Published Resources Details Journal Article

Locomotive torpedoes
The Engineer
vol. 65, 24 February 1888, p. 147

Accession No.176


Locomotive torpedoes were divided into two classes: uncontrolled torpedoes represented by the Whitehead and Howell torpedoes, and controlled torpedoes represented by the Brennan and Lay torpedoes. The speed of Whitehead torpedoes had been increased from 9 to 26 knots for a distance of 600 yards, mainly due to the introduction of the Brotherhood three-cylinder engine, but this increase in speed was not matched by an increase in accuracy. The Resistance experiments demonstrated that a charge of 100 pounds of gun cotton was not sufficient to sink an ironclad warship and that charges of 150 or 200 pounds of gun cotton were far more effective, and that these would necessitate larger torpedoes. Double bottoms and compartmentalisation offered ships the best protection against torpedo attack. However, some nations favoured steel wire nets projecting about 30 feet from the side of the vessel to be protected. The inherent gyroscopic effect produced by the large high-speed flywheel of the Howell torpedo overcame the problems of directional stability encountered in the Whitehead torpedo. However, the speed of the Howell gradually decreased as it approached its target, making it difficult to predict its point of impact. Controlled torpedoes such as the Brennan and Lay torpedoes overcame the problem of directional change. But, they were thought to be scientific playthings rather than practical weapons.