Californian's boilers

Mar 22, 2003
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The lack of any passengers (some 47 max could be accommodated) and at an apparently advertised cost of £10 each could have provided an additional £470 to help offset the supply to The Californian of Welsh steam coal at the least 3 times it's usual cost.
Why would a potential passenger travel on a slow tramp steamer when there were several passenger steamers still crossing the pond who could make the voyage in half the time?
I should add I have absolutely no evidence to support the above contention, other than it would fit neatly into one explanation as to why Captain Lord remained in the chart room despite receiving Stone and Gibson's reports.
And that's the way crazy ideas like switching Titanic with Olympic are born. Sorry, but I personally don't like to deal with unsupportable contentions.There are a number of people on this board already who's fertile imaginations get in the way of objectivity.
 
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Julian Atkins

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Re The Coal Strike in 1912

I am going to have to type out bits of 'The Engineer' for 5th April 1912 rather laboriously from p366...

"The Coal Trade

There has really been no coal trade in the past week... Supplies are exhausted in almost every connection. Railway companies are reported to retain considerable stocks...
Many coal merchants are out of the market, having nothing to offer. Householders have this week been paying 2s. 6d. to 3s. per cwt. for supplies...

Spot [stockpiled] coal remains as dear as ever. Quotations this week must be accepted as nominal. [Cardiff Coal Exchange:] Admiralty Large, 45s. to 46s. ... best Monmouthshire 40s. to 42s. 6d. ...

Newport

The quantity of coal shipped last week from Newport was only 2064 tons to foreign destinations and 50 tons coastwise. Dealings were mostly confined to spot [stockpiled] supplies, which were evidently near exhaustion, and for these the prices asked were very high..."

(All prices quoted above are per ton, except the 'Householders' in cwt).

I hope the above contemporaneous extracts are of interest. I know about how the UK railway companies stockpiled coal, but know nothing about whether shipping companies in the UK did the same.

Cheers,

Julian
 

Julian Atkins

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Hi Sam,

I am grateful for your comments, and would not want to go down the road of speculation at all, as you quite rightly say others have done.

However, there must be some explanation as to why The Californian set sail that Good Friday in 1912, instead of being laid up like most other vessels, due to the coal strike and the 3 times, or 4 times hike in the price of coal by then. And something odd about the unusual Boston destination?

And why, as you also agree with me, The Californian wasn't 'short' of coal for that journey from London to Boston, and was amply supplied.

Just trying to tie up a few loose ends here which Harrison and Reade never dealt with.

I have researched a great deal about the South Wales coal mining industry, and is where I live in a small village in The Valleys in South Wales amongst those whose families worked down the pits for generations.

There is plenty of evidence that emigrants would go to the USA via 'tramp steamers' due to the lower cost of passage compared to the liners. And there is quite a lot of pictorial evidence and Captain Lord's own 1961 interviews in the taped transcripts (that link up with some of the pics) of The Californian pre his last voyage of her as her Captain that there were many passengers on The Californian. Harland has alluded to some of this.

The Californian had very good passenger accommodation and amenities, and crew to facilitate same.

Cheers,

Julian
 
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Harland Duzen

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I don't know if this is right or wrong but find it hilarious. I wonder if on her next voyage she carried a consignment of ice to Iceland?
Looking back at it, "Titanic: Triumph & Tragedy" might be wrong about this as Aaron 2016* found an article on the "Guilty as charged" thread from the Pensacola Journal^ February 28th 1912 about the Californian deporting a lady back to France AND mentioned the cargo as cotton :

"The girl was placed aboard the Californian at New Orleans a week ago and that vessel came here to take aboard 8,300 more bales of cotton"

Now it could be that on the prior voyage the Californian carried both Hay AND cotton to Le Havre (as the reporter would only know what was being loaded on) or it could be wrong and they only took cotton. However I don't know why they would misreport such a thing like the damaged hay and Lord's bad report if it didn't happen (why doesn't Triumph and Tragedy contain references?)

Back to Topic!


*He deserves the real credit as he found the report that verified the prior voyage.
Stanley Lord guilty as charged

^The Pensacola journal. (Pensacola, Fla.) 1898-1985, February 28, 1912, Page 2, Image 2
 

Julian Atkins

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For the sake of completeness in respect of my own ramblings concerning why The Californian would set sail for Boston from the Port of London on the 5th April 1912, when there was a considerable coal shortage due to the national coal strike, I have now come across the following thread on here and very interesting posts by Paul Slish:-

What kind of cargo was the Californian carrying

"This is the first time the steamship Californian has been in this port. Capt. Lord said it was his first trip here. The steamer was loaded with a miscellaneous cargo and berthed at the B & A docks in East Boston." Boston Traveller, April 19, 1912, p.7. "B & A docks" stands for "Boston and Albany docks."

Incidentally, it was the same above report in the 'Boston Traveller' newspaper that mentioned in answer to a question by their reporter 'In what latitude and longitude he was when he first received the SOS message from the Virginian? Captain Lord replied ' he could not give out a "state secret"... '

( I think the "state secret" quote is often taken out of context... the full quote continues 'the question would have to be answered by those in the [Local Boston Leyland Agents] office' ).

Paul then goes on to quote the cargo of The Californian's next voyage, but this time it was from Liverpool to Boston, rather than from London. Other quotes by Paul of Leyland vessels of the same period are also from Liverpool, rather than London.

No one yet appears to have discovered any Customs records or 'Manifest' for The Californian cargo from that voyage from London 5th April to Boston 19th April 1912.

The other interesting detail contained in Reade (p.18) is that The Californian left the Port of London "1.30am in the morning" on the 5th April bound for Boston. That seems rather unusual to me - leaving in the night.

Cheers,

Julian
 

Rob Lawes

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"1.30am in the morning" on the 5th April bound for Boston. That seems rather unusual to me - leaving in the night.
I would imagine it would have been to catch the high tide. She was obviously in no rush to get there given the Captain's willingness to heave to for the night, mid-atlantic.
 

Julian Atkins

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And heave to at 1am Friday 19th April at the 'Boston Light' and there she waited the rest of the night till docking after 7am on the 19th April.

Nevertheless, a night time departure from London would be unusual? Easier to wait for daylight and the next tide? The Royal Albert Docks departure point was around North Woolwich, and I would have thought the turn at Gallions Reach into The Thames would have been much easier in daylight?

(I do know Gallions Reach, Thamesmead, Plumstead, Woolwich, and Greenwich quite well as a land lubber).

Cheers,

Julian
 
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Harland Duzen

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I'm just about to ask a really silly question, but I just noticed this Newspaper clipping for "Corn Markets" in 1905.
Code:
42454

I been ignoring these newspaper clippings as they keep referring to "Californian Wheat" (literally a type of wheat) but with the mention of the Leyland Line Victorian and other ships, is this source describing cargo for the Californian?

IF that's is the case, then it might be possible to find what (if anything the Californian was carrying).

If not, then this is just a random advert and I'm sorry for wasting everyone's time.
 

Julian Atkins

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Hi Harland,

I am very grateful for you providing the links to Aaron's research. And as you say, 'well done Aaron'!

The Pensacola Journal indicates The Californian went from New Orleans to Le Havre on 28th February 1912, and had 30 passengers plus Ms Marie Leleun, and with 8,300 more bales of cotton. Via other sources The Californian left Liverpool on 21st January 1912, returning to (unusually) London on 30th March 1912.

Leslie Harrison states that this penultimate voyage of The Californian with Captain Stanley Lord as Master was to the West Indies (p.38 'A Titanic Myth'). Leslie Reade states it was to New Orleans. Neither mention the Le Havre stop on the return journey, or why The Californian went up The English Channel to London, instead of 'home' to Liverpool.

Both Harrison and Reade were ignorant of the incident involving Ms Marie Leleun.

The outward voyage from Liverpool is covered by Leslie Harrison, as it also links into the 2 well known pics of The Californian Officers Stewart, Groves, Stone, and Captain Lord assembled on deck in Harrison's book as above. The second pic is of two children (sisters) sitting upon the seated Captain Lord and Chief Officer Stewart, with Stone and Groves standing behind. One of the sisters had been ill during part of the voyage. Harrison implies the pics were taken on the bridge, but clearly they are taken on the promenade deck with the lifeboats as a back drop.

Cheers,

Julian
 
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Julian Atkins

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Hi Harland,

I would suggest the "changed hands" is amongst traders at The London Corn Exchange. As per my quotes from The Engineer magazine of 1912 in respect of the Coal Exchanges, coal was referred to by grade and alternatively location of the mine/seam, with often 'generic' descriptions being used. I see no reason why the Corn Exchanges would not have used similar terms.

California was a major producer of wheat in the 1880s but this output declined markedly by 1905 due to other crops etc being more profitable.

In your above newspaper report, the ships are usually referred to in quote marks, but there are clearly some typesetter's errors.

Cheers,

Julian
 
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Rob Lawes

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Hi Julian.

Given that Californian's home port was Liverpool and as you've posted above, her visit to London was unusual, I would suggest that this is the best reason why no passengers were booked on her next voyage. It probably wasn't practical to arrange ticket sales for the passage when regular London based vessels had probably already held the bookings.

To cheekily pick up on the unknown, possibly dangerous cargo conversation, its worth noting that one of the largest explosives storage, research and development factories in Britain, existed at the Royal Arsenal Woolwich at that time. If Californian was carrying something from London liable to go bang, 5 gets you 10, that's where it came from.

Regards

Rob
 

Rancor

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Perhaps it was this same mysterious cargo being returned to England in 1915 that caused the devastating second explosion during the torpedo attack on the Lusitania.
 

Rob Lawes

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The only other thing I can say is that a ship alongside makes no money where as a ship at sea is doing its job. I'm not sure how it worked back then but would imagine there would be berthing fees and handling fees paid to the port for the use of the facilities. The sooner a ship sailed sooner another ship could be docked. Perhaps Californian was told it would have to sail at that time because the berth was needed for the next arrival. Once she was loaded there would be no need to hang around.

In an era pre navigational aids and with charts that weren't as accurate as they are today, a night time passage down a confined, and busy waterway would have taken a great deal of concentration.

Regards

Rob
 

Harland Duzen

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Hi Julian.

Given that Californian's home port was Liverpool and as you've posted above, her visit to London was unusual, I would suggest that this is the best reason why no passengers were booked on her next voyage. It probably wasn't practical to arrange ticket sales for the passage when regular London based vessels had probably already held the bookings.
I can't verify this but when I was looking up info about the Californian a year ago, On the National Archives website (in the UK) I did see passenger lists for the Californian departing the Royal Albert Dock around 1905 and possibly 1911, so it was possibly a common stop for her.

(Edit: Here are some records: Search results: Californian Leyland | The National Archives )

To cheekily pick up on the unknown, possibly dangerous cargo conversation, its worth noting that one of the largest explosives storage, research and development factories in Britain, existed at the Royal Arsenal Woolwich at that time. If Californian was carrying something from London liable to go bang, 5 gets you 10, that's where it came from.
I also read in a Tugboat book (cough cough) that London docks also held oil storage depots either before or after 1912 and in the 1930's one of these caught fire, nearly exploded and nearly caused a second Great Fire of London. :eek:

Perhaps it was this same mysterious cargo being returned to England in 1915 that caused the devastating second explosion during the torpedo attack on the Lusitania.
Back to Topic and while the idea of the Californian carrying explosives or armaments sounds like it would make a good thriller book, Until we genuinely find proof, we veering into conspiracy territory. And I firmly believe the World is a sphere... :D

Back to Topic!
 

Mike Spooner

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I think the California's boilers would have been banked (kept hot) - except at least one boiler would have been supplying steam to generate electric power and other auxiliary steam loads. I think they should have been ready to answer bells rather quickly, after warming up steam lines, checking valve lineups, etc. - minutes, not hours. The fireroom and engine-room crews had probably become somewhat lethargic - requiring a little bit of extra time to spring into action.

I know nothing about California's engineering plant, so I'm going by my general understanding of steam propulsion.
I would of thought keeping up some heat in the boilers wouldn't go a miss to keep some warm in the ship too. To start a boiler from cold can take many hours to reach a high temperature.