Tuesday, October 25, 2016

Building the USS Electrician: New Photos from the National Archives

By Katherine A. Renfrew
Hampton Roads Naval Museum Registrar

This aerial photograph of USS Electrician, a landmark building once located near the headquarters buildings of Naval Operating Base Hampton Roads (now Naval Station Norfolk), gives a sense of the scale of the wooden training mock-up. (Hampton Roads Naval Museum Collection) 
What might seem archaic today was actually cutting edge in the early 1900s. USS Electrician, a building designed to have the appearance and all the electrical features of a modern battleship, represented a very modern method for training sailors nearly a century ago. Offering classroom and hands-on training, the students were able to simulate the same routine they would have on a real ship. Measuring 235 feet long with a 38-foot “beam,” the ship was a ¾-scale model of a Pennsylvania-class battleship; and became an iconic feature of Naval Operating Base Hampton Roads (now Naval Station Norfolk).
Although appearing at first glance like the plans for a seagoing warship, the unusual number of portholes and exterior hatches called for on these blueprints for USS Electrician, as well as the absence of anything below the waterline, are an indicator that these are not the plans for a ship at all.  (Hampton Roads Naval Museum Collection) 
USS Electrician is highlighted in red on this 1920 map of Naval Operating Base Hampton Roads (now Naval Station Norfolk), where it once loomed over the northeast corner of the base parade ground, which is now a parking lot. (Hampton Roads Naval Museum Collection)
This interior photo of USS Electrician shows the immersive classroom environment prospective Electrician's Mates (after the rating name was changed from "Electrician" in 1921) encountered inside the simulated battleship. (Hampton Roads Naval Museum collection)
The ship was furnished with all the intricate equipment of a modern battleship, with the exception of radio apparatus and live ordnance. It contained three decks with lecture and reading rooms; and living accommodations for 160 men. Some of the features of the ship included an electrically operated three-gun turret, gun rammers and ammunition hoist; an operating boat crane, deck winch and electrical anchor; and a completely equipped fire control system with conning tower, substations and spotters’ positions.

The following images of USS Electrician reveal the many phases of its construction from 1918 to 1922: 

(National Archives and Records Administration, NSNorfolk-1918_20)
(National Archives and Records Administration, NSNorfolk-1918_21)
(National Archives and Records Administration, NSNorfolk-1918_22)
(National Archives and Records Administration, NSNorfolk-1918_14)

(National Archives and Records Administration, NSNorfolk-1918_24)
(National Archives and Records Administration, NSNorfolk-1918_28)
(National Archives and Records Administration, NSNorfolk-1918_15)
(National Archives and Records Administration, NSNorfolk-1918_29)
(National Archives and Records Administration, NSNorfolk-1918_63)
This brief history of USS Electrician is the eighth in a series of blogs illustrating the development of Naval Station Norfolk. Unless otherwise noted, the photographs in this series represent the results of a research project seeking images of Hampton Roads naval installations at the National Archives and Records Administration (NARA). This research, performed by the Southeastern Archaeological Research, Incorporated (SEARCH) was funded by Commander Navy Region Mid-Atlantic as part of an ongoing effort to provide information on historic architectural resources at navy bases in Hampton Roads. The museum is pleased to present these images for the benefit of the general public and interested historians. As far as we know, all of these images are in the public domain and none of the NARA images have been published before. 

1 comment:

John Hamilton said...

When was the USS Electrician dismantled? I found on reference circa 1940, but I am sure I remember seeing it as a child probably between 1948 and 1950.