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248 Seen in Germany

should go far toward interpreting the genius of
German builders.

As in other branches of art, the ship-builder must
work within certain circumscribed limits. He is
walled in by the practical and the expedient. If he
might suit his own fancy, what a wonder of a ship
might he build ! But there are certain inexorable laws
of nature as well as laws of man which he must ob-
serve. They are like the rules of a race which every
ship-builder, be he German or English, must observe,
and if he makes his extra half-knot in spite of the
rules, he is the greater genius.

For instance, if the ship-builder could make his
vessel of any depth he might build much larger and
there would be practically no limit to his speed ; 40
knots would be almost as easy as 23. But he must
construct his ship so that it will float into the harbor
at New York and Liverpool and Hamburg, where
the channels are hardly beyond jo feet in depth. At
the same time, if he would have her make a high
speed he must fit her with enormous engines, and
yet if his engines are too large his vessel wdl not
carry enough coal to get her across the Atlantic and
leave any room for passengers. If he increases
breadth to make her carry a larger load, — in other
words, if he makes her " tubby," — he cannot drive
her through the water at the required speed. On
the other hand, if he makes her too long in propor-



How the Germans build Ships 249

tion to her breadth and depth, she will break her
back with the enormous weights which she carries
and the thrust of her machinery. And yet one is
astonished at the immense length of the great liners
in proportion to their width. Builders have been
increasing length year after year with practically no
increase in width. One standing on the bridge of
nearly any of the greater ships, if he have a keen
eye, may see her body bending with every wave like
a huge bow, — only a little, but bending. This is
not a sign of weakness, but a tribute to the skill of
the builder, for a ship built so as to be absolutely
rigid, if that were possible, might soon be racked
apart.

These are only a few of the difficulties with which
the builder must wrestle, but they will serve to indi-
cate fiintly the delicacy and intricacy of the art —
the necessity of striking just the proper proportions
of depth, length, breadth, weight, so that the vessel
will derive the greatest possible speed from the work
of her engines.

After these problems of size and proportion are
settled there is the further difficulty of the balancing
of the great ship. The layman, seeing some such
vessel as the " Deutschland " afloat with the line of
her red bottom just level with the green line of the
sea, little appreciates what problems have been sur-
mounted in producing such splendid steadiness.



250 Seen in Germany

Here are engines and boilers weighing thousands of
tons ; here are bunkers which must be loaded with
other thousands of tons of coal ; here are hundreds
of tons of other machinery, water tanks, cargo, and
so on. They must all be so arranged in the long
narrow shell of the ship that she lists neither to right
nor to left, and so that throughout her whole 700 feet
of length, more or less, she never sinks more than a
few feet deeper at one end than at the other. Then
there is the problem of preventing the vibration of
the propellers as nearly as may be from shaking the
ship, of ventilation, and of providing a strong
draught of air to the furnaces forty or fifty feet be-
low the upper deck, — all these, and many other
problems quite as difficult, must be solved before the
first plate of steel for the ship is ordered.

Then there are other handicaps. The marine in-
surance companies — the Lloyds — must be placated
to the last degree, for their men are on hand to watch
every step in the building of the ship. She must
conform, for .instance, to the hundred and one rules
of safety ; her forward ribs must be especially strong
to resist ice or collision, she must have so many
pumps, so much fire-fighting apparatus, so many
water-tight compartments, and so on, else insurance
cannot be obtained for her. Next there are two gov-
ernments to step in and make further regulations
which must be obeyed. Few people realize with



How the Germans build Ships 251

what jealousy a government watches its ship-builders
to see that proper accommodations are made for pas-
sengers and crews and that the vessel is provided with
safety appHances. The laws of Germany on this
subject fill a small book, and the regulations are iron-
clad, even to minute details. For instance, the law
specifies the size of berths ; they must be at least so
long and so broad, so high from the floor, and so far
from the ceiling. There must be 2.8 square feet of
room for each passenger on the promenade deck and
so many cubic yards of space in each state-room.
There must be a boat of a certain specified size for
every 100 passengers, and a life-belt of a certain
buoyancy for every person. The law specifies the
minimum limit of medicines, provisions, and water
that must be carried, and sufficient room must be
made for all of these things. The window ports
must be a certain distance above the water line, so
that they may be opened in good weather ; the stair-
ways must be at least so broad ; there must be hospi-
tals for each class of passengers with four beds for
every 100 persons, and so many ventilators for pro-
viding fresh air for the cabins and steerage. And
when all the German regulations are complied with,
the American laws go still further and demand hand-
fire-pumps and a drifting anchor, so that the ship may
be steered in the remote possibility of a loss of both
her propellers and her rudder.



252 Seen in Germany

In addition to all this handicapping in the race
for speed, the imperial government of Germany
steps in and demands the military accessories and
equipment to which I have already alluded.

With such formidable limitations before him the
ship-builder must plan his vessel, and if he succeeds
at the last in making a beautiful ship and a record
speed, great must be his honor, and great the honor
of the nation to which he belongs.

The casual visitor at a great ship-building estab-
lishment is rarely aware of the importance of this
preliminary work in which the genius of the supreme
craftsman has its keenest expression. He sees a few
absorbed men in a loft bending over desks and
drawing tables or making computations. They are
not particularly impressive, especially when his eyes
still see green from the light of great forges, and his
ears still ring with the thunder of sledges. And
yet it is here that the ship is first built — finished
to the last rivet in plan and blue-print before the
first block of the bed is laid in place. A score of
men directed by the brains of the master engineers
and designers have created a ship in six months
which will require the labor of 1,500 men for nearly
two years to body forth in steel.

And yet the brawn of the ship-builder is not less
important than the brain — and its manifestations
are much more fascinating to the visitor. For here



How the Germans build Ships 253

are the realities which the senses may grasp, — huge-
ness, power, toil, noise, heat, dust. These are the
impressions that lay deep hold upon a man, and fix
in his mind forever afterward the meaning of a great
ship. Here are red plates of steel and angle irons,
huge raw castings of bronze, brass, copper, steel ;
here is lumber, tow, hawsers, paints. They lie in
shapeless piles just as they came from the mills and
factories. They are without meaning — a chaotic
aggregation of material. Seven thousand men in
blue blouses and wooden-soled shoes, each working
at his own minute task, — the beveling of the raw
edge of a plate, the driving of rivet holes one by
one, the stirring of white-hot forges, the endless
striking on red metal with sledges, lifting, fitting,
fastening, and in twenty months' time there stands
forth a great ship, — a thing of matchless beauty, sym-
metry, power, speed, so coherent and perfect that one
man by a turn of the wrist can control the move-
ments of all her vast mass.

The River Oder at Bredow is only a narrow stream
without tides or perceptible current. When I saw it
first the water was a murky brown blotched with bits
of rotten ice. Where the Vulcan works spread along
its shore, the bank rises at a gentle slope, and here
stands the scaffolding for seven ships. So narrow is
the river that three of these cradles have been placed
at a sharp angle to the water in order that when the



254



Seen in Germany



greatest ships are launched they may not crush into
the opposite bank. A ship's scaffolding at a distance




The ^^ Deutsc/iland^'six months after her keel nvas laid. Shoaving the
keel, ribs, the second, or " false ^' bottom, and the girders ^uhich are
to support the decks

resembles a gigantic basket, one end of which rests
in the edge of the water, while the other reaches



How the Germans build Ships 255

high up on the bank. On nearer approach, the
sides of this basket resolve themselves into an intri-
cate maze of timbers of enormous proportions.
Here the ship is born. The interior of the
basket has been cunningly fashioned by the artificer
until it follows the lines of the future vessel, — a
sort of huge wooden mould. At the bottom runs
a long low ridge of stout timbers, called the bed,
sloping down to the water's edge. This is to sup-
port the backbone or keel of the ship. In one
of the cradles the keel-pieces of a new warship had
just been laid. A crew of riveters were at work,
fastening the vertical keel-piece to the horizontal
keel. Imagine a machine as tall as a man, and
having the shape of your thumb and finger when
fashioned in the form of a C. A boy at a hand
forge throws a bursting red rivet. Another work-
man seizes it with tongs and drops it into a hole
in the ship's spine. There is a shout and a quick
signal ; the giant thumb and finger of the machine
close in and come deliberately together, one at each
end of the rivet. There is no sound, but when the
machine opens again and draws away, the lower end
of that rod of iron, as thick as a man's two thumbs,
has been crushed like so much putty into a rounded
head. This rivet shrinks in cooling and draws the
beams of steel together until they are like one solid
piece. And that is the daily work of the pneuma-
tic riveting machine.



2c6 Seen in Germany

The ribs of the ship come from the mills in long,
straight L-shaped beams which must be bent to the
delicate curves of the ship's body. A wide iron
floor full of equidistant holes, a furnace 65 feet
long, — of a length great enough to hold and heat
the ship's longest rib, — a force of workmen waiting
for the furnace door to open, — that is where the ribs
are shaped. The master workman has pegged out the
curve of a rib by fitting iron pins in the holes of the
floor. When the signal is given, the furnace door
bursts open, emitting a blinding glare of light and
fervid heat. A single dark figure, black against the
glow, grapples with huge pincers in the furnace
mouth ; the workmen, but a moment before standing
inert and lax of muscle, now bend their shoulders to
a hawser, and the bar of metal, so hot that its edges
bear no definite outline, is dragged forth. With in-
finite deftness and fearlessness, with swiftness and yet
without hurry, this flaming bar is crowded against
the pegs of the curve, the workmen smiting it with
hammers, driving other pegs, straining at levers, and
smiting again. Once the steel wrinkled, in bending,
like a blotting-pad, as if reluctant to submit. A
brawny giant, his face glowing from the upward glare of
the metal and dripping with perspiration, drove down
upon it with a great sledge until it was flattened
again into submission. In two minutes' time a simple
L of iron had become a ship's rib, curving in the




Bending a S/ii/>''s Rib



258 Seen in Germany

shape of the hull and ready for service except for
rivet-holes.

In ways just as fascinating the steel plates which are
to form the outer skin of the ship are fashioned.
They come from the rolling mills of Westphalia or
from England in the form of square or rectangular
plates of varying thickness ; and they must be bent
and trimmed to the necessary shapes to fit the ship.
Here is a pair of enormous rollers of steel like the
rollers of a laundress's wringer. Between them
a plate of steel as large as two dining-tables is fed,
leaving part of it sticking straight out. At just the
proper moment, a third roller rises from below,
pushed upward by the resistless force of hydraulic
pressure. When it reaches the plate, we start back,
expecting to see the cold steel snap like glass ; but
instead it bends upward as easily as though it were
pasteboard, until it is almost L-shaped. Then the
noiseless but mighty roller that has done the work
slips back again. Such is the quality of the steel
that goes into a modern ship, — it must stand the
strain while cold of being bent almost double with-
out breaking.

Around the head of each cradle at the Vulcan
yards there is a cluster of machines covered with
umbrella-like canopies of corrugated iron. There
are thick, saw-like shears that trim the steel plates
three-quarters of an inch thick, as a little girl would



How the Germans build Ships 259

snip the corners of a bit of calico cloth. Other
machines there are that bore endless numbers of rivet-
holes in beams, girders, and plates, others countersink
these holes ; still others level off the edges of the
plates, and then a huge crane lifts them over into the
scaffolding, dangles them, though they weigh ten tons
each, just where they are to be placed, and the work-
men fit and fasten them in.

One year from the time that the keel of the
" Deutschland " was laid, her hull was finished. It
loomed huge and brown through the scaffolding
which still protected and supported it, and it was
ready to take the sea. In January, T900, the Em-
peror came up from Berlin with a brilliant guard of
officers. Count von Biilow pulled the silken cord,
champagne was spattered on the great ship's stern,
and she shot forward into the water, almost filling the
little river. There she stood exposed for the first
time, unfinished indeed, but bearing the promise of
her future beauty. This shell of steel weighed up-
ward of 9,200 tons, and had cost all of a million and
a quarter of dollars. There was yet to be added the
engines and the fittings which would bring her total
weight to over 16,500 tons, and her total cost to over
13,000,000.

In the Vulcan shipyards one tool stands supreme
in importance over all others. It goes by the highly
expressive title of " shear-legs," a kind of crane.



260 Seen in Germany

The greatest pair of shear-legs at the Vulcan works
is mounted on twin pontoons, the legs rising in the
form of an enormous inverted letter V to the height
of 150 feet above the water. From the top hangs
heavy chain tackle which will lift a hundred tons —
200,000 pounds — as easily as a boy would pick up
a penny. There is something majestic in its power,
its perfect poise and sufficiency. We saw it drop its
great hooks down over one of the " Deutschland's "
steel pistons which weighed something over five tons.
It reminded one of the leisurely sweep of an ele-
phant's trunk. The hooks were made fast, a dwarf
of a man blew a whistle, and the piston was heaved
into the air, swung out over the water and low-
ered into the dark chasm of the " Deutschland's "
hold. And this is the way all of the heavy interior
fittings — the engines, pumps, boilers, stacks, masts,
and so on — are placed in the ship. For a clear reali-
zation of the perfect supremacy of man over matter,
one has only to watch the splendid power and docility
of this great crane. It might have taken fifty men a
week to do what the shear-legs did easily in ten min-
utes — if men alone could have done it at all.

With Captain Alberr ' : whom fell the honor of
taking the " Deutschlana on her first voyage, Mr.
Varian and I went up the broad plank gangway which
led from the river bank to the promenade deck of the
vessel. Fifteen hundred men were there at work



How the Germans build Ships 261

on her, hammering, sawing, planing, fitting; and yet
so huge was she that the force seemed small, and
there were whole areas where not a man was to be
seen.




Captain Alhers of the '■'■ Deutschland''''

These men of the Vulcan works possess their own
peculiar interest to the American visitor. They are
not quite so foreign as he expects : he sees the strong
cousinship of sweat and grime and strength. But



262 Seen in Germany

for a little more, perhaps, of stoop and stolidity, a
little more of patience in their faces, these might be the
men of an American shop. There is work done here
by strength of shoulder — heaving and hammering
and lifting, that in America would be done by steam
or electricity, and yet as long as man-muscle is cheaper
than steam so long will it be employed. In dress,
the German workmen strongly resemble the Ameri-
can, except in the shoes, many of which are heelless
with thick wooden soles. There is also the unfa-
miliar German blue blouse falling from a yoke at the
shoulders and hanging loose around the waist, which
some of the workmen wear. The German works
longer hours and earns much less money than the
American ; but while food commodities are higher for
the most part in Germany than in the United States,
he lives much cheaper than the American, because he
is willing to live on poorer fare and in homelier quar-
ters. He does not as rule save much money, for
he must have his beer and his lottery ticket ; but he
pays regtdarly for insurance against accident, sickness,
and old age, and he also contributes regularly to a
burial fund so that he may be decently interred when
he dies. And yet he is industrious, skilful, pains-
taking, and even dully ambitious. In a preceding
chapter, on the German workingman, I have given
other interesting facts in regard to these ship-builders
of Stettin.



How the Germans build Ships 263

The space over the " Deutschland's " engines still
gaped wide open at the time of our first visit, sug-
gesting from the upper deck an enormous grimy pit.
The cylinders for the main engines were still open at
the top, the largest being nearly nine feet in diameter,
with a weight of 45 tons, — larger than the funnels of
many a large steamer. Having gone down three
stories of decks, we descended a ladder fully 30
feet long, into the depths of the vessel. One may
read indefinitely the cold figures relative to the size
of the engines and boilers in an ocean-steamer, and
still he will not realize their greatness. But let him
get down, pygmy-like, among the machinery itself
and look up, and he will receive an impression of size
and power such as he will never forget, — and espe-
cially if he visits this greatest of all engines. When
we had stooped through dark passage-ways, and
climbed obscure ladders through the under parts of
the enormous machinery, we came to a little door in
what seemed the side of the ship. Once through it,
we straightened up, and there before us another vast
machine reared itself. It was the other engine, the
engine that propelled the second of the twin screws,
exactly like the other in every respect. It was as if
one had reached the very limit of his capacity for
comprehending bigness, and had then suddenly been
called upon to double his impressions. After that it
was interesting, but not really consequential, to know



264 Seen in Germany

that there were eight miles of pipes in the sixteen
boilers, that there were 128 cylinders in the engines,
and that the ship had nearly a third of a mile of rail-
road track for carrying her coal from the bunkers to
the furnaces.

It was interesting to hear Captain Albers explain
how the great ship was balanced, the engine just aft
of amidship, boilers forward, fresh water in great
tanks on each side just balancing each other, coal in
the bunkers around the boilers so that in case of
war the enemy's shot could not pierce to the ship's
vitals, and how water could be let in from the sea to
this or that compartment to balance the coal burned
away. This was all interesting, but we felt more
deeply impressed by the strange, cold, dark, resound-
ing hole in the extreme stern and at the bottom of
the great ship, which we reached through a door in a
steel wall. Here in silence and almost without
human attention, works the mighty rudder arm of
the ship. It travels in a cogged quadrant, and it is
so big that the engine which runs it is perched on top
of it, and rides back and forth as the rudder answers
the touch of the steersman's finger on the bridge a
fifth of a mile away. Once every watch, a man looks
in at this piece of mechanism, and once a day it is
newly provided with oil ; otherwise it works alone in
the dark. If you crowd to one corner of this room,
and look up through a steel well of apparently incal-



How the Germans build Ships 265

culable height, you may possibly see a bit of light.
That hole may be said to have been made especially
for the young Emperor of Germany. Once he said :
" Suppose this ship became a cruiser, and suppose she
met the enemy, and then suppose her bridge were
carried away by a shot. How then could she be
steered ? " So that steel hole was made from the top
of the ship to the bottom. A narrow ladder runs
down its side, — you can see the faint daylight glint
on the rounds, — and when the bridge of the
" Deutschland " is shot away, the men in blue will go
down the ladder and steer the ship from below, where
shots cannot come.

The " Deutschland" may be said to be twenty-one
ships in one. In passing up the vessel from stern to
stem, we crept through numerous gangways of steel,
the doors of which could be instantly closed, and so
screwed down on rubber battens as to be impervious
to both water and air. In case of an accident at sea,
two men spring instantly to each of these doors and
close them fast, and the ship, a moment before a
single great apartment, becomes twenty-one separate
rooms, having no connection below decks. If one
or two, or even five, of these compartments fill with
water, the ship will still float with the buoyancy of
those remaining. And each compartment has its
own pumps and its own means of escape for passen-
gers, so that even though there is a yawning hole in



266 Seen in Germany

the ship's bottom, she may yet sail safely into port.
No modern improvement has done more to render
safe a passage of the sea than this. The " Deutsch-
land " also has two bottoms. It is surprising enough
to be walking on what seems to be the solid floor of
the ship, to feel that the water is only the thickness
of a steel plate from your feet, and then suddenly to
come upon what seems a hole in the bottom of the
ship, and to see dark, oily water a few feet below.
The real bottom of the ship lies from four to eight
feet beneath the false bottom ; both are almost
equally strong, so that if a hidden reef bursts through
the outer plates, there will still remain a firm, dry
inner bottom to keep out the water. This wide
space — it might be called the sub-basement of the
vessel — has also its own separate compartments into
which water can be let at will to balance the ship, if
she does not ride evenly.

After the ship's engines and boilers, perhaps the
most impressive pieces of mechanism are the shafts,
which reach from the engine out through the stern of
the vessel, where they drive the propellers. In
many respects, also, these shafts are the most difficult
of any part of the ship to produce. They are made
of a special, high-priced nickel steel. Each of them
is 215 feet long, longer than many good-sized ships,
and twice as large around as a man's body. They
must needs have strength to drive such a weight of



How the Germans build Ships 267

steel through the water at such a speed. Each bears
on its tip end outside the ship a screw-propeller of
manganese bronze, each blade of which weighs four
and one-half tons. They are the work of that great




One of the Piston Heads of the " Deutschland^''

German, Herr Krupp, of Essen, and they represent
the acme of the art of steel-making. Upon its ar-
rival from the mills, each shaft is in five parts, and it
looks rough and coarse. But the workmen at the


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Online LibraryRay Stannard BakerSeen in Germany → online text (page 12 of 15)