RMS Olympic Wheelhouse telegraphs


Alec Barker

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Aug 22, 2003
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Hello,
when the RMS Olympic was in her early years, before her titanic desaster refit, did she have any telegraphs in her wheelhouse?
I noticed that in TAOOT, there were two telegraphs in the wheelhouse, but in the titanic movie, there were none.

Also, how many telegraphs were in the bridge, and which ones did which jobs.

I need this information for a 3d model that I am supervising, so I will need some info quite quickly.

I hope you can help me out with this,

Thanks in advance,
Alec
 

Bob Read

Member
Dec 9, 2000
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Alec:
This subject has been discussed in detail in the past. I know of no telegraphs in either Olympic's or Titanic's wheelhouse. I have copied a portion of my post from Dec 2000 below which may help. If anyone has any further opinions they can chime in.

Here's the previous post:

Greetings:
I thought I'd chime in on the Bridge Telegraphs question. This is my first posting to this board.
I have participated regularly for over 2 years on another board that is devoted to Titanic's structure and modelling of same.
From our discussions there the state of the configuration and function of the bridge telegraphs as of this date is this:

There were 5 telegraphs on Titanic's bridge using
a bridge photo of Olympic found in E.E. O'Donnell's "The Last Days of the Titanic". Later Olympic photos circa 1920 show the addition of three small telegraphs. One was just to starboard of the wheel on the navigating bridge and the other two were just outside the bridge wing cabs.
It is not thought that these were incorporated on Titanic. Another photo used to determine telegraph location/structure is the photo taken in Southampton of Captain Smith just outside the
navigating bridge on the port side. Another important source is an Engineering magazine article which explains Britannic's telegraph setup. It was assumed that Britannic's setup was not different than Olympic's or Titanic's as built. From these sources it has been determined:

1. There were 5 telegraphs on Titanic's bridge.
2. Two of these telegraphs were dedicated for
communication to and from the docking bridge
exclusively.
3. Of the two telegraphs dedicated to the docking
bridge, one was an engine order telegraph
and the other was a combination
docking/steering telegraph.
4.Two telegraphs on the bridge worked in tandem
and were engine order telegraphs connected to
the engine room. These two telegraphs were
essentially slaves where the movements of handles
on one caused the movement of the corresponding
handles on the other. These two telegraphs also
had an aft facing dial in addition to the port
and starboard dials. It is not clear at this
time what the aft facing dial indicated.
5. There was additionally an emergency/back-up
engine order telegraph connected to the engine
room to be used in the event of failure of the
two main engine order telegraphs. Unlike the
two main engine order telegraphs this emergency
back-up telegraph did not have an aft facing
dial.
6. For all the engine order telegraphs the
starboard handle sent a signal to the starboard
engine and the port handle to the port engine.
7. The exact operation of the docking/steering
telegraph is not known for sure. It may have
been that one handle controlled docking
orders and the other controlled steering
orders.
8. The docking bridge had an engine telegraph
and a docking/steering telegraph. Orders
from these were sent to their counterparts
on the navigating bridge. The orders were then
relayed to the engine room for engine orders.
The actual sequence of how the docking/steering
orders were originated or executed is somewhat
unclear.
9. The arrangement of the telegraphs on the
navigating bridge was from port to starboard:
A.Main engine telegraph
B.Docking/steering telegraph
C.Either engine telegraph to docking bridge
or emergency/back-up telegraph.
D.Same as C
E.Main engine telegraph.
10.The arrangement of the docking bridge
telegraphs is unknown.

Though I have understanding of the above findings
I am by no means the originator. Credit for these findings has to go to Mark Darrah and Bill Sauder.
Both are excellent researchers.

Regards,
Bob Read
 

Alec Barker

Member
Aug 22, 2003
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Hi Bob,
thankyou for this very detailed description of the Bridge, interesting to know what all the telegraphs did.

Would there be any chance of a description of her wheelhouse interior?

I currently know that in there, there was:
- A Wheel and Binnacle.
- two cabnets against the forward wheelhouse bulkhead on both sides. The port side cabnet being a flag locker, and the starboard cabnet being a signal locker.
There were red and white tiles on the floor purelly for decoration.

The things that I dont know about the wheelhouse are:
- What the cabnets actually looked like
- if there were any speed and RPM indicators inside the wheelhouse (I know of the engine indicators on the main engine telegraphs in the bridge).
- Was there a table against the aft bulkhead of the wheelhouse.

Thankyou in advance,
Alec
 

Bob Read

Member
Dec 9, 2000
393
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263
> Alec: Sorry, I don't know of any source (photo, text, etc.) which describes with any detail the interior of the wheelhouse. The arrangements in Cameron's movie were educated guesses at best. The only known photo of any of the Olympic class wheelhouses shows phones on a wall. Sorry, but as far as I know the information you want is not out there.

Regards, Bob Read >
 

Alec Barker

Member
Aug 22, 2003
27
0
141
Hi Bob,
ok thanks anyway. I know the wheelhouse is one of the most unknown part of the olympic class liners, even though it was one of the most important rooms...
I wonder if harland and wolff has any plans of the wheelhouse arragments OR even photos?

Thanks,
Alec
 

Alec Barker

Member
Aug 22, 2003
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Hi Sam,
Thanks for that, wasn't sure where some of those telephones went to...

Would any of you know how many windows were on the olympic's rounded wheelhouse?

Thanks,
Alec
 
Apr 20, 2004
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Bob - or anyone....

What did the steering telegraph actually instruct engineers at the receiving end to do? I've seen pictures of these telegraphs on other ships, like the Lusitania.

I thought perhaps they might connect to a telegraph indicator in the steering room, where an engineer would then overide the telemotor by moving the rudder to one of several indexed positions.
 

Bob Read

Member
Dec 9, 2000
393
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Jason:
I am providing a link to a photo of one of Olympic's docking/steering telegraphs.
The docking commands are on the outer part of the dial and the steering commands are on the
inner part.

My understanding of how this would work is this:

This telegraph in most cases would transmit docking signals. However, if there were a total failure of the telemotors on the bridge, this telegraph would be used to transmit steering orders. An officer on the docking bridge would
receive and acknowledge the steering order from the bridge. He would relay the command to the helmsman at the docking bridge wheel. He would then turn the wheel accordingly. The wheel on the docking bridge was not a telemotor. It moved cables connected directly to the steering engine directly below the docking bridge. This way an electrical power failure would not affect its operation.

Here's the link to the photo:

http://webpages.charter.net/bpread/docktele.jpg
 

Bob Read

Member
Dec 9, 2000
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One slight correction:
I referred to telemotors (plural) on the bridge.
In fact there was only one telemotor and that was in the wheelhouse. The wheel on the navigating bridge was mechanically connected to the wheelhouse telemotor.

Regards,
Bob Read
 
Apr 20, 2004
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156
Thanks Bob. That makes sense. It feels good to have this mystery cleared up once and for all, and see clearly how it all works.

You mention electrical failure, but I think Titanic used "Browns" Telemotor system, and I think the communication /control system on these was actually hydraulic, as opposed to electric. Perhaps someone can correct me if I'm wrong.

Do you know anything about where the docking signals were sent to? All I can think of is that there must have been various crew posts (poop / forecastle or well decks) where docking indicator telegraphs must have been situated. If so, do any pictures exist that show these?

Jason
 

Alec Barker

Member
Aug 22, 2003
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Hello,
The picture of the docking telegraph Bob sent you is of the aft docking bridge. It would have been used to give orders between the officers standing at that bridge and officers on the main navigation bridge so they could notify each other of what manoeuvres that they are executing.

Maybe the point of the steering section on these telegraphs was to tell the people in the navigation bridge to move their wheels to the same position as the people on the docking bridge to stop conflicts (though this probably never happened, but I can't tell if they both were slaves or if they were independent).
Another idea is if say the wheel on the docking bridge were to fail, they could order people on the navigation bridge to move the wheel for them.

Take note that those are my personal thoughts and may be totally wrong.

Thanks,
Alec
 
Apr 20, 2004
92
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Hi

I think I go along with Bob's explanation of the steering section.

Your idea of how the docking system works also seems reasonable.

Let's see if anyone else has anything to say.

Jason
 

Bob Read

Member
Dec 9, 2000
393
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A couple of thoughts:

1. The telemotor in the wheelhouse and the
wheel on the docking bridge were independent.
The wheel on the docking bridge was for
an emergency when the telemotor in the
wheelhouse was not operating. The wheel on
the docking bridge had a direct mechanical
connection to the steering engine below it.

I do not recall exactly how the telemotor
worked (electrical or hydraulic).

2. The only docking/steering telegraphs I know of
were on the navigating bridge and the docking
bridge.

3. Lets not forget that orders during
docking from the navigating bridge to the
forecastle and the docking bridge also were
transmitted by telephone. A lot of these
systems were redundant.

Regards,
Bob Read
 
Dec 23, 2004
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158
Most steamships have one telegraph for each engine, in other words the Olympic class had 3 engine room telegraphs, one for each of the recip. engines and one for the turbine which would only indicate ahead positions. The repeaters were on the engine room starting platform and all orders were acknowledged with a pointer showing the acknowledgement on the bridge telegraphs. On twin screw ships it is usual to have port and starboard controls on either side of the same entablature. Looking at photographs it would appear that Titanic had a telegraph on each side of the bridge for the recip engines and a single one in the centre for the turbine but I need to have a closer look. The docking telegraphs operated in unision to the bow and stern. There were no walkie talkies in those days!
 

Bob Read

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Dec 9, 2000
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Allan:

Sorry, no turbine telegraph on the Olympic class ships. If you will look at my post above you will see just what telegraphs were on the bridge.
Only the location of a couple are in dispute.

Regards,
Bob Read
 
Jun 26, 2004
93
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158
Bob,

Actually there was a turbine telegraph don't forget, but it was electric, and more then likely a mere indicator. The turbine was engaged only at half and full ahead in the engine room, under the engineer's control. The location of this "telegraph" as the Drawing Office Notebook calls it, is unknown. It was not on the navigating bridge from what evidence I have seen. It was more then likely in the wheel house.

As for the identification of the telegraphs on the navigating bridge, there should not be a dispute on them anymore. The one issue was the location of the emergency telegraph, and I was able to answer that some time ago. The emergency telegraphs are traditionally always on the starboard - or captain's side of the bridge. So the one sitting next to the docking/steering telegraph on the port side of the wheel was the docking bridge engine telegraph.

According to English Naval tradition, the Captain or Officer of the Watch takes the starboard side (the weather side) of the bridge. In fact, and I found this interesting, tradition dictates that a junior officer or other crew member should always approach the Captain or lead officer from the port side when addressing him. This is tradition is also why the captain is berthed on the starboard side, and the chief officer was always berthed on the opposite side, or the port side. Did you ever notice that almost every picture of these old captains is taken on the STB side of the ship?


Bruce
 

Bob Read

Member
Dec 9, 2000
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Bruce:

I was speaking about a telegraph in the common accepted sense of the word and of those found on the bridge.
The locations of the telegraphs may be settled in your mind and with indirect evidence that I have only heard you personally offer, but the Titanic research community at large doesn't have any more direct evidence than we originally had.

Regards,
Bob Read
 
Jun 26, 2004
93
4
158
Bob,

O.k. I understand what you were referring to as for the location stated in the previous posts.

As for the evidence I offer, of course nothing is rock solid, but in this instance, if one were to ask any old salt (especially those who have experience with pre W.W.II built ships, they will tell you that devices such as the emergency telegraphs are on the starboard side. There is usually rhyme and reason for many of these fittings. I wonder what side the emergency telegraph is on in the Queen Mary?

They put devices like these on the starboard side so they are closer to where the guy in charge usually stands his watch.

Bruce
 

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