Main Bridge specifications


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Jul 9, 2000
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Okay. Thanks for the information, Bruce. Learned something new today. The photo I'm speaking of is the navigation bridge and not the wheelhouse. I don't know when the photo was taken though. Seems kind of strange that more photos don't exist of this area, especially considering how famous the Olympic was during her lifetime.
 
Oct 28, 2000
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The testimonies indicate the W/T door switch was located on the forward wall of the covered forebridge. Both Olliver and Boxhall saw Murdoch closing this switch as they entered that area of the bridge. Hichens never mentioned Murdoch entering the wheelhouse for any purpose during the accident.

Boxhall entered the covered forebridge from the starboard side. In BOT questions #15352 through 15355 he relates what he saw, "I saw Mr. Murdoch closing them [the W/T doors] then, pulling the lever....The Captain was alongside of me when I turned..."

Olliver also returned to the covered bridge area at roughly the same time. His description appears to have been from the port side of the bridge. "The first officer closed the water-tight doors, sir....On the bridge, just after she struck..." he told the U.S. Senate inquiry.

Olliver was a quartermaster who regularly stood watch at the ship's wheel. In his testimony he consistently draws a sharp distinction between the "bridge" and the "wheelhouse." Boxhall is a bit less precise, but also seemed to draw a distinction between the bridge and the wheelhouse. If the switch had been in the wheelhouse, it is likely that both men would have used that word and not "bridge" in their testimonies.

Both Olliver and Boxhall testified that immediately after closing the doors Murdoch reported the iceberg collision to Captain Smith.

Not at my fingertips presently is the location within the testimonies of a description of the W/T door switch and its accompanying sign. The actual door switch was accompanied by another switch meant to operate a warning bell before the doors were closed.

The testimonies of men on the tank top level where the doors actually fell closed is naturally a bit confused, considering the nature of what happened. However, it appears Murdoch closed the W/T door switch first, then actuated the alarm bell. If so, and this is speculation, what Boxhall and Olliver saw was not the first officer closing the doors, but holding the alarm bell switch closed to warn the men below.

From the testimonies and other sources, I've come to the conclusion that Titanic's W/T door switch was on the forward wall of the forebridge just to port of the auxiliary steering wheel and directly in front of the emergency engine order telegraph. This location placed it handy to the officer of the watch who was expected to occupy the bridge and not the wheelhouse while on duty.

In 1911 when Titanic was built, the W/T doors were primarily for use in collision with another ship. The watch officer would not have wanted to lose sight of another vessel when "in extremis" to go close the W/T doors even with collision impossible to avoid. His job was on the bridge, watching the situation develop, and trying to maneuver to "take a glancing blow." Such would not have been possible with the switch located inside the wheelhouse.

The development of illuminated annunciator panels may have forced a change in this line of thinking simply for weather protection to the electrical parts. However, but the original concept of a switch on the bridge is better seamanship than placing the W/T door switch inside a closed room.

-- David G. Brown
 
Jun 26, 2004
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David,

You may want to check that stuff again, and look for the section where the switch and the brass plate is described (maybe it is there). The switch was not in the navigating bridge. Those switches you see in the wheelhouse, forward and port of the aux. wheel were for the whistles.

I seem to recall from one of the testimonies - possibly from Hitchens, where he states that Murdoch closed the door from off to his side. I think I remember him stating that he could not see what was happening real well because it was dark in the wheelhouse, but Murdoch was in the wheelhouse.


Bruce
 
Mar 3, 1998
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I agree with Dave that the WT door switch was located on the forward wall of the navigating bridge, based on the description given by a number of witnesses, including Pitman.

I disagree with the notion that Murdoch entered the wheelhouse...I find no support for that in any description of his movements.

The WT door switch was located in the chart room (of all places) in Olympic, and this was shown to members of the Court during the post-disaster enquiries. This is why you will not see a WT door switch in any image taken of Olympic's navigating bridge in Olympic. Titanic had a slightly different arrangement, judging by the descriptions given by her officers.

Parks
 
Jun 26, 2004
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Check Hichen's testimony. Perhaps he was referring to the switch being thrown behind him in the chart room I don't remember, but he does state that it happened within close proximity of him. He was asked if he saw it, and he stated no because it was too dark. The chart room on the Olympic was on the port side of wheel house so to speak. I understood Hichen's testimony that the WTD switch was to his left side. This would be consistent if the wiring channels on these two ships was similar. The WTD switch being within the wheel house on the port side.
Those two switches in the navigating bridge on the fore bulkhead were for the whistles. There is even a picture of the Magestic's navigating bridge, that I have seen, where these two switches are basically in the same spot. Though this was a German built ship, it appears they installed the Willet Bruce system as well.
There is a matching set of these whistle switches in both wing cabs just inboard of the Morse lamp switch boxes on the Olympic class as well.

I respect both of your opinions, but I would advise to check the testimony a little further. Again, I believe it was in Hichen's statements.

Bruce
 
Mar 3, 1998
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Bruce,

I have previously exhausted this subject as much as I'm going to. When I first started to investigate how the WT doors were actuated from the bridge, I assumed that -- like on other ships -- there was a CLOSE WT DOORS position on the engine telegraph. As I continued the research, I found this assumption not to be true. Titanic's telegraphs didn't include this position, even though it could be found on other ships of the period.

Bill Sauder showed me the references to the location of Olympic's WT door switch. I can't remember now if the location and description were detailed in Senator Smith's or Lord Mersey's visit to Olympic, but I clearly remember being very much surprised to find the switch located in the chart room and questioned Bill's reference. However, like most -- if not all -- of Bill's references, this one too proved to be solid.

I spent an enormous amount of time studying the testimony and pulling together all the references there to the location of the switch in Titanic, which is all we have to go on. No one person says, "There it is," but bits and pieces of what they all said told me that the switch was on the forward wall of the navigating bridge, in front of the emergency telegraph. And yes, I read through Hichens's account, too.

Examining the issue another way, I don't find any evidence that points to the switch being inside the wheelhouse.

My interpretation is different than yours. That doesn't mean that I'm right and you're wrong. Only the facts could determine that and the facts in this case are not sufficient enough to prove or disprove anything. I didn't post here to call you out but rather to add my opinion to the mix of opinions here. Each individual interested in this subject will have to read through the differing opinions and draw their own conclusion.

How important is the determination of this issue? At best, it affects fictional re-constructions of the event (or stage), but doesn't substantially affect the sequence of events as we currently understand it. I convinced Jim Cameron to move the WT door switch from the wheelhouse where he had it in "Titanic" to just forward of the emergency telegraph in "Ghosts of the Abyss." A scene -- which was cut from the final version of the film -- was shot with Murdoch throwing the main engine handles, then the emergency handles, then reaching forward to throw the WT door switch. From my point of view, the action looked a lot more practical than having the deck officer run into the wheelhouse or the chart room. If the purpose was to keep the deck officer on the navigating bridge during the course of his duties, then having the WT door control switch there supports that purpose. But is that, in fact, where Titanic's builders installed the switch? Don't know...there's nothing concrete to undisputably prove the switch's location.

Again, my opinion is based on the conclusions that I arrived at after devoting a serious amount of time to the subject. I covered all the ground that I think that I could, and I don't have time right now to retrace my steps...there are more immediate demands for my attention at the moment. If you see something in Hichens's testimony that I haven't, then please provide it for me so that I don't have to spend the time looking for it. Otherwise, I am comfortable assuming that I covered this ground during my earlier research and that whatever was there was factored into my conclusion. I may not be willing to put additional work into a subject because someone thinks they read something somewhere, but I will abandon even my fiercest-held convictions on the appearance of solid evidence to the contrary.

Please note that I am not arguing about steam whistle controls. I agree with what you describe in that regard. I just believe that there were differences on Titanic's bridge that are not supported by images from Olympic's.

Parks
 

Shane Worthy

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Aug 12, 2004
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Parks,
I was watching the History Channel yesterday and saw you on "Titanic Tech". Nice job! I was shocked at first and then like, "He's on the Message Board!" No wonder your so full of knowledge. I knew you helped Jim on Titanic but hadn't really put to much thought into it.
Anyway, it was a nice surprise to be able to converse with a "celebrity". LOL. Have a great day!
All Ahead Full!
 
Oct 28, 2000
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Honestly, I don't have any personal recollection of where the W/T door switch was located. And, to my knowledge, neither does anyone else. We are all speculating to one degree or another.

My opinion is based on the testimonies of the men who were there. While none specifically placed the switch, the actions they describe are only consistent with the switch being on the forward wall of the forebridge.

Bruce's comments about the whistle controls being in approximately the same location are germane. Most bridges place the whistle controls handy to the officer of the watch. If the W/T door switch on Olympic was inside the chartroom, it may have been to avoid the obvious blunder of intending to sound the whistle and closing the W/T doors instead by throwing the wrong switch.

It seems to me that we are discussing more than just the placement of Titanic's W/T door switch. This topic is really about the evolution of automatic W/T doors with the inevitable uncertainty of design in the early stages.

-- David G. Brown
 
Mar 3, 1998
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Shane,

Celebrities get paid for what they do. There's another word for people like me who go on TV and spill their guts for free, but I don't think that the word would make it past the forum's blocking filters. :)

By the way, the producer of that episode found me by lurking in online forums, such as this one, and tapped me for an interview. Another reason for everyone to practice their manners when posting...one never knows who's listening.

Dave,

Sooner or later on a ship, different devices are going to be placed next to one another. If there's one thing that I've learned in my years of designing and building control systems for the Navy, it's that there's no such thing as "sailor-proofing" a system. What about putting CLOSE WT DOORS just under AHEAD FULL on an engine-order telegraph, as was done quite frequently (though not in Titanic)? I can't see Titanic's designers deciding that there was more risk in having a deck officer accidently hitting the WT door switch than pulling the officer off the navigating bridge during an emergency. If the door control was in fact on the forward wall of the navigating bridge, then I would consider that a design improvement over Olympic's arrangement.

Like you said, though, this is all speculation based on individual interpretation of eyewitness testimony. One fact, which should always be remembered, bubbles up to the surface in this debate, though...what may be seen in Olympic images may not represent Titanic in every detail.

Parks
 
Jul 9, 2000
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>>If there's one thing that I've learned in my years of designing and building control systems for the Navy, it's that there's no such thing as "sailor-proofing" a system.<<

Oh brother but ain't that the truth!!! I suppose somebody might be able to manage it, but it would probably be impossible to use! Hell, the Navy's Preventive Maintainance System is supposed to be idiot proof, but from what I've seen, somebody forgot to pass the word onto the idiots!
 
Mar 3, 1998
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Colin,

Thanks...evidently, the show re-ran recently? I missed it. You may have also noticed Ken Marschall and Scott Andrews, both of whom you may eventually meet in this forum.

Parks
 
Jun 26, 2004
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Parks,

I too have very little time anymore. If I get the chance to at work, I'll try and find where I thought I saw that testimony. As you sate, this is not that big of a deal. If I get a chance, I'll look.

Oh, and the emergency telegraph would have been on the starboard side of the wheel. The emergency telegraph was, for the most part, always on the starboard side or "captain's side" of the bridge.

Bruce
 

Paul Lee

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Aug 11, 2003
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This has probably been covered before, but do the recovered navigating bridge equipment, such as the telegraphs, help in this discussion about the placement of various controls (watertight door controls etc.)?

Cheers

Paul

 
Aug 8, 2004
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Mr. Stephenson, yes it was meant as a complement. It's just that you were on tv, and I made a big deal out of that. I agree that you did a great job.
 
Aug 8, 2004
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Anyway just why did they keep the main bridge open to the elements? Why not simply add two doors to the side. I don't think that would have hindered anything, or got in the way of operation of the ship.
 
Mar 3, 1998
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Paul,

Not all of the bridge artefacts have been recovered...they were scattered to hell and gone during the sinking. All of the bridge telegraphs have been either recovered or accounted for. Bill Sauder has examined and measured each one and will one day make his conclusions known. However, finding a WT door control switch (which hasn't happened yet) on the ocean floor -- or even on the wreck itself -- won't tell us much about where it was once mounted on a wooden wall that has long since disappeared. One hope is that the section of wall with the switches broke away intact and hasn't since been eaten by organisms, but I think that the odds are against such an occurrance.

Colin,

The bridge area is Titanic's day was meant to be open to the elements to a certain degree. In fact, the port and starboard walls of the forebridge enclosure were originally designed to be removed (although I can't remember if they were actually built that way). The idea of bridge enclosures was originally intended more for the protection of the instruments, rather than the watch standers. In the days of sail, one navigated in large part by the weather; therefore, the deck officer stood his watch out where he could personally detect subtle trends in the weather. Even in Titanic's day, the deck officers still relied on their "weather eye" for navigation, which is why you will find that experienced deck officers stood their watch on the windward side of the bridge (it is assumed that Murdoch was standing on the starboard side during the encounter with the iceberg for this reason).

Nowadays, with sensitive electronic equipment on the bridge, the bridge on modern ships has become a true weather-proof area. Deck officers stand the majority of their watch in this climate-controlled capsule. However, it has been my experience that the better officers spend time out in the weather so that they don't lose their "feel" for it, in spite of the array of electronic equipment they might have to assist them.

Parks
 
Mar 3, 1998
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Shane,

Sorry...spent most of the day offline, lying in bed with back spasms. I'm usually not available for a chat room, but if you'll drop me a line, I'll try to answer as soon as I can.

Parks
 
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