Food and Culture

The Development of Steam Boats


The Development of Steam Boats

When you hear the words steamboat, do you think of a luxury cruise ship? Or do you picture a rowboat rowing across the lake on a lazy Sunday afternoon? Maybe you visualize a recreation craft that’s made from log raised in place and towed by a large tow behind tractor-trailer. Or maybe you visualize something much more modest – a flat boat covered with a blanket on the top and equipped with a log seating for several and a grill on the front end to cook up some steaks. Regardless of your idea of what a steamboat looks like, they are a type of watercraft that has existed for centuries.

The early versions of steamboats were open in plan and very shallow, allowing them to be pulled into small channels and rivers. Over time, the need for steamboats developed and with it came the need to create large, deep lakes to bring the water up to a higher level, giving steamboats a longer traveling distance and increased fuel efficiency. The original steamboat also had a provision for sleeping accommodations for overnight trips to remote locations. As the world moved further into the modern era and technologies and construction techniques began to improve, steamboat designs became more sleek and streamlined and began to be used on major rivers in North America, the United Kingdom and Western Europe.

The advent of larger, more modern steamboat plated engines gave manufacturers the ability to produce steamboats with full engine cabins and accommodation for as many as twelve people. These designs also paved the way to the use of more powerful steam engines for commercial steamboat service in other countries around the world. Although the use of steamboats on the open seas had been restricted to small, isolated rivers and oceans for decades, the advent of new technology and greater market opportunities allowed for steamboat manufacture to continue to grow and provide for a better variety of recreational uses. Today, you can find a wide variety of classifications of steamboats ranging from the well-known traditional design of flat bottomed “canoe” boats that are suitable for general river cruising to more substantial designs that are designed for luxury river cruising, speed competition and ocean rowing.