Coal bunkers

AGUK

Member
Aug 15, 2018
4
4
3
UK
To those having questions around the relationship between the bunkers and the boilers it may be an idea to look at plans of the ship either online or through purchase of one of the many detailed books on TItanic. Some understand better through visual references . I would also agree on investing in some of the key books on the subject. Whilst some of the books may be considered expensive the wealth of information they hold makes them worth every penny
 

Jane Smith

Member
Aug 16, 2018
72
0
16
Not sure if this is the right thread for this but I have a question about the coal bunkers.

I already know that trimmers would even out the coal to keep the ship from listing to one side, break it apart into smaller chunks, and bring it over to the firemen in wheelbarrows.

How did a trimmer get inside the coal bunker and to the top of the bunker? Was it through a hatch on the upper decks (G or Orlop Deck)? A door in the coal bunker with a ladder to the top?

I’m very curious about this. I’ve been looking but I haven’t found on it. Thanks.
 

Jane Smith

Member
Aug 16, 2018
72
0
16
Not sure if this is the right thread for this but I have a question about the coal bunkers.

I already know that trimmers would even out the coal to keep the ship from listing to one side, break it apart into smaller chunks, and bring it over to the firemen in wheelbarrows.

How did a trimmer get inside the coal bunker and to the top of the bunker? Was it through a hatch on the upper decks (G or Orlop Deck)? A door in the coal bunker with a ladder to the top?

I’m very curious about this. I’ve been looking but I haven’t found on it. Thanks.
Nevermind, I think I got it figured out
 

Jane Smith

Member
Aug 16, 2018
72
0
16
I think I figured out how the trimmer got inside the coal bunker. I found a picture of a model of the coal bunker between BR 5 & BR 6 looking down. The picture helped a bit.

I only had problems finding the info bc the deck plans didn’t show the coal bunker hatch and other sites didn’t shay how they got inside the coal bunker
 

Jane Smith

Member
Aug 16, 2018
72
0
16
Makes sense. I thought it was a bit more complicated earlier until I found the picture with the bunker hatches labeled.
That helps
 

Doug Criner

Member
Dec 2, 2009
392
27
58
USA
There is a recently re-printed 188p paperback book: "Down Amongst the Black Gang - The World and Workplace of RMS Titanic's Stokers," by Richard P. de Kerbrech, with photos, and drawings of the propulsion systems, including photos of engineering crew working below decks. One chapter is "Chapter 3 - Coal Bunkers and Bunkering." The book is available on Amazon. The title of the book is a little misleading - many of the photos and information are, of course, not of Titanic, per se, but of other Oceanic-class or similar coal-fired ships of the era.
 

Rancor

Member
Jun 23, 2017
242
129
53
There is a recently re-printed 188p paperback book: "Down Amongst the Black Gang - The World and Workplace of RMS Titanic's Stokers," by Richard P. de Kerbrech, with photos, and drawings of the propulsion systems, including photos of engineering crew working below decks. One chapter is "Chapter 3 - Coal Bunkers and Bunkering." The book is available on Amazon. The title of the book is a little misleading - many of the photos and information are, of course, not of Titanic, per se, but of other Oceanic-class or similar coal-fired ships of the era.

I have this book and it's excellent. Would highly recommend it to anyone interested in the machinery of the ship.
 
May 3, 2005
2,176
170
133
This seems to be the way things were done in 1912 ?
Mostly starting with the trimmers loading wheelbarrows to bring coal from the bunkers to the firemen to shovel into the furnaces ?
All manual labor ?
I am assuming this was all done away with when coal was replaced by fuel oil ?
Was there ever a time ,. In between coal and fuel oil , when there were -Say some sort of a conveyor belt - to bring the coal from the bunkers to the furnaces ?

Again this may seem like a foolish question .
Was all this manual labor just considered cheaper than developing some automatic device to get the coal from the bunkers to the furnaces ?
 
Last edited:

McCready

Member
Jan 1, 2018
3
0
11
On G deck I believe. AE stands for ash ejector. On F deck there are coal ports from which the bunkers were filled. The coal falls down shutes marked there as CS for coal shute.
I should of put two and two together for the Ash Ejector, given the location of where it was.

But still pegs the question of the access hatches for Trimmers to enter the upper coal bunks in the tween spaces of G and F deck to where the coal chutes deposited their coal.

Where where their locations? Or if no such hatch existed, did Trimmers simply climb up from stoke hold through the lower bunkers themselves?
 
Dec 4, 2000
3,225
476
213
Frankly, I don't know where every ladder and working doorway was placed in ship. However, there must have been a lot of access in and around the boiler and engine rooms. Here is some testimony from Edward Wilding about the amout of steel used in the ladders.


9919. With regard to the crew, you say that an escape is provided from each boiler room direct to the boat deck by the fidleys. What is that?
- The fidleys are the trunks which carry down the air supply. They go down at each end of the funnel, and there are ladders provided in each of those leading direct from the stokehold plate up to the boat deck. Including the engine room there are nearly 200 tons of those steel ladders in the ship.

19920. Can you enter these fidleys from the E deck?
- Yes. There is a door at each fidley. As it passes E deck there is a steel door, which is never fastened in any way. You can get out into the working passage, and then you can choose any of the ways from the working passage.

19921. Those are the provisions made with regard to the boiler rooms. Are ladders also provided from the engine rooms?
- Yes, going up this way, and then up that way like that (Showing.), up the engine room skylight direct to the boat deck. They can also again come out on to E deck. There are doors from the engine room on to E deck, but, of course, if the watertight doors between D deck and E deck are shut, they must go up the ladders.

19922. Are there also ladders from the other engine room?
- Yes, from the turbine engine room there are similar ladders up the base of the dummy funnel.

19923. And also from the electrical machinery room?
- There is a special escape up from the afterend up to E deck, and then they can come out and use the stairway. There is no exit on to B deck.

19924. Supposing there was somebody in the tunnel, what would he do?
- There is a similar arrangement that brings them up into the afterend of the working passage, and then they can come out like the third class passengers.

19925. If anybody was in the after tunnel what would he do?
- There is a special tunnel escape up here, up into the steering gear house (Showing.)

19926. We have had some evidence of one man especially being released, one greaser?
- That was quite unnecessary in his case. He must have been a stranger to the ship. It is not a nice passage, but there is no difficulty in getting up it; I have been up it several times.



One other thing, in ship lingo a "ladder" is more broadly defined than ashore. The word applies to stairways as well as vertical ladders intended to allow the crew access to various parts of the vessel.

-- David G. Brown
 

Tim Aldrich

Member
Jan 26, 2018
82
56
28
Wisconsin
Again this may seem like a foolish question .
Was all this manual labor just considered cheaper than developing some automatic device to get the coal from the bunkers to the furnaces
That automatic device would be what is called an "automatic stoker". Automatic stokers could (and are still to a small degree) be found in homes which had coal fired furnaces, factories with boiler houses, power plants etc. Belts and augers seemed to be a common delivery method of the coal.

I have no idea if any automatic stoker was used at sea but my gut feeling is that an automatic stoker would probably not work all that well whilst attached to a pitching and rolling ship. You also have to understand that firing boilers isn't what you see in the movies. Fireman just chucking shovelfuls of coal into a furnace (usually depicted spewing flames) non-stop. A proper fire in a boiler's furnace requires an experienced eye. I suggest reading Richard Sennet's book "The Marine Steam Engine". It's available on Google books for free. It will tell you everything you wanted to know about marine steam propulsion and a whole lot more.
 
  • Like
Reactions: Rancor

TimTurner

Member
Dec 11, 2012
336
18
48
Again this may seem like a foolish question .
Was all this manual labor just considered cheaper than developing some automatic device to get the coal from the bunkers to the furnaces ?
Automation is a lot more difficult than most people realize at first glance (I do automation for a living). Look at self-driving cars. On first glance, all you have to do is put in a GPS, a map, and tell it how to press the gas pedal and turn the wheel. But if you were to actually make such a car, you have to handle all kinds of things besides just the basics. What happens if there's something in the road (and it has to react to literally anything from a cigarette butt to a herd of cows)? You can't say "I'm sorry your car didn't know not to drive into a tornado". What if the painted lines or signage are unclear, or missing? Or the map is out of date? What about responding to construction flaggers, or traffic cops? What if the wheel falls of the car while it's driving? Or the sensors stop detecting other cars, how do you tell the car to diagnose itself? How do you tell the car to parallel park? Or where to park in general? Should it park in the driveway, the street, should it save Bob's spot? If you park the truck closest to the garage and the self-driving car behind it, but what happens when the truck is somewhere else when the self-driving car comes home - will it pull up to the garage or leave space for the truck to pull in? There are thousands of these questions that need to be identified and given well-though out, practical answers* (as opposed to "armchair" academic answers).

Coal is basically going to have the consistency of rocks mixed with gravel and dust. It's stored in bulk. It needs to be scraped up out of the corners, moved onto some kind of conveyor belt, so it can be fed into the automatic feeder. It needs to work reliably, on a practical basis*. It needs to do this, as Tim Aldrich said, in all weather conditions at all reasonable ship angles. It also needs to be able to recover from unreasonable ship angles. For example, if the ship tilts 20 degrees, it would be reasonable for the stoker to momentarily stop working. If it tilts 40 degrees then rights itself, sending all of the coal flying off the conveyor belt, it needs to be able to pick up all of that coal and put it back on the conveyor belt (or what have you).

It needs to adjust to the consistency and quality of the coal. Fine dust from pure coal veins are going to transport and burn differently than large chunks of crude low-grade ore. The system has to handle it and keep the ship at an even speed.

Also, coal would have been at least partially used for ballast (you certainly couldn't ignore it). With a bunch of trimmers running around, you could ferry coal from one bin to the next to help level off the ship. The automatic system needs to be able to do that too, so it's not just moving coal from a storage bin to the fire, but between storage bins. Also, the weight of the coal would be really important - it needs to stay low in the ship and evenly distributed (and to control list, sometimes unbalanced). This makes it difficult to use the simplest and most reliable kind of system - gravity fed - to move the coal.

The trimmers could also deal with other problems - the Titanic had a coal bunker fire. The trimmers were able to move stored coal away from the fire, and presumably douse it with water. Then they could presumably dry out the wet coal and use it. The automated system would also need to be able to handle this kind of problem, since it wasn't unheard of.

The trimmers and stokers may also have served other functions. They could lower lifeboats. they could row lifeboats. They could bail water. They could act as a bucket brigade in case of fire. Since we've eliminated them, we no longer have personnel that can cover these functions, so we need to find solutions for all those problems too.

And it all has to work in the middle of the Atlantic, 1000 miles from technical support. And this has to be done with the sensors, motors, and control equipment built with 1910 technology and quality control.

It looks like the first real automatic stokers became commercially viable in 1905 for steam locomotives (Mechanical stoker - Wikipedia)

* For a discussion of Academic versus Practical designs I like to refer to Admiral Hyman Rickover Hyman Rickover on Nuclear Designs
 

Rancor

Member
Jun 23, 2017
242
129
53
Whilst we are on the subject, who's responsibility was it to monitor and adjust the water level in the boilers? Did this fall to the stokers in addition to their shoveling duties?
 

Jim Currie

Member
Apr 16, 2008
4,796
559
183
Funchal. Madeira
It would be the Leading Fireman/Stoker. I think Barratt referred to that very thing.
" I went to No. 5 fireroom when the lights went out. I was sent to find lamps, as the lights were out, and when we got the lamps we looked at the boilers and there was no water in them. I ran to the engineer and he told me to get some firemen down to draw the fires. I got 15 men down below. "
 

Mike Spooner

Member
Jan 31, 2018
586
106
53
Whist on the subject of coal bunker fire. If one looks at the ship layout of the boiler rooms with bunker No 10 on fire between room 5 and 6. How many boilers can they feed from that bunker on fire? As I can only see five boilers in room 5 that can receive the coal. O though there is another four boilers in room 6, but as I understand they were never lit!
Then reading Senan Molony book of George Cavell a trimmer who saw the boiler pressure at 225psi. Yet the boilers were only designed for 215psi pressure. Ones wander was the case somewhere to dump the coal in a tempt to empty the bunker and forgot to look at the pressure gauge. As more steam generated would only increase the speed of the ship.
George Cavell did bring up the subject in the British inquiry, but Lord Mersey was quick to dismiss for any further information on the subject!
As from an engineers point of view, if the boilers have reach 225psi. It sounds like the safety relieve valve is not set to the correct pressure! The boiler manufacture Cockburn & Co from Liverpool did said 215psi was maximum and no more. Or had they tampered with the safety relieve valve?