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Hotchkiss Cones - 'For every craft of every draft'


davidwheeler

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Does anyone remember this system of propulsion? There is a bit about them in Waterways World May 1997, and rather more in Maritime South  West No 19. It was installed in a few narrowboats in the 1950s. One may still survive - I think 'Chance 11', which I noted on the Shropshire Union a few years ago. It was looking forlorn. I do not know if it still exists, with or without the system.

The attraction for narrowboats, particularly butties, was that it allowed a propulsion system without drilling through the sternpost and cutting into the rudder for a propeller. They were fitted in our boat.

If anyone has any recollections of the Cones in use, or knowledge of any boat in which they were installed, I would be glad to hear them.

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1928-The-Hotchkiss-Internal-Cone-Propell

 

 

There was a unit the same as the left image on the canal bank below Common moor on the offside for a number of yars. Probably been removed and scrapped this was back in the mid 00s

  • Greenie 1
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Its all rather contrafleurbious and technical. 

Nor can I. 

 

 

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Someone once described the hotchkiss cone as "consigned to history, and that's the best place for it" - although I understand an early hotel boat pair had one in the butty, and when the motor boat lost power the butty took over at the front of the convoy which raised a few eyebrows....

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Presumably some sort of surface piercing jet pump. 

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56 minutes ago, davidwheeler said:

Completely helpless across the Ship Canal, we would take off the inspection plates of the Cone - six bolts - and unbolt the offending paddle - four bolts - bash the paddle back into shape, refix it, close the Cone inspection cover start,  the engine and get back out of the way before the next barge

So I assume the top of the cone was above water level.  So the system would only suit shallow drafted boats.

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Certainly the top of the Cone was above water level. However that was just within our own boat. Mr Hotchkiss did not design the system specifically for shallow draft vessels. His vision was that his system would propel any boat or ship, of whatever size. I have a drawing prepared by him and published in his 3rd catalogue, of a large liner with fifteen Cones on each side, electrically driven. Dating from 1933, he made this claim:

"1. A practically unsinkable ship, the whole propelling power being automatically turned into a Pumping Plant in any emergency.

2. A vibrationless drive, independent of draught and which never races in a seaway.

3. Elimination of rudder, steering engine, stern spectacle framing and complicated stern.

4. Much better manouevring, which is also independent of steerage way.

5. Provision of a fire pump of outstanding capacity.

6. Absolute safety from breakage.

7. Absolute safety from breakdown. Many independent units being employed.

8. Safety from detection by hydrophones of enemy submarines.

9. Higher efficiency both ahead and astern.

With lower first cost of the whole ship".

Not all these claimed attributes helped us much in our ex FMC butty. Most, we found, did not apply at all. We certainly avoided attack by submarines, but any manouevre was challenging and breakdowns were frequent. But in those days, what other system of propulsion for a butty was available at pretty modest price?

It was Mr Hotchkiss' claim, and I am sure his belief, that his system could and should have powered Cunard's Queen Mary and  Queen Elizabeth. Unfortunately for him, others did not agree. So he never got the chance to install his Cones in a large sea-going vessel. But they were used in quite large ferries, and Polish gunboats.

 

 

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29 minutes ago, davidwheeler said:

Certainly the top of the Cone was above water level. However that was just within our own boat. Mr Hotchkiss did not design the system specifically for shallow draft vessels. His vision was that his system would propel any boat or ship, of whatever size. I have a drawing prepared by him and published in his 3rd catalogue, of a large liner with fifteen Cones on each side, electrically driven. Dating from 1933, he made this claim:

"1. A practically unsinkable ship, the whole propelling power being automatically turned into a Pumping Plant in any emergency.

2. A vibrationless drive, independent of draught and which never races in a seaway.

3. Elimination of rudder, steering engine, stern spectacle framing and complicated stern.

4. Much better manouevring, which is also independent of steerage way.

5. Provision of a fire pump of outstanding capacity.

6. Absolute safety from breakage.

7. Absolute safety from breakdown. Many independent units being employed.

8. Safety from detection by hydrophones of enemy submarines.

9. Higher efficiency both ahead and astern.

With lower first cost of the whole ship".

Not all these claimed attributes helped us much in our ex FMC butty. Most, we found, did not apply at all. We certainly avoided attack by submarines, but any manouevre was challenging and breakdowns were frequent. But in those days, what other system of propulsion for a butty was available at pretty modest price?

It was Mr Hotchkiss' claim, and I am sure his belief, that his system could and should have powered Cunard's Queen Mary and  Queen Elizabeth. Unfortunately for him, others did not agree. So he never got the chance to install his Cones in a large sea-going vessel. But they were used in quite large ferries, and Polish gunboats.

 

 

 

Are these cones meant to be driven independently, and varying the output of each could provide better steering?  Assuming a pair. 

 

 

 

 

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5 minutes ago, Higgs said:

 

Are these cones meant to be driven independently, and varying the output of each could provide better steering?  Assuming a pair. 

 

 

 

 

 

The diagrams I have seen show a simple bevel gear drive between the two cones so they would both rotate at the same speed. I base that on size and shape. If they had used a differential unit and brake bands on both cone drives, then you could achieve different speeds on each cone.

  • Greenie 1
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I  recently mentioned  in another thread , the original trip boat at Uppermill on the Huddersfield Narrow & Shallow Canal. This had the Hotchkiss system, quite suited to that location at the time, 20 to 25 years ago. I remember it being  slow and not  very steerable. The boat as I recall .was 70ft long and may have been an iron Joey from the midlands. It was called Moonraker, a reference to the traditional story of locals attempting to recover the Moon from the canal! It was replaced by a conventional boat and sold , I think, to the organization that restored the canal arm (near Warwick?) that I can't remember the name of right now where they used it as a trip boat for some years. It may have had a wooden bottom which could explain  it becoming derelict.

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Hotel boat "Saturn" had one fitted when I worked for Peter Froud in 1962/4 driven by Ford petrol engine, it was fitted midships and was very handy for towing "Jupiter" above Ellesmere on the Llangollen Canal when we had to lift the counter about 12" to get up the feeder.

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13 minutes ago, billh said:

 to the organization that restored the canal arm (near Warwick?) that I can't remember the name of right now where they used it as a trip boat for some years. It may have had a wooden bottom which could explain  it becoming derelict.

Saltisford Arm Trust

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7 hours ago, Tony Brooks said:

I have a feeing that Morgan Giles fitted one/some in their GRP hire narrowboats. It is all a misty now, but I have an idea that Maid Line operated then from what is now Rose Narrowboats.

I watched The Maid Line fleet being dragged out up the slip at Stretton Stop every Winter during the 60s.  They were all standard propeller driven.  I don't know about the Thames based craft.

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Thank you for this information. Please keep it coming.

I am not sure who first started fitting Cones to canal boats. I would like to know.  Or when.  It may have been in the late 1940s or very early 1950s when there were numerous redundant wooden butties. Anyway, late in the day for the Cone, which first appeared  reviewed in Engineering in August 1927. Cones were a simple and relatively easy way to motorise butties. I am unaware of any commercial carrying of goods with them - the few I know about were conversions to trip boats or hotel boats and a few private boats such as ours, converted shortly after the last WW. If anyone is aware of other narrowboats having them, I would be interested to learn of them.

This was not Mr Hotchkiss' aimed market. He had much grander ideas for his invention. He did carry out tests on the Thames with a basic hull design, which had it attracted buyers could have been used on the canal network but the real problem remained - the Cones just did not provide the same thrust per horsepower as a screw.

Not that Mr Hotchkiss accepted that. Because we experienced these problems, particularly evident, and quite disconcerting, on the River Severn, we asked his advice. He came up from his base in Poole to the Stroudwater Canal, jumped into the water, swam under the boat, and emerged telling us severely that the Cones had been wrongly placed too far forward. He was then in his very early seventies. Indeed, shortly before his death. The blame lay with us and not with the Cones. I am sure that he was convinced of that. We probably added to the problem by replacing the Navigator with a Commander diesel, more powerful but that power did not transfer itself into more thrust. 

It may be said that the Cone was an unsuccessful invention but that is not a fair assessment. Where the Cones did prove their worth was in conditions where screw propulsion would have been vulnerable: in shallow water, in feed invested  areas or where areas there was a risk of grounding. They were used in many parts of the world under those conditions, and repeat orders confirmed their success. It was said of his own boat, Cone propelled, that it needed only a heavy dew for it to navigate. And someone who had been with him on his boat told me that he could well believe it.

 

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