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The Aerial Steam Navigation Company and the Avitor Hermes Jr.

17 April 2013

The Aerial Steam Navigation Company and the Avitor Hermes Jr.

Shortly after the end of the American Civil War, in 1866, Frederick Marriott attempted to make a huge leap ahead of the day’s transportation technology. He formed The Aerial Steam Navigation Company to create a transportation business with the capability to cross the United States and do that with a steam-powered airship. It was the most modern of technology of the day, it was inventive, it was daring, and it was almost successful.

The Hiller Aviation Museum also has this scale model of the Avitor Hermes Jr. — photo by Joseph May

No, this is no steampunk style idea and the Hiller Aviation Museum has the information, scale model and replica to prove it. Called the Avitor Hermes Jr., after the Roman messenger god, it was a prototype that was unmanned having a hydrogen gas filled envelope that was 37 feet (11.2m) in length and a one h.p.  (0.75kW) steam engine while a cruciform tail as well as winglets made provision for aerodynamic control. The Avitor Hermes Jr. made an impressive flight in 1869, a circuit so that both a head wind and a tail wind challenged the airship, for one mile (1.6km).  Alas, the airship was lost in a fire and the transcontinental railroad had been completed so, with the ability to cross the U.S. by rail in less than a week’s time, the company folded and the Avitor Hermes, Jr. became history — but not until making it.

The 37 foot long full scale replica of Frederick Marriott’s Avitor Hermes Jr. prototype suspended and rotating within the Hiller Aviation Museum — photo by Joseph May

The Avitor Hermes Jr.’s right side — photo by Joseph May

A view from off the nose to show the right side winglet as well as right side two bladed propeller (immediately aft of the winglet) — photo by Joseph May

The Avitor Hermes Jr.’s ventral surface, note the landing gear as well as steam engine with steam vent pipe  directed to the upper right of the image — photo by Joseph May

The cruciform tail appendage which had a degree of maneuverability for aerodynamic control, note the two bladed propellers which bracket the envelope — photo by Joseph May

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