Marine Classics
Marine Classics
Boat Designers
and Builders

0844 850 1940

Steam Boats and Launches

  Marine Classics make steam boats and launches. We can make  a steam boat up to around 10m/33'.

  The hull is optimised for use as a steam boat, with an efficient low wash form. This maximises the speed and range available from lower power steam boat engines. This style of hull was originally designed for steam engines. It was only later that they were fitted with electric then internal combustion power.

  Pictured below, John Thornycroft, who started making  steam boats around 1860.
 Pictured below is the steam launch 'Dolly' on lake windermere. She was built in 1850 and is the oldest steam launch still in existance.
steam launch dolly
steam launch by thornycroft

 We have a range of steam boat designs from 20-30 feet, and  we also custom design  boats to suit your requirements.

  The boats are built to your taste and ideas. We finish them to any stage you require. eg hull only, all woodwork done, or completely finished. We can also design and build a steam boat to suit any particular steam engine.

  Our steam boats are strongly built and long lasting. You can be involved in the design process to whatever degree you like.

Please see the Gentleman's Launch page for more details.

Call or e mail to discuss your requirements.

Steam Boats - History

   The steam boat evolved together with related technologies. Particularly in the areas of hull design, boiler, engine and propellor development.

  The first steam engines to be used widely were the Newcomen type, which were used mostly for pumping water out of mines. They uesd a simple kettle style boiler and an 'Atmospheric' engine, but were too heavy and inefficient to have any practical use afloat.

  The first succesful steam boat (paddle wheel driven) was built in 1807 by Robert Fulton, who also designed the first working submarine - the Nautilus. It was used as a ferry on the Hudson River in New York. It's engine was a Boulton and Watt. Based on James Watt's work making steam engines using higher pressures and a condenser. This makes the engine more efficient because the steam is not cooled in the cylinder as in the 'Atmospheric' engine. So reducing the hot -cold cycles of the cylinder which waste heat energy.

  The 'fire tube' boiler as first used in Stephenson's 'Rocket' locomotive, improved boiler efficiency significantly. It works because it gives the hot gases from the fire a much larger surface area to transfer heat to the water. So less energy is wasted up the chimney. A later but related technology is the water tube boiler.  Here the water is in the tubes, rather than fire being in the tubes;  this gives another efficiency improvement.

  The next major advance in steam engine technology was the compound engine. In 1805 Arthur Woolf had took out a patent on  the compound steam engine. This brought another large improvement in efficiency. The steam was expanded in two or more cylinders in sequence, which meant less energy lost on alternately heating then cooling the cylinders.
 Before propellors were developed, steam boats were powered by paddle wheels. These were less efficient  - as demonstrated by the tug-of-war competition between two equally powered and sized ships. The screw-driven HMS Rattler and the paddle steamer HMS Alecto. The screw driven vessel towed the paddle driven vessel backwards. However paddle wheels continued to be used on some river boats, where shallow draft was required, as with the famous Missisipi paddle steamers.

  The origins of the propeller start with spirals used to lift water - the Archimedes screw. These screws were inefficient  for driving vessels until 1835, when Francis Pettit Smith accidentally discovered the modern short blade propellor. He was testing a boat with an Archmedes style screw, when it broke leaving a piece shaped like a modern propeller. The boat went faster with the broken bit.

steam launch firefly

Back to the top of the steam boat page

Back to marine classics homepage