Just WHERE was the Titanic's rudder left at after the collison


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Oct 23, 2000
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Just WHERE was the Titanic's rudder left at after the collison with the berg? Is it a known, proven fact if it was left at eithier "Hard-a-starboard", "hard-a-port", "amidships", or some other, lesser angle to the left or right or is it (like many T. things) a matter of speculation?

Richard K.
 

Dave Gittins

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Right in the middle. Dive down and see!

How it got there is a mystery that, in my opinion, has no answer. The evidence on what happened and what orders were given is a mess of conflicts and omissions.
 
Oct 23, 2000
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Dave, I know it's at "Amidships" on the stern portion of the wreck, but that could have happened during the descent, so I was wondering where it was at when the ship was still intact and at the surface.
I agree that the collison evidence sure is a crazy soup allright.

Richard K.
 

Dave Gittins

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It would have been centred. The steering gear was a massive tiller driven by a large steam engine (with another as backup). There's no way the rudder could just centre itself against that little lot.
 
Oct 28, 2000
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My research showed the rudder was first turned to the left ("starboard helm" in 1912) and then, as Murdoch "ported around" the iceberg, it was turned back to the right ("port helm" in 1912). There are no additional helm orders recorded in the testimony. However, there is plenty of evidence that the ship's engines were re-stared and the ship steamed for between 10 and 20 minutes following the iceberg incident. It is highly unlikely that Titanic steamed in a circle, so from this it can be inferred that an order to "center up" was given, probably by Murdoch who still was the officer of the deck. Quartermaster Hitchens claimed he was kept at the ship's helm until approximately 12:25 am, almost 45 minutes after the iceberg. It is unlikely he would have been kept at the wheel unless the ship were moving during that period of time.
Titanic did have two steering engines, both geared to the ship's steering quadrant. The design of this type of steering makes it unlikely (to downright impossible) that any force other than the steering engines would have centered the rudder. As mentioned, only one engine would have been working at the time of the accident, the other would have been in reserve.
Based on all of this, I'm betting that Hitchens straighted the rudder while steering a course of about "north 10 east" from 11:50 pm to 12:20 am.

-- David G. Brown
 
Mar 3, 1998
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From a watch (deck) officer's standpoint, I would find it hard to believe that any deck officer would have left the rudder at anything other than amidships. History may not have recorded the final helm order, but it's just a habit pattern that any good watchstander develops. The system should always be left in a state of rest, and the rudder should be left so that it will have minimal effect on the ship's drift.

As others have pointed out, the position of the rudder today bears this assumption out.

Maybe that's why I yell at my wife for leaving the car parked in the driveway with the wheels facing any direction other than "straight ahead." :)

Parks
 
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Sep 12, 2000
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Yeah, Parks, that's so that when we start the thing up without placing it in neutral first and the clutch depressed in the morning that it does not leap into the direction of the house or that favorite holly bush your mom sent last Christmas! (giggles!)

You must learn, Parks 1)get the cheesecake....and then 2) give her dessert....then you get more computer time and we learn more.

See what valuable thing that I have learned so far is this, if women had been in charge, there would have been enough lifeboats for everyone and all would have been able to be saved, but no one would have found any of them cause they would have drifted to somehere near Guam due to the wheel and rudder being pointed in all directions!

Enjoy your day,
Maureen! (Jane Fonda with a little Jane Seymour tossed in)
 
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Oct 13, 2000
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Hi Maureen,

although women might not have steered straight, at least they would have been willing to Marconigram for directions:).

all the best, Michael (TheManInBlack) T
 

Erik Wood

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Mr. Parks,

I would have to agree with you. As a deck officer and a senior one at that. After the manuevering had been done and engines stopped the rudder is pretty much usless anyway so one would assume that Captain Smith or Murdoch would have ordered her to amidships.

Erik
 

Bill Sauder

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The Brown Telemotors were fitted with heavy springs that forced both the wheel and the rudder back to a neutral position amidships if the helmsman let go of the wheel.

Although the ship was fitted with two steering engines, both were not engaged to the quadrant gear at the same time. Both were mounted on independent sliding beds and if the duty unit failed, the standby engine had to be horsed over with jack screws a few inches to engage the quadrant, locked into place, and the failed engine disengaged. It was not an automatic cross over.
 
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Erik Wood

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You know I find it odd that they had follow up back then. I thought that was a fairly new invention especially seeing as I have served on many a ship that didn't have it. I was wondering if you might be able to tell me were I could find such mechanical information.

Erik
 

Dave Gittins

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I read, I think in The Shipbuilder, that the wheel also had artificial "feel" built into it. As it was put hard over, the force needed to turn it increased. They also had an ultimate emergency system of working the steering by cables connected to the warping capstans.
 

Erik Wood

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Oddly enough the practice of using warping capstans is still in use for back ups on most freight ships and sad to say some older passenger ships as in the option for the farther you put the helm over the stiffer the wheel becomes. Nowdays you have non-followup which is basically a joystick. Not exactly found of it but it helps when manuevering in tight spaces.

Erik
 
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Sorry to interrupt, but I had to comment on Mike the man in Black Tennaro's comment about asking for directions. What a hoot! You are so funny! Thanks so much!

Enjoy your day!
Maureen.
 

Bill Sauder

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Most of my information for the steering gear details comes either from technical journals of the period or manufacturer's catalogs and instruction books. Information on the jacking screws is found in Shipbuilder (Olympic)on page 123. The screws and bedplates can be seen in Fig. 139.

The return springs are also indicated schematically in that figure, but not drawn in because of the small scale. The springs outline can be seen drawn as the horizontal box on the telemotor receiver in the bottom drawing directly under the "S" in spare tiller at deck level.

Shipbuilder does not mention resistance feedback to the ship's wheel, nor do the Brown Brother's instruction manuals.
 
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Mike Herbold

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Bill:
I'm usually a passenger person rather than a ship person, but your posting was so specific and so well written that you caught my attention. Even with your excellent explanation and the "Shipbuilder" in hand, though, I'm having trouble understanding everything. I can visualize the elevation and plan view and side view, but still only understand the 'trees' and not the 'forest'. I'll keep working on it, but, in the meantime, I'm wondering if Fr. Pirrone's model at the L.A. Maritime Museum is accurate enough in its mechanical details to help me see the big picture.
 

Bill Sauder

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Mike H:

Thanks for your kind comments regarding my telemotor posts lately. If you have access to Fr. Roberto Pirrone's Cutaway Titanic Model, by all means look it over. Even though it is the product of his teenage years, all the major components are there and correct.

I should point out that Fr. Pirrone has felt the model's shortcomings in receint years however he is busy finishing up the Normandie (two years left perhaps?). He thinks the next project will be a complete rebuilding of the Titanic to incorporate the vast amount of information that has come to light on her in the last two decades.

Bill Sauder
 
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Mike Herbold

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Thanks, Bill. I'm in Lakewood, so only about 30 minutes away. Have been to the Museum before but always to try to visualize different passengers movements rather than look at the workings. We're having John Clifford's monthly meeting there in December (either the 10th or 17th) instead of at the Queen Mary. Would enjoy meeting you if you can make it.

Mike Herbold
 
Oct 28, 2000
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It appears that British shipbuilders were in the dark ages when it comes to switching steering engines. There is a 1911 steamship now doing museum duty in Toledo, Ohio. The SS Willis B. Boyer was launched as the Schoonmaker. At that time, this vessel was the largest cargo ship in the world. Like Titanic, it had two steering engines.

One of the engines was removed in the 1950s, but the other 1911 machine remains unmodified. It has a simple clutch mechanism connecting the steering engine drive shaft to a pinion gear which is always in contact with the tiller quadrant. Turning a somewhat oversize turnbuckle (bottlescrew in England) raises or lowers a weight that operates the clutch.

In practice, one steering engine was clutched to the quadrant. The pinion gear of the other rotated freely. Switching steering engines involved nothing more strenuous than tightening one turnbuckle and loosening the other. It would have taken perhaps 30 seconds and required no great effort.

Switching the steering control was equally simple and much quicker. A hand-lever dog clutch allowed either engine to be engaged or disengaged from the steering wheel in a second or so.

One man equipped with nothing more than a 24-inch prybar could have switched the Schoonmaker's steering engines. Since this ship was built and launched contemporaneously with Titanic, I would assume Harland and Wolff had access to the same type of machinery. That they chose a jackscrew arrangement requiring the movement of several thousand pounds of steering engine is most curious. Did British sailors need more exercise than American?

-- David G. Brown
 

Erik Wood

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Steering Engines were piston yes obviously by steam. Did titanic have the back systems like most frieght ships of the time. I.e. rudder post that came up to either the steering gear room to have mooring cables hooked to it and pulled via winches or some other back up system?

Erik
 
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