Armstrong RML Wooden Chassis – 2

by John

When I sat down at the computer to draw up plans for the wooden chassis using the dimensions and photos I had obtained at Elsternwick, I realised that I needed some extra details. Some measurements I had just forgotten to take. And some details were not visible due to the protective covers on the Elsternwick cannons.

But, I remembered that there was a wooden chassis at the Maritime Museum, Warrnambool, and that it has not been restored. In fact it was an original teak slide and carriage, supporting an older smooth bore 68lb muzzle loader. I seemed to recall that the slides had rotted away to some extent, and that might reveal how the transverse beams were joined to the long slides, details that I had not been able to determine at Elsternwick. Being an older cannon, the slide and carriage might have been different from those at Elsternwick, but I decided to make the 2.5hr drive and check it out. 30 minutes further on were the restored wooden chasses at Port Fairy, so I decided to make a day of it.

The barrel is a 68pr Low Moor, smooth bore. The slide and carriage are unrestored teak, which is quite rare in the world. When I ran a tape measure over it, the dimensions were IDENTICAL to the Elsternwick cannons, despite the different barrels, which are 80pr Armstrong RML’s.

So I was able to obtain the missing measurements, and to see that the transverse beams were joined to the long slide beams with large mortise and tenon joints.

However I was still puzzled by the barrel elevation mechanism. Was it a quoin (wooden wedge), or a screw mechanism? Or possibly both? And if both, why?

The barrel support on one of the wooden carriages at Port Fairy. The black beam is iron, hinged at the front transom. Quite heavy. The triangular vertical prop is wood. This arrangement is almost identical to those at Elsternwick. This arrangement did not make sense to me.

But, when I checked my blog at home that night, several readers from Australia and USA/Canada had provided references which described the mechanism. Thanks Jefenry, David and Richard. (and Australian expert, “the Artillerist” Peter Webster).

This is a rifled breech loader of similar vintage, and probably identical slide and almost identical carriage design. Note the barrel elevating mechanism.

The barrel elevating mechanism is a large screw with the nut in the cross beam (the rear transom), which supports the hinged iron beam, and above that is a wooden wedge (quoin). Apparently the screw was for fine adjustments and the quoin for larger adjustments. I am reasonably convinced that was the arrangement of the Elsternwick 80pr Armstrong RML’s too.

In the diagram above note the roller/lever. That was used to lever up the rear of the carriage, to transfer the weight of the carriage and the barrel to the front wheels, permitting it to be rolled to the firing position at the front of the slide. Sometimes that process was bit uncontrolled, so the rope and bollard were added to control the rate of forward motion/descent.

Incidentally, that barrel is the one which was made in miniature by Jefenry, and featured on You Tube, firing at a range and off a canoe! Worth a search on You Tube. Just do a search on videos by Jefenry, or try these links.

The videos are from Jefenry, who is located in the USA.