#22 USS Olympia, Vertical Reciprocating Steam Engines


Two of the first vertical triple-expansion marine engines

Borrowing from merchant ship designs of the previous decade, the development of these engines improved naval ship propulsion with particular respect to lightweight construction with minimum headroom requirements. The two 3-cylinder triple-expansion engines of the U.S.S. Olympia are excellent examples of naval ship propulsion machinery of the late nineteenth century. Like the U.S.S. Texas, which was one of the last to be so equipped, the Olympia was one of the first, built soon after the U.S. Navy had come to accept the vertical engine for propulsion. The Olympia's engines, which barely exceeded water-level height, had a short stroke and a relatively high speed of rotation, generating about 7,000 indicated horsepower per shaft.

Built (and engined) at the Union Iron Works in San Francisco (later part of Bethlehem Steel Corporation), the ship was one of the most famous ships in the history of the U.S. Navy, having been Commodore Dewey's flagship at the battle of Manila Bay in 1898. It was from the bridge of the Olympia that Dewey delivered his famous command to his flag officer: "You may fire when you are ready, Gridley."

USS Olympia, Vertical Reciprocating Steam Engines


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Landmark Location

Independence Seaport Museum
211 South Columbus Blvd. and Walnut St.
Philadelphia, PA 19106-3199
Located at Penn's Landing, at the foot of the Walnut St.

Plaque location, if specific:

engine room entrance, aboard the ship

Visiting Info:

[please confirm] 215-925 5439;
open every day from 10 am - 5 pm.
Closed Thanksgiving and Christmas

Museum's website at

The engines can be seen online at
http://www.spanamwar.com/olympiatourenginehatch.htm and

General info:

"Michael Borsuk Fund for OLYMPIA Preservation" at

Historic Naval Ships Visitors Guide:

Fieldtrip site:

Ceremony Notes

March 1977

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