Coal from the Titanic


Dec 29, 2006
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Yes, I would certainly agree that the whole subject of coal fuel needs further research and, in particular, it would be interesting know if the ‘Oceanic’ class liners were designed to burn specific types of fuel. By analogy with locomotive practice, it is possible that the boilers were optimised for one type of fuel. For example, Great Western Railway engines worked best on Welsh steam coal (which was fed into the fireboxes in quite large lumps), while South Eastern Railway locomotives utilised Kentish coal.

From what I know of American railways, they tended to burn vast quantities of poor quality coal which, being in the form of “slack”, facilitated the development of mechanical stokers. I assume that American mines also produced steam coal — in 1912, The Times referred to “Pocohontas fuel, which is very little inferior to Welsh steam coal”, being shipped to Italy during the coal strike. This coal would presumably have been ideal for use on the Titanic if the ship’s boilers had been designed for Welsh coal. There has been considerable debate in relation to the Titanic’s engines, and but less information has appeared on the technical aspects of boilers and firing techniques.
 
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Jeff Kelley

Guest
This topic is getting me "fired up" already if you will excuse the bad pun. I suspect you are right - we know far more about the engines than we do the fuel.

I have some family in Pennsylvania - big coal country at one time. The whole culture that sprang up and supported the industry is fascinating (many European immigrants came to the US to work the coal mines).

Especially if one were to cover all of the peripheral issues and stories surrounding the coal that fed Titanic's furnaces, I suspect that the subject would easily fill a book by itself.
 
Jul 9, 2000
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>>but there is no mention of American coal being used <<

Why would there be? If coal had to be taken from other ships to fuel the Titanic, and we know this happened on some level, I doubt that anybody would have even cared where it had been mined. When that's all there is, you don't look a gift horse in the mouth.

I don't think that there was any need at a concerted effort at importation. Any ship calling on an American port would have taken on coal there as needed. If she happened to call on Southampton, and was stuck there, anything in the bunkers would have been seen as fair game regardless of the source.
 
Dec 29, 2006
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I did not say, or even imply, that the subject of coal had never been raised, I said that “less information has appeared on the technical aspects of boilers and firing techniques”. A topic such as “firing techniques” is not just about coal, it is about use of dampers, rate of firing, chemistry, labour and much, much more. So perhaps someone can answer a simple question, could British ships of circa 1912 burn anthracite? From what I have read elsewhere, they could not.
 

Eric Longo

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Aug 13, 2004
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Dec 29, 2006
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Witney
Thank you Eric, that is certainly an interesting article.

Others are far more qualified than me to comment, but two points worried me slightly — the Titanic coal samples were measured against 24 UK coal samples and no less than 1,450 US samples. I may be wrong about this, but surely that means that there would be considerable scope for distortion, whatever statistical methods were used? The United Kingdom had many thousands of coal mines in 1912, and 24 samples will not reflect that historical fact.

I am also concerned that the authors use the terms “United Kingdom” and “England” indiscriminately, and as most, if not all White Star Line coal is known to have emanated from the South Wales coalfield, the sentence “We consider that most of the Titanic samples originated in England” hardly fills me with confidence. (I suspect that the primary purpose of the report was not historical, but environmental).
 

Eric Longo

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Aug 13, 2004
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Hi Stanley,

Perhaps I misunderstood. I read that subsets were used of the 1,450 US samples in certain tests such as to determine the original sources of samples. Twenty Titanic coal samples tested against 24 UK samples and 20 random US samples and that apparently showed some Titanic coal samples, 3 samples, were indeed from the US and 12 from the UK. I'll read it again.

Best,
Eric
 

Eric Longo

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Aug 13, 2004
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Hi Stanley,

I read that paper again again and from what I can gather coal from the U.S. was indeed aboard the Titanic.

Best,
Eric
 
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Dana Cantu

Guest
Awww man!

In 2003 when I was in the 8th grade, my mom and my best friend and I went to the Titanic exhibit and afterwards you enter into the gift shop, I saw necklaces with "Titanic Coal" inside I wanted to buy one but my mom told me it wasn't real! Now I'm finding out it was!?!

crap.
 
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Jeff Kelley

Guest
The good news is that those necklaces are still available (at least they were in Toronto last September). I am not sure if they are available on-line, but any of the exhibits should have them.
 

George Huck

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Mar 4, 2008
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I was quite happy with Bob's reply to my question about where the peice of coal I have came from. The following debate seemed to have graged on a bit, probably for its own sake. It did come from the Titanic itself which is all that really matters to me. As to wearing it as jelewry that I can t get my heard around. What strange people there are out there. Maybe there are people who have bits of the World Trade Centre round their necks too.However in whatever form I think that such things do give an intimacy that can t be achieved in any other way. I am still on a honeymoon with my piece of coal.It went down with ship and now sits in Alice Springs. If it is welsh or yank it remains of the Titanic.But long live discussion and debate on any aspect of this fascinating man made event.
 
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Dana Cantu

Guest
Wow George,

Thank you for calling me strange. I don't think I'd wear it but I'd keep it in my jewelry box for safe keeping and I'd just look at it once in awhile. No I wouldn't wear it. I have a heart.
 
Jul 9, 2000
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>>As to wearing it as jelewry that I can t get my heard around. What strange people there are out there.<<

Is it any stranger then people who wear necklaces with holy water from Lourdes or fragments alleged to be from The One True Cross? (I won't bother getting into whether or not the claims for both even have merit since it really doesn't matter in this context.) People have a taste for momenotos of important places and events. Far from being strange, jewelry made from pieces of Titanic are completely understandable.

Which doesn't mean I'm argueing that it's rational, only that it's understandable.
 
Aug 8, 2007
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Hi Dave, John Maxtone-Graham's book "The Only Way to Cross" also mentions this. Quote from page 61: "Most of the Titanic's coal was a scratch lot, much of it coming from New York in the bunkers and public rooms of the Olympic; Southampton was in the grip of a coal strike again."

John Shaum's book "Majesty at Sea" reads on page 122: "To compensate [for the coal shortage], White Star scrounged up an adequate supply of coal from a variety of sources. The Olympic brought over a large amount of American coal, even carrying some of it in her public rooms."

Hope that helps you out.

Russell
 
Jul 9, 2000
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>>Take anything that the book says, with a grain of salt.<<

Only a grain???

Actually, I think this may well be one of those instances where Riddle Of The Titanic had something in it that had a faint resemblance to reality. With the coal strike on, those lines which could were bringing as much spare coal as they could get across with them.
 

Paul Lee

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Aug 11, 2003
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Although the WSL scrimped coal from other ships, the coal strike had been finished for a week by the time the Titanic sailed and supplies were starting to reach ships.
 

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