The Torpedo Solitaire typewriter

by | Dec 17, 2017 | Torpedo | 2 comments

This typewriter is so big it doesn’t fit on my blog.

At Herman’s I got carried away in the excitement of an auction and ended up winning this ginormous Schreibmaschine with an 18-inch carriage. Well, it wasn’t utterly irrational, since I’ve never had a chance to try a big ’50s Torpedo, and the opportunity may never come up again. These are not normally found in the US, and shipping one over from Germany would be insane.

This machine has a German QWERTY keyboard. That is, Y and Z are not switched as on most German keyboards, so in that regard this layout is like the American QWERTY; but there are also German letters (Ö, Ä, Ü, ß), accents, and symbols that you don’t generally find on US machines, such as §. Some characters are in places that Americans consider strange (the semicolon is over the 1, and the apostrophe is in the lower right corner over the hyphen).

But the machine was clearly used in the US. Its American users attached this label, which after a little deliberation I decided to remove. (Unfortunately, a little paint came off with it.)

The machine was last serviced by a shop in upstate New York.

The carriage can be removed by moving it all the way to the left (the drawband is then automatically removed from the carriage and held safely in place), pushing left and right levers under the carriage to unhook the carriage from the body of the machine, and pulling the carriage straight upwards. The carriage must also be in the far-left position when it is replaced.

You then have good access to the escapement for repairs and cleaning.

This machine is very robust; it’s made to last a century. There are thoughtful mechanical touches. For instance, I don’t remember any other typewriter that uses ball bearings on its ribbon mechanism.

The serial number, located inside the left side of the machine, dates it at 1955.

This typewriter uses basket shift. It has a brown platen and 11-pitch type, for a writing line of 198 characters. The type style is ordinary.

As for the typing feel, there’s nothing transcendent about it. Writing is easy but not especially swift or snappy, and of course, it takes a little effort to return the huge carriage.

That little knob on the right end of the carriage is funny. I think the knob broke, and a shop carefully smoothed down the sharp edges so it could still be used.

I’ll end by pointing out a couple of unusual controls.


  1. Ted

    Monstoro! I bet that Torpedo would sink any boat! :D

  2. David Brechbiel

    This was my first visit to Herman’s and I remember you winning that typewriter. I thought at the time, “who could love that hunk of metal”. It is three years later … my how time and thought evolves. Nice memory.


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