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The Roller Ship Ernest-Bazin

Bridge to the Castle.

The Ernest Bazin Roller Ship

September 17, 1896, Kingston Gleaner, Kingston, Jamaica


A very extraordinary vessel has just been lanched at St. Denis, near Paris. It is called the Ernest Bazin, after its inventor, and when complete will have cost 20,000. It is a roller steamship, consisting of a flat deck supported above the water by three pairs of hollow discwheels of steel. M. Bazin's object has been to increase speed by suppressing the friction of the water against the vessel as it is forced forward. This, he contends, he has accomplished by substituting for the ordinary hull of a vessel a sort of platform supported over the water by revolving lenticular shaped wheels. These wheels are to be made to turn in cadence or correlation with the forward impulsion given to the vessel by the screw. The boat is, therefore, not to be forced through the water, but is to roll upon the surface. The wheels have each a diameter of 10 metres. These convex wheels, which are, so to say, reduced to nothing at the edges, are 3 metres 60 centimetres thick at their axis. Being hollow they naturally act as buoys, and will, when laden with the superstructure, engines, coal, etc., be immersed in the water about 3 metres 30 centimetres. The motive power of this trial vessel is 750 horsepower.

Mr. Ernest Bazin states that a vessel of the same tonnage, with the same motive power, would steam at the rate of about 10 knots an hoar, whereas his rolling boat will attain a speed of between 18 and 22 knots. About 550 horse-power will be employed to propel the screw, and the remaining 200 horse-power for the rotation of the wheels. The rolling boat will be able to steam at the same speed as the quickest Channel boats, at less than half the cost in coal, and by consuming the same quantity of coal the speed will be doubled.

M. Bazin has prepared plans for a great Transatlantic vessel, with four pairs of wheels. According to his calculation, this vessel would steam at the rate of 60 kilometres an hour that is to say, he contends it would go at the speed of an ordinary express train. On the platform will be placed the engines, boiler, passengers cabinsand the dining and other saloons. The wheels will be about 24 yards in diameter, and will have a revolving circumference of about 75-1/2 yards.

A new hydraulic rudder has been invented by M. Bazin. It consists of a vertical column, at the stern of the vessel. From this movable column will escape a powerful jet of water. It is claimed that with this rudder a vessel will be able to turn on her own length, and to dispense with the services of a tug in going to her anchorage. It will therefore, be provided with two independent engines one to propel the vessel forward by meats of a screw, the other to give the wheels their rotatory motion. The correct correlation being established, it is estimated that 60 per cent, of the revolution of the wheel will be forward. The voyage from Havre to New York would at this rate occupy a little under 100 hours. The Ernest Bazin, which is a trial steamer, is coming to London as soon, as finished.

May 20, 1897, Danville Republican, Danville, Indiana



In the summer of last year mechanicians, ship-builders, seafaring men and the general public were in ecstacies and excitement over a new invention which was to revolutionize the naval art and solve the problem of transatlantic rapid transit.

This invention took the form of a "roller steamboat." It was first conceived of some two or three years ago by M. Ernest Bazin, a distinguished French engineer. Not until last August, however, was he able to launch a tentative vessel built according to his specifications.

To recapitulate briefly it is a large rectangular iron box, about 120 feet in length, 40 feet, wide and 5 feet high. It is mounted on six lenticular disks or rollers, 30 feet in diameter, and sunk in the water 10 feet, while the lower floor of the box is at an equal distance from the level of the water. In the sides of the box is the machinery, which is of 750 horse power. This sets in motion a screw and the rollers. In the upper part of the vessel, between the disks, which pierce the box and extend beyond it about seven feet, are comfortable cabins. This strange looking vessel has a displacement of 280 tons.

M. Bazin predicted that his ship would have a speed of sixty miles an hour, or a mile a minute. Now, such a speed as that would indeed create a revolution. The fastest express trains on the continent could not exceed it. The fastest transatlantic steamer can hardly do half as well. At this, rate Paris would be only four days' distant from New York, and it might be possible to circumnavigate the world in a little less than a month. Well, the launch was effected in due time on August 19, 1896, at the Cecil dockyards, on the Seine. A vast crowd gathered, there were speeches and rejoicings and general wonderment; but it was not until last week that the strange craft was ready for the final test.

The experiments are still under way la Rouen. Alas! they do not so far carry out the sanguine expectations of the designer. Instead of sixty miles an hour, the Ernest Bazin could barely make a dozen. Instead of being a greyhound, it was a sloth. This failure is due to many reasons. The chief of these, and the one which touches the very principle of the invention is in the lack of speed in the rollers.

M. Bazin had made the mistake of imagining that a low rate of power would suffice to move the rollers, and that to conquer their vis inertia he had calculated on an average of fifty horse power to every axle. He had lost sight of the fact that every one of the three axles carried one-third of the weight of the upper part of the entire structure, or say a little over one hundred tons. Further, the trial trips have proved that the rotation of the rollers entailed the additional weight, through adherence, of a large volume of water, and a considerable loss of power in consequence.

M. Bazin had hoped to remedy this defect by rubber paddles, whose office was to beat back the waters, but it needs no great mechanical knowledge to recognize that these that these paddles worked somewhat like brakes upon the wheel of a carriage. The power of the machinery was tripled, but in doing this their weight was also tripled. The result was too great an immersion of the ship. Now, the original calculations had called for a displacement of one-third of their diameter as the highest limit of effective working. This limit being passed by the increase in weight the situation seemed to be hopeless.

Wednesday, February 8, 1899, The North Adams Evening Transcript, North Adams, Massachusetts

The old idea held for so many years by mariners that the roller ship was to be the craft of the future has at last been exploded. Bazin's roller ship, the Ernest Bazin, of which so much was expected, now lies at its dock in Hull a pathetic monument of misdirected energy. She was to have revolutionized the form and construction of all our swiftest passenger steamers, and a fortune of $100,000 was expended in building her. It was Bazin's idea that a ship's progress through the water could be facilitated by rolling over the waves instead of forcing a passage through them. It was one of those ideas which only a good fair trial could either establish or disprove. The trial has been made, and now the roller boat belongs to the popular superstitions that have been forever exploded. On her trial trip this unique vessel realized scarcely one-half the speed anticipated and was sold at a fraction of her original cost to be dismantled and broken up.

The Ernest Bazin is a very peculiarly constructed craft. The six huge hollow rollers are about 35 feet in diameter and 12 feet thick. Their shape closely resembles two saucers having their edges joined together. About one-quarter only of each roller is submerged, and no part of the hull of the vessel touches the water. The deck, some 130 feet long and 44 feet wide, is elevated some distance above the water line arid carries the superstructure devoted to passenger accommodation and machinery spaces. The method of propulsion is by the usual screw, rotating in an inclined position between the rollers and driven by a 500 horsepower engine. The rollers themselves also possess independent motive power In the form of a smaller engine connected with each pair of wheels.

June 26, 1899, London Daily Mail (Advertisement)



Near Tower Bridge
Admission Sixpence

October 9, 1899, London Daily Mail, London

Who Wants the Roller Ship?

The famous rolelr steamer, Ernest Bazin, which was to revolutionize the Atlantic shipping trade and banish sea-sickness, is "to abe sold at a very low price to an immediate purchaser."

So a circular of Messrs. B. T. Brown and Co. 22 Great St. Helen's, E.C. informs us. From the same souirce it is gathered that "the engines are boilers have been very little used."

The vessel, which, it may be remembered was built at great expense by the Societe Cail, at St. Denis, has, as a matter of fact, been used chiefly for exhibition purposes.

Her fate now is probably to be a houseboat or a floating ferry or bridge.


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Sources: As noted on entries and through research centers including National Archives, San Bruno, California; CDNC: California Digital Newspaper Collection; San Francisco Main Library History Collection; and Maritime Museums and Collections in Australia, China, Denmark, England, Finland, Germany, Ireland, Wales, Norway, Scotland, Spain, Sweden, etc.

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