Is creating a ship's lines plan an art, science, craft, skill or just the result of experience based testing? For thousands of years sailing vessels had a monopoly on overseas travel & transport. There was simply no other means to get across the sea to visit foreign shores. With zero competition there was obviously not much pressure to innovate and with regards to building ships it was simply mariners dealing with the builders directly for newbuilding. For thousands of years ships where build not from drawings but simply based on some basic measurements and oral instructions from the mariners. Scale models where the first effort to start building with a clear end result in mind. Blocks off wood would be shaped in a hull form and used to take off lines. This evolved in making scale drawings based on measuring the scale model. Only in the 18th century science slowly started to make inroads and the idea of building directly from drawings was introduced. Typically this development was not initiated in the leading seafaring nations like England or the Netherlands but countries like France & Sweden who where aiming to increase their presence on the seven seas. Since there's hardly any original ship plans from the period prior to the 18th century we depend on archaeology & art to find out what ships looked like back then. Luckily there's been many great marine artists that captured ships accurately.
The current climate change driven quest to reduce or even completely eliminate emissions from ships logically leads to how humanity handled the introduction of fossil fuel powered machines on board ships. From the plan collection I have available from the famous NY ship builder William H. Webb who build 133 ships in the period from 1840 and 1865 one can derive that steam ship hull design was very much based on the clipper hulls that where developing at the same time. Although Webb is specifically well known for his large clipper ship designs it is interesting to note that many of the designs in his plan collection are actually Side Wheel Steamers that are difficult to distinguish from his clipper designs just looking at the lines plans that describe the hull forms. The steam engines where large and heavy with limited horse power and the required fuel had to find its place on board too. Since engines where still unreliable for many decades to come motor ships where fitted with sails as well & the combination of these factors required the most easily driven hull designs. Thanks to their sleek sharp hulls based on the clipper designs the early steamers could achieve amazing speeds with only a few hundred horsepower engine on board and would still have decent sailing characteristics too.
The lines plan of the Side Wheel Steamer was chosen as an exercise to test a new method to turn original paper drawing data into a fair 3D hull shape as fast & accurate as possible to enable lofting one fair hull surface with as few control points as possible.
The new method is working pretty well & a fair 3D hull shape from a scanned drawing like the SS George Law can be achieved in a few hours instead of days now. The video below gives an idea what a 3D lofting floor looks like.