bronze torpedo-----1914
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  1. #1
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  2. #2
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    Good little documentary on a lovely piece of machinery, But a horrible and deadly weapon of war, It would have been nice if we could have seen the little air motor which powered it.

  3. #3
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    WOW! Almost too pretty to use. Until now I assumed that torpedoes were always painted steel. Thanks for sharing.

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    There is an enjoyable local story on the S shore of Lake Ontario of a German Sub being used during Prohibition to launch torpedoes full of Canadian whiskey ashore.
    There is even a 35± year old Professor who runs from Historical Gathering to gathering collecting $100 to deliver his program on the era his father wasn't yet born for. The first time I heard his presentation I near fell out of my chair laughing.
    He also expounds on a well known Local Rum Runner exchanging machine gun fire with a Coast Guard boat. Really, that's interesting, Uncle Milt never told me that because it never happened. Milt relied on speed, and he would have been beaten to a pulp for shooting at the Coast Guard. Running rum was a gentleman's occupation. They knew who Milt was, knew where he lived and probably knew where he was landing the load.

    I politely asked how many quarts of alcy a torpedo housing could hold and still propel itself ashore. He was sure the compressed air into the tube did all the propulsion. Then why does the torpedo have 2 propellers?

    He's also an expert on stills. Oddly, my father built his first house in 25 with a cellar under the front porch for his stills. I still own one of the cookers.

    I sort of killed his Presentation business when I pointed out exactly 1 German Sub made it through the locks at Montreal, after the War to end all Wars, and it was in tow of the USS Iroquois to become a training vessel for the Navy Reserve on the Great Lakes. Records and photographs exist, including being tied up in Rochester for a War Bond drive. No records exist of a shipbuilder and photographer spending hours aboard copying the propulsion system for later use on MS Dolomite 1.

    I detest misrepresentation when facts are easily obtainable.

  5. #5
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    Franz:

    I agree with you and similarly have no use for BS stories that are given out as "history" by supposedly knowledgable people.

    In the rum-running days, as it was told to me and as I have read, the rum running vessels- at least on the salt water- were basically lighters. Cases of whisky were loaded aboard anything from fishing vessels to fast motor launches. Some of the fast launches used WWI surplus Liberty aircraft engines. These were water cooled engines, so quite adaptable to marine use.

    Years ago, I worked for a generator and engine dealer as their erecting engineer. I went out on jobs to field-design small power plants around used medium speed diesel engines (Fairbanks-Morse Opposed Piston, Alco, and Cleveland engines). I would then come back to see the plant through final construction and startup. Most of this work was overseas.

    The son of the founder of the firm was an elderly man when I knew him. He told me the story of how his father grew the firm. A portion of the profits were made in the bootleg days of Prohibition. Men looking to set up large scale illegal distilleries would come to this fellow's father and buy things like vertical firetube boilers, steam pumps, and other plant equipment. As the story went, when it came time to pay for their purchases, they always paid in cash and wanted no receipt, nor did they give any name beyond a first name. They would send a truck or two to haul the boiler and pumps and tanks off, usually to some remote spot in the Pine Barrens of New Jersey. Large scale distilling operations would be set up using the steam to run steam heated still boilers. The steam pumps moved cooling water thru the condensers.

    Predictably, these large scale distilleries would be raided and the equipment was seized. While the stills themselves would be destroyed, the boilers, pumps and common plant equipment would be impounded in a yard or warehouse. Eventually, the government would hold a public auction. This machinery dealer's father would meet the bidder qualifications as a legitimate ( this is debateable) business, and would bid on the equipment he'd sold the bootleggers. He'd usually get it back for small money. Back in his shop with a fresh coat of paint, it was all ready to sell back to the next group of bootleggers.

    This same machinery dealer profited greatly during the Depression. During the Depression, many of the few merchant ships were sailing with most of the crew made up of "work aways". A "work away" was a person who was supposedly working to pay for his passage aboard the ship. To avoid it being piracy or slavery, the laws called for paying these people a "token wage" which was usually a penny a week. Plenty of qualified men were shipping as work aways solely to get a dry place to sleep and some kind of food. The shipping lines used the work aways mercilessly, knowing there were always a few hundred unemployed and destitute men hanging around any pier where a ship was going to dock, looking for a berth. Where the machinery dealer came into it was simple. His offices were in Philadelphia, PA, as well as Wilmington, Delaware. In Wilmington, which is a port that had shipyards and related shops, he set up a bogus "ship repair" business. Other than letterhead and a few file cabinets, there was no actual ship repair business. When work like cleaning firesides of marine boilers or rebricking furnaces, cleaning bilges and re-applying red lead or bitumastic coating, rigging out parts and machinery for work, and a host of other jobs, the ship's engineers and captains would hit up the port engineer's office to get the work done by an "outside contractor". Often, this work was steered to the machinery dealer's ship repair business. What happened in actuality was the machinery dealer was paid for the job and might actually buy materials for it as part of the contract. The ship captains and engineers would simply put on a few more work-aways, amongst whom they would find guys who might have been boilermakers or machinists or marine firemen or similar. The work aways would be told to do the repair or overhaul work under the direction of the ship's engineers. The ship captain and ship's engineers were then paid a good chunk of the "labor costs" for the job by the machinery dealer. If any work away spoke out about the conditions, which were miserable at best, they were taken up on deck and shown the line of men hanging around the pier. The speech went: "if you don't like it, there's plenty more men waiting for your berth".

    I had an old acquaintance named Gus who owned a machine shop when I knew him. He told me that during the Depression, living in Philadelphia, there was nothing doing, not enough food to go around at home and no prospects of a job. A cousin was shipped as a work away, and got Gus aboard his ship as a work away. Gus said he did all manner of heavy dirty work in the engine room. When the ship did sail, he was carried as a coal passer/wiper (a rating that has since passed into oblivion in the US Merchant Marine). After some time, the chief engineer recognized that Gus had what it took, so brought him ashore to "write for his ticket" as a fireman/oiler/water tender. Gus was carrying a Third Assistant Engineer's license, steam vessels, Horsepower Unlimited when he finally drew his first real paycheck. Gus found out I was working for this machinery dealer, and he spat on his own machine shop floor, cursed all generations of that dealer's family, and said a spot in hell would be too good for any of them. Gus was one of those work aways that was "employed" by that machinery dealer's "ship repair" business.

    Gus shipped as a marine engineer during WWII, and although he was the son of German immigrants, he had no love for the Nazi government and even less for the U Boats. He referred to the Germans as "Herman", and said that sailing in convoys, he was always afraid that "Herman" would torpedo his ship. As an engineer, he was a ship's officer. As such, he told me, he was given a .38 caliber revolver at the start of each watch in the engine or fire room. His orders were to shoot any man who tried to abandon his post during a U boat alarm or worse, before an order to abandon ship was given. Gus said he used to put the revolver away and said that there were U boat alarms with resulting general quarters alarms aboard his ship, but no man ever left his post or tried to get up out of the engine or fire rooms.

    I did learn that our own US Navy torpedoes in WWII- aside from problems with being duds- were built to a degree of precision that was described as "tool room work". In the days before electronic guidance systems, fine mechanisms were needed to hold a torpedo on course. I believe in WWI, the first generation of torpedoes used a piston type engine run on compressed air. This was a radial engine from the remains of one I saw in a museum years ago.

  6. #6
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    Coming up when and where I did hearing of the Depression and the War years of shortages and privation, often hearing "if you were 5 years older, you'd know" I had a set of parameters built into my coming of age. Rochester was a major industrial town, perhaps with a much wider manufacturing base than other places built around mining or lumber or one of a hundred other products. Rochester also had a broad population base that required a multitude of newspapers to serve that population, and Social Clubs of over a dozen nationalities as well.

    You could walk the main streets of the city and go from nation to nation not hearing much English. The people who came after the First War to take any job and work every hour they could bought houses and built neighborhoods interacting neighborhood to neighborhood as they had in Europe's small nation-states. The high schools were the melting pot if one existed, but there was general agreement the Italians were on the bottom of the heap, after all, the government had wanted to ship them back before the War got started in Europe.

    The Depression had pretty much closed down the City High Schools because kids that age needed to be out hustling to bring even a penny into the house. Having a job in those years made you king of the hill, and if the wife had a job too, you could live like royalty.

    The Depression didn't really end until the US got into the Second World War, which everybody with their eyes open knew was coming. In 37 the City Schools made the brilliant patriotic decision to stop teaching German (that one still baffles me) in a city with a huge German population. 37 was also the year the high schools recruited industrial instructors, and moved academic classes to make room for teaching the skills that would be needed for wartime manufacturing as well as keeping military machinery moving. By 38 high schools ran 16 hours a day to produce war workers, and the anticipated recovery from the Depression in 37 had run into a brick wall.

    The ports and beaches of Great Lakes ports were littered with hulls of rotting ships abandoned by owners who had Bankrupted, and even with Japan buying scrap as fast as it could be loaded those hulks weren't worth cutting for scrap. The hull rebuilt into Dolomite 1 in 34 as an experiment in harvesting free sand from the lake bottom had come back into the yard and converted to a cargo carrier requiring a mere 7 man crew. The normal crew for a ship her size would be 14, but built in bulk cargo handling and other labor saving cut that, and her crew lived in luxury aboard with electric heat and cooking stove as well as hot showers.

    I have little doubt many employers were brutal bastards extracting maximum work for minimum pay, but I also consider such employers may have done so to stay afloat themselves. The Chandler provisions of the Bankruptcy Code didn't really begin coming into play until 38 and many plants were lucky to stay in business long enough to file under those new rules and preclude complete liquidation. Even the new Federal Home Relief and Social Security were brutal. FDR had resisted adding Negros to the people who could get Home Relief, claiming they'd never go back to work if the Government supported their families. Each and every town that paid out Home Relief had a fleet of Welfare Inspectors who stopped by unannounced to make sure everybody being funded was there, and no work was going on at the home.

    Social Security was another cruel deal, supposedly designed to retire older workers from the job pool so younger men could replace them, Social Security would begin paying a worker at age 65 to abandon his job. The unspoken reality was most industrial workers were dead and buried by 57.

    The Depression was a unique time around the world, an era very poorly documented and less understood. In 41 when the Draft began, one third of the initial callup was rejected for malnutrition and related illness, and another third was rejected because they could neither read or write. Companies that survived the Depression and provided jobs at even paltry wages had little choice to pay better if they were to survive. Other companies who could and did pay more mined the best workers in the local labor pool, and hit the ground running when war production started up. 1937 was the year Boeing put the B-29 intercontinental bomber on the drawing boards with zero government orders and no promise of any.

    Businessmen in the Depression were little different from businessmen of the 40s and 50s.


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