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Visiting the Torpedo Boats: 1906

Visiting the Torpedo Boats: 1906

New Orleans circa 1906. "Visiting the torpedo boats." The Porter and the Dupont. 8x10 inch dry plate glass negative, Detroit Publishing Company. View full size.


Railings, War, and Admiral Halsey

The railings at the stern gave the men working the aft torpedo tube a platform to stand on when making their final aiming and arming adjustments. When a torpedo was ready for a broadside launch, someone would need to go to the rear of the tube to double check the bearing, and someone would need to go to the front and pull the safety pin from the detonator. Not the most efficient platforms, but the men would only need to walk the rail for a few seconds. Railings like these are absent from later torpedo boats and destroyers because the tubes were then placed amidships where there was sufficient deck space.

Remember that sailors have been walking precarious yardarms for centuries. Walking out on these rails would have been nothing to the men.

The interest in torpedo boats at this time probably came from the Japanese use of this type of warship in their sneak attack on the Russian fleet at Port Arthur in 1904. There were a lot of write-ups about the attack and people were curious. Of course, the Japanese would find an even better way of striking a fleet in port with torpedoes 35 years later.

An interesting bit of trivia: the USS DuPont would get a new commander in 1909 named William Halsey, Jr., who would show the world how to use a navy very effectively later in life.

Top View

Here's a view from the top looking down. You can easily see why the fenders above the props were necessary.

Fenders vs. Guards

No, Greycat, landtuna has it right: they're propeller guards. Not that they worked very well, but fortunately they were rarely tested. A "fender", in boatspeak, is a resilient object placed between ships, or between ships and the dock, to prevent damage. Nowadays they're made of polypropylene, usually in bright colors. In that day they would have been wood, or possibly cork with a canvas cover.

Even for NO, this must have been some special occasion. There are a lot more people wandering around than usual, and of course you wouldn't have seen so many civilians looking over a Naval vessel in normal times. I note several black people, not surprising in New Orleans of that era, and that there are quite a few gay blades who have adopted the brand-new custom of putting creases in the crowns of their hats. The gentleman in the light-colored Stetson, aboard the Porter just beyond the bored-looking fellow who's looking back at the camera, is particularly stylish in that respect.

The odd-looking wooden frames both ships sport are supports for sunscreens. Pull canvas taut over the frames and the deck is shaded; spray sea water on the canvas and evaporation can make it remarkably cool underneath, a very useful device on the Gulf of Mexico in summertime before air conditioning came into common use.

Guard railings..

I'm not navy (was a ground pounder in the army) But I think they are called Fenders. Their purpose was to protect the propeller when the ship was at dock. They actually extended the width of the stern of the ship so that it was equal or nearly equal to the beam (width) of the ship. that gave adequate clearance for the propeller to spin without hitting the dock or anything else.

That's my two cents!

Re: Okay Navy Guys

Those are the propellor guards.

OK Navy guys

what are those guard railings called at the blunt end of the boats and what is their purpose?

Capt. Nat's Torpedo Boats

They were TB 6 and 7 in the Navy's numbering system. "Capt. Nat" Herreshoff was probably the most proficient designer of high performance, small steamships at the turn of the century (in addition to his sailing yachts for which he is more famous). They were equipped with custom made and specially balanced, four cylinder, triple expansion reciprocating engines located between the second and third funnel (according to L. Francis Herreshoff's biography of his father Nat, published in 1974). A construction drawing of the boats is published in this book on page 190. The book also records that they achieved 31 mph on the measured mile in sea trials, or about as fast as the first batch of destroyers produced by the Royal Navy in 1893, which were considerably longer. TB 6 and 7 were 175 feet long.

Riverfront Background

The background, to the right side, shows a few items that are still there. From the left, is the Jax Brewery (now condos and shopping center), the Pontalbo Apartments(in Jackson Square), and the to the right, the French Market.

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