To avoid trenching upon the sweeping claims set up by Mr. Watt in the specifications of his patents, Mr. Symington was compelled to resort to several peculiar contrivances; which we shall proceed to exhibit by the annexed enlarged section of the engine only, taken from Mr. Symington, Junior's, account in the Mechanic's Magazine. It had two cylinders open to the atmosphere at the top, and each cylinder had two pistons, the lower ones acting as air pumps: a and b are the cylinders; a being in the act of receiving, and b of condensing the steam; c the steam pipe; d d atmospheric pistons, producing, by their alternate action on the ratchet wheels, a rotatory motion; e e are the exhausting pistons; f f steam valves; g g exhausting valves; h h foot valves; i i discharge valves; llinjecting pipes; withe beam. Notwithstanding the decided success of the experiment, Mr. Miller, most unfortunately, suddenly abandoned the scheme, and Mr. Symington, not having the necessary funds himself, was unable at that time to follow it up. In 1801, however, he commenced a series of experiments on the Forth and Clyde canal, under the auspices of Lord Dundas,ofKerse, with the view of substituting the power of steam for that of horses in towing vessels on canals.
These experiments were highly successful, but the proprietors of the canal, apprehending that the undulation created in the water by the paddle wheels would injure the banks, would not adopt the plan, and to crown Mr. Symington's disappointment, the Duke of Bridgewater, who was in treaty with Mr. Symington for the construction of eight tug vessels for the use of his canals, died about the same time, Mr. Symington receiving the news of his death on the same day that the decision of the canal proprietors was notified to him. These accumulated disappointments appear to have been too much for his spirit, and he retired from the pursuit in despair.
The cut above represents a partial section of the Charlotte Dundas, one of the vessels constructed by Mr. Symington for Lord Dundas, and which in the month of March, 1803, towed two laden boats, of 70 tons each, a distance of 19 1/2 miles along the summit level of the canal, at the rate of 3 1/4 miles per hour, with a strong breeze right a-head. The vessel was fitted with a cylinder of 22 inches diameter, and 4 feet stroke.
At a is the cylinder, placed horizontally; b friction rollers supporting the cross head of the piston rod; from the underside of the cross head short arms c project, to which are attached side rods d, giving motion to the bell crank lever, which works the air pump rod, as also the plug frame e, which regulates the valves to the boiler; g the steam pipe; h h the steam valves; ii eduction valves; k eduction pipe; lthe condenser, which, with the air pump m, is placed in the cistern n; o is the man-hole; p the safety valve; q the paddle wheel, situated in a cavity in the centre of the stern of the vessel, which was open below and behind to the water; r the crank; s the connecting rod. The boat was steered by two rudders connected by iron rods, and wrought in the fore part of the vessel by the steering wheel, t.
About the time that Symington retired heart-broken from the field, a new adventurer appeared upon it, who was destined to achieve for steam navigation a station from which it never after receded, but on the contrary, has progressed rapidly to the present time. This was the celebrated Fulton, who, by his energy and perseverance, finally overcame the difficulties of all kinds which opposed him in the undertaking, and is generally, and in one point of view perhaps not unjustly, considered the inventor of steam navigation.
Fulton, who was born in Pennsylvania, came over in 1786 to England, where he continued to reside many years, during which time he became known to the Duke of Bridgewater, Earl Stanhope, Dr. Cartwright, and other individuals occupied with, or taking an interest in, steam navigation, with some of whom he corresponded upon the subject. In 1796 he proceeded to Paris, where he became acquainted with Mr. Livingstone, then minister from the United States to the French government. Mr. Livingstone had been engaged in some experiments in steam navigation in America, and, impressed with the importance of steam-boats to his native country, he advised Fulton to turn his mind to the subject. It was agreed between them to embark in the enterprise, and immediately to make such experiments as would enable them to determine how far, in spite of former failures, the object was attainable, and to Fulton was left the principal direction of these experiments. In the course of these experiments, which were principally made with small models, he tried many of the modes of propulsion which had been at various times proposed, as pumps, endless chains with floats, etc.
He likewise appears to have returned to England for a short time, and to have visited Mr. Symington, whilst the latter was engaged in his experiments on the Forth and Clyde canal; and it is stated that Mr. Symington, to oblige him, got up the steam on board the vessel, (the Charlotte Dundas,) and proceeded, with Mr. Fulton on board, about 4 miles and back, and that he furnished, or allowed Mr. Fulton to take, notes and sketches of the boat and apparatus. Mr. Fulton finally decided in favour of paddle wheels, and proceeded to construct an experimental vessel on the Seine. The length of the vessel was 66 feet, and her width 8 feet, and in the autumn of 1803 he made a trial of her, from which he acquired such confidence, that orders were transmitted to Boulton and Watt to prepare a steam engine to be sent to New York, and Fulton returned to England to watch its progress. In 1806 he returned to America to construct the vessel, and in the spring of the year 1807, she was launched; and the engine was fixed in her by Boulton and Watt's men. This vessel, whose renown will outlive that of the Argo, was named the Clermont; she was 133 feet long, 7 feet deep, 18 feet wide, and 160 tons burthen.