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Author Topic: Greetings from the late-victorian Cruiser, USS Olympia  (Read 3973 times)

United States United States

« on: February 22, 2014, 09:53:21 pm »

Hello All!

My name is Kevin, and though I am not exactly a Steampunk in terms of what I wear or say, I certainly may be classified as one in what I do.

I am an employee for the Independence Seaport Museum in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania (USA), and in college, I studied industrial and military history as it developed from the 19th to mid-20th Century.  That being said, I am a living history member and preservation worker aboard the Ex-USS Olympia - possibly the most "steampunk" ship here in the United States. I can certainly say I've had my fair share of dreams about steam engines, brass gauges, and rivets.

The Olympia was built in 1892, served from 1895 until 1922 as a dedicated Flagship of several squadrons, and is considered the Oldest steel warship afloat today. She was built in the very beginning of the US Navy's development of the "New Steel Navy," the first ship of that Navy being built in 1883.  The Olympia, then, contains technology dating back to the 1880s and early 1890s (with the exception of some upgrades for World War 1) and certainly does not lack in Victorian influence.

The amount of bronze, brass, and wood used in this ship is pretty astonishing. Our officers quarters, captain's stateroom, and admiral's stateroom are all clad in wood and brass. The decks are all wood (on top of steel).

Probably best of all, we are a coal ship which ran two massive triple-expansion steam engines for her main propulsion. These engines provided the ship with 26 knots, max speed (the fastest cruiser speed in the world, at the time). I've spent a decent amount of time researching our steam plant and working on the various steam engines throughout the ship. All-in-all, we have almost 60 steam engines of different types, uses, and sizes that operated this vessel when she was live-steam. I am also the lead engine room tour guide, and as I've stated, I interpret a US Navy steam engineer for living history.

However, as with many museums these days, we are very low on funding and the ship has taken quite a beating. The hull, in several places, has been getting thin from erosion and we are in definite need of drydocking very soon. Our last drydocking was in 1945, so we hold the unfortunate world-record for the longest period a ship, floating, hasn't been drydocked. But, for being 121 years old, she is holding up unexpectedly well for now!

Fundraisers are the way to go, and we need a great variety of them to achieve the goal of preserving this ship for years to come. I felt a Steampunk convention of some sort, aimed at fundraising for this historic vessel, may be appropriate. If anyone has any ideas or contacts, I would appreciate the help.

Thank you!

In the 1890s


Myself, at the main steam throttle of the Starboard engine

Climbing our main smokestack

One of our Triple-Expansion Steam engines before installation in 1891

Main Steam Gauge for Starboard Side Engine

Walnut lagging, with brass retaining brands, protects our engine insulation

I would include more pictures, but I've realized that most of my photos are of maintenance and engine stuff. A search of the ship on google will explain more!

Also we have a facebook site with more info:


United States United States

« Reply #1 on: February 22, 2014, 09:56:30 pm »

Additionally: If anyone has any questions about our steam plant, electric plant (driven by steam), or boiler systems, I have researched a great deal of it and know how most late-victorian steam plants work by now. Just ask, I do love steam questions!
Netherlands Netherlands

~~Blast from the past~~

« Reply #2 on: February 22, 2014, 10:10:16 pm »

Beautiful ship! I love the lines of the hull, very nice indeed!

United States United States

« Reply #3 on: February 22, 2014, 10:23:20 pm »

Here's some interior shots (slightly out of date now):

Hurricane Annie
Zeppelin Captain
New Zealand New Zealand

« Reply #4 on: February 22, 2014, 11:25:07 pm »

Thank you for sharing. It  always warms the heart to  see  the good  heritage  things kept alive for the future
von Corax
Squire of the Lambda Calculus
Board Moderator
Canada Canada

Prof. Darwin Prætorius von Corax

« Reply #5 on: February 23, 2014, 01:04:37 am »

Welcome to Brass Goggles, Kevin.

… though I am not exactly a Steampunk in terms of what I wear or say, I certainly may be classified as one in what I do.

That's certainly enough to call yourself a Steampunk, as far as we're concerned.

I would include more pictures, but I've realized that most of my photos are of maintenance and engine stuff.

That's fine; we love pics of the greasy bits just as much as we love pics of the shiny bits. Smiley

By the power of caffeine do I set my mind in motion
By the Beans of Life do my thoughts acquire speed
My hands acquire a shaking
The shaking becomes a warning
By the power of caffeine do I set my mind in motion
The Leverkusen Institute of Paleocybernetics is 5838 km from Reading
J. Wilhelm
╬ Admiral und Luftschiffengel ╬
United States United States

Sentisne fortunatum punkus? Veni. Diem meum comple

« Reply #6 on: February 23, 2014, 03:00:52 am »

Beautiful ship Kevin!  Well you don't need a costume or a persona to be a Steampunk, but I see you got a decent start in Naval uniform already  Cheesy The only other metal-hull ship from the 19th. C that I regularly saw was The Star of India (made by Ramsey on Isle of Man, 1863), now in San Diego CA.  The Star of India is the world's oldest active sailing ship.

And welcome to the forum.  What I would do is place a post for requests for contributions or fundraisers in the "Trading Section," and just stay with us chatting in the rest of the forum, as you can see that we are very interested in the beauty of such ships.  I'm quite sure our forum will be a nice place for you to hang out...

I remain at your service,

Adm. J. "Wilhelm"
United States Airship Orca
« Last Edit: February 23, 2014, 03:02:40 am by J. Wilhelm » Logged

Zeppelin Captain
New Zealand New Zealand

« Reply #7 on: February 23, 2014, 03:39:40 am »

I would say that you are closer to living the dream than most of us.
If the uniform is period than you would most certainly be classified wearing Steampunk clothing.


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Captain Lyerly
Zeppelin Overlord
Ukraine Ukraine

At the helm of the Frumious Bandersnatch

« Reply #8 on: February 23, 2014, 04:38:45 am »

Yes, welcome aboard!

And do let us know the next time you are going to take her out for a spin...   Grin



Captain Sir Charles A. Lyerly, O.B.T.
Soldier of Fortune and Gentleman Adventurer
wire: captain_lyerly, at wire office "Yahoo dot Qom"

"You'd think he'd learn."
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Dr. Nikola
United States United States

« Reply #9 on: February 24, 2014, 09:43:03 pm »

I vividly remember touring the Olympia years ago and thinking it was a steampunk's dream.  It should be far better known as it's just gorgeous as well as a last of its kind and a genuine piece of history.
Thanks so much for the post. Anyone within 100 miles of Philly should make the trip.
« Last Edit: February 24, 2014, 09:45:32 pm by Dr. Nikola » Logged
Steampunk Away
Zeppelin Captain
United States United States

Long Live The Icarus!
« Reply #10 on: February 24, 2014, 10:31:09 pm »

Is this the Olympia from the World War? The one that rammed a submarine as a troop carrier?

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Captain Lister Maylin
England England

« Reply #11 on: March 04, 2014, 11:56:08 am »

A beautiful ship, inside and out.

You're one lucky steampunk!

Is it supposed to be doing that?
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