By D. P.

The achievement of one triumph after another in the matter of high speed steamships, and especially the confidence with which pledges of certain results are given and accepted long before actual trials are made, form one of the most convincing proofs of the important part which scientific methods play in modern shipbuilding. This is evident in the case of ships embodying novel or hitherto untried features, and more especially so in cases where shipbuilders, having no personal practical experience or data, achieve such results. This was notably illustrated in the case of the Fairfield Co. undertaking some five years ago to build and engine a huge craft of most phenomenal form and proportions, and to propel the vessel at a given speed under conditions which appeared highly impracticable to many engaged in the same profession. The contract was proceeded with, however, and the Czar of Russia's wonderful yacht Livadia was the result, which (however much she may have justified the professional strictures as to form and proportions) entirely answered the designer's anticipations as to speed.

Equally remarkable and far more interesting instances are the Inman liners City of Paris and City of New York, in whose design there was sufficient novelty to warrant the degree of misgiving which undoubtedly existed regarding the Messrs. Thomson's ability to attain the speed required. In the case at least of the City of Paris, Messrs. Thomson's intrepidity has been triumphantly justified. An instance still more opposite to our present subject is found in the now renowned Channel steamers Princess Henrietta and Princess Josephine, built by Messrs. Denny, of Dumbarton, for the Belgian government. The speed stipulated for in this case was 20½ knots, and although in one or two previous Channel steamers, built by the Fairfield Co., a like speed had been achieved, still the guaranteeing of this speed by Messrs. Denny was remarkable, in so far as the firm had never produced, or had to do with, any craft faster than 15 or 16 knots. The attainment not only of the speed guaranteed, but of the better part of a knot in excess of that speed, was triumphant testimony to the skill and care brought to bear upon the undertaking.

In this case, at least, the result was not one due to a previous course of "trial and error" with actual ships, but was distinctly due to superior practical skill, backed and enhanced by knowledge and use of specialized branches in the science of marine architecture. Messrs. Denny are the only firm of private shipbuilders possessing an experimental tank for recording the speed and resistance of ships by means of miniature reproductions of the actual vessels, and to this fact may safely be ascribed their confidence in guaranteeing, and their success in obtaining, a speed so remarkable in itself and so much in excess of anything they had previously had to do with. Confirmatory evidence of their success with the Belgian steamers is afforded by the fact that they have recently been instructed to build for service between Stranraer and Larne a paddle steamer guaranteed to steam 19 knots, and have had inquiries as to other high speed vessels.

In estimating the power required for vessels of unusual types or of abnormal speed, where empirical formulae do not apply, and where data for previous ships are not available, the system of experimenting with models is the only trustworthy expedient. In the case of the Czar's extraordinary yacht, the Livadia, already referred to, it may be remembered that previous to the work of construction being proceeded with, experiments were made with a small model of the vessel by the late Dr. Tideman, at the government tank at Amsterdam. On the strength of the data so obtained, coupled with the results of trials made with a miniature of the actual vessel on Loch Lomond, those responsible for her stipulated speed were satisfied that it could be attained. The actual results amply justified the reliance placed upon such experiments.

The design of many of her Majesty's ships has been altered after trials with their models. This was notably the case in connection with the design of the Medway class of river gunboats. The Admiralty constructors at first determined to make them 110 ft. long, by only 26 ft. in breadth. A doubt arising in their minds, the matter was referred to the late Mr. Froude, who had models made of various breadths, with which he experimented. The results satisfied the Admiralty officers that a substantial gain, rather than a loss, would follow from giving them much greater beam than had been proposed, and this was amply verified in the actual ships.

So long ago as the last decade of last century, an extended series of experiments with variously shaped bodies, ships as well as other shapes, were conducted by Colonel Beaufoy, in Greenland dock, London, under the auspices of a society instituted to improve naval architecture at that time. Robert Fulton, of America, David Napier, of Glasgow, and other pioneers of the steamship, are related to have carried out systematic model experiments, although of a rude kind in modern eyes, before entering on some of their ventures. About 1840 Mr. John Scott Russell carried on, on behalf of the British Association, of which he was at that time one of its most distinguished members, an elaborate series of investigations into the form of least resistance in vessels. For this purpose he leased the Virginia House and grounds, a former residence of Rodger Stewart, a famous Greenock shipowner of the early part of the century, the house being used as offices, while in the grounds an experimental tank was erected. In it tests were made of the speed and resistance of the various forms which Mr. Russell's ingenuity evolved - notably those based on the well-known stream line theory - as possible types of the steam fleets of the future.

All the data derived from experiment was tabulated, or shown graphically in the form of diagrams, which, doubtless, proved of great interest to the savants of the British Association of that day. Mr. Russell returned to London in 1844, and the investigations were discontinued.