Ship wheel drive


May 17, 2022

The ship's wheel drive (paddle drive) is based on the use of rotating paddle wheels, partially submerged in water, as a propeller.

Kinds of

There are two basic types of wheel-propelled ships: side wheel (side wheel) and rear wheel (rear wheel). The side wheel drive is more common, in which two paddle wheels were placed on both sides of the ship, in shields (drums). A rear wheel drive was used less frequently, in which the wheels or one wide paddle wheel were placed at the end of the hull, behind the stern of the ship. Occasionally, systems with paddle wheels placed centrally in the fuselage, in a special cut-out, were used. Most often, wheel-driven ships were steam-powered ships - powered by a steam engine. The number of revolutions of the paddle wheels (30-60 rpm) was equal to the number of revolutions of the machine shaft. Few were ships powered by internal combustion engines or converted to internal combustion engines (apart from the advantages, the internal combustion engine had the disadvantage of generating vibrations, which had a lower impact on the ship's durability). The advantage of the rear wheelchairs was their smaller width, especially important when navigating in canals and locks (the side wheels could have a width almost twice as wide as the hull's width). On the other hand, they have a weight and fuel consumption that is around 10% greater than that of the side wheels. They also have a center of rotation shifted aft, which is why side-wheeled ships performed better on unregulated rivers. The rear wheelers had a steam engine located at the stern, in front of the paddle wheels, therefore, in order to avoid trimming the stern, the boiler room was located in the front part.


The side wheel drive was used on sea-going ships from the first decade of the 19th century to around the 1860s. One of the first side-wheeled ships was the 1807 "Clermont" by Robert Fulton. Originally, wheels with staggered blades were used, with a large diameter, which could be reduced after the invention of adjustable blades in 1829. The side wheel drive in the construction of sea-going ships was the most popular in the 1830s and 40s of the 19th century, then it was replaced by a more perfect propeller, characterized by greater efficiency and less susceptibility to artillery fire. In the construction of ships, the side wheel drive was used only on a small scale on frigates and corvettes. The side-wheel drive was used much longer and more commonly on river ships and units plying on lakes - such ships were built until around the 1930s, and were used even after World War II. The exception here are the great alpine lakes, on which the entire fleet of side-wheelers is used to this day, which, apart from tourist cruises, sometimes (e.g. on Lake Geneva) provide regular connections between the ports. Currently, only a few vessels are built for cruise purposes. On a smaller scale than the side wheel drive and only on river ships, a rear wheel drive was used, the advantage of which was the smaller width of the ships. The most famous of the old constructions today are the American sidewheels and rear wheelers, which in the nineteenth century provided communication on the rivers of the Mississippi basin, dating back to the turn of the nineteenth and twentieth centuries. - passenger ships on the Vistula. In Poland, they were massively withdrawn from service by the end of the 1970s. Originally, wheels with staggered blades were used, with a large diameter, which could be reduced after the invention of adjustable blades in 1829. The oldest floating rear-wheeled ship in Europe is the Kazimierz Wielki Tidal ship, built in 1900