Chronology - TORPEDO IN WORD AND PICTURE
RISE OF RIJEKA AND THE FIRST BIG FOUNDRY
The foundry was founded in the lively industrial climate at the beginning of the 1850s, but it did not work well until 1858, when an English engineer Robert Whitehead came from Trieste and started producing big ship engines for the Austrian Navy.
ANTECEDENT OF TORPEDO – "COAST GUARD"
Frigate captain, Giovanni Biagio Luppis (Ivan Vukić or Vukičević) came up with the idea of the “coast guard“, an explosive boat for the defence of the coast, which he unsuccessfully offered to the Ministry of War in Vienna.
STABILIMENTO TECNICO FIUMANO
Captain Luppis joined with the engineer Robert Whitehead, the director of Stabilimento tecnico fiumano in attempt to develop the new weapon. The man who connected them was the retired lieutenant colonel and the future mayor Giovanni Ciotta, who participated in the project as the manager.
In 1865 Whitehead already gave up Luppis’s concept and started from scratch – instead of exploding boat, he developed an explosive “fish” which looked like tuna and moved under the surface. Torpedo was first called the “mine-ship” (Minenschiff) and it was presented to the Austrian Navy committee on 20 December 1866.
SUCCESS – PARIS WORLD’S FAIR
At the Paris World’s Fair, Whitehead presented an engine he built for the Erzherzog Ferdinand Max ship, which fought at the Battle of Vis. He was also awarded in Paris in 1899 and 1900.
Among Whitehead’s greatest inventions was the depth regulator which keeps the torpedo at a constant depth. It was developed in the 1870s and did not change much by the mid-20th century. Whitehead called it “my secret” and did not even want to patent it for fear of uncovering.
HUNDREDS OF TORPEDOES
In September and October of 1870 more than a hundred torpedoes were launched. Their average speed was 7 kn and their reach 500 m. At the beginning, the Ministry of War technical committee thought them adequate only for destroying unmoving targets.
The Navy workshops in Woolwich started producing torpedoes with two propellers. They used Whitehead’s concession, and they had a deal to share new innovations. In Rijeka, two counter-rotating propellers enabled better maintenance of the course.
TORPEDOFABRIK WHITEHEAD & COMP.
Robert Whitehead bought, together with his son-in-law, Stabilimento tecnico Fiumano and he renamed it Torpedofabrik Whitehead & Comp.
Instead of his own two-cylinder steam engines, Whitehead started using Brotherhood’s three-cylinder radial engine, which he improved in his factory. It raised the speed of the torpedo significantly.
MANY COUNTRIES BUY TORPEDOES IN RIJEKA
Representatives of governments and navies of many countries came to Rijeka. At one dinner at Whitehead’s, there were representatives of 18 countries who spoke in 8 languages, and some of their countries were at war at the time.
Whitehead sold torpedoes to many countries: 254 to England, 250 to Russia, 218 to France, 203 to Germany, 100 to Austria-Hungary, 83 to Denmark and 70 to Italy. Other buyers were Argentina, Belgium, Greece, Portugal and others.
BIGGER AND MORE POWERFUL TORPEDOES
Whitehead increased the calibre of the torpedo from 356 and 381 mm to 450 mm and soon to 533 mm. This also increased the air reservoir, which enabled greater speed and reach. Because of the high pressure, air reservoirs were built of steel.
BRANCHES AND CONCESSIONS
The USA bought Whitehead’s concession rights on torpedoes fuelled by cold compressed air. A branch office in Weymouth was established, along with the one in Newport, USA. Others, like Schwarzkopf, the biggest competitor in Rijeka, produced the same torpedoes, with or without the concession.
Ludovico Obry from Trieste developed and patented his own gyroscope for directing the torpedo. Obry at first worked at Stabilimento tecnico Triestino and then, from 1883 to 1885 in Whitehead’s factory in Rijeka. His invention was developed further by the end of the century – a mechanic called Czerny improved it and adjusted it for incorporation into torpedo.
NEW BRITISH OWNERS
The factory in Rijeka became a joint stock company Torpedo Fabrik Whitehead und Co Aktiengeselschaft. At the court in Rijeka, it was registered in English, Italian and Hungarian. Georg Hoyos’s son Edgar became the managing director.
INCREASE OF SPEED AND RANGE
The production of 533 calibre torpedo – which was already being produced in Woolwich – began in Rijeka.
When they added burning paraffin, at the range of 4000 m the speed of torpedo rose to 26 kn. A completely new engine was produced, with two slanted cylinders, and the star-shaped engine was abandoned.
NEW AGE – NEW OWNERS
Orlando family from Livorno took over the Torpedofabrik and turned it into Silurificio Whitehead. The Ciano family, a powerful family which gave two ministers and two admirals, also from Livorno, had an important role as well. Admiral Arturo Ciano was important in Rijeka’s factory management.
First launching station in the world with a catapult for aerial torpedo was built, and test flights were also made above the bay of Rijeka. Torpedo is fired in low flight, 50 to 100 m above ground, at the speed of 200 km/h.
FACTORY IN RUINS
Demolished factory got a new name, Jadran, but at the end of 1947 it was renamed after Yugoslav politician Aleksandar Ranković. In 1953 it became the Engine Factory Torpedo. The post-war production of torpedoes lasted for 20 years, but it was kept secret – all we know is that approximately 350 torpedoes were made. The range of the TZR 533 mm torpedo was 12 km and its speed was 40 kn.
A VIEW OF THE FACTORY FROM THE AIR
A hundred years after the first experiments, the factory stopped producing torpedoes. It continued making engines, from the small Aran to the large ship engines. It also produced tractor and lorry engines until 1990s.