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1:120 The Steamer Winans
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1:120 The Steamer Winans

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The Winans family, successful railway engineers from Baltimore, Maryland moved into marine engineering with enthusiasm and great expenditures of their considerable family wealth but with less success.  Their radical marine design concept included a patented ultra-streamlined spindle-shaped hull with minimum superstructure. The Winans believed that such a hull would perform better in rough seas and allow greater speed. Their hope was that their new “cigar ships” would revolutionize trans-oceanic travel.

The Winans marine construction was the steamer Winans, launched in Baltimore in 1858 with much publicity and fanfare. In addition to the spindle hull, the steamer had an even more radical patented propeller consisting of a disk of the same diameter as the hull, with vanes mounted radially over its full circumference. The hull was constructed in two separate halves with a steam boiler and engine in each and the propeller disk located amidships between them. The Winans felt that a propeller of this design, in this position would never be lifted out of the water regardless of how the vessel might roll or pitch.

Trials with the steamer quickly uncovered flaws in the design. The only connection between the two hull halves was the propeller shaft. Although the design included a cylindrical “sleeve” propeller shroud to hold the halves together, it could not prevent flexing that caused stress and leakage at the shaft stuffing boxes. The sleeve also created drag that worked against the streamlining afforded by the sleek new hull. And although the press releases indicated otherwise, the spindle hull did not meet the Winans’ expectations of smooth travel in any sea state. To make matters worse, the propeller wheel threw up a great amount of spray that soaked anyone on deck, even in calm water.

The Winans attempted to address the problems by lengthening the hull from its original 180 feet to an eventual 235 feet, thinking that finding the ideal ratio of diameter to length was the key to smoother running. They increased the size of the propeller blades, and enlarged and strengthened the inter-hull propeller shroud to reduce flexing. They eliminated the lower part of the new shroud to reduce its considerable drag. These changes did not fix the problems because, although the Winans designed and built at least three more cigar ships, none of the subsequent designs included the central propeller.

The modified steamer Winans as depicted in this kit remained dockside at Ferry Bar in Baltimore Harbor as a tourist curiosity for many years.

Learn more about all the Winans cigar ships at

Michael Crisafulli

Paper Model Details: 10-page PDF download. One page of ship history, 3 pages of construction diagrams, approx. 200 parts. Degree of Difficulty: 4/5.

Text written by Michael Crisafulli, copyright 2012, Used by permission.



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File Last Updated:
August 12, 2012
This title was added to our catalog on August 12, 2012.