The Chevy Volt has gotten a lot of attention for its ability to run its electric propulsion motor from its internal combustion engine/generator, batteries, or both. Submarines having been doing that since the 1920s or so. I managed to spend some time on subs, and was always interested in what made them go. Apparently that interest is shared by a lot of folks. Even during the cold war we had something called Visiting Ship Day. Civilians were allowed to tour a designated boat. The depth gauges were covered and some areas were off limits but they did tour. There were three questions we could always count on:
1. Where is the picture window? (thanks to tv)
2. How many engines turn the propellers and how big are they?
3. How long until you start to run out of air to breathe?
Answers to them, and much more follow:
Let’s get those out of the way first:
1. There is no picture window regardless of what you saw on television.
2. There are no engines (directly) turning the screws.
3. It took about 10-12 hours until the guys couldn’t keep their cigarettes lit. Then we had to start managing the air.
Here’s the “more”. Now I’m a fan, not a gearhead, and I have no intention of passing myself off as an engineer. Certainly you won’t learn enough from this to qualify either. I was the ship’s corpsman but found all of this interesting.
What turns the propellers is an electric motor (seen here with reduction gear) One major attraction of an electric motor is the immediate torque. A series wound electric motor has 100% of its torque at zero rpm. The type motor used in diesel electric subs is a series/shunt combination.
The diesel (far right) turns a generator (connected). The electricity from the generator is sent to the propulsion motor, to the batteries to charge them (black box), or to both. It is routed through the green box which actually may look like this.
It is here that the electricians mate distributes that electricity according to orders received from the control room.
The diesel electric system has a few drawbacks. Yet in some respects it is considered by many to be superior to a Nuclear Submarine. One of the advantages was that diesel-electric subs could run quieter under water, because nuclear subs had to keep their reactor circulation pumps running. That eventually was solved. And of course, nuclear-powered subs have an almost unlimited underwater range. Nevertheless, diesel-electrics were built for a long time yet.
This is the room where it all starts. With no engine there is no electricity being produced and no battery being charged. Most of the engine is below the deck plates. For a better scale of size, see picture below. And for a more detailed look at the inner workings, here’s a good link.
Others diesel engines have been tried, but two types of engines (with almost identical horsepower characteristics) were used on almost all the operational diesel electric submarines during and since WW2. Winton Motor Company developed a 2 stroke diesel engine that was a reliable powerhouse. They were later bought out by GM, and later versions built at GM’s Cleveland Diesel Engine Division. The model numbers were 248 and 278, which referred to the cubic inch displacement of each cylinder, similar to GM’s Detroit Diesel engines. Each cylinder had an individual head for convenience of maintenance. Many times an engine would have a head change (normally underwater where they were shut off anyway) and be back on duty in few hours.
This engine was so big that they did not use a starter motor. Bore and stroke on the 278 was 8.75 by 10.5 inches. They were rolled over and started with a massive bank of compressed air. The fuel racks were shut down to turn off the engine. They were an unfailing source of fresh air when the air got stagnant. Just a few minutes sucking atmospheric air changed the whole atmosphere. The wheels on top of the engine in the picture above determined the source of the engine air. In the top/center of this engine you can see the large induction manifold. I hope this picture can convey just how huge these engines really were.
I believe those engines would have burned rags if we could have gotten them through the injectors. Lubricating oil came through a separate external tank and pump. Frequently the engine would be burning lube oil or anything with a viscosity lighter than water as the fuel tanks were pressurized (from the bottom) by the trim and drain system. Simply put, anything in the bilges made it to the trim and drain system and, if lighter than water, floated with the fuel and above the water in the fuel tank. It was probably consumed.
They wouldn’t burn water, despite what any fuel saver advertisements in the magazines might say. Pistons compress more than the water does and rods break. How do we know this? Because someone forgot to drain down the condensate on one of my boats and ruined an engine.
Both the General Motors and Fairbanks Morse engines developed 1600 bhp. The GM units developed it at 750 rpm and the FM at 720 rpm. I know a lot less about the Fairbanks Morse engine. The typical FM engine was a 7 cylinder engine but it had 14 pistons. It was an opposed piston engine based on the Junkers Jumo design, and spending time looking at it seems to be fascinating to most gearheads.
The enginemen who maintained these engines seemed to prefer the FM, although both brands had their fans. Not having cylinder heads, I am told they required less maintenance. When they did break, however, the consensus is that they could be much more difficult to repair.
This picture is of a seven-cylinder Fairbanks Morse. For comparison you can see the block of a Caterpillar six cylinder engine as might be typically used in a semi truck. These engines turned this generator below.
In World War Two, each submarine had four engines and two batteries. What you must understand is that these are huge battery banks. Frank Sinatra used car batteries in his film “Assault on a Queen”. They could have hardly kept the lights on. Each battery had 126 cells. Each of these cells was about 54 inches high, 15 inches deep by 21 inches wide. Each cell weighed about 1650 pounds. That’s about 104 tons per battery.
These were lead plate batteries containing electrolyte. As if being a heavy space hog weren’t enough, each one produced hydrogen gas when charging or discharging and the electrolyte made dangerous chlorine gas when mixed with salt water. This is what those large cells really look like. Just a clutter of wires and battery tops. We lost the Cochino to a hydrogen battery well explosion with chlorine gas release in 1949. These batteries contain a lot of energy. Sometimes that energy is released in a violent manner.
These cells had to be serviced every day. That was normally done by the youngsters in the electrical gang. You could always spot them by the condition of their clothes which were eaten up by battery acid.
These batteries were normally placed in parallel for routine underwater propulsion. When placed in series they could be run down in 30 minutes. Shutting down from series battery and having a power surge is alleged to have been the cause of a deep dive misadventure of another submarine. I was on SS343 and the two boats I just mentioned were also SS34_. Gives one reason to pause. Obviously, series battery operation would have been used for escape or other emergencies. Whether being charged or being discharged these batteries produced hydrogen. A battery might have to be secured if a single ventilation fan in the battery well shut down.
During the period after the war the Navy felt the need to increase the underwater power and increased the number and power of the batteries. Two batteries became four batteries at the expense of space.
Motors: There were either two main motors or four main motors. Therefore each shaft might have one or two motors attached. The ones in the schematic are running through a reduction gear and would have been rated at 1370 horsepower running at 1300 rpm. These direct drive motors in the picture would have been lower speed. They would have pulled about 2600 amps at 415 volts. Obviously if the shaft has two motors, double that. If you have ever bump moved a car with a starter, for comparison that is 12 volts at less than 50 amps.
I suppose all this talk could get confusing. It isn’t complex, there is just a lot of it. Hopefully, this drawing will put the parts in perspective.
Thinking of this as unique would be correct because of the scale. The Navy was probably at the forefront in developing the hybrid vehicle.
There is of course a land based vehicle that uses diesel engines and electric motors in much the same way. But there is an important distinction: locomotives aren’t hybrids, because their power source always comes only from the the diesel- driven generator. The exception being some very recent yard-switching locomotives that do have batteries.
The Fairbanks Morse submarine powerplant was essentially the same as the company used in their locomotives produced after the war. For years the railroads were an excellent source of employment for ex-sub engine men. Here’s a more detailed explanation of how these F-M opposed-cylinder engines worked.
Needless to say, nuclear-powered subs eventually replaced the diesel-electric sub. Since we haven’t yet seen nuclear-powered locomotives, maybe Ford’s Nucleon concept mock-up of 1958 will not be a harbinger of things to come. Of course, Nissan Nuke does have a nice ring to it.
cool I used to maintain a 110volt emergency switching battery, 55, 2 volt cells but thats only a flashlight battery compared to these. Australia was building new diesel electric subs recently to replace the 2nd hand WW2 U boats they have been using.
Your description of the Oberon class is unkind, Bryce. I’ve toured the U505 in Chicago, and the USS Pampanito in San Francisco. Having laid vinyl tiles on an Oberon (I forget which one, they were all just black boats) in another life, I can say they are closer to the US boats. None of which I’d like to serve on, thanks.
And the Collins class were more the product of politics than naval architecture. The usual defence contracting debacle…
Bryce, where do you get your ‘facts’ from? No way the Oberons were WW II boats. Nor were they U boats.
First one was ordered in 1963! Not second hand either.
Next you’ll be telling us that they were Camaro based……….
And Thanks Lee, for a great article. I’ve forwarded it on to some mates.
A very interesting piece on a subject I know virtually nothing about. Thanks for the nice article.
I have a brother currently in the Navy who has spent his career on nuke subs. I am sure that this one would be like getting into a 39 Ford from his perspective.
I think the difference is even wider than that. Some countries are still building diesel electric boats but the mission is far different. The quietness of the diesel boat on the battery is probably unmatched even yet. You could hear the first generation nukes for miles. One thing for sure: Just when you think you know, you don’t.
Hope your brother enjoy’s his time on the boats as much as I did. It was great and I know of nothing like it.
As an electronics engineer (retired) I find this fascinating. Thousands of amps at 415 volts is almost beyond comprehension. Thanks for the information and your service.
I bet none of the battery crew wore any metal rings or watches.
I always thought the electric propulsion motors and diesel engines were on the propshaft, and when surfaced the diesels would turn the shaft, thereby making the motors into generators to recharge the main batteries, and then while submerged, the engines would decouple from the shafts so only the motors would turn the props?
Clutches that size would be challenging. Actually, diesel-electric propulsion is becoming more popular with certain large ships too.
Has been for some time. The newest cruise ships use 360′ rotating “azipods” that fit the entire propeller/electric assembly outside the hull for better maneuverability and space efficiency. A cousin of mine works for SKF and apparently, according to him, the real challenge with azipods was thrust loads on the bearing races. He also told me what modern mega-ships would not be possible without azipods since they would need too many tugs to berth them.
Diesel Electric allows ships to use different prime movers in the generation plant. For example the Queen Mary uses Diesel engines and Gas Turbines.
One of the reasons for this is ship stability.Gas Turbines have a high power/weight ratio. Ergo Gas turbines can be located quite high up in the superstructure. with the heavier diesel plant below the waterline.
The other benefit of locating the Gas Turbines higher up is that it eliminates the uptakes necessary to supply the air..Instead this space is used to earn revenue.
Gas Turbines will also use Waste Heat Recovery to capture energy that will be used in the steam plant, for hotel services and auxilary systems.
So these are true hybrid ships.
It obviously depends on Capital cost of buying all this plant versus the fuel costs..But It would seem to me that the logic will lead to cruise ships having diesel engines with gas turbines and having a steam turbine driven from the waste heat of the gas turbine all to maximize the energy extracted from the fuel.
Well this is the only design I know about and is typical for U.S. Navy submarine use since before WW2. As paul said, a clutch would be a challenge to do all that. There is a clutch between engine and generator and no need for one anywhere else. The 100% torque at zero rpm is very forgiving.
I profess no knowledge of what other Navies might do but am relatively sure the British, Canadians and Aussies use pretty much the same as I have visited their ships.
I rode a cruise ship in 2002 and it had a diesel hydraulic system. Obviously there was no need for batteries. Unable to get a tour because of 9-11. The only reason diesel/hydraulic/battery wouldn’t work would be because of the weight and incidental loss when shifting from one to another.
Early US subs-and most foreign boats-did have the diesels driving the boat on the surface. The electric motors were used as generators to re-charge the batteries by reversing the connections to the motors. When electric drive was introduced in the 1930’s for US submarines the older system was discarded for most of new construction( except Marlin and Mackerel ss-205 and 204)
You predate me. The split cubicle (which is pictured) has been around for over 70 years (as you say). The snorkle, in our Navy, less than that. They changed everything. If you want to see the diesels moving the shaft directly I would recommend an LST or probably a sweep.
A great article with excellent pics but diesel-electric submarines have been around for a lot longer than the 1920s. The first diesel-electric subs were deployed shortly before the First World War. Prior to this they were kerosene-electric. These boats played and enormous part in that conflict, in fact sinking higher tonnages than in Wold War Two. In mid-1917 the British were in fact seriously in short supply of several vital commodities. The German declaration of Unrestricted Submarine Warfare in early 1917 was the primary reason for the entry of the USA into the Great War. Nothing was gonna stop the good olde USA from making its freaking fortune by supplying munitions to the UK and France and nor could a German victory keep said countries from paying back the huge loans America had made to them.
Really was only looking at the U.S. subs. They go back further also(just after 1900) and at one time used gas engines. I focused on WW2 because that design was hearty and used till the mid/late seventies. There was a lot of modification after the war but the engineering plant stayed the same basic plan (with more batteries). Probably could go back to Alexander the Great but it’s a stretch putting even this much on a car blog. I was just keeping it simple. I’m real tickled that this interested you guys. I am, in general, always impressed by your comments. Thanks.
Outstanding article Lee! Totally fascinating and educational. I’ve never seen the details on these drive systems and this article makes them crystal clear. Man, those are Real Batteries. You make it clear what training, skill and vigilance it takes to keep these boats as safe and effective as they have been.
Very interesting about their silence vs. the nukes. How they solved that problem with reactors must be very high tech and classified.
My solution to climate change and energy independence is to ask our Navy to build and run our nuclear power plants. As Fukushima and Three Mile Island have shown, private corporations can’t be trusted with them. Our submariners would make nuclear power 100% safe.
I’m going to share this article with my professor friend for his EV classes. The modern submarine is the ultimate electric vehicle. Thanks again!
PS: That poster is hot.
I wish this were true, Mike, but the Thresher and Scorpion incidents may well have had something to do with their with their reactors. With Fukushima and Three Mile Island at least there will be a public accounting. With the military, there never will be.
The military screws up all the time; we just don’t hear about it. When we do, it is serious. In 1966 a B-52 crashed off the coast of Spain. The nuclear weapons were recovered as it was not too deep. The 1968 Thule crash caused widespread atomic contamination in North Star Bay, Greenland. There have been many more and these are only the ones we know about:
It is not a secret anymore how nuclear subs were made quieter; at low speeds, the cooling water us done by thermo-siphon. The latest boats are covered with a layer of soft rubber. Still, diesel-electric boats are quieter. A friend of mine in the USA navy, based at Bremerton, refers to diesel boats as “black holes in the sea.” In fact, this is how they are found: but listening to the noise the block.
Thermo-siphon cooling, like a Saab or DKW two-stroke, of course. Thanks.
The USS Thresher and USS Scorpion were cutting-edge military vessels in the middle of the Cold War, and both accidents happened over forty years ago. Scorpion’s loss was apparently due to a torpedo, not the reactor.
We can draw a big distinction between military subs, which are and must be cutting-edge and highly classified, and nuclear power stations, whose design is mature and proven, and whose operation should be non-classified and open. Most of what navies do is unclassified and ordinary.
What the Navy can bring is military training and discipline, and worst-case thinking, without the profit motive to erode safety. I’m sure there’s no better training in nuclear operations than being sealed in with your reactor deep underwater, far from home, 24/7 for months at a time. Doing some tours on nuclear subs followed by a lifetime at power stations providing the safe electricity that’s so critical to all of us would make an attractive military career, it seems to me.
Not a bad idea, but even the Navy doesn’t have a 100% safety record with their nuclear subs.
Always fascinating, I probably should have gone out for submarine service instead of the landlubers army.
“My solution to climate change and energy independence is to ask our Navy to build and run our nuclear power plants. As Fukushima and Three Mile Island have shown, private corporations can’t be trusted with them. Our submariners would make nuclear power 100% safe.”
This short article cites one sinking, one near sinking, and one ruined diesel motor through simple human error, yet you’re convinced that those same humans are somehow capable of infallibility when it comes to running a nuclear reactor?
Re nuclear-power industry, look up “Price-Anderson Nuclear Industries Indemnity Act.” This is a side of the issue I hadn’t considered before.
There is a book that has been out for some time called “Blind Mans Bluff”. If it were not out, I would not have written this article. It talks about a lot of things during the cold war.
I think I know that the thresher did scram it’s reactor and that a problem occurred when they attempted to blow tanks. Apparently the theory is that a strainer on the air clogged because of the expansion/refrigeration of air and iced the filter. Because of that, they continued downward. Changing the outlet and filter size was started pretty quickly after that loss. I was fairly close to the scorpion issue as one of the subs that hunted for it. There apparently is more than a theory that a torpedo went live in the tube and resulted in the loss of the sub. (blind mans bluff)
I have been retired for quite some time but still interested in anything submarine that I can read. As a sonar operator I think I knew that the sound from the Nucs had to do with reduction gear for the shafts. It became much quieter. However, my diesel was quite successful when it could lurk quietly and listen for Nukes. There is a limitation on that. I was truly impressed when I operated against the Canadian O class.
For the pain that he was, Adm. Rickover was the reason for the Navy’s excellent safety record. His folks are/were well trained. I doubt that most civilians went through what sailors did to operate plants. If you increased the size of the force as you would have to do to run everything, you would lose the excellent (anal retentive) training.
Wonderful article. Perhaps you (or someone) can do one on WWII Destroyer Escorts. Three classes were diesel electric, not because they were more efficient but because steam turbines were in short supply while industry had little difficulty cranking out diesel engines and generators. The DEs were much like locomotives. No batteries were needed because the ships never were submerged. Or, if they ever were submerged they never came back up!
Diesel and/or Diesel Electric have powered a lot of ships. It even powered some German Battleships. In that case it was for cruising range. They can be just as fast as steam operated vessels and are virtually always more efficient. There are many people who are more expert at this subject than I. I am a qualified submariner. That doesn’t make me an expert. It just means I have the big picture and know what valve to grab to keep from sinking.
Diesel electric, a design that has been around for years has been made more expensive by technology when it could be lots cheaper and simpler. Think of a golf kart that you don’t have to stop to charge. I actually tried to do something like that in class and was fairly successful.
Anyway, thanks for your kind words.
Diesel-electric drive, like locomotives and surface ships, is just the best way to build a transmission for heavy applications which can’t use friction clutches. The diesel can’t start at zero rpm, and max torque is needed at the start, in locomotives anyway. It also allows the engine to be placed anywhere. There’s no energy storage.
Subs have batteries for deep and quiet running of course.
Hybrid cars have batteries to allow the engine to run at its most efficient and cleanest speed and load, and to recover braking energy. Cars are always accelerating, decelerating, starting, stopping, and electric drives are much more efficient at that than combustion engines.
Thanks again for a top-notch article.
Don’t forget that the very largest mining trucks and wheel loaders also use diesel electric drive. LeTourneau experimented with some other large Diesel electric drive vehicles in the 1950’s and 60’s.
My Dad served on the SSR-312 Burrfish during Korea. I forget if he qualified on the Congor or the Burrfish… he kept the forward engines doing their job (Fairbanks-Morse). The Burrfish was one of the WWII Fleet Type subs converted to radar picket duty.
He tells some interesting stories from those days. The Burrfish had a sticky poppet valve on one of the forward ballast tanks (which were filled with seawater to submerge by opening valves at the bottom and tops of the tanks, and were then blown full of air to surface).
I’ll probably muddle the details here, but what I remember is that they had a visiting dive officer (possibly trying to qualify), who ordered the boat down. The valve stuck closed, keeping a bubble of air in the forward tank, which made it hard to get the nose underwater. So, instead of stopping to see what the problem was, he ordered more speed and full down on the dive planes (little winglets at the bow and stern), which gave the desired result, until the valve decided to unstick itself.
At this point, things took a literal nosedive, and Dad said he saw the depth gauge pass 400′ (dangerously deep for that class of boat), and about 35° down angle (about a 75% grade in road terminology). They finally got things leveled out, surfaced, and the officer was packed off to some surface ship assignment.
The other story I remember is when Dad’s boat had been in the Mediterranean Sea, and hit a rapid seawater temperature change while running surfaced through the Gibraltar Straits when they hit the cold Atlantic waters. He said it cracked most of the cylinder liners on the engines. They had to tear apart all four engines to get enough usable parts to put one engine back on line…
In 2001, I took my Cub Scout Pack to Patriot’s Point, where we camped on the Yorktown. Dad and my two then-young sons came along, and one Saturday afternoon, he walked us through the Clamagore over the course of about two hours, telling these and other stories.
Dad could still point out all the different systems in the boat (which is required to qualify). That’s a cherished memory for both me and my sons…
res: This is wierd. I have been reading this book from google books and the name clicked when I came to it. You might want to send this to your dad: Submarine Commander: A Story of World War II and Korea By Paul R. Schratz. He took command of the burrfish in 1948. If you need more info or to make comments, send me an email via paul. I would think he would be willing to forward and I don’t want to publish it.
Thanks for the tip – found it on Amazon… Dad was on the Burrfish in or around ’50, I think, probably after Schratz was CO. Will have to ask him…
The USS Blueback is a permanent exhibit at OMSI in Portland: http://www.omsi.edu/bluebackhistory
It was immensely fascinating to tour it a few years back. Everything is so efficiently laid out and designed. Remarkable piece of machinery.
The Barbel, Blueback, and Bonefish represent a unique phase of submarines. They are the ones who had the modern hull as provided by Albacore research with the limitations of diesel electric. In the fleet, all subs after that, I think, were made with Nuclear plants. These boats, and the albacore, would outrun the first generation nukes for half an hour.
Thanks for the opportunity to see this in print, Paul.
Thanks for sharing that res. Your comment was the reason I wrote the article. I have actually never visited patriots point. I don’t know if I could stand to see her rusting and unused. Just tonight I was in contact with Capt Ulmer, my co there. He is at donulmer.com and writes a lot now. You might be interested in following that up if you like subs.
BTW you have described that diving scenario pretty accurately. Such a dive is a call to open the showers when done. 400′ with a 35 degree down does not normally leave a lot of folks to describe it. Ask any Chopper sailor (342). The bottoms of the diving tanks stay open normally. If fact I want to say they don’t close. The tops open and close. If both were closed on a dive, you could not dive and if you did you would probably crush the tank. They are soft tanks.
I am glad someone is still interested in Navy history.
Glad to share Dad’s story – will email him a link to this and maybe he can fill in some detail and correct my memory…
Any time we’re close to a submarine that’s open to the public, we try to plan our route so we can visit. Dad’s had us down to the Sub Vet Memorial Service at Kings Bay several times – always a very moving time. Not many WWII guys make it any more…
Dad was a car mechanic before he joined up, and I grew up watching him always working on our cars and whatever else needed repair (he had me lapping Vega valves with a hand drill and suction-cup deal when I was around 12 or so). So I picked up a little of that, and hopefully have passed a little onto my sons, too.
The USS Razorback is a museum about 10 minutes from my home. I need to stop by someday. At least I’ll know something about the propulsion system now.
I knew more about the triple expansion steam engines used on the big ships like the USS Texas than what I knew about the diesel electrics. Thanks!
Oh, just one other thing. Where were the nurses quarters and why isn’t the Clamagore painted pink?
I was the nurse, quarters were in Hogans alley in the after battery, and you’ve been intaking entirely too much hollywood.
Question: with all the new battery technology being developed for electric cars, could the diesel electric submarine become, once again, a viable design?
Also, it was my impression that propeller technology is what made American nuclear subs so quiet… which is why when the father-son Navy traitors sold that technology to the Chinese, it cost the US millions of dollars in stolen R&D money.
IMHO they never stopped being a viable design. It’s just for what. They would not have been suitable for the Ballistic Missile job although they pioneered the concept. They would have been less suitable for the SSN hunter killer job because of the transit to the area. It got better with the albacore hull type diesels because they could snorkel across fairly quietly compared to the old boats. I think they are under consideration again for coastal defense and could be very adequate.
Getting a sub to be quiet takes more than one thing. The above drawing has reduction gear on the shaft. That can get noisy on a diesel or a nuke. Gears versus electric motors. Any place you have a pump you have something that needs noise isolation. I would think insulation for sound inside the pressure hull to be important. The nukes got lots quieter just changing or removing the reduction gear.
All these are common sense approaches. They are also technology from long ago. I think propeller design is modern. I also don’t think I should talk about it. The point is that they have become so quiet that the diesel boat advantage may be moot. The cost savings though, are still very current and likely under consideration.
The nuclear subs can stay underwater almost indefinitely; a lot longer than the crew could likely stand it. That’s the big limitation with the diesel-electrics, just like EV cars: range is limited.
Well, actually more like diesel cars and trucks, limited by the amount of fuel on board, not one battery charge like an EV.
Would you like to clarify that? I know there were some attempts made to run diesels underwater, but I think typically, diesel-electric subs underwater time was limited to battery range. Am I missing something?
A nuclear sub circumnavigated the globe without ever coming up; that might be a bit difficult in a diesel-electric.
Paul, you have it right.
Once you go below snorkle depth you cannot run a diesel anyway/anyhow. To do so would quickly ruin ear drums or embolize the crew and explode the superchargers. The latest model diesels were able to snorkle transit. At least on my sub, using the snorkle at less than fully submerged would melt important stuff. You were also slower so it wasn’t worth much for transit.
With the barbel hydrodynamics mean the best progress is made with the hull below water. That is actually another subject.
It would be pretty easy to get over our heads here because I am not qualified on that class of boat.
The bottom line for any diesel. Engines on the surface. Batteries while submerged. Snorkle when you still want concealment, get fresh air and charge batteries. None of that is a concern with a nuc. Stay submerged. Make your own air. Transit deep and in secrecy. That makes Mike sort of right too. If you are willing to slow down and snorkle, you can. It’s just not practical but I have done it on certain types of patrols. Took forever.
Of course, I misread “range is limited” to mean total range.
Well you now have AIP Air independent propulsion or Fuel Cells.
Submarines such as the German Type 212 class go to see with Oxygen and hydrogen stored in seperate tanks.
They then use this AIP system to stay submerged for upto 2 weeks but at a very slow speed like about 5 knots or so.
They are already a viable design especially for coastal defense. Look at this link about the Swedish Gortland Class submarine, which scares the living hell, out of a retired US Navy Surface Warfare Captain I know.
wstarvingteacher – thank you for this article. I could read this kind of stuff all day.
Another excellent article; Fairbanks-Morse did enter the railroad market in 1953 with the Train Master, but only 127 were sold, as railroad mechanical men considered F-M’s
opposed-piston engine too expensive to maintain.
Actually, the FM Erie-built locos came out in about 1947, like the ones in Pennsylvania RR livery in the picture. The Train Master came later. and there were some others too. All of them were not very successful.
Its hard to make em quiet al right the new diesels the Ozzies built apparently were as quiet as a rock concert it was an unproven design i presume they have it right now
first photo labeled Clamagore (SS 343) is the USS Sailfish (SS 572) check it out
for your self on Navsource.org click on submarines then go down to Sailfish
SS 572 and see that photo. Second photo is good.
Both the sailfish and the clamagore were boats I served on. This photo came off google images and is labeled as the clamagore. If you were to look at a photo of the sailfish with no numbers I can see how you might think it was her. Key factors in both are the north atlantic sail and the pufs humps on its deck. I just looked at it again and I don’t see sailfish there.
You might look for pictures of Clamagore on google images and I expect you will find this there. Although they are not the same boats they resemble each other so closely in this respect that I wouldn’t be embarrassed to have said the wrong one.
BTW the picture I did of the sub on the Harley Sprint article was the sailfish pre pufs. One of us got a mislabeled photo or more than likely, saw different boats doing the same thing. That is a common photoshoot scene for subs. I will stand by the article.
Just had time to research further. If you follow your link – If you plug in Clamagore on google images, or Sailfish on google images, you will get exactly the same picture. Use nlt 400X300 and they pop up really quickly. The white water gives it away.
I really cannot tell the difference over 40 years after the fact unless I see the two of them together. The sailfish/salmon were several feet longer. The relationship of the pufs, the sail, the tanks, virtually all look the same to me now. For the purpose of the article there is no difference. I just took two google images of the Clamagore from google images. Inside, there is a ton of difference between the two. Now there are several more as we sunk the sailfish and made a museum boat out of the Clamagore.
I first qualified on USS Queenfish (SS393) in 1961. We scared the daylights out of a fishing boat in Long Beach about 2am as we went to sea with no running lights to set up a practice attack on a carrier battle group leaving later in the day. As we ran along the breakwater seaward, he was returning to port. We could see him heading for the inlet as we headed for the same spot at the same time. Collision course. We aimed our searchlight at him and flipped it on and sounded the horn to alert him. Never saw such a fast turn to starboard as he made. Later in the day we “sunk” a tugboat that was worth less than the torpedo. I was on the starboard shears (lookout platform) and could see the fishing boat the whole time. Miss the good old days.
When were you on the 343?
I went to the 343 as a HM2 non qual right out of sub school in 1966. She was in the yards in Portsmouth getting a battery job IIRC. I stayed on her till she completed the overhaul in Philly. I left her for the Sailfish (SS572) in 69 and we went to Pearl and points west.
I thought the one thing that makes a hybrid car a “hybrid” is the regenerative braking that uses energy captured while braking to charge the batteries. Without regenerative braking, it’s just a gas-electric or diesel-electric drivetrain just like many locomotives or submarines.
Nope. Regenerative braking is just another mechanical means of making energy. I know it makes at least electric and hydraulic. Dictionary definition is: Hybrid means something that is a combination of two different things. (noun)
An example of hybrid is a car that runs on gas and electricity.
An example of hybrid is a rose that is made from two different types of roses.
If a car runs on gas and electricity the regen braking makes a third source. Chemical, electrical, and mechancial. At least that’s how I see it but I do agree with the dictionary. Two or more means of power.
A hybrid car drivetrain has onboard power *storage* via batteries, so the electric source of power is the battery-pack, while the chemical source of power is the engine. A diesel-electric drive is not a hybrid as there is no independent electric operation, thus really only one power source (engine). A submarine is a true hybrid because of the onboard stored power. Batteries+Engine make a hybrid car “hybrid”. Regen braking in a pure electric car won’t make it a hybrid.
Great thread, and quite correct. Qualified on the Redfish (AGSS395) ’68. Rock, Ronquil and Redfish were all laid down in the same berth at Portsmouth EB.
Interesting, although I have next to zero knowledge about such things. I know that the last subs that we bought (used) in Canada from the Brits were diesel-electric to replace the old Oberon class subs…and have since become a bit of a white elephant for our navy for various reasons…Thanks for the great article, I enjoyed reading it..!
I went to sub school with two Canadians who were both going to O class boats. They could snorkel with deadly silence.
Unless the boats themselves are lemons, and there has been plenty of time to sort that out, they would only become white elephants if the mission changed. The extended patrols required for world wide cold war missions meant that the diesel electric diesels were stretched to the breaking point. That’s why IMO the nukes took over. Make your own air and water with the limiting factor being the amount of food you could carry. Diesels could still do quite well at coastal defense and shorter patrols.
Fascinating. Simply fascinating. What more can I say?
Our friends in the Bundesrepublik have a tidy business selling not only Leopard tanks all over the world (compared to the M1, popular primarily among Arab client-states), but also modern Diesel-electric U-boats. However, they’ve since moved on to fuel-cell boats like the Type 212.
Scale that back to 48 volts, and that is the design of telecom power plants.
(minus the underwater part, and diesel power is only used when the mains is out.)
-48V to be specific. The battery plant in a typical large landline central office or major market MTSO (wireless CO) is rated for 4000 amps, and often much more. The battery strings are charged by banks of rectifiers that convert 3-phase commercial AC or diesel generator power to -48 VDC. Unless it’s feeding an older Ericsson switch, there are two independent busses with its own string of rectifiers. Even if an entire string (bus) goes down, the other has enough capacity to power all of the equipment.
As the legacy circuit switching systems are replaced with packet switching (VOIP), these plants will be running even more under capacity than they already are. The 4000 amp standard dates back to the days of massive electro-mechanical switches and the first generation of electronic switching.
The 1980s generation of digital switches (AT&T/Lucent 5ESS, Nortel DMS series etc) that are still the workhorses of the industry use significantly less power than their predecessors, but still draw well into four digit amperage. The new generation of packet switches replacing them are similar to those used in the IT world, but modified to run on legacy -48V.
Many facilities have converted their batteries to VRLA-type systems, (think really big car batteries) which are much safer and easier to replace if a cell goes bad. No more trash cans or 55 gallon drums full of baking soda!
Great feature on something I knew little about.
Fascinating material that is worth another read
Sadly, the Clamagore is in very bad shape these days. There’s a group trying to raise money to take her out of the water and refurbish/refit, but the funds needed greatly outweigh the interest.
My cousin wanted to be a submariner,a school trip aboard HMS Onyx convinced him otherwise and he joined the Army.Hot,noisy and smelling of diesel submariners have my greatest respect,I hope conditions have improved
Like the fairbanks morse Engine.
Pretty cool idea.
I was in the Gator Navy, but I’ve always been interested in subs (not so much that I’d want to join the sub service) so thank you for a very interesting article.
Terrific article ! .
So much info here .
The Bowfin is in Hawaii as a walk aboard museum , very interesting .
There’s also a Russian sub in San Pedro you can tour .
\My Uncle was a Submariner in The War , I don’t know what happened but he lost his ability to smell and a few other medical issues so by the time of The Pacific Theater he was picking up body bags , few could handle the stench , he couldn’t smell anything by then .
If only someone found a way to reduce the size of the diesel/electric engine to a more manageable size to put in a light duty to medium duty truck, or pickup truck, or a van, or even an SUV.
Impressive writing and technology ! My neighbor’s friend has a diesel-hybrid. It’s in his Volvo V60. By the way, is there a word for a female neighbor ?
If you’re talking about the one lives next door to me :
shriveled up drunken, horny (EW !) buttinsky bitch .
She came on to me after I got divorced , maybe I shouldn’t have told I’d not touch her nasty self with my _dog’s_ thing….
Oh , well , to late now I guess =8- .
That’s more than one word Nate. But I did learn some other new words, thanks !
Apologies all .
Living next door to this cast iron b*tch for 30 years has made me *slightly* testy on the subject =8-^ .
She stopped our block party from occurring then came over and drank up all the whiskey….
On and on and…..
Worse she’ll prolly outlive me , dammit .
ABB: It’s been a couple years since I thought much about this and the second publishing was a pleasant surprise when it came. Old codgers are usually happy when someone likes their tales. The engine was cooled by distilled water which, in turn was cooled by salt water pumped over the side. IIRC (and I may not) the exhaust smoke on the surface was exhausted with the cooling salt water to avoid smoke trails. I am unable to do real well at technical details anymore and sure don’t try to read technical drawings very often.
I can say that when you snorkeled the exhaust was pumped out about six inches under the surface of the water. When air was taken in to feed the engine it normally was dumped into the atmosphere of the boat because we had trashed the old air with CO2, body odors, and other foul things. One engine was set to pull air through the battery wells to purge them of hydrogen when charging but that air was not pulled directly from the snorkel. It was pulled from the atmosphere and thru the battery wells.
Snorkeling charged the batteries, gave us fresh air to breath, and air to pump into the compressed air tanks. The exhaust was minimal compared to pumping it into the open air but sometimes with a tailwind you would suck exhaust into the boat. If persistent, you changed course. The intake was held open by small electric circuits that shorted when water splashed on them. The intake would then slam down like the epiglottis at the top of your windpipe. The engines would shut down at a certain vacuum which kept from exploding the blowers. I don’t remember how the emergency shutoff worked on the exhaust but the engine rooms got really busy when shut downs happened.
Nate: There were times when losing your sense of smell would have been a blessing. Don’t know what happened to your uncle.
Jason: The concept is not unheard of. You might like to look at the article “classroom EV” on this site. We were working in a pretty crude way on the electric half and had it running. The charging engine was bought as was the generator when things turned to garbage. It was interesting to me anyway.
This picture shows the pipe up and sucking good (we hope) fresh air and it also shows the exhaust making the water splash behind it. Some of that may be wake if it’s moving a lot but exhaust alone will make this picture.
Both my Uncles were in The War , the other one flew with the Flying Tigers and was shot down , broke his back bailing out , landed in a flooded rice paddy and was able to be rescued by the Chinese & made it home .
Neither one ever liked to talk about WWII , the Submariner just passed a couple years ago , Pops is hanging on @ 93 Y.O. .
Me , I’m askeert of the water as I nearly drowned once so no boats for me .
Fascinating article and great comments. I’m always interested in almost anything motorized, especially unusual (to me) and big stuff. Thanks Lee & Paul, I really enjoyed this!