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Engineering after the collision

Discussion in 'Collision / Sinking Theories' started by Rancor, Sep 28, 2017.

  1. Rancor

    Rancor Member

    Dear all,

    I am interested in the sequence of events that would have taken place in the engineering department immediately after the collision. Going from full ahead to a crash stop (or full reverse depending on which testimony you prefer) unexpectedly in the middle of the Atlantic would have caused quite a few problems one would imagine. I have recently read 'Down Amongst the Black Gang' which had an excellent summary of the events that may have taken place but raised some more questions I share with you now.

    Regarding the condensing arrangements, from my reading the electrical dynamos exhausted into a surface heater which prewarmed the feedwater and condensed the exhaust from the dynamos. With the main engines suddenly out of action, how long did the engineers have to change over the dynamos to the auxiliary condenser before the supply of feedwater returning from the main engines ran out?

    As the boiler rooms flooded, I imagine it was necessary to isolate the steam supply from each one. Was there an arrangement for doing this?

    Did the boilers continue to be stoked or were they left to burn down and produce less steam? Was it safe to leave a boiler unattended with no one to monitor water levels?

    There is testimony of steam venting from the forward funnel early on after the collision. Do you think this was due to an excess of pressure due to the crash stop, or a deliberate venting of the boilers in boiler room 6 or 5 as they flooded. If it was an automatic pressure relief, wouldn't all the safetys have lifted?

    Finally, given the complicated arrangement for distributing steam from various boilers to auxiliary systems like pumps and dynamos, how would you imagine the engineers had the system arranged? Did they take individual feeds from each boiler or keep everything hooked up to the main steam lines and take a feed off that? Looking at the plans, there would have been some boiler rooms lost early to flooding that had auxiliary connections whilst others like boiler room 3 that only had connections to the main steam lines but would have stayed dry for quite some time.

    I understand we are heading into educated guesswork here as there seems to be little evidence from the survivors on these more intricate details. I'd be very interested to hear the thoughts of everyone on this fascinating subject.

    Many thanks.
  2. Henry Sincic

    Henry Sincic Member


    I can relate with your frustration regarding the intricate details. It's tantalizing to think that with just as many stories that survivors had to share, there may be much, much more that we don't know. With that said, let's give it a try.

    The engines were never 'crashed back' in the true sense of the term. This would've cause a jarring sensation that wasn't felt by those on the ship.

    I'm in no way an expert on the engineering arrangements on Titanic, so I will leave it to other, more qualified people.
  3. What we don't know far exceeds what we do know about events in the engineering department primarily because of something called the "survivor effect." In any disaster much of the story is lost to the death either of the people or the physical loss of the machines involved. Our knowledge comes only from who and what survived rather than the totality of human experience, machine operation, or equipment failure. Much of Titanic's story was lost when all of the licensed engineers perished.

    While it is curious to speculate about events surrounding the actual steel-meets-ice event, the far more significant story is damage control. Were any attempts made to reduce flooding. How were the bilge pumps employed? If they were not used, why not? Sadly for history, the men with those answers did not reach Carpathia. They never testified at either hearing nor were they interviewed by news reporters. We know nothing other than a few anecdotes.

    And the terrible "ifs" accumulate...

    -- David G. Brown
    Michael H. Standart likes this.
  4. Doug Criner

    Doug Criner Member

    I seem to recall that there were various temporary piping connections, "Dutchmans," that allowed use of boiler condensate pumps to supplement the regular bilge pumps. They may have tried such measures, although time would not have been on their side. As David said, the story will never be told.
  5. Aaron_2016

    Aaron_2016 Member

    Looking at photos of the Olympic there certainly was a lot of water being fed out. Was this a common procedure to make the ship lighter when in port? Were the engineers busy turning gears and valves when these photos were taken? Would Titanic's engineers have utilized these valves to pump out as much water as they could as some of them may have bailed the water out of the Olympic in the same manner when she began to flood during her accident in 1911?

    Courtesy of 'Britain from Above'.


  6. Rancor

    Rancor Member

    I'd have to agree with David that for myself the battle to keep the ship afloat as long as possible and keep the power going until the last few moments are some of the most interesting and undertold aspects of the tragedy. There is the 2012 'Saving The Titanic' telemovie that paints a pretty good picture of what could have taken place, notwithstanding the talk of the turbine providing electrical power for the ship.

    Given no one from the engineering crew survived we will never know exactly what happened but it is interesting to speculate and I look forward to reading what the many experts on the forums here may think.

    Vince Davis likes this.
  7. Rob Lawes

    Rob Lawes Member

    Aaron, what you are looking at there is pretty standard for a ship in harbour. Those scuppers will be discharging water from all over the ship. Sinks, galley basins, toilets, water being used to clean decks etc etc etc. Most of the water going overboard is described as 'grey water' which is anything created from the general, day to day life on the ship.

    Most ports around the world now prevent the discharge of grey water while in harbour.
  8. Aaron_2016

    Aaron_2016 Member

    Cheers. Would this reduce the speed in which she flooded as the water would filter out of the ship once it flooded a room with a sink or a toilet? When the Titanic was sinking was anything done to prevent the water from flooding 'into' the ship through these exit points as she sank deeper? Would the engineers need to turn several valves to seal them up and prevent water from coming in, and if they had sealed them would that mean the water would not filter out of flooded cabins and would instead flood other areas inside the ship via her own plumbing system? I recall the cruise ship Oceanos and how her plumbing led to her doom. According to wiki:

    'The water steadily rose, flowing through the 10 cm (3.9 in) hole in the bulkhead and into the sewage waste disposal tank. Because there were no check valves to stop it, the water flowed through the main drainage pipes and rose through the ship, spilling out of showers, toilets, and waste disposal units.'

    Instead of water channelling out of the ship, it was filtering to other parts within the ship. Did something similar happen to the Titanic?

  9. Doug Criner

    Doug Criner Member

    According to Bruce Beveridge's book, all hull piping openings were fitted with lift check valves to prevent flooding. I think we can pretty much eliminate significant flooding via sanitary lines geysering up through toilets, etc., as the ship settled in the water.

    Edward Wilding, H&W's naval architect, estimated in testimony that 16,000 tons of seawater entered the ship in the first 40 minutes after the collision. All of Titanic's pumping systems, combined, had a capacity of only 1,400 tons per hour. Titanic was doomed almost immediately by the collision. No need to contemplate the impact of secondary factors.
  10. The disparity between the initial flooding and the capacity of the pumps is not what doomed the ship. Don't forget that ingress decreases over time as the interior of the hull fills, eventually becoming zero when the level inside is equal to the level outside. Some time prior to that, the amount of incoming water equals the pumping capacity.

    The critical factor is loss of buoyancy. If the ship still has enough reserve buoyancy when the inflow equals the pumping capacity, then it can "float on her pumps." This is a dicey situation, to be sure, but more than one vessel has been brought to port in that condition.

    However, if reserve buoyancy is not sufficient, then the pumps can only slow the inevitable. The ship will sink, although the duration of the sinking will be prolonged to some degree. Many times the damage control team's only goal is to gain time enough to evacuate everyone safely.

    I've oversimplified things. In a real maritime casualty just where the pumping is applied is as critical as the amount of water that is removed. It is critical to keep water levels from rising above bulkheads. This is usually done by minimizing trim angles while controlling transverse stability. Damage control calculations often have to be little more than educated guesses made under duress. Success is never certain.

    At least three credible attempts have been made over the years to calculate the rate of flooding with Wilding's being the first. None really deal with damage control and dewatering efforts, probably because so little factual information is available on this subject. The best in my mind is the one done by Sam Halpern on his "Titanicology" web site.

    -- David G. Brown
    Michael H. Standart likes this.
  11. >>Many times the damage control team's only goal is to gain time enough to evacuate everyone safely.<<

    In the U.S. Navy, there is a specific drill for this known as the mass conflagration drill. Think of it as the Kobayashi Maru...for real....and on steroids. Everybody is involved and since part of the scenario involves the ship being lost, it also includes an abandon ship drill.

    When you have suffered multiple missile hits and you're literally blazing from stem to stern, this scenario deals with, among other things, keeping the ship afloat just long enough to evacuate the survivors.
  12. B-rad

    B-rad Member

    To answer a few of your questions as I understand:

    When the 'crash stop' order occurred (if one believes it did), the changeover valves to the two condensers were switched to deflect steam from the turbine to the condensers. This was done by a lever near the reversing lever on the starting platform. With no time in between the reversing lever could then be pulled, reversing the engines. There is talk that both the starboard and port reversing levers would have to be pulled. Indeed there were two reversing engines, as noted in the Shipbuilder (one for each engine- for separate maneuvering); period texts such as the Engineer and the Shipbuilder also speak of a 'main' reversing lever, leaving me to believe that there was a single lever to control both engines when needed. After this steam -or throttle- would be regulated. It would be idea to regulate this before hand, but in an emergency regulating steam took second place, even at the cost of breaking machinery.

    As far as the feed water question, idk. I would imagine that it would not have taken long for anyone to divert the steam, but how long they had... again idk.

    The auxiliary steam line was connected to all five single ended boilers in boiler room 1, and the two port most boilers in boiler rooms 2 & 4. This steam line could also be cross connected to the main steam line, thus allowing any boiler to operate the auxiliary equipment.

    The orders to keep steam up was heard by Dillion. Boiler room 5 fires would be drawn and I believe 4's as well. I don't believe we have any information on BR 3, or if BR 2 was drawn.

    No boilers should not be unattended. Even with the little unattendedness that occurred when fetching lamps, the water levels crept dangerously low.

    Steam vented from the fires drawn in boiler room 6 as early as midnight. Boiler room 5 would not flood immediately.
  13. >>When the 'crash stop' order occurred (if one believes it did),<<

    There was no crash stop. There is no evidence of any kind to support the claim that it was ever attempted and the survivors from the engine room specifically contradict it.
  14. Aaron_2016

    Aaron_2016 Member

    I believe they may have attempted to perform a crash stop as Frederick Scott saw the engine room telegraphs ring. He was asked:

    Q - Was the telegraph signal that came the emergency or the ordinary telegraph?
    A - That is to the main engine room. It is different. They ring the two on the main engine room, and then they ring two others just afterwards, the emergency ones.
    Q - Did you hear the two?
    A - All four went.
    Q - Did you hear the two ordinary ones ring first?
    A - No, they all four rang together.
    Q - What did they ring?
    A - “Stop.”

    He also said - "I felt a shock and I thought it was something in the main engine room which had gone wrong."

    Quartermaster Rowe was on the poop deck and saw the iceberg pass by. He thought the engines were going full speed astern and immediately rushed over to pull in the log line owing to the vibration he felt as the iceberg passed the stern. I believe this was either the result of the crash stop order, the iceberg shelf sliding under the ship, or the result of a lost propeller blade. When survivors looked over the rail and saw the iceberg off the stern they noticed the ship was moving very slowly in the water, and some thought the ship had already come to a stop. This I believe was a result of one of the above incidents which rapidly reduced the ship's speed.

    Last edited: Sep 30, 2017
  15. A true "crash stop" is a traumatic event. Ask anyone who has experienced one. I interviewed sailors from a U.S. aircraft carrier that avoided colliding with ferry by crashing back all engines. Men in the stern of the ship were tossed from their bunks when the ship started bucking and more than one bone was broken.

    There is a confusion factor here that goes mostly unnoticed. It is the interchangeable use of "engineS" and "engine." Even Captain Lord made the mistake of saying he had his "engineS" on standby when, in reality, his vessel had only a single engine to turn its single propeller. Great caution must be used when reading testimonies with regard to this particular word confusion. The "S" may or may not be significant.

    Also, while crashing back is a highly irregular maneuver, multi-engine ships routinely use asymmetrical thrust to aid in turning or (in the case of smaller vessels) to rotate within their own water. If an officer needs to turn a twin-screw vessel rapidly, he can slow or revers the propeller on the side toward which he wants the bow to swing. If the turn is to starboard, the starboard shaft is slowed or reversed. Titanic maneuvered as a twin-screw vessel with the center propeller only for ahead thrust at sea. Any honest analysis of Murdoch's engine orders which does not include the possibility of asymmetrical thrust is invalid.

    Looking at greaser Scott's testimony, I see a bit of confusion. He seems to have compressed events into a shorter time span than reality. Even so, only one thing bothers me. He says the telegraphs rang Stop before the W/T doors closed. I can't imagine why a season officer like Murdoch would want to slide into an iceberg. A crash stop or an aysmmetric engine order makes sense under the circumstances, but Stop does not. It would not have helped prevent either the accident nor the damage.

    -- David G. Brown
    Daniel A. Soto and Harland Duzen like this.
  16. Rancor

    Rancor Member

    Hey all,

    I think my land-lubberyness is showing through. What I intended by a crash stop was going from full ahead to stop unexpectedly. There seems to be contradictory evidence as to whether this occurred or a full reverse was given.
  17. The only one who mentioned a crash stop from full ahead to full astern was 4th Officer Boxhall. Everyone else only mentioned a normal stop order (like Dillon, Scott, Hichens). Also we have the evidence from the Boiler Rooms who received a stop order from the main engine room which they should have not get if the engines were planned to go full astern. The engines did run astern but only slow shortly after the collision.
  18. Rancor

    Rancor Member

    I'd have to agree with the stop order. Also makes more sense in terms of trying to turn the ship from what I've read.

    A full reverse does make for an even more dramatic moment in the movies though!
  19. >>I believe they may have attempted to perform a crash stop as Frederick Scott saw the engine room telegraphs ring. He was asked:

    Q - Was the telegraph signal that came the emergency or the ordinary telegraph?
    A - That is to the main engine room. It is different. They ring the two on the main engine room, and then they ring two others just afterwards, the emergency ones.
    Q - Did you hear the two?
    A - All four went.
    Q - Did you hear the two ordinary ones ring first?
    A - No, they all four rang together.
    Q - What did they ring?
    A - “Stop.”<<

    That's not evidence of a crash stop. That's just "We're not going feed any steam to the engines" and what ends up happening is that the ship coasts to a stop unless power has been applied.

    I've been on ships that have been "Crash stopped" and there's never any mistaking the rattling, shuddering vibration for what it is when it happens, NONE of which was noted or observed on the Titanic,
    Ioannis Georgiou likes this.
  20. >> If an officer needs to turn a twin-screw vessel rapidly, he can slow or revers the propeller on the side toward which he wants the bow to swing. If the turn is to starboard, the starboard shaft is slowed or reversed. <<

    My skipper on the USS Comstock was pretty adept at doing that. He could literally turn the ship around on a dime that way.