondered at. This was eighteen years ago.
Then, by leaps and bounds, so great was the competition between the
different Atlantic liners, and so strong the demand for speed, that
10,000 tons was soon reached in the White Star Company’s _Majestic_ and
_Teutonic_, and exceeded by the Cunarders, _Campania_ and _Lucania_
(1893), of 13,000 tons each, 620 feet in length, and over 65 feet in
beam.

But Harland and Wolff, of Belfast, who had been building 12,000 ton
boats, metaphorically without “turning a hair,” were determined not to
be beaten, and produced their new _Oceanic_ (1899), 704 feet by 68 feet,
_i.e._ nearly as long as the Haymarket, and about as broad as one
portion of Piccadilly. In her, it was thought, finality had been
reached; but last year Belfast witnessed the launch of a still bigger
vessel, the _Cedric_, 21,000 tons gross register, 700 feet long, and 75
feet wide–the largest steamer afloat! Even she is destined to take
second place, as ere long two ships belonging to the Cunard Line will
dispossess the _Cedric_ of her premier position. These wonderful
creations will be 750 feet by 76 feet, with an estimated sea-speed of 25
knots.

Thus we clearly see how enormously the dimensions of steamers have
increased; for instance, the _Britannia_ (1840) was 1,154 tons, and 207
feet long, and had accommodation for 115 cabin passengers, no “steerage”
being carried. But the _Cedric_ is nearly 3½ times longer, and carries
3,000 people across the Atlantic, besides her crew of 350 hands. In the
same ratio of progression, ships (they will not be called _steamers_,
but _electrofers_) 2,500 feet long, with comfortable quarters for 75,000
human beings, will be the order of the day!

I have not referred to the poor old _Great Eastern_–or _Leviathan_ as
she was originally named–680 feet long, and of 16,000 tons register.
She was before her time, and, like other big steamers of that day, far
too heavy in her plating to be driven economically at even moderate
speed.

Great dimensions and swiftness have been rendered possible by improved
engines, but chiefly by the employment of steel in their construction,
which so materially reduces the _vis inertia_, that in the case of the
_Pennsylvania_, built by Harland and Wolff for the Hamburg-American
Line, although a mighty carrack of something like 585 feet, and 62 feet
by 42 feet, her actual dead-weight is only 8,000 tons. Still more
remarkable will be the reduction–about one-half–when aluminium with
some form of alloy–copper, perhaps–comes into general use.
Torpedo-boats have been built with this metal, and have run with great
smoothness. It exists in every clay and shale formation, and is
scattered throughout the world in immense profusion, our London clay
consisting principally of silicate of alumina. Electricity is used in
manufacturing this beautiful metal, that requires no paint to defend it
from rusting; and, although it has hitherto been a costly article, the
time is not far off–so it is said–when the price will come down to £19
a ton, or less.

A recent and novel application of aluminium to building purposes is to
be seen at Chicago, where a house sixteen stories high is fronted on
both sides with it, instead of bricks or terra-cotta.

Berthing the monstrous ships of the future is a problem met by a radical
and world-wide alteration in the dimensions of docks, supplemented by
quays running out into deep water, which in London would extend on both
sides of the Thames, on the north from Tilbury to the Albert Docks, thus
converting the old river, like the Clyde, into a long water-street lined
by sea-walls, and kept constantly dredged, and connected with London by
special lines of railway.

But what is to be the propelling power of the future leviathans? Not
steam; but electricity, applied to the machinery from storage batteries.
Why not?

ELECTRIC STORAGE AS A MOTIVE POWER

Sceptics in the past argued that it was manifestly impossible that
vehicles would ever be horseless, or that communications would one day
be transmitted by telegraph, not to speak of the time when even the
wires for that purpose would be dispensed with; while the suggestion
that artificial light would be obtained through any other agency than
candles or oil-lamps, and that sail-less ships would be propelled
against wind and tide, seemed savouring of Bedlam!

Yet all these seeming impossibilities, and many more, have become
realities. So, too, will electrical marine propulsion, and, although we
live in a more enlightened era than our ancestors, few persons even now
perhaps realise that ships will be navigated without either sail or
steam power.

By this time, however, the public have become so familiarised with
scientific marvels, that they have ceased to wonder at anything. For
instance, there is nothing really more marvellous than that hundreds, or
even thousands, of horse-power should be borne by a copper wire, or a
moderate cable, and despatched to a distant point with the speed of
lightning for traction purposes; but, without knowing what the nature of
the force is, we cease to be astonished at it. In point of fact, it is
not more occult than heat or light, the attraction of gravity or
cohesion.

Therefore when it was announced last year that Edison had solved the
problem of how to store electrical force effectually, everybody took it
for granted that he had been, or would eventually be, as successful in
this direction as in multiplying electric light and applying it to a
thousand new purposes.

The “Wizard of Llewellyn Park” is necessarily a sanguine inventor, but
he has taken the right and only satisfactory way to determine the
question–that of varied and long-continued experiment. Electricity
differs from all other forms of power in two respects–it can be stored,
and transmitted to a distance. The task of transmission has been, and is
being, rapidly achieved. The far greater object of light and efficient
storage, the most momentous problem awaiting solution in the whole range
of practical physics, may very shortly be solved.

In brief, Edison’s storage battery cells are composed of tiny bricks of
specially-prepared iron and nickel. In charging and discharging, oxygen
is driven from one metal to the other and back again through the action
of a potash solution, and without corrosion or waste. Renewal of the
water supply is all that is needed to keep the cells in good condition,
and a process of recharging has been improved, so that less time is
consumed than for the recharging of other batteries. No wonder he
believes that the application of storage batteries will ultimately be
extended to trains, and especially to ships.

The claim of the Edison Accumulator is that it will occupy about the
same space as the present battery, and that it will weigh only about
seventy per cent. as much, and will be more durable. Men conversant with
the theory of electrical science are not so thoroughly impressed with
the work accomplished as is Mr. Edison. The tests that have been made
have been more than duplicated, it is said, by the batteries now on the
market. We may assume, then, that either Edison’s or somebody else’s
method of storing up electricity for the propulsion of sea-going vessels
will be perfected.

[Illustration: FIG. 34. ELECTRIC STORAGE BATTERIES

_By permission of the_ _Electric Power Storage Co., Ltd., London_]

THE “PRINCESS IDA” IN THE YEAR A.D. 19–

Early one morning in the spring of 19–a small party of ladies and
gentlemen, anxious to avoid the east wind fiend by flying from their
native shores to milder regions, travelled by the electric railway
towards the mouth of the Thames, and, branching off at a point near
Barking Junction, traversed the new line, running for miles alongside
the splendid quays recently completed between Galleon’s Reach and
Tilbury, where special berths were reserved for the leviathan liners
that had begun running from the port of London to Cape Town.

Long before the station was reached inquiring glances had been cast
riverwards for the first glimpse of the giantess _Princess Ida_.

“That cannot be the _Princess Ida_,” said an unbelieving and
short-sighted member of the party to his sharp-eyed friend, who was
pointing to something which in the distance looked like a couple of
White Star _Cedrics_ linked together and towering above the roofs of the
warehouses that commanded the quays.

“Well, you will see for yourself presently,” he retorted. “Seeing is
believing, isn’t it?” And as the train got nearer and nearer, wonder and
admiration increased, and when a break in the line of warehouses gave
them a clear view of the great vessel, her beautiful proportions, her
polished hull gleaming in the sunlight, and her exquisite cleanliness,
their excitement and enthusiasm rendered them speechless.

The _Princess_ was berthed close alongside the river wall, and through a
great sliding port in her side over a short, stout gangway like a
drawbridge, neat motor-cars laden with luggage, and with passengers who
had made the run direct from their London homes, passed in continually,
emerging later from a corresponding port-hole some distance away. Of
cargo there was none, the only resemblance to it being mails, sufficient
in quantity, however, to fully load an ordinary small steamer. As these
were not timed to arrive alongside from the General Post Office until
two o’clock, the party had plenty of leisure to look around, and from
what they had read about this wonderful ship, supplemented by much
information supplied by a courteous and communicative official detailed
as cicerone, they were able to give the following history and
particulars of that interesting up-to-date creation of shipbuilding–the
fair giantess _Princess Ida_.

She was constructed by the Thames Ironworks Company, a flourishing
concern that worthily represented the marked revival of the shipbuilding
industry in the world’s metropolis. The material used throughout, except
for the lower masts, machinery, propellers, and rigging, was aluminium
alloyed with copper. Her dimensions were as follows: length over all,
1,600 feet; breadth amidships, 164 feet; depth from upper deck, 110
feet; estimated gross registered tonnage, 33,500; but her lines were so
perfect and graceful as to mask these enormous measurements.[10] She had
an “entrance” forward like a clipper ship, and a “clearance” aft of the
utmost fineness, the stem being rounded off in most beautiful curves.
Her floor in the midship sections was flat, and resembled the letter U,
and deep bilge keels helped to keep her steady, and enabled her to
settle down upon her shore cradle without risk of canting or straining.
Her horizontal outline revealed to nautical eyes just that amount of
“sheer,” and no more, necessary for strength, rising almost
imperceptibly to a graceful overhanging bow, from which pointed a
tapering bowsprit, apparently short, but in reality a single massive
spar of Oregon pine.

This style had been adopted by the owners because, as they argued, it
added considerably to the beauty of the great ship, and as she probably
would never enter a dock–using a shore cradle when it was necessary to
cleanse the hull–a few score feet added to her length would make but
little difference in the room she took up at the quays. The figure-head,
of oxidised silver, was a beautiful half-draped representation of
Tennyson’s fair Princess–

“All beauty compass’d in a female form.”

Five magnificent pole-masts, set up with thick wire shrouds and
backstays, rose aloft from her deck, their lower part of steel, the
upper section of polished and varnished American fir, terminating in
gilded globes, one of them being specially set apart for the wireless
telegraph apparatus. These masts, with a graceful “rake,” could not have
been much less than three hundred feet high, but were in accurate
proportion to the length of the _Princess Ida_, giving her the
appearance of a Brobdingnagian five-masted fore-and-aft schooner. In an
emergency, sails could be put up from them to keep the ship’s head to
the wind and sea. No ventilators showed their unsightly mouths above the
very broad teak top-rail, for they were not needed; but more than the
regulation number of boats–about eighty, all hoisted electrically–hung
from massive davits, some being electric launches. No great forty-feet
wide funnels to hold the wind; no top-hampering superstructures broke
the deck area, save the deck stairway houses and the wide bridge, with
its chart-room, captain’s sanctum, and binnacle house, in which a wheel
that a child could turn operated the steering-gear, consisting of a
great toothed pinion wheel keyed to the enormous rudder, and worked by
two electric motors used alternately.

From end to end was a double striped and fringed awning. The _Princess_
carried a search-light of enormous range and power on her foremast, and
her sidelights were disposed without any disfiguring effect on her
starboard and port bows, and not in miniature Eddystones. Her anchor
gear, worked by electricity, was the heaviest ever made, and resembled
that of the largest battleship.

Over all floated the red merchant flag of Great Britain, 40 feet by 24
feet, the flag of the South African Commonwealth, the Blue Peter at the
fore, and above the taffrail the beautiful blue ensign of the Royal
Naval Reserve, while in honour of this her maiden voyage she was dressed
rainbow-fashion with innumerable pennons.

The hull was built on the cellular principle, divided into water-tight
compartments up to above the waterline, the decks or floors being ten
in number. The mighty hold, and the space where bunkers would have been
in an ordinary steamer, were filled with storage batteries; so that an
immense area was at disposal for electric power, renewed daily by a
wonderful chemical process, the weight of the batteries–in this case an
advantage–taking the place of ballast, keeping the _Princess Ida_ at an
almost unvarying draught.

Relatively the machinery of the _Princess Ida_ was simplicity itself.
She had three propellers that _looked_ inadequate to move so vast a
bulk. There were no quadruple expansion-balanced engines with cylinders
of 28, 41, 58, and 84 inches in diameter, and no bewildering gathering
of cranks, pistons, rods, and levers, but the shafts were coupled direct
to enormous electric motors which turned them with resistless force,
without the loss involved in the use of a long propeller-shaft. There
was no escaping steam, no heat, no stuffy stokehold and fierce
boilers, no smell of oil and waste, and the ventilation was almost as
perfect as on deck.

Going on board by the central gangway reserved for foot-passengers, one
entered a splendid hall fifty feet high and a hundred feet square,
resembling the lounge saloon of a big hotel, with glass dome-shaped
skylight above–a winter garden with beds of flowers and groups of
sea-loving palms at the side, kept-renewed throughout the voyage;
seductive easy-chairs and couches scattered about; tables here and
there, covered with periodicals and writing material; while at one end
of a platform, used by the ship’s band, and forming a miniature stage,
was a grand piano backed by a handsome curtain of peacock-blue plush,
and, facing it, a fine organ, both instruments strictly reserved for
public entertainments, theatrical and otherwise. The walls of this
beautiful saloon were of polished New Zealand woods, Kauri pine
predominating, than which a lighter and more elegant wainscot can hardly
be imagined. Fireplaces with ornate overmantels burnt logs of wood–a
sacrifice to conventionality and sentiment, as they were not required
for warmth, the ship being lighted and heated throughout by electricity.

In general arrangement the interior of the ship reminded one of a modern
hotel, and the illusion was heightened by the port-holes on the main or
second deck being so arranged as to resemble plate-glass windows set in
frames of great strength, and when the vessel began to move on the
waters it was as if a section of the Cecil Hotel had floated off into
the river. But, though beautifully furnished, the ship was not overdone
with meaningless decoration. Mirrors were restricted in number, and
there was but little gilding. Rare paintings of ships, birds, and
flowers were on the walls, while wood-carvings in the style of Grinling
Gibbons and delicate French bronzes beautified unsightly corners. All
the decks were covered with india-rubber laid over fireproof planking,
reducing noise to a minimum, those below the upper deck being carpeted;
and as all the doors were sliding and shut noiselessly, the general
effect of quietude was delightful, even the electric gongs being subdued
in tone.

The style of upholstery throughout was that of the latest Victorian Era,
modified to meet the requirements of life at sea. There was, of course,
a very grand dining-saloon, and smaller ones for private parties; also a
principal drawing-room, boudoirs, tea-rooms, and in the transoms (_i.e._
the aftermost part of the ship) one small and purely ornamental parlour
in imitation of Princess Ida’s in her college–

“…. a court
Compact of lucid marbles, boss’d with lengths
Of classic frieze with ample awnings gay
Betwixt the pillars, and with great urns of flowers”–

where a statue of that divinity, seated on a throne, with a couple of
tame leopards on each side, was placed as a kind of tutelary genius, to
which the sentimental ladies on board made weekly offerings of the
choicest flowers they could get.

Then there had been skilfully provided in this wonderful ship a small
oratory for the use of Roman Catholic passengers, several libraries,
reading and lecture rooms, a music-room, a cardroom, smoking saloons of
course, a billiard-room, (available in very fine weather), swimming or
rather plunge baths, and electric and ordinary baths in abundance made
of aluminium; besides massage-rooms, coiffeurs’ and barbers’ saloons, a
shooting-gallery, a post and telegraph office, a gymnasium, a
skating-rink, a bowling-alley, a photographic room, an amateur’s
workshop, an apartment specially set apart for ping-pong and similar
games, American bars, and a miniature cafe for the pleasure of those who
would make believe they were still ashore; a tennis-court, a miniature
golf-link, a small running, walking, and cycle track (quoits, cricket,
hockey, and even football could always be enjoyed on the upper deck), an
aviary (parrots prohibited), a natural history room, an aquarium, a
servants’ hall, a nursery (a remote locality) with tracks for
perambulators; small shops for confectionery, millinery, hosiery, and
tobacco; also a printing-press, a dispensary, and a hospital; a cell for
insubordinates, and, alas! a mortuary.[11]

On the upper deck–so great was the distance from stem to stern, twice
up and down being more than a mile–small electric trolley-chairs were
at the disposal of the old or infirm to enable them to take open-air
exercise. A wide shelter-promenade ran round the ship’s sides between
two of the decks, looking out on the sea through spacious port-holes,
and when wind and rain were too pronounced there were the roomy
stairway houses on deck wherein to take refuge.

On every floor there were lifts for those who cared to use them. The
telegraph and telephone made intercommunication easy, and at every
corner of the ship, with its maze of corridors and staircases,
direction-tablets indicated one’s whereabouts.

Families were accommodated with furnished suites of private rooms, which
could be rented or even leased. Here they could bring their own
servants, and be boarded independently of the other travellers. These
suites varied in size from a modest sitting-room and bedroom for
solitary couples, to flats suitable for a large number. There were
bedrooms (not cabins) for spinsters and bachelors, and double-bedded
rooms. The familiar two, four, and six open-berthed staterooms were
conspicuous by their absence.

Of regulations there were few, and these were framed for the general
good and were strictly enforced. No dogs or cats were allowed in any
part of the ship; the playing upon any instrument, except in the
music-room, was prohibited, and this applied even to the private suites;
small children and babies were kept absolutely separate from the adults,
and smoking was forbidden except in saloons set apart for that purpose
and in private rooms.

All cookery was done by electricity,[12] supplemented by charcoal, and
the scale of provisions that had to be dealt with, apart from the ship’s
stores for the crew, was Gargantuan, while fresh fruit, fish, etc., were
always obtained in addition at the various stopping places. For the
round voyage, with allowance for accidents, say forty-two days in all,
there had to be put on board for the passengers: of fish, 36,000 lbs.;
fresh meat (beef, mutton, lamb, veal, and pork), 367,700 lbs.; fowls and
chickens, 16,000; ducks, 1,800; geese, 950; turkeys, 1,500; partridges,
grouse, etc., 3,600 brace; 260 tons of potatoes; 560 hampers of
vegetables; 4,000 quarts of ice-cream; 18,000 quarts of milk; 215,000
eggs; also canned goods, butter, flour, and groceries in proportion. Of
champagne, 18,000 bottles; 15,000 of claret; 110,000 of ale; 45,000 of
stout; 87,000 of mineral waters; and 10,000 bottles of various spirits.
All these, except the stimulants, were preserved in chilled rooms, the
ice being made on board.

At a pinch the _Princess Ida_ could accommodate–besides her crew of
four hundred, a small army of servants, the stewards, and stewardesses
(there were no stokers or firemen)–six thousand souls; but to ensure
comfort, only 3,500 passengers were as a rule booked, necessarily at
high rates. All were of one class, the only difference, as in an hotel,
being in the price paid for position.

The officers were comfortably quartered in the forward part of the ship
in a manner equal to the first class of many a steamer; the crew
beneath, in the so-called forecastle, palatial in comparison with the
old-fashioned sailing ship.

By the time the handy-man had taken these notes H. M.’s mails arrived
alongside, and were put on board by electric trolleys through the
central side port. There was no stupefying, deafening escape of steam,
and no maddening ringing of great bells. The Blue Peter–some fifteen
feet square–fluttered down from the foremast, and a megaphone in
sonorous tones announced that the hour of departure had arrived, and
that visitors must leave for the shore.

The _Ida_ began to show that she could move, and majestically and slowly
shifted her position, until her bow pointed seaward, a mighty cheer
going up from quay and ship. An unseen orchestra gave forth “Auld Lang
Syne,” and in the fading light the _Princess Ida_, glowing with
incandescents, her syren sounding at intervals, disappeared in the river
fog on her maiden voyage.

Going down channel at an easy fifteen knots, it was immediately
noticeable how remarkably steady the great ship was in the choppy sea.
There was an entire absence of vibration, partly attributable to the
metal of which she was constructed, and to the perfect balancing of her
machinery and nice adjustment of weight throughout her holds. Even in
the Bay of Biscay, which was wavelessly heavy in long, sullen rollers
after a mighty storm from the west had died away, the _Princess_ behaved
like a real sea-lady, yielding slowly, but steadily, to the _force
majeur_ of the Atlantic; and no one dreamt of being sea-sick except one
very bilious-looking gentleman, a heavy eater, hailing from Brazil.

In short, she proved herself to be a splendid sea-boat. Not a drop of
water could reach her upper decks; pitch she hardly could, as her great
length enabled her to ride quietly across the valleys between oncoming
waves.

A few hours’ detention at beautiful Madeira, and shortly afterwards
Teneriffe was reached, where it began to be warm; but the ship was so
spacious, and was kept so cool by means of refrigerators, electric fans,
and–when necessary–punkahs, that no one felt in the least
inconvenienced by the heat. There were no smuts, no smoke, and, better
still, no smell of oil or paint (neither of these being used on the
ship), no cockroaches, mosquitoes, flies, or rats!

[Illustration: FIG. 35. ELECTRIC LAUNCH ON THE THAMES

_By permission of the_ _Immisch Electric Launch Co., Ltd., London_]

Here she began to put on speed, working up to eighteen knots an hour,
her maximum (very great speed being no special consideration), and it
was then observed that so smooth and tapering were her lines, that she
slipped through the water raising but little bow wave, and almost as
frictionless as a swift ocean-fish.

An hour or so at lonely Ascension, and the same at St. Helena–in each
case to deliver and receive mails, and to keep up telegraphic
communication with London–a voyage altogether of wondrous beauty and
enjoyment, nights of solemn loveliness, and days that broke in perfect
splendour, cloudless, save for little patches of white here and there,
and the ocean a dazzling radiance of deep blue.

Cape Town–six thousand miles in sixteen days out from Tilbury–and,
greeted by thousands who had flocked from far and near to witness the
sight, the _Princess Ida_ glided to her berth inside the great
breakwater.

And there for the present I must leave her.

I think I have demonstrated that, theoretically at least, the tiny
electric launches, put on the Thames in 1889 by the Immisch Company, one
of which, the _Lammda_, took the then Prince of Wales through Boulter’s
Lock, was the forerunner of the ocean steamer of the twentieth century.

But there is no absolute novelty under the sun; for it is stated that in
1838 a distinguished Roman scientist, Jacobi, invented an electric motor
which drove a small boat on the Neva at two miles an hour.