Limitations of the Newcomen steam engineEarly steamboat designs used Newcomen steam engines. These engines were large, heavy, and produced little power, which resulted in an unfavorable power-to-weight ratio. The Newcomen engine also produced a reciprocating or rocking motion because it was designed for pumping. The piston stroke was caused by a water jet in the steam-filled cylinder, which condensed the steam, creating a vacuum, which in turn caused atmospheric pressure to drive the piston downward. The piston relied on the weight of the rod connecting to the underground pump to return the piston to the top of the cylinder. The heavy weight of the Newcomen engine required a structurally strong boat, and the reciprocating motion of the engine beam required a complicated mechanism to produce propulsion.
Rotary motion engines's design improvements increased the efficiency of the steam engine, improving the power-to-weight ratio, and created an engine capable of rotary motion by using a double-acting cylinder which injected steam at each end of the piston stroke to move the piston back and forth. The rotary steam engine simplified the mechanism required to turn a paddle wheel to propel a boat. Despite the improved efficiency and rotary motion, the power-to-weight ratio of steam engine was still low.
High-pressure steam enginesThe high-pressure steam engine was the development that made the steamboat practical. It had a high power-to-weight ratio and was fuel efficient. High pressure engines were made possible by improvements in the design of boilers and engine components so that they could withstand internal pressure, although boiler explosions were common due to lack of instrumentation like pressure gauges. Attempts at making high-pressure engines had to wait until the expiration of the patent in 1800. Shortly thereafter high-pressure engines by and were introduced.
Compound or multiple expansion steam enginesThe became widespread in the late 19th century. Compounding uses exhaust steam from a high pressure cylinder to a lower pressure cylinder and greatly improves efficiency. With compound engines it was possible for trans ocean steamers to carry less coal than freight. Compound steam engine powered ships enabled a great increase in international trade.
Steam turbinesThe most efficient steam engine used for is the . It was developed near the end of the 19th century and was used throughout the 20th century.
Early designsAn apocryphal story from 1851 attributes the earliest steamboat to for a boat he built in 1705. Papin was an early innovator in steam power and the inventor of the , the first , which played an important role in 's steam experiments. However, Papin's boat was not steam-powered but powered by hand-cranked paddles. A steamboat was described and patented by English physician John Allen in 1729. In 1736, was granted a patent in England for a Newcomen engine-powered steamboat (using a pulley instead of a beam, and a pawl and ratchet to obtain rotary motion), but it was the improvement in steam engines by that made the concept feasible. William Henry of Lancaster, , having learned of Watt's engine on a visit to England, made his own engine. In 1763 he put it in a boat. The boat sank, and while Henry made an improved model, he did not appear to have much success, though he may have inspired others. Jordan, 1910, pp. 49–50 The first steam-powered ship '' '' was a paddle steamer powered by a ; it was built in France in 1783 by Marquis and his colleagues as an improvement of an earlier attempt, the 1776 ''Palmipède''. At its first demonstration on 15 July 1783, ''Pyroscaphe'' travelled upstream on the river for some fifteen minutes before the engine failed. Presumably this was easily repaired as the boat is said to have made several such journeys. Following this, De Jouffroy attempted to get the government interested in his work, but for political reasons was instructed that he would have to build another version on the Seine in Paris. De Jouffroy did not have the funds for this, and, following the events of the French revolution, work on the project was discontinued after he left the country. Similar boats were made in 1785 by in and in , Scotland. Fitch successfully trialled his boat in 1787, and in 1788, he began operating a regular commercial service along the between Philadelphia and Burlington, New Jersey, carrying as many as 30 passengers. This boat could typically make and travelled more than during its short length of service. The Fitch steamboat was not a commercial success, as this travel route was adequately covered by relatively good wagon roads. The following year, a second boat made excursions, and in 1790, a third boat ran a series of trials on the before patent disputes dissuaded Fitch from continuing. Meanwhile, Patrick Miller of Dalswinton, near , , had developed double-hulled boats propelled by manually cranked paddle wheels placed between the hulls, even attempting to interest various European governments in a giant warship version, long. Miller sent King of Sweden an actual small-scale version, long, called ''Experiment''. Miller then engaged engineer to build his patent steam engine that drove a stern-mounted paddle wheel in a boat in 1785. The boat was successfully tried out on Dalswinton Loch in 1788 and was followed by a larger steamboat the next year. Miller then abandoned the project.
19th centuryThe failed project of Patrick Miller caught the attention of Lord Dundas, Governor of the Company, and at a meeting with the canal company's directors on 5 June 1800, they approved his proposals for the use of ''"a model of a boat by Captain Schank to be worked by a steam engine by Mr Symington"'' on the canal. The boat was built by Alexander Hart at to Symington's design with a vertical cylinder engine and crosshead transmitting power to a crank driving the paddlewheels. Trials on the River Carron in June 1801 were successful and included towing s from the up the Carron and thence along the . In 1801, Symington patented a horizontal steam engine directly linked to a crank. He got support from Lord Dundas to build a second steamboat, which became famous as the '' '', named in honour of Lord Dundas's daughter. Symington designed a new hull around his powerful horizontal engine, with the crank driving a large paddle wheel in a central upstand in the hull, aimed at avoiding damage to the canal banks. The new boat was 56 ft (17.1 m) long, 18 ft (5.5 m) wide and 8 ft (2.4 m) depth, with a wooden hull. The boat was built by John Allan and the engine by the . The first sailing was on the canal in on 4 January 1803, with Lord Dundas and a few of his relatives and friends on board. The crowd were pleased with what they saw, but Symington wanted to make improvements and another more ambitious trial was made on 28 March. On this occasion, the ''Charlotte Dundas'' towed two 70 ton barges 30 km (almost 20 miles) along the to , and despite "a strong breeze right ahead" that stopped all other canal boats it took only nine and a quarter hours, giving an average speed of about 3 km/h (2 mph). The ''Charlotte Dundas'' was the first practical steamboat, in that it demonstrated the practicality of steam power for ships, and was the first to be followed by continuous development of steamboats. The American, , was present at the trials of the ''Charlotte Dundas'' and was intrigued by the potential of the steamboat. While working in France, he corresponded with and was helped by the Scottish engineer Henry Bell, who may have given him the first model of his working steamboat. He designed his own steamboat, which sailed along the in 1803. He later obtained a steam engine, shipped to America, where his first proper steamship was built in 1807, '' '' (later known as ''Clermont''), which carried passengers between New York City and . ''Clermont'' was able to make the trip in 32 hours. The steamboat was powered by a engine and was capable of long-distance travel. It was the first commercially successful steamboat, transporting passengers along the . In 1807 Robert L. Stevens began operation of the '' Phoenix'', which used a high-pressure engine in combination with a low-pressure condensing engine. The first steamboats powered only by high pressure were the ''Aetna'' and ''Pennsylvania'', designed and built by . In October 1811 a ship designed by John Stevens, ''Little Juliana'', would operate as the first steam-powered ferry between and New York City. Stevens' ship was engineered as a twin-screw-driven steamboat in juxtaposition to ''Clermont''s Boulton and Watt engine. The design was a modification of Stevens' prior paddle steamer ''Phoenix'', the first steamship to successfully navigate the open ocean in its route from Hoboken to Philadelphia. Henry Bell's PS ''Comet'' of 1812 inaugurated a passenger service along the in Scotland. The ''Margery'', launched in Dumbarton in 1814, in January 1815 became the first steamboat on the River Thames, much to the amazement of Londoners. She operated a London-to-Gravesend river service until 1816, when she was sold to the French and became the first steamboat to cross the English Channel. When she reached Paris, the new owners renamed her ''Elise'' and inaugurated a Seine steamboat service. In 1818, ''Ferdinando I'', the first Italian steamboat, left the port of , where it had been built.
Ocean-goingThe first sea-going steamboat was Richard Wright's first steamboat "Experiment", an ex-French lugger; she steamed from Leeds to Yarmouth, arriving Yarmouth 19 July 1813. "Tug", the first tugboat, was launched by the Woods Brothers, Port Glasgow, on 5 November 1817; in the summer of 1818 she was the first steamboat to travel round the North of Scotland to the East Coast.
Use by country
OriginsThe era of the steamboat in the United States began in in 1787 when (1743–1798) made the first successful trial of a 45-foot (14-meter) steamboat on the on 22 August 1787, in the presence of members of the United States Constitutional Convention. Fitch later (1790) built a larger vessel that carried passengers and freight between Philadelphia and on the Delaware. His steamboat was not a financial success and was shut down after a few months service, however this marks the first use of marine steam propulsion in scheduled regular passenger transport service. (1755–1819) was a n inventor born in , to a family of settlers. He designed an improved high-pressure in 1801 but did not build it (patented 1804). The Philadelphia Board of Health was concerned with the problem of dredging and cleaning the city's dockyards, and in 1805 Evans convinced them to contract with him for a steam-powered dredge, which he called the ''Oruktor Amphibolos''. It was built but was only marginally successful. Evans's high-pressure steam engine had a much higher , making it practical to apply it in locomotives and steamboats. Evans became so depressed with the poor protection that the US patent law gave inventors that he eventually took all his engineering drawings and invention ideas and destroyed them to prevent his children wasting their time in court fighting patent infringements. constructed a steamboat to ply a route between New York City and on the . He successfully obtained a monopoly on Hudson River traffic after terminating a prior 1797 agreement with John Stevens, who owned extensive land on the Hudson River in New Jersey. The former agreement had partitioned northern Hudson River traffic to Livingston and southern to Stevens, agreeing to use ships designed by Stevens for both operations. With their new monopoly, Fulton and Livingston's boat, named the ''Clermont'' after Livingston's estate, could make a profit. The ''Clermont'' was nicknamed "Fulton's Folly" by doubters. On Monday, 17 August 1807, the memorable first voyage of the ''Clermont'' up the Hudson River was begun. She traveled the trip to Albany in a little over 32 hours and made the return trip in about eight hours. The use of steamboats on major US rivers soon followed Fulton's 1807 success. In 1811 the first in a continuous (still in commercial passenger operation ) line of river steamboats left the dock at to steam down the to the and on to New Orleans. In 1817 a consortium in , funded the construction of the first US steamboat, ''Ontario'', to run on and the Great Lakes, beginning the growth of lake commercial and passenger traffic. In his book '' '', and author described much of the operation of such vessels.
Types of shipsBy 1849 the shipping industry was in transition from sail-powered boats to steam-powered boats and from wood construction to an ever-increasing metal construction. There were basically three different types of ships being used: standard s of several different types, s, and s with paddles mounted on the side or rear. River steamboats typically used rear-mounted paddles and had flat bottoms and shallow hulls designed to carry large loads on generally smooth and occasionally shallow rivers. Ocean-going paddle steamers typically used side-wheeled paddles and used narrower, deeper hulls designed to travel in the often stormy weather encountered at sea. The ship design was often based on the clipper ship design with extra bracing to support the loads and strains imposed by the paddle wheels when they encountered rough water. The first paddle-steamer to make a long ocean voyage was the 320-ton , built in 1819 expressly for mail and passenger service to and from , England. On 22 May 1819, the watch on the ''Savannah'' sighted Ireland after 23 days at sea. The of New York supplied ''Savannah's''
West CoastIn the mid-1840s the acquisition of Oregon and California opened up the West Coast to American steamboat traffic. Starting in 1848 Congress subsidized the with $199,999 to set up regular , mail, passenger, and cargo routes in the Pacific Ocean. This regular scheduled route went from , Nicaragua and Mexico to and from and . Panama City was the Pacific terminus of the trail across Panama. The Atlantic Ocean mail contract from East Coast cities and New Orleans to and from the in Panama was won by the United States Mail Steamship Company whose first steamship, the SS Falcon (1848) was dispatched on 1 December 1848 to the Caribbean (Atlantic) terminus of the trail—the . The SS ''California'' (1848), the first steamship, left on 6 October 1848 with only a partial load of her about 60 saloon (about $300 fare) and 150 steerage (about $150 fare) passenger capacity. Only a few were going all the way to California. Her crew numbered about 36 men. She left New York well before confirmed word of the had reached the East Coast. Once the was confirmed by President in his on 5 December 1848 people started rushing to Panama City to catch the SS California. The picked up more passengers in , Chile and , Panama and showed up in San Francisco, loaded with about 400 passengers—twice the passengers it had been designed for—on 28 February 1849. She had left behind about another 400–600 potential passengers still looking for passage from Panama City. The ''SS California ''had made the trip from Panama and Mexico after steaming around from New York—see SS ''California'' (1848). The trips by paddle wheel steamship to Panama and Nicaragua from New York, Philadelphia, Boston, via New Orleans and Havana were about long and took about two weeks. Trips across the or Nicaragua typically took about one week by native and back. The trip to or from San Francisco to Panama City could be done by steamer in about three weeks. In addition to this travel time via the Panama route typically had a two- to four-week waiting period to find a ship going from to San Francisco before 1850. It was 1850 before enough paddle wheel steamers were available in the Atlantic and Pacific routes to establish regularly scheduled journeys. Other steamships soon followed, and by late 1849, paddle wheel steamships like the SS ''McKim'' (1848) were carrying miners and their supplies the trip from San Francisco up the extensive to Stockton, California, Marysville, California, Sacramento, California, Sacramento, etc. to get about closer to the gold fields. Steam-powered tugboats and towboats started working in the San Francisco Bay soon after this to expedite shipping in and out of the bay. As the passenger, mail and high value freight business to and from California boomed more and more paddle steamers were brought into service—eleven by the Pacific Mail Steamship Company alone. The trip to and from California via Panama and paddle wheeled steamers could be done, if there were no waits for shipping, in about 40 days—over 100 days less than by wagon or 160 days less than a trip around . About 20–30% of the California Argonauts are thought to have returned to their homes, mostly on the East Coast of the United States via Panama—the fastest way home. Many returned to California after settling their business in the East with their wives, family and/or sweethearts. Most used the Panama or Nicaragua route till 1855 when the completion of the Panama Railroad made the Panama Route much easier, faster and more reliable. Between 1849 and 1869 when the First Transcontinental Railroad was completed across the United States about 800,000 travelers had used the Panama route. Most of the roughly $50,000,000 of gold found each year in California were shipped East via the Panama route on paddle steamers, mule trains and canoes and later the Panama Railroad across Panama. After 1855 when the Panama Railroad was completed the Panama Route was by far the quickest and easiest way to get to or from California from the East Coast of the U.S. or Europe. Most California bound merchandise still used the slower but cheaper route. The sinking of the (the ''Ship of Gold'') in a hurricane on 12 September 1857 and the loss of about $2 million in California gold indirectly led to the Panic of 1857. Steamboat traffic including passenger and freight business grew exponentially in the decades before the Civil War. So too did the economic and human losses inflicted by snags, shoals, boiler explosions, and human error.
Civil WarDuring the US Civil War the Battle of Hampton Roads, often referred to as either the Battle of the ''USS Monitor, Monitor'' and CSS Virginia, ''Merrimack'' or the ''Battle of Ironclads'', was fought over two days with steam-powered ironclad warships, 8–9 March 1862. The battle occurred in Hampton Roads, a roadstead in Virginia where the Elizabeth River (Virginia), Elizabeth and Nansemond Rivers meet the James River (Virginia), James River just before it enters Chesapeake Bay adjacent to the city of Norfolk, VA, Norfolk. The battle was a part of the effort of the Confederate States of America to break the Union Naval blockade, which had cut off Virginia from all international trade. The Civil War in the West was fought to control major rivers, especially the Mississippi and Tennessee Rivers using paddlewheelers. Only the Union had them (the Confederacy captured a few, but were unable to use them.) The Battle of Vicksburg involved Monitor (warship), monitors and ironclad riverboats. The USS ''Cairo'' is a survivor of the Vicksburg battle. Trade on the river was suspended for two years because of a Confederate's Mississippi blockade before the union victory at Vicksburg reopened the river on 4 July 1863. The triumph of Eads ironclads, and Farragut's seizure of New Orleans, secured the river for the Union North. Although Union forces gained control of Mississippi River tributaries, travel there was still subject to interdiction by the Confederates. The Ambush of the steamboat J. R. Williams, which was carrying supplies from Fort Smith National Historic Site, Fort Smith to Fort Gibson along the Arkansas River on 16 July 1863 demonstrated this. The steamboat was destroyed, the cargo was lost, and the tiny Union escort was run off. The loss did not affect the Union war effort, however. The worst of all steamboat accidents occurred at the end of the Civil War in April 1865, when the steamboat ''SS Sultana, Sultana'', carrying an over-capacity load of returning Union soldiers recently freed from a Confederate prison camp, blew up, causing more than 1,700 deaths.
Mississippi and Missouri river trafficFor most of the 19th century and part of the early 20th century, trade on the Mississippi River was dominated by paddle-wheel steamboats. Their use generated rapid development of economies of port cities; the exploitation of agricultural and commodity products, which could be more easily transported to markets; and prosperity along the major rivers. Their success led to penetration deep into the continent, where ''Anson Northup'' in 1859 became first steamer to cross the Canada–United States border, Canada–US border on the Red River of the North, Red River. They would also be involved in major political events, as when Louis Riel seized ''International (steamship), International'' at Fort Garry, or Gabriel Dumont (Métis leader), Gabriel Dumont was engaged by ''Northcote (steamboat), Northcote'' at Battle of Batoche, Batoche. Steamboats were held in such high esteem that they could become state symbols; the Iowa (steamboat), Steamboat ''Iowa'' (1838) is incorporated in the Seal of Iowa because it represented speed, power, and progress. At the same time, the expanding steamboat traffic had severe adverse environmental effects, in the Middle Mississippi Valley especially, between St. Louis and the river's confluence with the Ohio River, Ohio. The steamboats consumed much wood for fuel, and the river floodplain and banks became deforested. This led to instability in the banks, addition of silt to the water, making the river both shallower and hence wider and causing unpredictable, lateral movement of the river channel across the wide, ten-mile floodplain, endangering navigation. Boats designated as snagpullers to keep the channels free had crews that sometimes cut remaining large trees or more back from the banks, exacerbating the problems. In the 19th century, the flooding of the Mississippi became a more severe problem than when the floodplain was filled with trees and brush. Most steamboats were destroyed by boiler explosions or fires—and many sank in the river, with some of those buried in silt as the river changed course. From 1811 to 1899, 156 steamboats were lost to snags or rocks between St. Louis and the Ohio River. Another 411 were damaged by fire, explosions or ice during that period. One of the few surviving Mississippi sternwheelers from this period, ''Julius C. Wilkie'', was operated as a museum ship at Winona, Minnesota, until its destruction in a fire in 1981. The replacement, built ''in situ'', was not a steamboat. The replica was scrapped in 2008. From 1844 through 1857, luxurious palace steamers carried passengers and cargo around the North American Great Lakes. Great Lakes passenger steamers reached their zenith during the century from 1850 to 1950. The is the last of the once-numerous passenger-carrying steam-powered Train ferry, car ferries operating on the Great Lakes. A unique style of bulk carrier known as the lake freighter was developed on the Great Lakes. The ''St. Marys Challenger'', launched in 1906, is the oldest operating steamship in the United States. She runs a Skinner Marine Unaflow 4-cylinder reciprocating steam engine as her power plant. Women started to become steamboat captains in the late 19th century. The first woman to earn her steamboat master's license was Mary Millicent Miller, in 1884. In 1888, Callie Leach French earned her first class license. In 1892, she earned a Sea captain, master's license, becoming the only woman to hold both and operating on the Mississippi River. French towed a showboat up and down the rivers until 1907 and boasted that she'd never had an accident or lost a boat. Another early steamboat captain was Blanche Douglass Leathers, who earned her license in 1894. Mary Becker Greene earned her license in 1897 and along with her husband started the Delta Queen Steamboat Company, Greene Line.
=Steamboats in rivers on the west side of the Mississippi River= Steamboats also operated on the Red River of the South, Red River to Shreveport, Louisiana, Shreveport, Louisiana. In April 1815, Captain Henry Miller Shreve was the first person to bring a steamboat, the Enterprise, up the Red River. By 1839 after Captain Henry Miller Shreve broke the Great Raft log jam had been 160 miles long on the river. In the late 1830s, the steamboats in rivers on the west side of the Mississippi River were a long, wide, shallow draft vessel, lightly built with an engine on the deck. These newer steamboats could sail in just 20 inches of water. Contemporaries claimed that they could "run with a lot of heavy dew".
Walking the steamboat over sandbars or away from reefsWalking the boat was a way of lifting the bow of a steamboat like on crutches, getting up and down a sandbank with poles, blocks, and strong rigging, and using paddlewheels to lift and move the ship through successive steps, on the helm. Moving of a boat from a sandbar was by its own action known as "walking the boat" and "grass-hoppering". Two long, strong poles were pushed forward from the bow on either side of the boat into the sandbar at a high degree of angle. Near the end of each pole, a block was secured with a strong rope or clamp that passed through pulleys that lowered through a pair of similar blocks attached to the deck near the bow. The end of each line went to a winch which, when turned, was taut and, with its weight on the stringers, slightly raised the bow of the boat. Activation of the forward paddlewheels and placement of the poles caused the bow of the boat to raise and move the boat forward perhaps a few feet. It was laborious and dangerous work for the crew, even with a Steam donkey driven capstan winch.
Double-trippingDouble-tripping means making two voyages by leaving a cargo of a steamboat ashore to lighten boats load during times of extremely low water or when ice impedes progress. The boat had to return (and therefore make a second trip) to retrieve the cargo.
Piston Rings, Steel replaced cotton seals, 18541854: John Ramsbottom publishes a report on his use of oversized split steel piston rings which maintain a seal by outward spring tension on the cylinder wall. This improved efficiency by allowing much better sealing (compared to earlier cotton seals) which allowed significantly higher system pressures before "blow-by" is experienced.
Allen Steam Engine at 3 to 5 times higher speeds, 18621862: The Allen steam engine (later called Porter-Allen) is exhibited at the London Exhibition. It is precision engineered and balanced allowing it to operate at from three to five times the speed of other stationary engines. The short stroke and high speed minimize condensation in the cylinder, significantly improving efficiency. The high speed allows direct coupling or the use of reduced sized pulleys and belting.
Boilers, Water Tubes, Not Explosive, 18671881: Alexander C. Kirk designs the first practical triple expansion engine which was installed in SS Aberdeen. 1884: Charles Algernon Parsons develops the steam turbine. Used early on in electrical generation and to power ships, turbines were bladed wheels that created rotary motion when high pressure steam was passed through them. The efficiency of large steam turbines was considerably better than the best compound engines, while also being much simpler, more reliable, smaller and lighter all at the same time. Steam turbines would eventually replace piston engines for most power generation.
Triple Expansion Steam Engine, 1881,
Steam Turbine, 1884
20th centuryThe ''Belle of Louisville'' is the oldest operating steamboat in the United States, and the oldest operating Mississippi River-style steamboat in the world. She was laid down as ''Idlewild'' in 1914, and is currently located in Louisville, Kentucky. Five major commercial steamboats currently operate on the inland waterways of the United States. The only remaining overnight cruising steamboat is the 432-passenger ''American Queen'', which operates week-long cruises on the Mississippi, Ohio, Cumberland and Tennessee Rivers 11 months out of the year. The others are day boats: they are the steamers ''Chautauqua Belle'' at Chautauqua Lake, Chautauqua Lake, New York, ''Minne-Ha-Ha II, Minne Ha-Ha'' at Lake George (village), New York, Lake George, New York, operating on Lake George; the ''Belle of Louisville'' in Louisville, Kentucky, operating on the Ohio River; and the ''Natchez (steamboat), Natchez'' in New Orleans, Louisiana, operating on the Mississippi River. For modern craft operated on rivers, see the Riverboat article.
CanadaIn Canada, the city of Terrace, British Columbia, Terrace, British Columbia, celebrates "Riverboat Days" each summer. Built on the banks of the Skeena River, the city depended on the steamboat for transportation and trade into the 20th century. The first steamer to enter the Skeena was ''Union'' in 1864. In 1866 ''Mumford'' attempted to ascend the river, but it was only able to reach the Kitsumkalum River. It was not until 1891 Hudson's Bay Company sternwheeler ''Caledonia'' successfully negotiated Kitselas Canyon and reached Hazelton, British Columbia, Hazelton. A number of other steamers were built around the turn of the 20th century, in part due to the growing fish industry and the gold rush. For more information, see Steamboats of the Skeena River. Sternwheelers were an instrumental transportation technology in the development of Western Canada. They were used on most of the navigable waterways of Manitoba, Saskatchewan, Alberta, BC (British Columbia) and the Yukon at one time or another, generally being supplanted by the expansion of railroads and roads. In the more mountainous and remote areas of the Yukon and BC, working sternwheelers lived on well into the 20th century. The simplicity of these vessels and their shallow draft made them indispensable to pioneer communities that were otherwise virtually cut off from the outside world. Because of their shallow, flat-bottomed construction (the Canadian examples of the western river sternwheeler generally needed less than three feet of water to float in), they could nose up almost anywhere along a riverbank to pick up or drop off passengers and freight. Sternwheelers would also prove vital to the construction of the railroads that eventually replaced them. They were used to haul supplies, track and other materials to construction camps. The simple, versatile, locomotive-style boilers fitted to most sternwheelers after about the 1860s could burn coal, when available in more populated areas like the lakes of the Steamboats of the upper Columbia and Kootenay Rivers, Kootenays and the Steamboats of Lake Okanagan, Okanagan region in southern BC, or wood in the more remote areas, such as the Steamboats of the Yukon River or northern BC. The hulls were generally wooden, although iron, steel and composite hulls gradually overtook them. They were braced internally with a series of built-up longitudinal timbers called "keelsons". Further resilience was given to the hulls by a system of "hog rods" or "hog chains" that were fastened into the keelsons and led up and over vertical masts called "hog-posts", and back down again. Like their counterparts on the Mississippi and its tributaries, and the vessels on the rivers of California, Idaho, Oregon, Washington and Alaska, the Canadian sternwheelers tended to have fairly short life-spans. The hard usage they were subjected to and inherent flexibility of their shallow wooden hulls meant that relatively few of them had careers longer than a decade. In the Yukon, two vessels are preserved: the in Whitehorse and the in Dawson City. Many derelict hulks can still be found along the Yukon River. In British Columbia, the ''Moyie (sternwheeler), Moyie'', built by the Canadian Pacific Railway (CPR) in 1898, was operated on Kootenay Lake in south-eastern BC until 1957. It has been carefully restored and is on display in the village of Kaslo, where it acts as a tourist attraction right next to information centre in downtown Kaslo. The ''Moyie'' is the world's oldest intact stern wheeler. While the SS ''Sicamous'' and SS ''Naramata'' (steam tug & icebreaker) built by the CPR at Okanagan Landing on Okanagan Lake in 1914 have been preserved in Penticton at the south end of Okanagan Lake. The SS ''Samson V'' is the only Canadian steam-powered sternwheeler that has been preserved afloat. It was built in 1937 by the Canadian federal Department of Public Works as a snagboat for clearing logs and debris out of the lower reaches of the Steamboats of the Upper Fraser River, Fraser River and for maintaining docks and aids to navigation. The fifth in a line of Fraser River snagpullers, the ''Samson V'' has engines, paddlewheel and other components that were passed down from the ''Samson II'' of 1914. It is now moored on the Fraser River as a floating museum in its home port of New Westminster, near Vancouver, BC. The oldest operating steam driven vessel in North America is the . It was built in Scotland in 1887 to cruise the Muskoka Lakes, District of Muskoka, Ontario, Canada. Originally named the S.S. ''Nipissing'', it was converted from a side-paddle-wheel steamer with a walking-beam engine into a two-counter-rotating-propeller steamer. The first woman steamboat captain on the Columbia River was Minnie Mossman Hill, who earned her master's and pilot's license in 1887.
Great BritainEngineer Robert Fourness and his cousin, physician James Ashworth are said to have had a steamboat running between Hull and Beverley, after having been granted British Patent No. 1640 of March 1788 for a "new invented machine for working, towing, expediting and facilitating the voyage of ships, sloops and barges and other vessels upon the water". James Oldham, MICE, described how well he knew those who had built the F&A steamboat in a lecture entitled "On the rise, progress and present position of steam navigation in Hull" that he gave at the 23rd Meeting of the British Association for the Advancement for Science in Hull, England on 7 September 1853. The first commercially successful steamboat in Europe, Henry Bell's ''PS Comet, Comet'' of 1812, started a rapid expansion of steam services on the Firth of Clyde, and within four years a steamer service was in operation on the inland Loch Lomond, a forerunner of the lake steamers still gracing Swiss lakes. On the Clyde itself, within ten years of ''Comet's'' start in 1812 there were nearly fifty steamers, and services had started across the Irish Sea to Belfast and on many British estuaries. By 1900 there were over 300 Clyde steamers. People have had a particular affection for the Clyde puffers, small steam freighters of traditional design developed to use the Scottish canals and to serve the Scottish Highlands, Highlands and Islands. They were immortalised by the tales of Para Handy's boat ''Vital Spark'' by Neil Munro (Hugh Foulis), Neil Munro and by the film ''The Maggie'', and a small number are being conserved to continue in steam around the west highland sea lochs. From 1850 to the early decades of the 20th century Windermere, in the English Lakes, was home to many elegant steam launches. They were used for private parties, watching the yacht races or, in one instance, commuting to work, via the rail connection to Barrow in Furness. Many of these fine craft were saved from destruction when steam went out of fashion and are now part of the collection at Windermere Steamboat Museum. The collection includes SL Dolly, 1850, thought to be the world's oldest mechanically powered boat, and several of the classic Windermere launches. Today the 1900 steamer still sails on Loch Katrine, while on Loch Lomond PS Maid of the Loch, PS ''Maid of the Loch'' is being restored, and in the English Lakes the oldest operating passenger yacht, SY Gondola, SY ''Gondola'' (built 1859, rebuilt 1979), sails daily during the summer season on Coniston Water. The paddle steamer ''PS Waverley, Waverley'', built in 1947, is the last survivor of these fleets, and the last seagoing paddle steamer in the world. This ship sails a full season of cruises every year from places around Britain, and has sailed across the English Channel for a visit to commemorate the sinking of her predecessor, built in 1899, at the Battle of Dunkirk in 1940. After the Clyde, the Thames estuary was the main growth area for steamboats, starting with the ''Margery'' and the ''Thames'' in 1815, which were both brought down from the Clyde. Until the arrival of railways from 1838 onwards, steamers steadily took over the role of the many sail and rowed ferries, with at least 80 ferries by 1830 with routes from London to Gravesend and Margate, and upstream to Richmond. By 1835, the Diamond Steam Packet Company, one of several popular companies, reported that it had carried over 250,000 passengers in the year. The first steamboat constructed of iron, the ''Aaron Manby'' was laid down in the Horseley Ironworks in Staffordshire in 1821 and launched at the Surrey Docks in Rotherhithe. After testing in the Thames, the boat steamed to Paris where she was used on the . Three similar iron steamers followed within a few years. There are few genuine steamboats left on the River Thames; however, a handful remain. The SL (steam launch) ''Nuneham'' is a genuine Victorian era, Victorian steamer built in 1898, and operated on the non-tidal upper Thames by the Thames Steam Packet Boat Company. It is berthed at Runnymede. SL ''Nuneham'' was built at Port Brimscombe on the Thames and Severn Canal by Edwin Clarke. She was built for Salter Bros at Oxford for the regular passenger service between Oxford and Kingston-upon-Thames, Kingston. The original Sissons triple-expansion engine, triple-expansion steam engine was removed in the 1960s and replaced with a diesel engine. In 1972, the SL ''Nuneham'' was sold to a London boat operator and entered service on the Westminster Pier to Hampton Court service. In 1984 the boat was sold again – now practically derelict – to French Brothers Ltd at Runnymede as a restoration project. Over a number of years French Brothers carefully restored the launch to its former specification. A similar Sissons triple-expansion engine was found in a museum in America, shipped back to the UK and installed, along with a new coal-fired Scotch boiler, designed and built by Alan McEwen of Keighley, Yorkshire. The superstructure was reconstructed to the original design and elegance, including the raised roof, wood panelled saloon and open top deck. The restoration was completed in 1997 and the launch was granted an MCA passenger certificate for 106 passengers. SL Nuneham was entered back into service by French Brothers Ltd, but trading as the Thames Steam Packet Boat Company.
EuropeBuilt in 1856, PS ''Skibladner'' is the oldest still in operation, serving towns along lake Mjøsa in Norway. In Denmark, steamboats were a popular means of transportation in earlier times, mostly for recreational purposes. They were deployed to carry passengers for short distances along the coastline or across larger lakes. Falling out of favour later on, some of the original boats are still in operation in a few places, such as ''Hjejlen''. Built in 1861, this steamboat is running second to the Norwegian Skibladner as the oldest steamship in operation and sails the lake of Julsø near Silkeborg. Swiss lakes are home of a number of large steamships. On Lake Lucerne, five paddle steamers are still in service: ' (built in 1901, 800 passengers), ' (1902, 800 passengers), ' (1906, 900 passengers), ' (1913, 900 passengers, fastest paddle-wheeler on European lakes) and ' (1928, 1200 passengers, last steamship built for a Swiss lake). There are also five steamers as well as some old steamships converted to diesel-powered paddlewheelers on Lake Geneva, two steamers on Lake Zurich and single ones on other lakes. In Austria the paddle-wheeler ' (250 passengers) of 1871 vintage continues in service on Traunsee.
New ZealandThe New Zealand-built 1912 steamer TSS Earnslaw, TSS ''Earnslaw'' still makes regular sight-seeing trips across Lake Wakatipu, an alpine lake near Queenstown, New Zealand, Queenstown.
VietnamSeeing the great potential of the steam-powered vessels, Vietnamese Emperor Minh Mạng attempted to reproduce a French-made steamboat. The first test in 1838 was a failure as the boiler was broken. The task supervisor was chained and two officials Nguyễn Trung Mậu, Ngô Kim Lân from the Ministry of Construction were jailed for false report. The project was assigned again to Hoàng Văn Lịch and Võ Huy Trinh. In the second test two months later, the engine performed greatly. The Emperor rewarded the two handsomely. He commented that although this machine could be purchased from the Westerner, it is important that his engineers and mechanics could acquaint themselves with modern machinery. Therefore no expense was too great. Encouraged by the success, Minh Mạng ordered the engineers to study and develop steam engines and steamers to equip his naval fleets. At the end of Minh Mạng 's reign there were 3 steamers produced named ''Yến Phi, Vân Phi and Vụ Phi''.Khâm định Đại Nam hội điển sự lệ. However, his successor could not maintain the industry due to financial problems, worsened by many years of social unrest under his rule.
See also*Allan Line Royal Mail Steamers. *Chain boat navigation *Charles Baird (engineer), Charles Baird, engineer who was responsible for Russia's first steamboat. *Howard Steamboat Museum *List of steamboats on the Columbia River *Lists of ships *Motor ship or Motor vessel, a ship Marine propulsion, propelled by an Internal combustion engine, engine, usually a diesel engine. The name of motor ships are often prefixed with MS, M/S, MV or M/V. *Murray-Darling steamboats *Naphtha launch *''President (narrowboat), President'', a preserved English steam narrowboat *Riverboat *Steam Navigation Company, a list of companies that share the name *Steam-powered vessels *Steam yacht *Steamship *Steamship Historical Society of America *Tourist sternwheelers of Oregon
External references* . * .
Bibliography* * *
Further reading* . * . * . * . * . * . The standard history of American river boats. * . * . * . * . * . * .
Museums and museum boats
Historical image collections* . * .
Associations, information and other links