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PG-14 Wheeling

The Marietta and Wheeling, were so-called "composite ships," having steel frames and upper works combined with wooden bottoms. All of these each had a displacement of about 1,000 tons, and carry main batteries of 4-inch guns. The gunboats are especially adapted for service on inland waters, alike of home and foreign stations. Their defensive power is small, their only armor being a light protective deck, while even this is omitted in the composite boats. They have good offensive powers, however, their batteries, while of small caliber, being of high power. Their speed varies from twelve to over seventeen knots, while their light draught enables them to cruise in waters which heavier vessels cannot enter, and provides a means of escape when chased by heavier craft.

The ordinary iron or steel war-ship has one constant source of trouble, the accumulation of barnacles and marine vegetation, which gather thickly on their bottoms, checking their speed and demanding frequent docking, with its cost and loss of time. The composite gunboat is designed to overcome this trouble, by the use of wooden planking to form the under-water hull. On this a sheathing of copper is placed, since the marine animals and plants avoid this metal. If greater strength is required, there may be an inner sheathing of steel, the whole being joined together by composition bolts to prevent galvanic action. Vessels of this class will be of great utility in stations remote from docks, such as the Alaskan rivers and seas.

The official trial trip of the gunboat Wheeling took place on Saturday, May 29, on a twelve-mile course in San Francisco bay. She ran four hours at 231.4 revolutions a minute, with a steam pressure of 180 pounds, giving a speed of 12.75 knots per hour. Her working was entirely satisfactory, less coal per horse-power being required than by her sister ship, the Marietta, and the engine and fire-rooms were cooler.

By 1906 one of the oldest vessels of the New Navy was the gunboat Marietta, an unarmored composite vessel, upon which work was commenced in 1896 and completed little more than a year later. The Marietta is classified with the gunboats Dubuque, Paducah and Wheeling, although these little fighters were not exact duplicates. The Marietta, like the battleship Ohio, was built at San Francisco. She was 174 feet in length and thirty-four feet in breadth, and had engines of little more than 1,000 horse power, which enable her to jog along at a speed of about fifteen miles per hour. The namesake of Ohio's historic city is not, of course, designed for heavy fighting, her armament consisting merely of half a dozen four-inch rapid fire guns, seconded by a few six-pounders and one-pounders and a Colt.

The Marietta was built by the Union Iron Works of San Francisco, and is fitted with two Babcock and Wilcox boilers. The boilers were furnished by the Babcock & Wilcox Co. of New York City, whose works are also at Elizabethport. The same type of boiler has also been adopted for the gunboat Annapolis. In this boiler the water tubes are all straight, placed at an angle of 15 with the horizontal, and expanded at each end into forged steel headers. Openings are provided in these headers opposite the ends of the tubes, through which a thorough examination of each tube may be made, and the tubes cleaned and renewed when necessary. By means of a steam jet inserted between the headers all deposits of soot may be removed from the exterior of the tubes. Surmounting the sections of tubes is a steam and water drum 42 inches diameter and io feet long; all openings leading into and out of drum are 4 inches diameter. Steam to 200 pounds pressure can be raised from cold water in half an hour, this being a most important feature in boilers for a war-ship. The boilers are designed for a working pressure of 250 pounds.

On the trip from San Francisco to Key West Marietta in 1898 was in company with the battleship Oregon, and she steamed at an average of a knot per hour above her ordinary speed over the whole distance. During the American-Spanish War, with her Babcock & Wilcox boilers, she steamed 1 2,000 miles without a hitch or stoppage excepting for coal, and proceeded almost immediately afterwards to join the squadron on active service. The performance of the U.S. Oregon and the gunboat Marietta, in steaming from the western coast of America round the Horn to Cuba, a feat of long distance steaming which was not soon surpassed.

It was claimed by some engineers that water-tube boilers do not stand hard sea duty but it must be admitted by the sceptical that this was an instance of a type which had been weighed in the balance and has not been found wanting when steam was required. It was not found necessary during the voyage to slow or stop on account of, or to make any repairs whatever to the boiler. As might be expected, after such a voyage the furnace fronts needed relining, but this was not absolutely requisite, and the only order for material received by the boiler builders was for firebricks. After recoaling at Key West the Marietta immediately took her place with the squadron, and was afterwards engaged in active service.

By 1906 the American Naval Authorities to a large extent had adopted the Babcock & Wilcox type for forty vessels recently built, or building. These boilers had been made for Russian, Italian, Norwegian, Spanish, and Danish warships. In the merchant service boilers had been fitted to vessels on ocean cargo, and passenger service, on lake and river cargo, and passenger service, and on sea-going dredgers, river dredgers, ferry boats, launches, tugs, yachts, and barges.

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