OLYMPIA was ”state of the art” for her time. She was built with a new type of vertical triple expansion steam engines, yet she retained a suit of sails for emergency propulsion. She was one of the first naval ships to have electricity, ice making & refrigeration machinery, and hydraulic powered steering gear.
OLYMPIA has 14 major steam engines located throughout the ship. At present they are in various states of preservation. Each engine has been surveyed and researched for further preservation and restoration. These are unique engines worthy of preservation for future generations. In many instances these are the last remaining engines of their type.
Much of the industrial design and manufacturing techniques used to produce these engines was at the forefront of technology in the 1880’s-1890’s. They document the state of direct acting marine reciprocating steam engineering during the expansion of America’s naval and industrial history. Each is a work of industrial art, science, and engineering.
We have reason to believe that these engines constitute the largest collection of extant marine steam engines of their time period, and should be restored to as close to working condition as possible. We intend to return most, if not all to operating condition and maintain them for posterity. Secondary benefits of doing this would be to keep the knowledge of marine steam engineering alive to foster and encourage study of America’s nascent industrial & manufacturing history of engineering and science.
OLYMPIA also has what we believe to be the last two intact General Electric 32KW- 80 Volt DC – 30-80 amp steam operated output dynamos in existence today. Among the hidden treasures of OLYMPIA are two Allen Dense-Air Machines. These engines compressed and expanded air, and piped the cooled air into two freezers and cold boxes for refrigeration. Each engine was capable of producing 1 ton of ice in a 24 hour period, providing fresh food and vegetables for the crew. As a result of this, improved living conditions knocking the sick call rate on board down from 92% to 17%, providing better food for the Sailors and Marines on board.
After the cold air passed through the reefer boxes, it was piped into the ships drinking fountain (scuttlebutt) providing chilled drinking water for the crew. It is believed that these two 2 engines on OLYMPIA are the last of their type in the world.
Of interest: Admiral Dewey had a passion for iced cream, as he often had the cooks on board make it and it was often served to the crew as a treat!
This is an example of the many treasures OLYMPIA has to offer. These may seem rather ordinary as far as today’s technological advancements, but it was these innovations that paved the way for today’s modern conveniences we take for granted.