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Experimental boats built in 17 worked successfully on Lochmaben Loch.In 1802, Symington built a barge-hauler, Charlotte Dundas, for the Forth and Clyde Canal Company.In its hull, or hollow interior, oxen, yoked in pairs to capstans, turns wheels attached to the sides of the ship; paddles, projecting above the circumference or curved surface of the wheels, beating the water with their strokes like oar-blades as the wheels revolve, work with an amazing and ingenious effect, their action producing rapid motion.This warship, moreover, because of its own bulk and because of the machinery working inside it, joins battle with such pounding force that it easily wrecks and destroys all enemy warships coming at close quarters.

An engine rotates the paddle wheel in the water to produce thrust, forward or backward as required.European sidewheelers, such as the PS Waverley, connect the wheels with solid drive shafts that limit maneuverability and give the craft a wide turning radius.Some were built with paddle clutches that disengage one or both paddles so they can turn independently.In 1787 Patrick Miller of Dalswinton invented a double-hulled boat that was propelled on the Firth of Forth by men working a capstan that drove paddles on each side.One of the firsts functioning steamships, the Palmipède, which was also the first paddle steamer, was built in France in 1774 by Marquis Claude de Jouffroy and his colleagues.

The concept was improved by the Italian Roberto Valturio in 1463, who devised a boat with five sets, where the parallel cranks are all joined to a single power source by one connecting-rod, an idea adopted by his compatriot Francesco di Giorgio.

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