The eight torpedo boats of the Blakely class are twin-screw torpedo boats with 3 torpedo tubes, displaced 165 tons, and had engines of 3000 horsepower. The speed guaranteed was 26 knots per hour, to be maintained successfully for two consecutive hours, during which period the average air pressure in the fire rooms was not to exceed 4 inches of water, the vessel to be weighted to a displacement of 165 tons. There was no premium provided for excess of speed over that required by the contract, but it was stipulated that a penalty, at the rate of $ 12,000 per knot, was to be inflicted in case the speed fell to 25 knots, and that the Secretary of the Navy should reject her in the event of the speed being less than 25 knots. The weight of the machinery was limited to 80 tons, not to include stores and spare parts supplied by the Government, steam steering gear, steam windlass, dynamo engine and torpedo air-compressing machinery.
The battery consists of three 3-pounder semi-automatic rapid-fire Maxim guns, and three Whitehead torpedo tubes, the air compressor for which is of the Bliss type 1-A.
The hull is constructed of mild steel of domestic manufacture, with frames spaced 18 inches apart, except in the engine compartments where they are spaced to suit the engine-bed plate variations. The thickness of the keel plate is 10 pounds per square foot for a length of 100 feet amidships. The vertical keel is 15 pounds per square foot and 8 inches deep. The outer plating is 7 pounds per square foot; at the ends it is reduced to 5 pounds forward and 6 pounds at the stern. The vessel is divided into ten watertight compartments : first compartment, the trimming tank ; second compartment, windlass and engines; third compartment, officers' quarters - below the floor of quarters, stores and ammunition; fourth compartment, two boilers; fifth compartment, starboard engine room; sixth compartment, port engine room ; seventh compartment, one boiler ; eighth compartment, galley and crew space ; ninth compartment, crew space; tenth compartment, trimming tank.
There are eight coal bunkers, with a total capacity of 80 tons at 43 cubic feet to the ton. There are two hydraulic ash ejectors, one fitted in each fire room. There are two vertical, inverted, direct-acting, triple-expansion, four-cylinder engines, placed in separate watertight compartments, the starboard engine forward, and the port engine aft. In the cylinder arrangement the high-pressure cylinder of each engine is forward and the low-pressure cylinder aft. The cylinders are supported by vertical, forged-steel, cylindrical columns, stayed by forged and cast-steel ties and braces. Live steam may be admitted to both receivers. The main valves are of the single-ported, piston type, there being for each engine, one for the H.P., one for the I.P. and one for each of the L.P. cylinders. The I.P. and L.P. main valves are provided with balance pistons, the cylinders of which form part of the upper covers of the valve chests. The valve gear is of the Stephenson link type, with double-bar links. There are no independent cut-off valves, but provision is made to cut off in each cylinder.
The Shubrick, Stockton, and Thornton were built by the William R. Trigg Company, of Richmond, Va., on the general plan and specifications furnished by the Navy Department. The contracts for these two boats, together with that for the Stockton, were signed on November 16, 1898, the price being 5129,750 each, and the time allowed for completion one year. The price stated did not include ordnance and ordnance outfit and a few other articles supplied by the Government. The time for completion was afterward extended to May 1, 1901, for various reasons, the principal of which was the difficulty experienced in procuring material.
Although side launching on the Lakes is not an uncommon practice, the side launching of torpedo-boats Shubrick, Stockton, and Thornton was unusual. All three were built by the William R. Trigg Company, at Richmond, Va. These vessels were not launched sideways from choice ; on the contrary, the limited extent of land and water available at the time these vessels were laid down left the Trigg Company no alternative. The land at their disposal was a wedge-shaped piece of ground, bounded on two sides by the old James river and Kanawha canal and by the dock at the head of the same, and on the third side by the tracks of the Chesapeake and Ohio Railroad and of the Southern Railway. The canal is about 100 feet wide, and is normally about 15 feet deep, although this was increased by flooding during the launches to about 18 feet. The Shubrick's building slip occupied the apex of the wedge, and the Stockton and Thornton were built in a pair in the order named the vessels were launched in the order in which they have been mentioned.
In all the launchings a preparation of one pound No. 2 Albany grease to five pounds of beef tallow was used. The grease was boiled three hours and then mixed with the melted tallow. After application to the ways the surface was covered with lard oil. In very warm weather the proportion of the mixture was altered by the addition of five pounds more of beef tallow, which was put in after the original stock mixture had been heated. Shubrick, October 30, 1899; raining, warm. Vessel launched without shafting, rudder, or propellers. Rather slow in starting and rams had to be used. Entirely successful. Stockton, December 27, 1899; clear and cold. Shafting, propellers, and rudder in place. Grease very hard and vessel was very slow in starting. Did not start until after continued applications of the rams. Stern started first and gained about 6 feet start of the bow. Forward cradles strained, and some of the fastenings started. There was no damage to the hull. Thornton, May 15, 1900; clear and warm. Conditions the same as for the Stockton, except that about 23^ tons of pig iron was put in forward compartment to counterbalance the weight of shafting, etc., and to equalize and increase the pressure on the ways. Launch entirely successful. Rams unnecessary.
While having her standardization trials off Newport a serious accident happened to the Blakely by the breaking of the bottom of the port high pressure steam chest. Two new cylinders were required, and it was some months before the Blakely was again ready for trial.
The torpedo boat De Long, a sister to the Blakely, had successful trials on May 30, in Long Island Sound. The Blakely is ostensibly of 165 tons displacement but at the time of trial she displaced 196 tons, and in commission she must displace considerably more than 200 tons. The speed required by the modified contract was at the rate of 25 knots for the mean of two runs in opposite directions over the measured nautical mile, and 24 knots to be maintained for one hour. On her trials, May 30, these speeds were easily obtained, and the boat has been delivered to the government.
The torpedo boat Wilkes was designed for 165 tons displacement, but on the day of trial, June 6, 1902, it was 205 tons, and under service conditions it will be 261 tons. The modified contract required her to make at least 26 knots over the measured mile, and to maintain 24 knots for one hour. On the day of trial these requirements were easily fulfilled; 25 knots was maintained for an hour, with 374 revolutions.
Owing to the financial condition of the Columbian Iron Works, the Navy Department declared the Tingey contract forfeited, and was about to advertise for bids for completing her ; but a new company having been formed in Baltimore to operate the Columbian Iron Works, the Department decided to entrust the completion of the Tingey to this company.
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