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 Iron Water Tanks 
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Post Iron Water Tanks
In John M. Brooke's Pacific Cruise and Japanese Adventure, 1858–1860, there is an entry that mentions loss of water due to the lids not fitting properly.

I have to confess that I have not really thought much about the water tanks before. What type of lids did they have? Were there different designs? How did they stop them from rusting? Any good sources for more information?

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Fri Nov 30, 2007 8:39 pm
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Post Re: Iron Water Tanks
susan wrote:
In John M. Brooke's Pacific Cruise and Japanese Adventure, 1858–1860, there is an entry that mentions loss of water due to the lids not fitting properly.

I have to confess that I have not really thought much about the water tanks before. What type of lids did they have? Were there different designs? How did they stop them from rusting? Any good sources for more information?

Susan, I remember posting information about Lt. George Truscott's pump (invented 1811) in the pump thread here in the forum which was the key to developing iron water tanks. At first, Truscott's pump was used to move water from the wooden water casks in the hold without first moving the heavy casks to the upper decks. Probably prevented more than a few hernias, since it was a common injury.

Once the full containers could remain below, iron water tanks were tried. They were custom sized to fit each ship so there might not be many standard sizes. The comment in your post about the lids has piqued my curiosity also. I looked back at my notes and there is some information on pages 190-192 in Brian Lavery's "The Arming and Fitting of English Ships of War 1600-1815." By 1815, only a small percentage of RN ships had such tanks so the installation of these must have been more an evolution that revolution. I suspect that such tanks were installed when a ship was "rebuilt" if money, materials, and time were available. Since the Admiralty was constantly being bombarded with "improvements" by hopeful inventors, there might have been several styles of lids. Certainly the lids referenced in your post needed repair or replacement. The line drawing of tanks on page 191 in Lavery's book doesn't have enough detail to give the reader any clue about lids.

Since your post is closer to the time of the American Civil War than 1815 and early cameras were certainly being used by then, maybe a photograph exists somewhere, maybe in a dock photo of a tank and lid. What is the name of the ship in your post? Maybe by making a search using a period ship's name, some information could be found of her custom tanks & lids.

One interesting aspect of iron tanks that I remember was that since iron water tanks were custom fitted, they did not need to be nestled in shingle ballast and this ballast could be eliminated. I wonder if some of the foul smell disappeared too? I also remember reading that empty tanks could then be filled with sea water via Truscott's pump (in reverse) to maintain the ship's proper trim.

Don


Sat Dec 01, 2007 2:10 am
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Post Re: Iron Water Tanks
timoneer wrote:
Since your post is closer to the time of the American Civil War than 1815 and early cameras were certainly being used by then, maybe a photograph exists somewhere, maybe in a dock photo of a tank and lid. What is the name of the ship in your post? Maybe by making a search using a period ship's name, some information could be found of her custom tanks & lids.

The ship was the schooner Fenimore Cooper. I will have a look around when I have a moment.

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Sat Dec 01, 2007 3:29 am
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In Franz Ulffers' "Handbuch der Seemannschaft" (Handbook of Seamanship, 1872), the stowing of water tanks is described on p. 93 f. Ulffers calls them "Wasserkasten" also, "Kasten" meaning box, and that is what they were. They were not permanantly installed, but had to be stowed like other freight. Ulffers says that they could not be stowed directy upon the ballast (which was of course not longer shingle by that time but only iron), because they could be damaged by the ballast. Over the ballast a "platform" had to be made. Beams reaching from side to side of the hold should be laid in such a distance, that each tank rest on two beams. The Tanks had were cubic except those on the sides of the ship, where they were made to fit by one cut edge. Each tank had an opening on the upper side, by wich a man of normal size could get into it (I am not sure that if he means that a man could completely creep into it). The lid of the tank had a small opening, were a hose could be fitted. Tanks often had a valve to be able to empty them without any circumstance into the hold. Tanks could be stowed in two lays, but the upper needed a platform, too. The whole needed to be secured by pillars and plank between the tanks.

In Donald Canneys book about the Sailing Warships of the US Navy there is a wonderful plan of the sloop Plymouth (1844), where the stowed tanks in the hold are shown. There are apparently three different sizes of tanks, as far as I can see, and a number must be made specifivally for the hold of the Plymouth, as they fit exactly to the shape of the hull.
Some supplies are also stowed in wooden casks, too.


Wed Jan 02, 2008 9:49 pm
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Hi Brommy,

Thanks for posting that information! It certainly gives me a better picture of the tanks. I will see if I can find a copy of Canney's book.

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Fri Jan 04, 2008 5:05 am
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Post Re: Iron Water Tanks
In looking for information about caulking, I ran across the following:

"Tanks for holding fresh water, of which a small number only are now supplied to our cruisers, are built of iron plates, which should be galvanized. They are usually rectangular or about 4 feet square, and from 4 to 6 feet deep. They hold from 400 to 600 gallons, a gallon being .1604 of a cubic foot and weighing (imperial) 10 lbs. Tanks are generally flat-topped and flat-bottomed, but some have the lower edge of the base tapered off, that they may fit into the bilge of the ship; hence they are called bilge tanks. Each tank has a manhole and lid."

From A Treatise on Naval Architecture and Ship-Building (1869) by Commander Richard W. Meade, USN

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Tue Aug 10, 2010 6:41 am
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Post Re: Iron Water Tanks
Susan!

The first trials of iron tanks in the Royal Navy were ordered in 1809. (Samuel Bentham had experimented with the idea nine years earlier but his tanks were of wood with metal linings). The trial was enough of a success to ensure that 300 tanks were ordered from the Ironmasters Dickinson and Maudsley two years later, and a further 1000 in 1812. Further orders of this magnitude followed in the next three years.
The cost was £19 per unit with an extra 10 shillings for painting them (to prevent rust which had emerged as an early problem).

These tanks were not ‘made to measure’ so as to fit a particular ship. Indeed each tank seems to have been made with a standard capacity of two tons or tuns of water – that is about 440 gallons. According to the patent, they were rectangular and/or hexagonal in shape; and they were fitted in sequence in the lowest part of the hold with casks stored on top. Since a frigate would have carried some 110 tons of water, this meant that she would have needed 55 tanks to carry her complete supply. However, it seems clear from the limited amount of information available that few ships carried their entire water supply in iron tanks at thia time. In 1812 for example, it was reported that the 22 gun ‘Laurestinius’ had 24 tanks (ie 48 tons) and the 74s ‘Minden’, ‘Rodney’ and ‘Chatham’ an average of 56 tanks each (ie 112 tons.) As the requirement of all of these vessels was approximately double that of the volume that could be contained in this number of tanks, they must clearly have carried the rest in wooden casks.

The introduction of these tanks was indeed evolutionary. It was not until 1815 that the Admiralty even thought of making them a standard issue. Up to then it seems to have lain with the captain as to whether he ordered them of not.

I am indebted to Janet Macdonald (whose book on the Victualling Board will shortly be published by Boydell and Brewer) for most of this information.

Brian


Tue Aug 10, 2010 3:56 pm
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