Locomotive Engines as Maritime Propulsion

USS ALASKA

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Was reading about the A. B. SEGER ( en.wikipedia.org/wiki/A._B._Seger ) and came across the statement that 'The little gunboat was powered by two locomotive engines with "cylinders bolted to the top of and axis parallel to" her boiler—also from a railway locomotive.' Also in the article was the statement that she was '...was acquired by the Confederate States Navy in 1861...' which would suggest to me that she was made before the ACW.

Was this sourcing of power common for smaller vessels? Were maritime and locomotive technology on par with each other at the time? Was locomotive machinery better or just more easily available? Or were loco engines better able to be supported given certain non-industrial locations?

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AndyHall

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This could certainly be done, but it would require a lot of practical re-engineering to make it work. You would probably have to fabricate new paddlewheel shafts with cranks to fit the stroke of the locomotive engines, as well as all the valving to connect the shafts to the engines and control the various slide valves that open and closed to control the steam going through the engines. This strikes me as an option of last resort, in part because it requires disassembling at least one locomotive.

I would also wonder why replacing the boiler and engines would be necessary, given that A. B. Seger was only a few months old at the beginning of the war. New Orleans Daily True Delta, 20 November 1860, p.3:

Seger.png
 
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rebelatsea

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This could certainly be done, but it would require a lot of practical re-engineering to make it work. You would probably have to fabricate new paddlewheel shafts with cranks to fit the stroke of the locomotive engines, as well as all the valving to connect the shafts to the engines and control the various slide valves that open and closed to control the steam going through the engines. This strikes me as an option of last resort, in part because it requires disassembling at least one locomotive.
Putting my railroad hat on, It could certainly be and was done for small screw vessels, locomotive engines by their very nature are quick running, it would take a lot of work and machinery to power a paddlewheel shaft
 

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This strikes me as an option of last resort, in part because it requires disassembling at least one locomotive.
Kinda what I was thinking. Were the railroads at the time so flush they had spares lying around that could be syphoned off for this sort of employment? And if it is too worn to be useful as a railroad engine anymore, do you really want to '...put to sea...' with it?

Unless the machinery was specifically ordered to be use in ship-borne duty - and there wasn't a 'motive'- less locomotive sitting around on some siding somewhere.

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John Hartwell

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#6
N.O. Times-Picayune, 28 Nov. 1861:
seger.png

I imagine a good second hand loco might be less cheaper than finding a suitable marine engine -- if the conversion exoenses weren't prohibitive.

ETA: In 1861, A. B. Seger was President of the N.O., Opelousas & Great Western Railroad -- so the steamer might well have been built for and by the railroad.
 
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Reading the posted newspaper article that she was used to deliver 'produce' to the western terminus of the New Orleans, Opelousas and Great Western Railroad, I wonder if she was originally build for/by the railroad specifically to service their freight hauling trains. Then perhaps the use of locomotive equipment would have made a great deal of sense in not overcomplicating the supply chain with one-off engine parts but rather using assemblies that one already knows and has training on.

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AndyHall

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Were the railroads at the time so flush they had spares lying around that could be syphoned off for this sort of employment?
Not generally. According to @DaveBrt 's CSA Railroads site, the New Orleans, Opelousas & Great Western was a sizeable operation, with 12 locomotives and 220+ pieces of rolling stock, but I doubt they had a lot to spare.

But the steamboat and the railroad were also paired -- A. B. Seger was Vice President of the railroad at the beginning of the war, and succeeded to become President and Superintendent in 1863.
 

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One option is that the Wiki listing is simply wrong. For many years, everyone "new" that the submersible H.L. Hunley was built out of an old locomotive boiler.
The info in the wiki article comes from DANFS - not that it can't be incorrect...

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Not generally. According to @DaveBrt 's CSA Railroads site, the New Orleans, Opelousas & Great Western was a sizeable operation, with 12 locomotives and 220+ pieces of rolling stock, but I doubt they had a lot to spare.
From everything I've read, they were a rather skinflint lot...those railroad execs...:smile:

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That description of A. B. Seger in the OP appears to come from a diary kept by Assistant Engineer Baird, U. S. S. Calhoun, and found in ORN 19:332:

November 2.--Jordan put out a kedge and ran the hawser to the paddle shaft. We backed the engine hard and the ship floated. The Kinsman, Diana, and Estrella had gone ahead, but before we could overtake them they had driven the rebel gunboat up the bay and had captured Berwick Bay, with the town of Brashear on one side and Berwick on the other. We had taken the sloop in tow, with one of the prisoners, Emile La Fontaine, in her to steer; she capsized and poor Emile was drowned. The rebels had run their locomotives into each other at Brashear City, and smashed them badly; they had burned the bridge over Bayou Ramas (2 miles), over Bayou Bœuf, 5 miles from Brashear, toward New Orleans. General Banks' army had advanced from Bayou La Fourche toward the Bœuf; the soldiers landed from the St. Mary's, and among them were mechanics locomotive builders and bridge builders. They found the parts which had been removed, and out of three or four wrecked engines they had one fit to run in three days. We gave them some tools, bar iron, etc., and they pressed not only the village smithy into service, but the smith himself. The bridges were restored by General Banks's soldiers. We did not capture the Cotton; she was too fast; escaped into Bayou Teche and obstructions were sunk across the bayou behind her. But we captured the A. B. Seger, a paddle-wheel boat about 55 feet long, with a locomotive boiler and pair of locomotive engines in her, the cylinders bolted to top of and axis parallel with boiler. It was evident she was short of displacement and down in the water out of all reason, hence slow.
 

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Based on what we have so far, I'd venture that the locomotive boiler and engines fitted in A. B. Seger were original to that vessel, not later replacements as I'd guessed.

The other thing that plays into this is that by 1860, Brashear City was quickly becoming a company town for Charles Morgan's Southern Steamship Company. Steamboats could land at Brashear City and their passengers travel by rail to Algiers, directly across from New Orleans. Depending on the timetable, this might shave some time off the transit between New Orleans and the Texas coast, compared to continuing on to the Southwest Pass and traveling upriver to New Orleans directly. Brashear City was subsequently renamed Morgan City, and remained a transit point for Morgan's steamship line until around 1880 or 1881, when a complete rail connection between Houston and Algiers was completed. Morgan bought the railroad at a sheriff's auction in 1869 and subsequently renamed it Morgan's Louisiana and Texas Raillroad.
 
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Forts Berwick and Chene were both within a few miles of Brashear City (now Morgan City), so this vessel was really more an extension of the railroad than a transportation route in its own right.
Quite a few forts located in the red boxed area...are they Union or Confederate?

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#18
I believe Berwick and Chene were both Confederate forts, to block the water route to Brashear City. Not sure what became of them later.
 

rebelatsea

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#19
I should have noticed before but it says the cylinder s were bolted to the top of the boiler. That's very common with a stationary agricultural engine, or with a road locomotive (traction engine). that would make more sense, with the connecting rods driving a pair of cranks on the paddle shaft.
 
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#20
Was reading about the A. B. SEGER ( en.wikipedia.org/wiki/A._B._Seger ) and came across the statement that 'The little gunboat was powered by two locomotive engines with "cylinders bolted to the top of and axis parallel to" her boiler—also from a railway locomotive.' Also in the article was the statement that she was '...was acquired by the Confederate States Navy in 1861...' which would suggest to me that she was made before the ACW.

Was this sourcing of power common for smaller vessels? Were maritime and locomotive technology on par with each other at the time? Was locomotive machinery better or just more easily available? Or were loco engines better able to be supported given certain non-industrial locations?

Thanks,
USS ALASKA
Just a few additions from my notes.
A.B. Seger (C.S. Navy dispatch boat). This small vessel was named after the vice-president of the New Orleans and Opelousas Railroad and appears to have been used as a "feeder" transport from the bayou country to the railroad depot at Brashear City. An advertisement in the New Orleans papers offered transport to the forts at Berwich and Chene, the vessel leaving Brashear City every Sunday upon arrival of the "noon cars" from Algiers. Seger accepted both passengers and light freight. R.H. Kerr was listed as her captain in 1861. (Ways, 1:0003). This had apparently changed by the summer of 1861, as Maj. Gen. John L. Lewis mentions her regarding an inspection tour of the defenses in the area, "...To Captain Carr my thanks are particularly due for the handsome and generous manner in which he placed not only his steamer, the Sigle (Seger), but his own valuable services as a pilot at my disposal..." (OR Ser I, v 6, Pt 1, 736) Union mentions include, "...The same night I captured the rebel steamboat A.B. Seger. She belonged to the C.S. Navy and was used as a dispatch boat, and was commanded by Lieutenant (Acting Master) I.C. Coons, C.S. Navy. The crew ran her on shore and deserted her. She is a small side-wheel boat of about 30 tons and not fit to go outside..." Rpt of LtCdr Buchanan, USS CAlhoun, Nov 9, 1862, Brashear City, La. (ORN WGBS pg 327) "....But we captured the A.B. Seger, a paddle-wheel boat about 55 feet long, with a locomotive boiler and pair of locomotive engines in her, the cylinders bolted to top of and axis parallel with boiler. It was evident she was short of displacement and down in the water out of all reason, hence slow...Captain (Edward) McLaflin's soldiers take charge of the Seger until we could put her in order, which Third Assistant Egineer Mars did later..." (ORN, WBS pg 332) "...The same night we captured the rebel steamer A.B. Seger. She is a small boat, about the size of the Fancy Natchez, and is very useful..." (ORN, WGBS pg 330) This vessel is mentioned in Union reports as late as June 9, 1863, "Your instructions as to steamboats Sykes, Segur and Southern Mrchant are approved..." MajGen N.P. Banks to BrigGen W.H. Emory, June 9, 1963 (OR, pg 543). A better idea of the size of the Seger is gained from hr comparison to the steamer Fancy Natchez. The Fancy Natchez was a side-wheel packet blt at Algiers, Oa., in 1858. She displaced 24 tons, had a length of 69.5 ft, a beam of 12 ft and a depth of hold of 3 ft (Ways Packets, #1980, pg 160)
 

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