1. Welcome to Encyclopedia Titanica
    or subscribe for unlimited access to ET! You can also login with , or !
    Dismiss Notice

Californian's boilers

Discussion in 'Californian' started by Steven Christian, Aug 2, 2018.

  1. For you engineers. I did a search but couldn't find what I was looking for. When the California stopped for the night and around the time when the rockets were observed what state would the California's boilers have been in? Hypothetically if the radio operator was awoken after the rockets were seen and Titanic's condition was found out could the California have just opened her stop valves and throttle and taken off or would she need to build up pressure. And if so how long would that take? I'm sure this has been covered but I couldn't find it. Thanks...SC.
  2. Harland Duzen

    Harland Duzen Member

    Not too sure if this fact will help, but Californian's boilers were built at the Lilybank Foundry in Dundee, Scotland.

    Edit: Each boiler possibly weighed 50 tons each (I'm not 100% certain, so treat this fact with caution).
    Last edited: Aug 2, 2018
  3. Doug Criner

    Doug Criner Member

    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.
    Mike Spooner likes this.
  4. Doug Criner

    Doug Criner Member

    Additional thoughts.

    Most engine-order telegraphs of that vintage typically had, besides, "1/3 ahead," etc., also "finished with engines," and "standby engines." I think "standby engines" would have been rung down. But, the bridge watch would have probably called down, by voice telephone, and advised, "We're stopped in ice, but after daylight, we hope to get underway again." That would tell the bellow-deck engineering crew everything they needed to know. They would have taken it from there.
  5. Thanks for that info Doug. The reason I ask is because I want to know if Capt Lord and the California did everything right if it would have made a difference. I know this has been debated probably as far back as the morning Carpathia was picking up survivors. All I've read on it and the political motivations of the inquiries leads me to believe that Capt Lord was made a scapegoat to deflect from others screw ups. Sure there are things he did wrong like not getting the radio operator to have a listen but would it have made a difference?
    Mike Spooner likes this.
  6. Jim Currie

    Jim Currie Member

    Everyone forgets that there was no way survivors could have been picked up before daylight. Then, Carpathia would have already been there and those who were to die would already have done so. It follows that the outcome would have been the same...1, 2 or even 10 rescue ships.
  7. Just an FYI, Californian's telegraph went to 'standby' a little after 5 in the morning, but steam was kept up all night. It would not have taken her very long to get underway. The only difference that she could have made is possibly picking up some of the survivors that Carpathia did later on. The numbers of those lost and saved would not have changed much, if at all. When Lord Mersey declared, "
    she [Californian] might have saved many if not all of the lives that were lost," he probably was smoking dope.
  8. Thank you for the replies gentlemen. I'm not familiar with ships telegraphs. Never seen one in person. The 2 years I lived aboard my ship I never saw the bridge. I dont't even know if my carrier had a telegraph like the ones you describe. The one thing that has always stood out to me about whether Captain Lord was a good guy or a bad guy was that he stopped his ship when the conditions became unsafe. That action alone tells me he was a responsible captain looking out for the safety of his ship and passengers. Were there mistakes made? Absolutely by all parties that night. But show me a tragic event where there wern't mistakes made. Its my belief that Captain Lord was judged unfairly IMHO.
  9. Julian Atkins

    Julian Atkins Member

    Hi Steven,

    The point Sam also inferred was that Captain Lord gave explicit instructions to Chief Engineer Mahan to keep steam up after they were stopped in the ice.

    The "in case some big fellows come crunching along" has been argued over at some length on another thread that we have all participated in. The Californian was ready to move under steam at a few minutes notice, with the closed or partially closed dampers to the ashpans being fully opened and the blowers turned on the create a draught on the fires, and the fires raked through and fresh coal added little and often.

    After a few minutes more the triple expansion reciprocating engine would have been able to have been given full steam in skilled hands of the firemen/stockers.

    The Californian could have responded very quickly. It was not 'shut down' for the night. The only thing shut down for the night was apparently the wireless on Evans going to bed earlier than usual at 11.35pm, if the magnetic detector was in fact fully wound down.

    The coal shortage does not appear to have affected The Californian at all as it is never mentioned by anyone at anytime from The Californian.

    Captain Lord decided not to go to bed in his bunk in his cabin but to in effect to 'stay up' on a short uncomfortable settee in the Chart Room immediately below the flying bridge where the telegraph to the engine room and Stone and on and off Gibson were located for the next 4 hours. Captain Lord decided to remain fully dressed and with the lights on; and with the boilers kept at 'steam up', Captain Lord and his ship were supposedly alert during that night and ready at a few minutes notice to respond to any danger presented to his ship.

    The danger that presented itself was not "some big fellows coming crunching along" but something quite else.


    Steven Christian likes this.
  10. Jim Currie

    Jim Currie Member

    Hello Julian.

    Not quite correct. Lord was regulating his coal consumption to provide a fair-weather speed of 11 knots.
    "Q: What is the average speed of the steamship Californian under fair conditions?
    A: It would depend upon the consumption of coal.
    Q: What speed do you attempt to make?
    A: On our present consumption we average 11 in fine weather
    Then in the UK:
    "Q: What is her full speed?
    A: - It depends on the consumption of coal. Do you mean on a full consumption of coal?....A2 = 12 1/2 to 13.

    Californian left the UK on April 5, bound for Boston. At that time, the National Coal Strike was still in full swing. it did not end until the next day, April 6 so obvioulsy Captain Lord was conserving his bunkers.
    Steven Christian likes this.
  11. Julian Atkins

    Julian Atkins Member

    Hi Jim,

    Thank you for the above. Not sure I exactly follow what you allude to. Can you perhaps expand please?

    Ergo if The Californian had only enough coal to get to Boston at a reduced speed, it did pretty well that awful night and the following morning in the sense that Captain Lord ordered to keep steam up (and not conserve coal) and there was quite a bit of extra mileage the next morning until after noon that wasn't planned for. The Californian had quite an easy crossing of The Atlantic in very favourable conditions.

    I don't think The Californian went as fast as Captain Lord suggested after the official CQD message from The Virginian was received early that morning.

    If his vessel went faster, it implies a longer distance travelled in the rescue attempt that morning, and if he went slower, he was closer than he let on!

    Either way, I don't think The Californian was short of coal, and it left from the Port of London which might be of significance.

    The allied question is why the Leyland Line sent it at all to Boston if there was a coal shortage, and what on earth was aboard as a cargo or being loaded on at Boston. I have yet to find any evidence of either.

    Also, why no passengers on the trip to Boston when lots of passenger ships were laid up in the UK due to the coal shortage?


    Last edited: Aug 5, 2018
  12. I think this has been covered on previous threads.
    But I am in agreement with you as to question of how many would have been saved by Californian.
    And most certainly not "many if if not all of the lives that were lost."
    Not being an expert on the matter, but my questions are.:
    If all the 2200 or so could have been transported to Californian safely , would the ship have been able to stand just the human weight alone, and provide much comfort for them and transport them safely to New York ?
    I am also assuming things would have been much better in the case of Carpathia, but would they on Carpathia have been able to attend to all the 2200 or so ?
    It seems to me the only possible solution would have been to have the survivors distributed to not one ship, but several ?
    But certainly IMHO maybe "some" , but maybe not "many"(?) , but certainly "not all" could have been saved by Californian ?
    These questions are better left to the expert's opinions on the matter ?
  13. Rancor

    Rancor Member

    I assume keeping steam up on a ship that was stationary would still require only a very small amount of coal to stop pressure dropping? Shoveling excessive amounts on would cause the pressure to rise too quickly and blow steam to waste?
  14. Jim Currie

    Jim Currie Member

    Hi Julian...good to see you back...missed you DA input and testing questions. Allow me to clarify bits of the previous post.

    Back in my day and in the time of the Californian, there was a little formula whereby Ship Masters could regulate the amount of coal they used. i.e. they could choose an optimum speed that would allow them to arrive in port in good time but at an economic speed and with a desired amount of reserve coal. The latter was necessary since a delay caused by fog in that part of the world would need maximum speed when it cleared to catch up. Obviously, this was nothing to do with the coal strike but very handy when there might be a shortage of bunker top-up at your next port. or indeed if and when there was a coal strike.
    The records I have seen show that Californian was a 12 .5 knot ship. As built, she had two Scotch Boilers feeding a single triple expansion steam engine. Her consumption of coal at her full service speed of 12.5 knots would typically have been about 32 tons/day. To find out how much fuel he could save at 1 knot slower, Captain Lord would have worked the following calculation.
    New Consumption C = new speed squared
    old consumption c...........old speed squared.
    C = 32 x 121 = 24.8 tons..

    It follows that Lord was, as the 3rd Officer Pitman of Titanic said.."studying the coal" and had reckoned that if he reduced speed by 1 .5 knots, he would save 7.2 tons of coal a day.

    During the time Californian was stopped. the Deck and Engine Room Crews carried on with their normal watch routine. Therefore. the full complement of the boiler room would be on duty at any one time. Getting underweigh would be a matter of minutes from the time Standby Engines was rung down by Captain Lord.

    When Captain Lord was first asked in the US about the speed he was making as he headed for the distress position, he replied "Oh, we made 13 and 13 1/2 the day we were going down to the Titanic.
    In the UK he stated : "We were driving all we possibly could. The chief engineer estimates the speed at 13 1/2. I estimate it at 13."
    So there is a consistency there.

    However, the question should be asked: How how did Lord estimate his speed? The Californian was operating in ice, she would not have streamed her patent log, so Lord had only one method of determining speed...engine RPM speed over a period of time.
    If the theoretical speed was 13.5 as per the Chief Engineer then Lord thought the actual speed was nearer to 13 knots. we can check this against independent evidence.
    In his evidence, Lord implied that he cleared the heavy ice at 6-30 pm and we know that 10 minutes after that, when Groves was called, the engines were running at Full Ahead.
    We also know from Captain Rostron that Californian arrived alongside Carpathia at 8-30 pm, 2 hours later. it follows that Californian's engines had been running at full for 2 hours then she covered a distance of 26 miles during that time.
    From Captain Rostron, we know that Californian was about 5 or 6 miles away on the far side of the ice at or near to 8 pm. Let's say this uses up 6 miles of the 26 steamed from 6-30 am. leaving 20 miles steamed from 6-30 pm.
    From Captain Moore of the Mount Temple, we know that Californian passed going southward at about 7-30 am. At 13 knots, this used up another 6.5 miles, leaving 13.5 miles steamed from 6-30 am when Californian cleared the ice at 6-30 am. Given that Captain Rostron thought Californian was 5 or 6 miles away when he first saw her, it looks to me that Captain Lord's estimate of his ship's speed was remarkably accurate.
  15. Julian Atkins

    Julian Atkins Member

    Hi Jim,

    Thank you for the above.

    My own experience is with steam locomotives, and I agree with you that there is an 'optimum' power output for a certain engine, above which efficiency falls quite markedly if the engine is pressed for power (or in your example speed) beyond the optimum.

    The problem I have with all this is twofold at this stage:-

    1. Captain Lord could reasonably have expected heavy swells and gales in The Atlantic, and I take it that as a result, The Californian's triple expansion engine and the boilers would have been running beyond the optimum, and with far more coal being used.

    2. Captain Lord had never done the North Atlantic run before as a Captain (or at least there is no evidence to the contrary). (The journey log is reproduced in Reade's book).

    As a result, Captain Lord had no experience as to how much coal The Californian would use on this run to Boston, and unusually from London, not Liverpool. It is possible that others might have had this previous knowledge and was recorded, but there is no evidence of this now or at the time.

    The Californian's usual journey was from Liverpool to down south in the USA.

    Encountering the favourable Atlantic conditions, Captain Lord naturally steamed The Californian to Boston at optimum conditions for a triple expansion engine which, unlike a steam locomotive, can be fine tuned for a certain power output and consequent coal consumption. But he could have encountered much more challenging conditions in The North Atlantic requiring a higher coal consumption.

    What surprises me (as stated yesterday) is that The Californian left London at all, and with no passengers, and no one mentions the cargo. In 1912 in the UK, the demand/supply applied to coal prices in the UK Railway Companies and the domestic market, and the Shipping Companies saw significant price rises in coal due to the strike, if you could get the supplies in the first place.

    'The Engineer', a UK journal of all things engineering including Shipping and Railways, regularly published monthly the coal exchange figures and prices per ton of coal of different grades/seams/collieries of the UK, and can be accessed on Graces Guide on the internet these days.


  16. Julian Atkins

    Julian Atkins Member

    I have looked at 'The Engineer' in Graces Guide for February to and including April 1912 in respect of the Coal Strike in the UK, as I have a subscription, but attempts to post relevant extracts here have resulted in gobbledygook and unintelligable! (Someone with better computer skills required!)

    Compared to February 1912 when there were already strikes and much dispute and some shortages, by early April 1912, UK coal prices had tripled or quadrupled (5th April 'The Engineer' p.366). Admiralty type dry Welsh steam coal from the South Wales Valleys and Welsh Steam and Marine coal was particularly affected, as there had a been a complete shut down on South Wales production, with the consequent enormous effects upon the communities and starvation upon the Striking Miners and their families in the South Wales Valleys.


    Last edited: Aug 7, 2018
  17. Jim Currie

    Jim Currie Member

    Hello Julian.

    The normal procedure for any Captain when taking command was to get to know his ship from truck to keel. That includes familiarising himself with the leading members of every department. Who does what etc.
    He would consult very much with his Chief Engineer and pump him for every bit of information he could get concerning how the ships engine (s) performed and in particular, how much fuel it/they consume at certain speeds.
    The captain of a cargo ship has to comply with Charter Party requirements which might include the incurring of time- clause penalties among other things. He must, therefore, be able to know how much the Chief has "up his sleeve". Believe me, many Chiefs had very big "sleeves".

    Having seen the reports as to Lord's ability and how he performed under stress, I have little if any doubt that the man was on top of his game at all times. Before leaving London, Lord would have worked out his passage plan. He would know where he had to be at specific times in the voyage. He, like any other officer so qualified, would be familiar with the conditions and in particular, the hazards, to be met in all seas in all regions of the world. In fact, his Chief officer and Second Officer holding a 1st mate's certificate would also be so qualified, it being a pre-requisite of the Board of Trade competency requirements.

    As for the number of voyages? I think I read somewhere that this was his third journey in the Californian. She was on the UK, New Orleans, Boston, UK run and I understand he had been across the pond" twice before in that ship. However, I stand to be corrected. I know for sure that Evans was on his third voyage across the Atlantic on her that trip. Lord also commanded the SS William Cliff which carried passengers to and from Liverpool/New Orleans and presumably cotton back to the UK.

    I his evidence, Assistant Donkeyman Gill stated " I turned out, thinking to smoke a cigarette. Because of the cargo I could not smoke 'tween decks, so I went on deck again." That being so, I can but imagine that the cargo in tne forward holds had a low flashpoint...perhaps even explosives or an explosives magazine in No.1?
  18. I don't think anyone claimed that Californian was short on coal. She was proceeding at a rate that would have been more economical in term of how much coal she would have consumed. She was rated at a 13.5 knot vessel. Proceeding at 11 knots instead of say 13 knots would have lengthened her crossing time by about 20% perhaps? But the savings in coal would have been much greater, roughly 40% savings, or thereabouts? (Back of the envelope stuff)
  19. Harland Duzen

    Harland Duzen Member

    In terms of Cargo, It's known on her previous voyage from February 1912* (the one including the deportation of a French lady) that she had carried Hay bales from New Orleans to Le Havre. Several of these Hay bales were reported to suffer water damage (likely from coming though the ventilation funnels on deck) so if it were Hay bales or something equally flammable, this could have prevented Gill from smoking between decks.

    *Quoted in "Titanic: Triumph & Tragedy".
  20. Julian Atkins

    Julian Atkins Member

    Hi Jim,

    On one hand I can understand that the Leyland Line might have contracts to fulfill, but sending The Californian to Boston from London when coal prices had dramatically increased, and many ships were simply laid up due to the coal strike due to no coal or the price of coal, does seem to me a bit odd.

    When The Californian left alongside No.24 shed Royal Albert Dock, Port of London, on Good Friday 5th April 1912, and with no passengers, it is reasonable to assume that the voyage was of some importance to the Leyland Line

    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.

    Captain Lord was very cautious on the night of the 14th/15th April, as I have described above in post 9. And he ordered the Chief Engineer to keep steam up that night.

    I don't attach much importance to what Ernest Gill said about smoking below decks, and clearly above decks in the chart room Captain Lord was smoking his pipe. The Californian had 4 levels of holds for cargo below decks, and the rear of the top level of holds forward was adjacent to the boiler room.

    Perhaps The Californian did have some kind of special cargo to deliver to Boston? A special cargo sufficiently important for Captain Lord to disregard what he was told by Stone and Gibson of white rockets bursting/exploding into stars?

    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.