Aft Boiler Rooms


John Flood

Hi Folks,

Shortly after the collision the forward boiler rooms would be filling with water (although there seems to be a bit of a discrepancy with the exact time BR#6 was filling with water.)

I was wondering what was going on in the boiler rooms aft of say BR#5. Did the stokers there stay at their posts, even though they may have had nothing to do, as the ship was no longer 'under steam'?

Where they aware of how serious events were in the boiler rooms further forward at this 'earlyish' stage of the sinking?

All the Best,
Hi John: Steam was needed for many things after the collision including running the electric dynamos and emergency dynamo engines, as well as the the pumps and other auxiliaries engines like air pumps for the condensers, etc. From the BOT report we have this description:
"The five single-ended boilers and those in boiler rooms Nos. 2 and 4 had separate steam connections to the pipe supplying steam for working the auxiliary machinery, and the five single-ended boilers and the two port boilers in boiler room No. 2 had separate steam connections to the pipe supplying steam for working the electric light engines. A cross connection was also made between the main and auxiliary pipes in the reciprocating engine room, so that the auxiliaries could be worked from any boiler in the ship. Steam pipes also were led separately from three of the boiler rooms (Nos. 2, 3, 5) above the watertight bulkheads and along the working passage to the emergency electric light engines placed above the loadline in the turbine room. Pipes were also led from this steam supply to the pumps in the engine room, which were connected to the bilges throughout the ship."
The 5 single-ended boilers in BR#1 were not lit that night, they were primarily used while in port. (They also did not have ash ejectors that dumped the ashes overboard in a stream of water as were in the other rooms.) So only the boilers in BR#2, 3, and 4 were the main contributors the steam supply after the collision.
Hi Samuel. Thanks for the info. I should have realized that the steam power would have been needed for many other things, other than the actual power for propelling the ship. I guess it would have been busy in BR#2,3,4 for quite a while after the collision.

All the Best,

P.S: Thanks to all involved in restoring the website.
Would anyone get upset if I claimed that the single-ended boilers in BR#1 were in fact lit? At least 2 of the 5, at any rate.

>>Would anyone get upset if I claimed that the single-ended boilers in BR#1 were in fact lit? At least 2 of the 5, at any rate.<<

Not at all. I've seen hints in the inquiries that something was planned along the lines of a speed run the next day. The extra steam had to come from somewhere and it took awhile to get the things going. I'll look forward to seeing your reasoning for this when you're free to discuss it.
Parks brought up this possibility during our Woods Hole meeting last December. I'll let him reveal his evidence, but I will say that it is strong enough to require consideration.

We have statements from firemen assigned to boiler room #1 that their boilers were not in use prior to the accident. The total amount of coal bunkered at the start of the voyage was almost exactly equal to the total bunkerage of all six boiler rooms LESS the bunkers of boiler room #1. This would indicate there was no fuel aboard for those boilers and no intention to use them.

However, once the accident took place everything changed. It became obvious that the forward boiler rooms (at least #5, and #6) were at risk from flooding and steam was dumped from them. The other events in boiler room #4 with water coming up through the tank top deck would suggest those boilers should have been taken out of service well before the ship foundered.

It cannot be forgotten that Titanic was a STEAMship. Nothing worked without steam pressure. That included the all-important electric lights and the bilge & ballast pumps. Keeping up steam pressure was akin to keeping an injured person's heart pumping.

Chief Engineer Bell faced the imperative of keeping up steam in the face of flooding in the forward boiler rooms. It would have been quite logical for him to have turned to the cold boilers in boiler room #1 to help replace those lost to flooding in boiler rooms #5 and #6.

Boilers can't be turned "on" like light bulbs. Normally, it takes all day to get one up to temperature and pressure. I'm no expert in steam generation, but it would seem he had the means to speed up this process. Hot steam and feed water could have been "pushed" into the cold boilers while firemen carried hot coals aft from the furnaces being raked out farther forward. I would think this procedure would be somewhat dangerous--but in the face of death certain risks may be justified.

Bell may well have thought he not only had the time to get boiler room #1 "on line," but also the absolute need to do so. The overwhelming evidence is that the crew and passengers expected Titanic to float much longer than the ship actually stayed above water. Evidence from the upcoming History Channel documentary strongly suggests an unexpected hasty end to Titanic did, in fact, occur.

That we have no evidence in the testimony of any attempt to fire boiler room #1 may be just a twist of fate. The men involved would have been the last to leave the engineering spaces, so would have been least likely to survive. Dead men tell no tales, so their story may simply have been drowned in the sinking.

All-in-all, Parks has shown me evidence of the possibility that some boilers in #1 were fired. The need to have done so existed. And, the means to have accomplished the task were at hand.

-- David G. Brown
David - what's interesting is a witness statement that during the breakup coal was blown out of the 3rd funnel.
Another interesting point is the smoke witnessed after the ship sank.
Actually, the evidence is pretty straight forward. Two of the single-ended boilers imaged by NOAA in 2004 had fractured furnace fronts bent OUTWARD. This was never obvious in views looking down on the upturned boiler fronts, but when you point a hi-def camera at them at an angle, the damage becomes apparent. Unlike the boilers in BR#2, whose endcaps show evidence of implosion, the boilers in the debris evidently had to time to equalise before they reached crush depth. The furnaces, however, are not pressurised...they would have flooded as soon as water hit them. The fact that the heavy steel furnace front plate was shattered on some of the furnaces of at least two of these boilers suggests quite strongly that these boilers were lit when they were submerged.

What I think is this...those boilers were lit after the collision primarily to supply steam to the emergency dynamos. With that in mind, I would then direct you to re-read the testimony of Electrician (he's listed as a Light Room Greaser) Thomas Ranger. Also, Lee, Pearcy, Bright and Joughin. Very interesting stuff and food for thought.

Hi David,


The total amount of coal bunkered at the start of the voyage was almost exactly equal to the total bunkerage of all six boiler rooms LESS the bunkers of boiler room #1. This would indicate there was no fuel aboard for those boilers and no intention to use them.

I would love to see some of the figures related to that statement.

Best wishes,

I cannot understand how the bunkers had not been supplied with sufficent fuel for use during the voyage. When were they going to use them ? The maiden voyage would have been a full trial - didn't Ismay want them fired for use the next day.
I don't follow the reasoning for this discussion
Dave, Parks - are you trying to promote some theory concerning the firing of these boilers ?
We know from trimmer Thomas Dillon that he was working in the reciprocating engine room helping to clean some gear at the time of the collision because the boilers in his regular section, BR #1, were not lit. However, what happened later after the accident is not fully known. As Dave Brown suggests, C/E Bell may have decided to fire up some of the single-ended boilers in case they were needed to supply steam to the emergency dynamos as well as the auxiliary pumps later on. There were steam lines to the emergency generators from 2 boilers in each of BRs 2, 3, and 5, and steam lines from two boilers in BRs 2 and 4, and from the single-ended boilers in BR 1 to the auxiliaries. However, we also know fires were pulled in the forward boiler room sections early on. With water coming up from under the plates in BR 4 it must have been clear that bad things were moving aft.

It is not clear how long Bell thought the ship would last, but between say midnight and 2 AM, the change in trim angle increased by only about 5 degrees more than what it was at midnight (based on observations). Relatively speaking, things were changing rather slowly. So lighting up some of those boilers in BR 1 would make a lot of sense, since keeping steam up to run the pumps and the emergency dynamos was the only hope they had of possibly keep things under control in my opinion.
Hi Steve,

I tend to agree with the view that these boilers would have been fired up later in the voyage, and indeed there's a very detailed discussion in one of the appendices in my Olympic Class Ships book.

Best wishes,


I haven't speculated at all on bunkerage. Dave has taken what I showed him about the boilers and applied it to his own theories that he is developing.

All I'm saying is that during my study of the wreck, I noticed that some of the furnace fronts of at least 2 of the 5 single-ended boilers (I only have hi-def images of 2 and have not been able yet to examine the other 3) are fractured and pushed outward. I don't believe that those boilers were lit prior to the collision to put on more speed, so my conclusion is that they were lit after the collision in order to provide service steam to the emergency dynamos, especially after the loss of one boiler room and the drawing of fires in another.

Then I applied what I know about these boilers to eyewitness observations concerning the break-up. I am now weighing the testimony from a few credible eyewitnesses who claim that the lights continued burning in the after end of the ship, even after the stern separated from the bow. At first this seems to be a fantastic and impossible claim, but the more I look into it, the more credibility I give it. I'm also starting to understand how it can be possible for the lights to continue burning, even after the break. More to come on this later...I'm still arguing with myself.

Don't ask me about how much coal was in the bunkers...I haven't looked into that issue. Dave can answer those kind of questions, because he's given it some thought.

"I'm still arguing with myself." And I thought that I was the only one who does things like that.

It would be interesting to see what you come up with Parks to explain that. As far as I know, there were no batteries connected with the emergency lighting system. Once the steam lines are ruptured I would expect the dynamos to run down pretty quickly.

By the way, as I was re-reading Beesley's account, he mentions seeing the lights flicker once and then go out for good at the same time that the noise of the breakup came, while the stern was swinging upward. He may have been referring to the main lighting system. Was it Ranger who said something about the emergency lights continued to burn?