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Vintage photos inside the shipyards where the revolutionary steamships were built, 1860-1900

 

During the reign of Queen Victoria (1837–1901), the British shipbuilding industry experienced great progress. Particularly after the Industrial Revolution, wooden shipbuilding techniques that had lasted for millennia changed radically with the introduction of steam propulsion and iron materials.

Iron was initially used to strengthen parts of the wooden hull and frame, but was gradually used for more components, with some ships using wooden hulls around the iron frame. and others used hulls made of iron plates. These iron vessels can be very large, with a lot of space for cargo.

Early steamships had stern or side paddles that were fitted to the steam engine. Paddle steamers were not suited to the open sea because in heavy seas the waves would lift one wheel out of the water while the other went right down, and this put pressure on the engine.

The major innovation that made sea-going steamers viable was the change in the mechanism of propulsion from paddle-wheel to screw-propeller. These steamships quickly became more popular, as the efficiency of the propeller was consistent regardless of the depth at which it operated. Being small in size and mass and being completely submerged, it was also very unlikely to be damaged.

Steamships typically use prefix designations of "PS" for paddle steamers or "SS" for screw steamers (using propellers or screws). As paddle steamers became less common, the "SS" is considered by many to stand for "steamship".


As steamships were less dependent on wind patterns, new trade routes opened up. The steamship has been described as a "major driver of the first wave of trade globalization (1870–1913)" and a contributor to "an increase in international trade that was unprecedented in human history".
During the Victorian era, Great Britain remained a leader in shipbuilding technology. The maintenance of his vast colonial empire required the services of an efficient navy. Therefore shipbuilding received considerable royal patronage.

By 1890, Britain was building ninety percent of the world's ships. The Royal Navy protected shipping routes and the government sponsored the shipbuilding industry.

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