Mauretania's whistles


Lucy Burkhill

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Mar 31, 2006
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Hello, I'm a new member and it's my "maiden voyage", so to speak, on the board, so please be gentle with me!!!

I wonder if anyone can help me with a tale my father used to tell me about the Maury's whistles ending up being redeployed as the hooter for the Appleby-Frodingham steelworks at Scunthorpe, Lincolnshire, England. The works were being extended in the mid-late 1930's, a period which corresponds with Maury's scrapping in 1935. Also, as the Scunthorpe works was at that time taking in scrap steel, I have often wondered if the Mauretania was, in her dismembered state, taken from the breakers at Rosyth, Scotland, to the Scunthorpe furnaces. It's a gruesome thought for a lover of Maury like myself, but I realise that the steel of her had to go somewhere, and in a way it would be kind of gratifying to think that she ended up in the steelworks of the town in which I was born.

I have always been fascinated by this tale, hope anyone out there can confirm whether of not it might just have been an urban myth and put this poor girl out of her misery!

All the best,
Lucy
 

Noel F. Jones

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May 14, 2002
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Ah Scunthorpe!

I was once tasked to write an epic poem inspired by the mellifluousness of the very name! I'll ear-bash you with it when I have more time. Meanwhile:

I believe Mauretania was equipped with Typhon air horns, an organ whistle and triple bell whistles. I thought one set ended up on a brewery in Warrington or thereabouts. No doubt others will advise.

Noel
 

Lucy Burkhill

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Mar 31, 2006
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Hi Noel,

I know the Queen Mary was equipped with Typhon air horns, these were actually made at Scunthorpe at John Brown's foundry. Looking at photos, it can be seen that Mauretania and Lusitania had their original whistles replaced, possibly around 1914-1915, as photos of Lucy on her last voyage show a triple whistle on her first forward funnel, and a double one on her second, whereas photos of her as new show just a single whistle on the first two stacks. Ditto for Maury. Certainly a photo in the "Majesty at Sea-the Four Stackers" book of the brand-new Aquitania at the Clydebank shipyard shows her with the very same whistle arrangement that was later fitted to her older sisters. Were new whistles fitted to Lucy and Maury because the originals were not loud or powerful enough? Was this something to do with shipping regulations on the outbreak of WW1? Did the originals develop faults?
Re the Typhon air horns, you may be right about them being fitted to Maury, I've just been looking at a photo of her funnel tops at the shipyard in 1906, before they were fitted to her, and it does show something resembling an air horn. It's possible that someone in Scunthorpe heard the whistle for the QM being tested and was somehow told it was from the old Mauretania?!

Your help much appreciated,
Lucy
 
S

Scott R. Andrews

Guest
The devices which looked like air horns were in fact a form of rotary siren of a type used on naval vessels at that time. These devices create a loud high-pitched "whooping" sound. The rotor/stator assembly was contained in the drum portion at the back of the flared bell, and was mounted to the top of the steam supply line through a swivel coupling. The purpose of the coupling was to allow the sound of the instrument to be projected through whatever arc was permitted by the position in which it was mounted; locating two devices -- one on either side of a platform -- allowed a greater radius of projecting a signal. Typically, it was arranged so that the direction in which the siren faced could be changed from the deck by use of either a crank-and-rod set-up, or through a chainwheel. You can find one of these devices detailed in Sennett and Oram's "The Marine Steam Engine".

The triple-bell whistles fitted to the Lucy, Maury and Aquitania were the same model as the Smith-Hyson "Super Whistles" fitted to all three Olympic-class ships. The set which was saved from the Mauretania and fitted to the Appleby-Frodingham steelworks was again rescued from destruction prior to that building being torn down. Last I heard, they were still owned by Mr. Rowland Humble, a whistle collector from Bodmin, Cornwall. Mr. Humble has (still, I hope!) a small museum in which he houses and displays his collection. When I last corresponded with Mr. Humble, he told me that on occasion he still sounds these whistles. This happens at gatherings which collectors refer to as a "whistle blow", most often conducted at a railroad museum. The participants bring selected items from their collections, which are then connected to a steam manifold which is supplied via connection to a locomotive boiler. Most of the whistles and horns at these gatherings are the size typical to trains, tugboats, and factory hooters, so I'm sure that a set of big triple-bell whistles from any transatlantic liner, let alone the Mauretania, must really create quite a commotion in every sense of the word!

Regards,
Scott Andrews
 
S

Scott R. Andrews

Guest
Here's a scan of the figure for the steam siren from "The Marine Steam Engine":
siren0004.jpg


Regards,
Scott Andrews
 

Lucy Burkhill

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Mar 31, 2006
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Wow!!! The whistles from the Mauretania being SOUNDED today?!! Great stuff!! Has this guy in Cornwall who collects whistles got a website? I am soooo envious of him if he has got a set of the Maury's whistles.
So it seems like there was something in the tale my late father and grandfather told me about the Maury's whistle being fitted to the App-Frod steelworks after all. I have also written to the local Scunthorpe newspaper asking if anyone can help me, there is a possibility an ex- steelworker may remember something. It is something which I would dearly love to find out more about.

Re the steam siren- I know what you are referring to, some owners of steam traction engines and steam-driven carousels have fitted these, I have heard them blow at old-time steam fairs.

Lucy, Maury and Aquitania having the same triple-bell whistles as the Olympic class liners- did Cunard replace the originals with these in order to give their premier ships a louder voice against their new competitors in 1912?

Many thanks for your reply, Scott, and for kindly sharing the pic of the siren with me.

Best wishes,
Lucy
 

Noel F. Jones

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May 14, 2002
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I recall a television documentary showing an organ whistle being recovered from Lusitania. It was shown being blown with compressed air from the salvage vessel over the wreck site.

This was something like ten - fifteen years ago. I don't know where the artifact is now, possibly others can advise.

Noel
 

Lucy Burkhill

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Mar 31, 2006
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Hi Noel,
In R Ballard's book "Exploring the Lusitania", one of the whistles is shown lying on the sea bed close to the wreck. I presume that this is the one that featured on the TV documentary you are referring to. I have never heard of or seen this particular programme.

Lucy
 
S

Scott R. Andrews

Guest
Exactly when the triple-bell whistles were fitted to the Lusitania and Mauretania is a question for someone better versed in their history than me, though it was certainly in place on the Lusitaniaby the start of the war. On Parks Stephenson's fine website, you will find the following article from "The Illustrated London News" from August 22, 1914: http://lusitania.marconigraph.com/mfa_camo.html The pictures contained within the article show both the Smith Hyson triple-bell whistle on the forward funnel, and the organ whistle on the No. 2 funnel.

The organ whistle was on display at the Ocean Liner Museum in NYC at the time they were running the exhibit "Dazzle and Drab, Ocean Liners at War". The exhibit ran from November 11, 2001 to February 28, 2002. Click on the following link and scroll down the page to see a picture of this whistle: http://www.modelwarships.com/features/archives/dazzle/dazzle.htm I don't know the whistle's present whereabouts. I heard that the museum closed and the collection was relocated to the South Street Seaport Museum, so perhaps this is now the venue in which it is being displayed.

Regarding the whistle museum in Bodmin, I'm afraid there isn't any website for the museum. There was a web page at one point that wasn't much more than an electronic version of a handbill. I tried this link, but it just returns a "page not found" error message. A search for "whistle museum" and "Bodmin" returned the following result: http://whatsongb.co.uk/Arts/Museum_Pcard.asp?ID=38 . It appears that, at the very least, the collection has been moved to a different address, as it was formerly located in 80 Fort Street.

Regards,
Scott Andrews
 

Eric Longo

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Aug 13, 2004
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Hello,

This is a very interesting thread.
The recovered Lusitania whistle is in a private collection I believe. It is not exhibited at the South Street Seaport and was only loaned to the now defunct OLM for the D&D exhibit. One of my photographs of Mauretania in dazzle of Queenstown is in the catalog of that show - the last exhibit for the OLM unfortunately.

Best,
Eric Longo
 

Noel F. Jones

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May 14, 2002
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The question is begged: what was/is the purpose of fitting more than one type of whistle?

The only immediate utility I can think of is signalling to tugs during berthing operations or towing preliminary thereto, such as negotiating a dock entance.

When a cargo vessel had tugs fast fore and aft the usual procedure was to signal from the bridge to the bow tug by means of a (referee's vibrating pea type) mouth whistle and to signal to the after tug by means of the ship's whistle. Presumably this was considered inadequate when handling larger vessels and the referee-type whistle would be supplanted by the syren, or by a steam whistle different from that used to signal the after tug.

I recall the later Manx packets having a triple bell whistle on the leading aspect of their single funnel and an organ whistle on the after aspect, presumably for the same reason.

Of course there is the question of providing backup in case of failure of one of the devices, but in the case of Lusitania/Mauretania steam pressure was required to activate all three devices! Air horns would at least have provided an alternative to steam driven whistles. Could it have been that the different whistles were powered from different boiler rooms?

Another consideration is fog signals; perhaps some devices were considered to be more penetrating than others in such conditions - or easier on the ear!

Rotary syrens, such as favoured by the Royal Navy, could be indistinct when signalling intent because of variation in volume and pitch. They took some time to get going. For instance, three shorts ("my engines are going full astern") might inadvertently be interpreted as a turn to port because the initial blast was too quiet or too low pitched to be heard in prevailing conditions. Still, the RN seemed to get by alright with them...

Noel
 

Eric Longo

Member
Aug 13, 2004
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Hi All,
The Lusitania whistle is in the wonderful collection of Eric Sauder. I did not recall, but was reminded by a really great photo of it in his excellent new book - R.M.S. Lusitania: The Ship and her Record, put out by Tempus Publishing. It is shown next to a photo of it in place on the ship. I remember looking closely at this whistle when it was in the OLM show because it has such a presence - it was among the first things you saw as you entered the exhibit. It has a beautiful surface and seeing it up close was quite a thrill. I don't recall anything else quite as impressive - there was an Olympic lifering, a suit used to dive on Normandie and a lot of other stuff but the whistle made the biggest impact.

Best,
Eric Longo
 

Lucy Burkhill

Member
Mar 31, 2006
166
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Hello,
In Ballard's book "Exploring the Lusitania", it shows her triple-chime whistle lying on the sea bed not far from the wreck. Now I have learned from this board that the organ whistle has been salvaged and is in the collection of Eric Sauder, but has the chime whistle also been recovered? I would be very surprised if it remains with the wreck.

I have just finished reading Humfrey Jordan's fascinating "biography" of the Mauretania, and was delighted to learn that it was possible to play tunes upon her whistles. How was this achieved, was there some sort of keyboard like on a pipe organ, and do any recollections of this by passengers/crew survive?

All the best,
Lucy
 

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