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Author Topic: Zeppelin questions  (Read 1485 times)
jringling
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« on: June 02, 2009, 01:24:58 pm »

I have a question to ask that I am sure many of our learned member can easily answer, so I shall not bother with the google searching and ask...

Historically speaking, Zeppelins had to have some sort of onboard power plant to provide drive power and electrical generation. What did they use? Were the air screws turned bu individual engines, or one larger engine with a drive shaft system? was the a small power unit for the radio and such, or only battery banks? And as far as the screws... was thrust controlled by throttle/ rpm, or did the blades have a variable pitch?
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Kittybriton
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« Reply #1 on: June 02, 2009, 02:51:47 pm »

My only Zeppelin experience so far has been gained (simulated) as a helmsman / gunner, but from those perspectives, engine speed is controlled from the bridge, each airscrew is powered by its own engine.

Others more knowledgeable will have to correct me as needed, and fill in the gaping holes in our knowledge.
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Bailywolf
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« Reply #2 on: June 02, 2009, 02:57:48 pm »

I have a question to ask that I am sure many of our learned member can easily answer, so I shall not bother with the google searching and ask...

Historically speaking, Zeppelins had to have some sort of onboard power plant to provide drive power and electrical generation. What did they use? Were the air screws turned bu individual engines, or one larger engine with a drive shaft system? was the a small power unit for the radio and such, or only battery banks? And as far as the screws... was thrust controlled by throttle/ rpm, or did the blades have a variable pitch?

Lots of different designs, but generally they'd use conventional aircraft engines of their day or diesel-driven engines.  Given the buoyancy, there was less need for enough RPM's to keep the thing aloft, so a slower-spinning engine could be used with a larger prop. 

The Wikipedia article is actually quite good.

-B
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Bailywolf
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« Reply #3 on: June 02, 2009, 03:04:32 pm »

But, since zeppelins are anachronistic for a victorian-era steampunk milieu anyhow, I'd suggest doing a little looking around into hybrid airships.  These almost but not quite lighter-than-air (to one degree or another), and achieve flight with the same dynamics as heavier-than-air fixed wing craft.  They have some major advantages over either HTA or LTA flight - they can land on the ground on a very short runway, and don't need special mourning.  They can be efficient (if not fast) fliers, but would be faster and more nimble in the air than pure HTA craft.  

A modern company is developing the aeroscraft on these principles, using lifting-body technology:

Spoiler (click to show/hide)

edit - here's another, this time with video.

Now, take that thing and steampunk it...

-B
« Last Edit: June 02, 2009, 03:13:47 pm by Bailywolf » Logged
Kittybriton
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« Reply #4 on: June 02, 2009, 04:19:08 pm »

 Shocked it's almost Thunderbird 2 without the cargo pod!
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Zwack
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« Reply #5 on: June 02, 2009, 04:27:26 pm »

The first Zeppelin (LZ 1) flew on July 2nd 1900.  Queen Victoria died on January 22nd 1901.  Therefore Zeppelins were Victorian.  Most Zeppelins were built after the Victorian era, but the concept was first mentioned by Count Ferdinand von Zeppelin in 1874 and first seriously worked on by him in 1891.

Z.
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Bailywolf
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« Reply #6 on: June 02, 2009, 05:03:39 pm »

The first Zeppelin (LZ 1) flew on July 2nd 1900.  Queen Victoria died on January 22nd 1901.  Therefore Zeppelins were Victorian.

Only in the most literal sense - and they're still anachronistic though.  But then, that's the point.  I suggested that if you're inserting a 1930's era airship into the middle of the 1800's, then why not pick some even cooler airship tech which makes them perform closer to the fantastic ideal?

It's also good to recall that the Zeppelin isn't magic - it was a logical development of evolving LTA flight technology, so there's no lack of opportunity for that sort of technology earlier, given some reshuffling of industrial processes and development.  Giffard's steam-powered airship flew as a proof of concept in 52... if he combined it with some of George Cayley's developments in HTA aerodynamics, well... the hybrid lifting body airship isn't too much of a stretch (if you, you know, ignore the man behind the curtain).

  -B
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Matthias Gladstone
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« Reply #7 on: June 02, 2009, 05:27:18 pm »

IIRC all props were run from their own engines, but some had very long transmissions with the engines inside the envelopes, especially on the early ones.

Speed was adjusted by the throttle, variable pitch propellors wern't about for most of the airship's heyday.
Early airships were steered using a ridder and shifting wights, while later ones used elevtaors in the fins with a rudder.
IIRC all of the early zeppelins were powered by maybach diesel engines - these were larger than those fitted to contemporary aircraft of the day. The Graf Zeppelin had gas powered engines (blaugas), which saved bouyancy problems as fuel stocks were depleted, as it had more or less the same density as air.
-Matt
« Last Edit: June 02, 2009, 05:32:05 pm by Matthias Gladstone » Logged

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Zwack
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« Reply #8 on: June 03, 2009, 04:50:04 am »

The first Zeppelin (LZ 1) flew on July 2nd 1900.  Queen Victoria died on January 22nd 1901.  Therefore Zeppelins were Victorian.

Only in the most literal sense - and they're still anachronistic though.

I'm not sure what other sense you could take it in.  The first Zeppelin flew three times in the Victorian era.  Sure, placing one in 1874 would be Anachronistic, but in 1900 they weren't.  By that point there were plans, designs and even patents on them.  Hydrogen Balloons date to 1783, and the idea for them dates back to 1766.  The first steerable dirigible was powered by a steam engine and flew in 1852.  The first untethered airship using an internal combustion engine flew in 1898.  So, you can't really claim that airships themselves were not Victorian unless you have some odd definition of Airships or Victorian that precludes these different flights.

Z.
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Bailywolf
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« Reply #9 on: June 03, 2009, 05:03:18 am »

The first Zeppelin (LZ 1) flew on July 2nd 1900.  Queen Victoria died on January 22nd 1901.  Therefore Zeppelins were Victorian.

Only in the most literal sense - and they're still anachronistic though.

I'm not sure what other sense you could take it in.  The first Zeppelin flew three times in the Victorian era.  Sure, placing one in 1874 would be Anachronistic, but in 1900 they weren't.  By that point there were plans, designs and even patents on them.  Hydrogen Balloons date to 1783, and the idea for them dates back to 1766.  The first steerable dirigible was powered by a steam engine and flew in 1852.  The first untethered airship using an internal combustion engine flew in 1898.  So, you can't really claim that airships themselves were not Victorian unless you have some odd definition of Airships or Victorian that precludes these different flights.

Z.

Ugh dude, come on.  Read the rest of my post before parroting the same things I already said back to me. 

Anachronism is good for steampunk.  It's not a slander.  It's what we do, with our rayguns, and deconstructed Victorian evening wear, and steam powered bionics, and yes, with out Zeppelins.  Thousand-foot ridged body airships carrying crews of daring sky pirates or the royal officers who oppose them have no business in the historical context of the Victorian, but in the reimagined fantastical version which is the stuff of this nebulous subculture/genre called 'steampunk' they work perfectly. 

Go back and re-read what I said. 

I said, that because Zeppelins were anachronistic to the Victorian, why not import some other technologies to get an airship more like the fantastic ideal, and less like the experimental, one-off, or limited application LTA craft fielded historically. 

This is sort of a ridiculous argument because I don't think we actually disagree on the substantive matters - that Zeppelins are cool and  belong in a steampunk world.

-B
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Albrecht
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« Reply #10 on: June 03, 2009, 07:50:36 am »

There are a number of English documentaries on youtube which contain technical details. There's one specifically on the Graf Zeppelin which may be helpful:
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Angus A Fitziron
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« Reply #11 on: June 03, 2009, 12:59:17 pm »

I have a question to ask that I am sure many of our learned member can easily answer, so I shall not bother with the google searching and ask...

Historically speaking, Zeppelins had to have some sort of onboard power plant to provide drive power and electrical generation. What did they use?

I think a number of questions have been answered but I'll try to address them one at a time! Main drive power came from either converted aero engines or specially produced airship internal combustion engines (Maybach) which turned pusher propellors. Engines were located in small pods attached to the outside of the envelope. Clearly Zeppelins had stand-by power, however I can't recall reading just where the electrical power came from. Given that both the Graf Zeppelin and Hindenberg used electricity for lighting and cooking, they could only have got such power from generators driven by the flight engines, feeding some kind of accumulator, most probably lead acid cells. Pictures of any airships, Zeppelins included, also show small auxiliary generators, mounted on the various cabins, which were driven by small propellors turning in the slipstream (windmills?) Interesting to note that R34 had a large steel plate welded to one of the exhausts on (IIRC) starboard mid engine. This was used to cook and heat food and was the only method of heating available.
Quote
Were the air screws turned bu individual engines, or one larger engine with a drive shaft system?
Usually direct drive via a clutch mechanism with one engine per airscrew. There were some instances, eg R34, which used two engines driving one airscrew through a gearbox for the central aft power car. I think there may have been a benefit in having all engines of the same kind to reduce the number of spares carried (to reduce weight)It was often the case to have a larger airscrew in this position, probably as the main cruise drive. As has been said, airship speed was fairly modest and although engine power did contribute to pitch and lift, gas lift allowed for stopping engines mid flight for cooling, adjustment, servicing or repair.
Quote
was the a small power unit for the radio and such, or only battery banks?
see above. It is likely the radio, compass and other flight critical instruments would have used the main power but with a standby of the windmill driven auxiliary generators (via batteries).
Quote
And as far as the screws... was thrust controlled by throttle/ rpm, or did the blades have a variable pitch?
as Matt says, they would have been controlled by throttle, mixture, ignition etc. Think in terms more of Edwardian i.c. engine technology aligned to a ship engine room. The captain on the bridge would pass an engne command to the appropriate power car via telegraph and the flight engineer, sitting next to the engine, manually adjusts the engine controls to deliver the desired result. I don't think you will find that any airships had throttle telemetry fed back to the control car during the historic Zeppelin era. Very different now I guess, so fair game for steampunk. I prefer the idea of the airship captain blowing down the  speaking tubes and shouting "all engines -full ahead!"
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jringling
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« Reply #12 on: June 03, 2009, 01:15:21 pm »

Thanks to everyone for the answers...

... The captain on the bridge would pass an engine command to the appropriate power car via telegraph and the flight engineer, sitting next to the engine, manually adjusts the engine controls to deliver the desired result. I don't think you will find that any airships had throttle telemetry fed back to the control car during the historic Zeppelin era. Very different now I guess, so fair game for steampunk. I prefer the idea of the airship captain blowing down the speaking tubes and shouting "all engines -full ahead!"

I would think they would have had reliable cable controls by this point. Of course the cables would have been VERY long...
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Angus A Fitziron
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Research Air Ship R.A.S. 'Saorsa'


« Reply #13 on: June 03, 2009, 02:21:07 pm »

I would think they would have had reliable cable controls by this point. Of course the cables would have been VERY long...
Grin Grin Quite. Power cars had a crew of two usually, first and second engineer, with a chief engineer overseeing all the car crews. The telegraphs would have been cable controls. I guess the engine rooms / power cars were too noisy an environment for speaking tubes! The book Dr.Eckener's Dream Machine has some great photos of the power car engineers leaning over the edge, scant feet from the spinning propellor! Goggles and flying helmets plus spanners.......
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Bailywolf
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« Reply #14 on: June 03, 2009, 02:43:18 pm »

I would think they would have had reliable cable controls by this point. Of course the cables would have been VERY long...
Grin Grin Quite. Power cars had a crew of two usually, first and second engineer, with a chief engineer overseeing all the car crews. The telegraphs would have been cable controls. I guess the engine rooms / power cars were too noisy an environment for speaking tubes! The book Dr.Eckener's Dream Machine has some great photos of the power car engineers leaning over the edge, scant feet from the spinning propellor! Goggles and flying helmets plus spanners.......

That's a great image.

My big control affection is the huge brass ship's wheel and long ratcheting levers for steering and elevation.  Given the degrees of freedom this kind of craft would enjoy, I can see some fairly complex controls. 

Anybody have links to pics of a zeppelin's control setup?

-B
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Der Tinkermann
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« Reply #15 on: June 03, 2009, 05:54:19 pm »

Great site here:

http://www.airships.net/
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Matthias Gladstone
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« Reply #16 on: June 03, 2009, 10:50:58 pm »

Not techinally a Zepplin cockpit, but that of the british rigid airship R-33:

I doubt ther'd be much much difference, most early british airships were clones of zeppelins anyway.
-Matt
« Last Edit: June 03, 2009, 10:53:29 pm by Matthias Gladstone » Logged
Rowan of Rin
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« Reply #17 on: June 04, 2009, 12:54:30 am »

Matthias, great pictures! That looks like the plans for my future bedroom Grin
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Bailywolf
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« Reply #18 on: June 04, 2009, 01:03:25 pm »

I see brass ship's wheels!

Alright, they're not huge but there's no reason they couldn't be.  

Re-reading about these things has made me wistful and a little sad- history's almosts and might-have-beens tend to get me that way.  

If only if only if only... I blame the Nazis for ruining airships for the rest of us.  If Germany had been ruled by nice guys, the US might have released the helium the Hindenburg was designed for, and... and... and... douchebags.  

A little fiddling with the geology, make Helium much more common globally, toss in a working natural gas drilling and helium separation technology, and then you get no-explodey airships where you might be allowed to smoke in the reading room or the observation deck like a civilized chap, rather than being pitched into a positive-pressure smoking lounge.  

-B
« Last Edit: June 04, 2009, 01:05:11 pm by Bailywolf » Logged
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