Curiosities from 150 years of The Engineer archive

How much more interesting would the short ferry hop over to Calais have become had this innovation — which looks like the maritime equivalent of the bendy bus — caught on?

The ship made use of joints which, unlike London’s buses, operate in the vertical plane only.

This, according to The Engineer, would enable it to rise over the waves instead of ploughing through them. The magazine wrote that ‘this peculiarity, it is believed by the patentee, will enable it to attain a degree of speed far beyond any hitherto achieved.’

While the illustration shows a vessel consisting of three sections, the article explained that the design of joints would enable sections to be taken away and added fairly easily. ‘The joints of all the sections are constructed to one gauge, to admit of the section specially appropriate to the engine and crew being transferred from one set of sections to another.’ While useful for logistical reasons, the article also suggested that this was a potentially useful safety feature ‘[affording] chances of saving life and part of the hull and cargo in case of accident.’

The magazine went on that the vessel design would be particularly well suited to the coal trade, which at the time of writing was responsible for a huge amount of ocean-going traffic. ‘Jointed steam colliers, constructed to bring 1,000 tons of coal at a trip in four sections…will float over the bars in the north of England at all times and shorten the passage by coming over the shallows at the mouth of the Thames.’