Astern Bell


Doug Criner

Member
Dec 2, 2009
447
68
133
USA
I have read that Murdoch ordered an astern bell at the time of the collision. From other accounts, I tend to doubt it. What is known?
 

Kevin Tischer

Member
Dec 24, 2011
57
2
58
I believe this has been discussed in great detail elsewhere on this forum. But I think that if he did order full astern it was more to warn the engineers that they were about to hit something. There wasn't a full shift of engineers on duty at the time so Murdoch would've known that they wouldn't have been able to reverse the engines in time anyway. It is much more believable that he rang down stop instead. There's testimonies that support this claim, and a big piece of evidence is the fact that the red light came on in the boiler rooms. This meant that a stop order had been rung down and no more steam was needed. If a full astern order had been rung then there was still need for all that steam and the red light would not have come on.
 

Jim Currie

Member
Apr 16, 2008
6,582
1,357
323
NewtonMearns, Glasgow, Scotland.
"There wasn't a full shift of engineers on duty at the time so Murdoch would've known that they wouldn't have been able to reverse the engines in time anyway."

Where did this come from? None of the engineers survived to tell how many engineers were in the main engine room.

In any case it would not matter. It would only take a couple of engineers to operate the engine controls and we know the controls were indeed operated since Trimmer Dillon saw the engines stop.

If there was an astern order it was to stop the ship, not the engines. The stop order was to avoid or reduce damage to the propellers.

JC
 

Kevin Tischer

Member
Dec 24, 2011
57
2
58
What I meant JC is hat it was sunday night, normally on ships on sundays the crew only does tasks that are required. Especially for this time period. The engine room would not have had all the engineers in it like they would have if they were doing docking maneuvers. Therefore, they were not expecting any sudden astern orders. It would not have been like in the movie where the chief engineer was sitting around the telegraph waiting for a bell. In fact, Dillon says that it was two greasers that answered the order because they were they only ones around. So it would have taken even longer to reverse the engines than if there was a full shift just standing around waiting for the orders to come down. I am not saying that the controls were not operated I am just saying that I highly doubt the engines were reversed because they weren't expecting it, there wasn't very many engineers around so reaction time would have been slowed, Dillon says there wasn't a reverse order until after the crash, and the stop light came on in the boiler room which tells them the engines are being stopped and to divert the steam away from them.
 

Doug Criner

Member
Dec 2, 2009
447
68
133
USA
"it was sunday night, normally on ships on sundays the crew only does tasks that are required. Especially for this time period."

I don't think underway watchstanding is cut back on Sundays. I would expect routine maintenance or housekeeping activites to be reduced.

I tend to think that there probably wasn't an astern bell or at least that the reciprocating engines were not reversed. I have just read Beesley's account, wherein he describes the engine vibration stopping at the time of the collision, and remaining stopped or very low. When a ship's screws are reversed, there is normally a large amount of vibration - more so than ahead at comparable rpm.
 

Jim Currie

Member
Apr 16, 2008
6,582
1,357
323
NewtonMearns, Glasgow, Scotland.
Hello Lads!

I can vuch that Watch keeping officers .. engine and Deck do not get any time off at sea... they work their Watch as normal. For your information, (courtesy of Ship's Nostalgia) this is how it would have gone that night:
"Sequence of Machine Operations

Operation Location of Equipment Personnel Involved
Response to
"STOP" signal Between Main Reciprocating Engine... Main Engine Greasers.

2nd Engineer...Close steam stop valve to each engine
At engine manoeuvring control station Telegraph advise Boiler Room
At engine manoeuvring control station Senior 4th Engineer
Telegraph advise Turbine Room
At engine manoeuvring control station Senior 4th Engineer: Operate reversing gear control on each engine to stop engine and bring propeller shaft to a standstill
At engine manoeuvring control station... 2nd Engineer...
Operate steam to condenser change over valve.
Senior Assistant 3rd Engineer... At forward end of Turbine Engine Room.
2nd Engineer: "SLOW AHEAD": Operate the reversing leaver to the Ahead position and slowly open the steam stop valve to attain 3 5 RPM Between Main Engines.
"STOP":...2nd Engineer... Close the steam stop valve Between Main Engines
"SLOW ASTERN":...2nd Engineer...Operate the reversing lever to the astern position and slowly open the steam stop valve to attain 35 RPM Between Main Engines
"STOP"... 2nd Engineer... Close steam stop valve and operate the reversing lever to the ahead position to bring the propeller shaft to a standstill. Between Main Engines

In the Boiler Rooms the engineers would have been very active in keeping a close watch on the boiler water levels and ordering the Firemen to shut in the doors which control the flow of air to the fires. After about 10 minutes of "Stop Engines" the Chief Engineer, Second Engineer and all other Watchkeeping Engineers, an additional sixteen engineers would have been present in the Engine Room and available for duty.

As you can see, when the engines were put astern, the valve would be opened slowly at first. There would be little or no vibration until the revs were turned up to maximum.

JC
 

Doug Criner

Member
Dec 2, 2009
447
68
133
USA
Jim, that's very helpful info. And it prompts a couple of questions:

How much time, do you think, would elapse during the procedure you outlined?

If only Stop bells were rung up, would the engine room still have automatically reversed the recip engines, even without an astern bell, just to stop the screws?

During all this time, would the center screw and the turbine engine continue to windmill due to the ship's ahead way?

Would three engine order telegraphs need to be rung up to stop?

The firerooms didn't have a telegraph repeater to see, just a red light light from the maneuvering space? On an ancient steam-powered (turbine) ship that I served in, each fireroom had an engine order telegraph repeater. When there was a speed change ordered, the firemen immediately started cutting in or cutting out oil burners - they knew what to do and didn't wait for orders. On that ship, there was an inefficient astern section of the main engines - if any astern bell was received, we knew to cut in all burners, if they weren't already - or the steam pressure would drop like a rock. (Probably not applicable to Titanic's recip engines.)
 
Oct 28, 2000
3,242
548
388
Stewards James Johnson, William Ward, and George Crowe probably never set foot in Titanic's engine room. Their skills were not in passing coal, raking furnaces, oiling bearings, or operating steam throttles. Even so, these men provided us with some rather important information about what went on in the engine room during the accident. It is unfortunate that because these men were not engine crew their testimonies are ignored when examining how the ship tried to mitigate ice damage.

The three stewards were not sailors, but this was not their first time aboard a ship. At least two of them had been aboard sistership Olympic when it lost a propeller blade. It is not a rash assumption to say these men knew the front of Titanic from the back (or, bow from stern in sailor lingo).

Despite their knowledge of ships, all three of these men oddly placed the "action" during the accident in the stern and not the bow.

CROWE: About 11:40 there was a kind of shaking of the ship and a little impact, from wich I thought one of the propellers had broken off.

WARD: I thought at first it was the propeller gone.

JOHNSON: I did not feel much because we thought she had lost her wheel (meaning "propeller") or something, and somebody passed the remark, 'Another Belfast trip.'"

Titanic snubbed its bow on the iceberg. There has never been any doubt of that. Yet, these experienced stewards place the problem at the other end of their ship. I suggest that what they experienced was not the rumble of steel on ice, but something quite different.

There location in the first class galley was directly over the reciprocating engines. If First Officer Murdoch had issued any engine order — Stop or Astern — the noise and vibration of disturbed water created by dragging a propeller or propellers at 22 knots through the water would certainly have drawn their attention.

If I am correct, then the three stewards corroborate other anecdotes and testimonies about some sort of actions by the engines in conjunction with the accident. For instance, Fourth Officer Josheph Boxhall claimed that both engines were put into reverse by Murdoch.

The only survivor from the engine spaces to testify was greaser Frederick Scott. Unfortunately, he worked in the turbine space one compartment aft of the reciprocating engines. All of his knowledge about those engines had to come through a w/t door in the bulkhead between those spaces. He said he was standing near the door at the moment of the accident. Maybe so.

Still, Scott described feeling a something before he noticed any engine orders. "I felt a shock," he said in London, "and I thought it was something in the main engine room which had gone wrong." He did not specify the duration between that shock and when he noticed the engine room telegraphs ring Stop.

If Boxhall was correct about Murdoch issuing an engine order, the response by the engineers might well have been the "shock" felt by Scott. Remember, the stewards did not feel any impact on the iceberg and they were sitting in the galley almost directly above Scott's location.

Only after that shock did Scott note the Stop order on the telegraphs. This order of events fits nicely with the testimony from quartermaster Alfred Olliver who entered the bridge just as the ship was striking on the iceberg. He got there too late to see Murdoch issue any engine orders to avoid the iceberg. But, he did see Stop orders sent down.

So the evidence strongly suggests that Titanic engines (or engine) were maneuvered during the iceberg accident. However, the evidence cited does not really speak to exactly what Murdoch ordered. Boxhall's claim that both engines were reversed has no corroborating evidence even within his own testimony. To get an idea of what Murdoch was thinking we should look to the location of damage to the hull.

All of the iceberg damage is confined to the bow. Under any analysis, the worst of the damage is confined to forward of the ship's pivot point. This pattern could only be created by one maneuver — Murdoch must have turned Titanic to its right, in an attempt to "bury" the bow against the ice.

Strange as it seems, turning toward the berg was his best option to keep damage to a minimum. The bow was already going to strike on the ice. All Murdoch could do was to swing the middle of the ship and the stern out of harm's way. Because of the way ships steer, this required turning toward the iceberg. And, we have Olliver's testimony that Murdoch's last helm command was "hard a-port which in 1912 parlance meant to turn the ship hard to its right, or toward the iceberg.

For practical purposes Titanic maneuvered as a twin-screw vessel. Such a ship can be made to turn more rapidly by slowing or reversing the propeller on the side toward which the ship is turning. If Murdoch wanted to speed up the swing of the stern away from the iceberg he would have ordered only the starboard engine to either stop or reverse. Either of these orders in conjunction with hard right (hard a-starboard) rudder would have confined damage to the bow just as it occurred.

— David G. Brown
 
Mar 12, 2011
174
2
123
Douglas and Kevin :
I can answer a few of your questions at least. There was no telegraph for the turbine engine. It was understood between the engineers and the captain that the turbine would be engaged if the reciprocating engine telegraphs read "Half Ahead" or greater. I recall reading somewhere that the reciprocating engines had to be running at about 50 rpm (half ahead) in order to exhaust a great enough volume of steam to start the turbine from its resting state, although it could be maintained in motion once started even if the reciprocating engines dropped to 25 rpm.
If both engine telegraphs read "Stop" obviously the turbine would be stopped as well, it wouldn't receive any steam to function. Kevin is correct that the turbine could not be reversed, as Mr. Currie explained above, the engineers would operate a valve that would shunt the exhaust steam from the reciprocating engines directly into the condensors while they were running astern. I'm pretty sure the center screw would continue to windmill under its own momentum, as far as I can tell there was no mechanism to stop it.
 
Mar 18, 2008
2,652
1,153
248
Germany
>>The three stewards were not sailors, but this was not their first time aboard a ship. At least two of them had been aboard sistership Olympic when it lost a propeller blade. It is not a rash assumption to say these men knew the front of Titanic from the back (or, bow from stern in sailor lingo).

Despite their knowledge of ships, all three of these men oddly placed the "action" during the accident in the stern and not the bow.

CROWE: About 11:40 there was a kind of shaking of the ship and a little impact, from wich I thought one of the propellers had broken off.

WARD: I thought at first it was the propeller gone.

JOHNSON: I did not feel much because we thought she had lost her wheel (meaning "propeller") or something, and somebody passed the remark, 'Another Belfast trip.'"

Titanic snubbed its bow on the iceberg. There has never been any doubt of that. Yet, these experienced stewards place the problem at the other end of their ship. I suggest that what they experienced was not the rumble of steel on ice, but something quite different.

There location in the first class galley was directly over the reciprocating engines. If First Officer Murdoch had issued any engine order — Stop or Astern — the noise and vibration of disturbed water created by dragging a propeller or propellers at 22 knots through the water would certainly have drawn their attention.<<

None of the three was there were you placed them.


Mr. Crowe: I was on duty up until about 10.30 on the night of the disaster, and I turned in about 11 o'clock; it might have been a little later. About 11.40 there was a kind of shaking of the ship and a little impact, from which I thought one of the propellers had been broken off.
Senator Bourne: You were in your berth at the time?
Mr. Crowe: I was in my berth; yes.
Senator Bourne: What deck were you sleeping on?
Mr. Crowe: On E Deck.
Senator Bourne: How far away from the bow of the ship; amidship?
Mr. Crowe: About amidship; yes. Probably 50 feet forward of amidship.

Senator Fletcher: Were you on duty the night of the accident?
Mr. Ward: No, sir; I had gone below. I was just turning in when she struck.
Senator Fletcher: Where was the location of your room?
Mr. Ward: About amidships, sir; on the port side.
Senator Fletcher: On what deck?
Mr. Ward: On E Deck.
Senator Fletcher: Did you feel the shock of the collision?
Mr. Ward:Yes, sir; slightly.
Senator Fletcher:Enough to unbalance you on your feet?
Mr. Ward:No, sir.

James Johnson
3345. Where is that situated in the ship? - By the exit doors from A, B, and C down to E deck to the engine room; the saloon is in front of that, through the pantry.
3346. Do you understand that plan; can you see it? - Yes, I have an idea.
3347. Can you see where the engine room is? - Yes, it was in front of that. It ran through that blue mark, I should think. The first big blue one.
3348. Can you see the funnels? - Yes.
3349. Do you know where your saloon was with reference to the funnels? Do you know where the engineers' room was? - Yes.
3350. There it is? - I say the first large blue mark would be the entrance door.
3351. "Third class galley and stewards," I see there? - Yes, the working stairs.
3352. Were you further along here (Pointing)? - Yes.
3353. The first class dining saloon? - Yes.
3354. Was it your job to go on every night? - Yes.
3357. Now what you had to do was simply to stay in that saloon as I understand? - No, I took E - what they call the saloon - the reception room and the pantry, on.
3358. Where were you when the accident happened? - About the amidships saloon, I should think. We were all talking a few chairs up. It would be about the third or fourth table up.
3359. In that big saloon? - Yes.
3360. Did you feel the shock? - I did not feel much because we thought she had lost her wheel or something, and somebody passed the remark, "Another Belfast trip."

>>The only survivor from the engine spaces to testify was greaser Frederick Scott. Unfortunately, he worked in the turbine space one compartment aft of the reciprocating engines.<<

He was not the only survivor. Dillon was in the reciprocating engine room, and what he said indicates for a stop order.
 

Doug Criner

Member
Dec 2, 2009
447
68
133
USA
From inside a compartment in a steel ship, I think it would be difficult to discern the direction that such a noise comes from. Maybe this is not a perfectly correct analogy, but: consider swimming under water in a swimming pool. Somebody clunks two pieces of steel together (under water). The noise seems to come from various directions or from all directions.
 
Mar 12, 2011
174
2
123
If you were underwater that analogy would probably be correct, but the vibration would be transmitted through the ships hull as well, not just the water.
 

Doug Criner

Member
Dec 2, 2009
447
68
133
USA
"If you were underwater that analogy would probably be correct, but the vibration would be transmitted through the ships hull as well, not just the water."

I wasn't thinking of the sound through the water - only the ship's hull and internals.

From my experience inside compartments of steel ships, hull noises always seem to originate right where I am - directional only from whatever bulkhead, overhead, or deck is closest.

Whatever, the perceptions of the three stewards are obviously incorrect. What is your explanation?
 
Mar 12, 2011
174
2
123
Ah. In that case I will defer to your experience, as mine is lacking
happy.gif
Apologies for the misunderstanding
 
Mar 22, 2003
6,479
1,743
383
Chicago, IL, USA
www.titanicology.com
Sounds are difficult to isolate on a big ship as they propagate through the steel hull. People in diffreent locations heard different things and thought of different reasons for the sounds they heard. 2/O Lightoller was in his bunk in the officer's quarters when the ship struck. This was his first impressions:

13734. If you were awake you felt something, I suppose? Just describe to us what it was you felt? - It is best described as a jar and a grinding sound. There was a slight jar followed by this grinding sound. It struck me we had struck something and then thinking it over it was a feeling as if she may have hit something with her propellers, and on second thoughts I thought perhaps she had struck some obstruction with her propeller and stripped the blades off. There was a slight jar followed by the grinding - a slight bumping.
13735. (The Commissioner.) You could not tell from what direction the sound came? - No, my Lord. Naturally I thought it was from forward.
13736. I understand you to say you thought it was the propellers? - On second thoughts it flashed through my mind that possibly it was a piece of wreckage, or something - a piece of ice had been struck by a propeller blade, which might have given a similar feeling to the ship.
13737. (The Solicitor-General.) As to this grinding noise which you speak of which followed the slight shock, can you give us any help at all how long the grinding sound or sensation continued? - Well, I should say a matter of a couple of seconds, perhaps - a few seconds, very few.
 

Similar threads

Similar threads