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Strange paddle steamer ALLIANCE 1856

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Walter Snowdon:
For some time I have been trying to research a most unusual paddle steamer which was quite revolutionary in its time. This ship could also be linked to the article on BUNYIP in the chat section.
In 1854  George MILLS designed a revolutionary paddler for the Clyde estuary and with other huisnessmen started a company called the Clyde Improved Steamboat Co Ltd and the experimental steamer ALLIANCE was built to his design by Tod and Macgregor shipbuilders.
 She was a catamaran with several very advanced feetures of 140 feet by30foot beem. The following is a newspaper descrition of her.

  "The vesselis so designed that it is equaly the same which end goes first, nay, so constructed is a portion of her machinery that she may go latteraly or sideways like a crab, to go ahead , or to turn around in her own length like a pivot."
" Her shape is as follows: let an ordinary Clydesteamer of say, 140 foot long by 18 foot beem be taken with both ends alike, and be cut from end to end along the middle, each portion having one side built straight, so that it should form half a vessel, let these two halves be placed at a suitable distance from each other, so as to allow a paddle to work in a trough formed between them. The two parts are bound together, first with horizintal strips or braces below water at the keel, and again at deck level by means of beams and knees. The whole decked over and forming a broad ,firm platform with nothing protruding above it except the wheel, for machinary, boilers etc., will be placed in the hull below deck. Large salloons, with sides principaly of plate glass, will be placed on this platform and the whole decked over as a promenade. Two small paddle wheels, one at each end, worked by the donkey engine will be used for manoeuvring at piers". COULD THIS HAVE BEEN THE WORLDS FIRST BOW AND STERN THRUSTERS??.

ALLIANCE made her first trip on 3rd December 1856 and at 12 miles per hour proved rather slow for the racers on the Clyde. Her fully enclosed accomodation proved a great hit as did her full width promenade.
  She was then sold for service on the Mersey in 1861. Then in August 1863 She sailed for Nassau as a blockade runner and was captured at Savannah in april 1864.

She was sold by auction to a Boston company who altered her and sent her to MELBOUNE,  AUSTRALIA where she traded for a while. When gold was discovered in NEW ZEELANDshe went to to share the gold rush traffic and traded as "THE THREE FUNNELED, COVERED DECKED PADDLE STEAMER  ps NEW ZEELAND" trading  betwwen Dunedin ang the gold fields. after a couple of trips she  went aground at the entrance to Dunedin harbour and broke her back. There was no loss of life, but a great deal of her gold cargo was lost.
 So there we have it , a catamaran centre wheel sea-going paddler with bow and stern thruster, totaly encosed accomodation which sailed around the world, serving on three continents.
 Her design predates BUNYIP by 5 years, and I wnder, did her Australian builder get his ideas from articles published in the Scottish press?

There is a full contemporary description of ALLIANCE in  ECHOES OF OLD CLYDE PADDLE WHEELS by Andrew McQEEN published 1924 and reprinted 2001. There is also a good three page article on her in MODEL SHIPWRIGHT with illustrations, though I cant find my copy at present. Any one who can throw further light on this interesting ship would be most welcome. Cheers, Walter.

There is also an article in the 1985 issue of Clyde  Steamers, the Clyde River Steamer Club magazine
 This has a picture of a model of her credited to  the Merseyside Maritime Museum, so I imagine that museum may still have the  model in their reserve collection.
 There is an engraving of her in New Zealand after she was  converted to a conventional side-wheeler as well
 Alistair Deayton

Email reply, imported by  Paddleducks Mail System.


As I just said in the Bunyip item, the Bunyip was the second centre wheeled steamer built for/by William Randall.   I Know the Bunyip was 100 feet long and the Gemini was 77 feet long.  

I have the width of each hull of both the Bunyip and Gemini (not with me right now) but I am yet to determine the distance between the hulls.

After having already posted that the fore wheel was for steering I think I have mis-interpreted the text and that it may have only said there was a smaller wheel at the bow.  Will have to re-read that section.

I will also re-check the build date for the Gemini.  I still suspect the Alliance was built before the Gemini.  I will attempt to scan and post the photo of the Gemini.  It is sitting moored at Mannum with a barge.  The photo was taken in the 1860's and is therefore poor quality.  I think the barge is in front of the Gemini which is why I am having difficulty with it.

Sean Bryan:
I just recently read somewhere that the Bunyip may have had a second paddle wheel on one of the two hulls to make it easier to turn sharp bends...but nowadys its hard to know whats fact or fiction

Martin - according to the OZ publication I often refer to "Ships of the Inland Rivers" - PS Gemini was built in 1855 - from your comments I think you must also have a copy- I tried to scan the image from page 78 but as you said with the poor quality of the original snap 30mm x 50mm enlarged to A4 is totally usless - Derek


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