Telegraph system

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Mary S. Lynn

Guest
Yes - have done the "Find" feature.

Admitted "stupid" questions:

The ship's Telegraph system (and not just on the Titanic) was devised to communicate information from the Bridge to the Boiler Room?

Can some kind person - in 300 or so words or less, and without being too technical, explain how - and why - this system worked?

We all watched various portrayals of Murdoch/Hitchens/Lightoller/Smith/ ad infinitum throw that Telegraph switch - depending on the movie. All forward. All backwards. Stop here. Stop there. And no movie really shows the actual signal of the Telegraph! Unless you have a DVD version of any movie, and can press "stop", it's really difficult to follow.

You get fleeting visions of: Half stop/ahead. Full stop/ahead. Reverse. Forward. Quarter stop. Blah, blah, and more blah.

Totally confused, and depending on Titanica expertise.

Thanks in advance
 

Paul Visser

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Sep 19, 2007
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Hi Mary,

On the titanic they had 2 telegraphs, one for each engine. These were connected by chains to telegraphs in the engine room. The telegraphs on the bridge are identical to those in the engine room. Stop is right at the top of the telegraph. Then forward and down the telegraph you have, Dead slow speed ahead, Slow speed ahead, Quarter speed ahead, Half speed ahead, Three quarter speed ahead and full speed ahead. The same goes for astern working backwards and down. The telegraphs had bells in them so that whoever was there would hear when the telegraphs were moved.

There is also an arrow on the telegraph showing what position the engine room telegraph is in. When the officer moved the telegraph on the bridge the engineer in the engine would move his telegraph to correspond with the telegraph on the bridge. This moves the arrow on the bridge telegraph and rings the bell on the bridge to show that the order has been acknowledged.

On the Titanic, First Officer William Murdoch Gave 3 rings on each telegraph meaning there was an emergency.

I hope this explains what you wanted to know.

Regards,

Paul Visser
 

Paul Visser

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Sep 19, 2007
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I correct myself in what I said about the telegraphs as to the readings on them.
From stop forward and down you have “Standby”￾, “Dead Slow”￾, “Slow”￾, “Half”￾ and “Full”￾ ahead and astern. The attached immage will show you a telegraph. (Not the one on the Titanic)

Paul
84082.jpg
 
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Mary S. Lynn

Guest
Paul - eternal thanks for giving me such a great answer! I think my main confusion was how the telegraphs on the bridge were connected to the engine rooms. I had assumed - incorrectly - they were connected electronically. Thanks very much for a correct and concise description, as well as the image.

Dead slow ahead - would that mean that the ship was simply floating forward with the engines turned off, and not at anchor?
 
Mar 3, 1998
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Paul,

Your description was accurate with the following exceptions:

- Both port and starboard engine indicators were located on one telegraph pedestal, one to each side. There was a main engines pedestal on each side of the bridge, which meant that one was always close by, no matter which side of the bridge the deck officer was standing his watch. The two main engines pedestals were duplicates of one another, and each included an engine tell-tale (which is not shown in the 1997 movie and maybe not in the others, either...I would have to check).

- Murdoch did not ring the telegraph 3 times. As was normal procedure, he did move the indicator handle around the dial to ring the bells long and loud so that they would immediately catch the attention of the engineers below. Titanic had a separate emergency telegraph at centreline (which also contained both a port and starboard side), which was installed in Titanic primarily as a backup to a mechanical linkage failure of the main engines telegraph, an incident that was sometimes encountered at that time. According to greaser Scott, the bridge rang down both the main engines and emergency telegraphs.

The configuration of the telegraphs has been verified by Bill Sauder, who has personally examined, measured and catalogued the telegraphs brought up from the Titanic wreck.

Mary,

DEAD SLOW required the engines to be engaged, albeit at a slow RPM, just enough for the ship to maintain headway.

Parks
 

Paul Visser

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Sep 19, 2007
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Hi Mary,

I am pleased to have been of some help.

In answer to your last question, stop means that the engines are to be stopped weather the ship is at anchor or not. Standby means that the engines would be stopped but they would keep enough steam pressure so the engines could be started immediately. Dead slow means that the engines would be running very slowly. Just enough to give the ship some headway.

Regards,

Paul Visser
 

Paul Visser

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Sep 19, 2007
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Hi Parks,

I am very grateful for your corrections and input. It is always a pleasure learning from you guys.

Regards,

Paul Visser
 
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Mary S. Lynn

Guest
Paul, I thank you once again for your very informative efforts and posts. You have been very kind, and I appreciate it! You answered some very basic questions for me. Thanks, again.
 
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Mary S. Lynn

Guest
Parks - I defer to you as an expert (not because I saw you on TV and taped you....yeah, right!), but because you ARE an expert, and have have provided extra information about the Telegraph system. A few questions for you:

"Both port and starboard engine indicators were located on ONE telegraph pedestal". Is this the same pedestal whose picture was taken and published in GotA? Were there two identical pedestals? If so, why is there only one picture?

My understanding is that Murdoch rang the Telegraph only one time, to "ring the bells loud and long". Why do the movies only show a very quick Telegraph move, from far side to near side, which could have been anything? Cinemagraphics aside...

An "engine tell-tale" would be...?

Thanks, Parks.
 
Mar 3, 1998
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Mary,

I'm no expert, just someone who listens closely when others talk. My knowledge about Titanic's engine-order telegraphs comes from Bill Sauder, who must know the subject better than anyone, thanks to his work on the real devices.

I'm not sure which telegraph pedestal you are referring to in GotA. Most of the telegraphs have been recovered. Are you perhaps thinking of the telemotor pedestal for the ship's wheel?

There were two identical telegraphs for the main engines, one to port, the other to starboard. The deck officer stood his watch on the windward side of the bridge and having duplicate telegraphs meant that one would always be closest to where the watch officer was standing.

Whenever you move the indicator handle from one command to the next, a bell rings both in the telegraph housing and in the associated telegraph down in the engine room. A single bell ring can be lost in the noise of the engine room, so it was customary to move the handle far forward and then back over multiple commands, so that more than one bell sounded (this is the sound effect that you hear in the movie, by way of example). This clanging of multiple bells could not be missed by the engineering watch, or so it was intended. The extent to which the watch officer would move the handle was dependent on his own style...there was no set requirement to move the handle x number of spaces. I did not advise on the 1997 movie, and don't remember Murdoch's move without watching the film again. I did advise on GotA, and made certain in that film that "Murdoch" rang the pointer forward and back in order to give a good ringing of the bells.

An engine tell-tale in this instance is a circular dial on the aft side of the telegraph housing that gave a visual indication of the direction in which the engines were running.

Parks
 

Jeremy Lee

Member
Jun 12, 2003
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BTW, I noticed that in Cameron's movie, the telegraph was made by a certain J.W. Ray & Co., but was it the same company that supplied the telegraph to the real ship?
 
Mar 3, 1998
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Jeremy,

Yes, J.W. Ray & Co. made the original telegraphs for Titanic. I talked with them a few years back and can't remember if they built the telegraphs for Cameron's film, or if Cameron had his own local contractors replicate them. I can tell you, though, after having disassembled and re-assembled two of the ones used in the film myself, that even though the telegraphs look authentic, they are not constructed like the originals. They are, like most everything else used in the film, minimally constructed with the sole purpose of looking good on film.

By the way, Cameron keeps two of the telegraphs (the ones I fooled around with) and the ship's wheel, binnacle and telemotor assembly in his office at Lightstorm Entertainment.

Parks
 

Jeremy Lee

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Jun 12, 2003
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>>they are not constructed like the originals<<

Were the ones in the film actually working or were they just a hollow shell of brass?

Another question - Is J.W. Ray & Co still existing today?

Thanks!
 
Mar 3, 1998
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Jeremy,

They did not "work" in the sense that there was no interior mechanism. The "telegraph bells" were added to the soundtrack during post production. However, the indicator handle did rotate and there was a light inside that illuminated the facings. You can see a picture of one having a facing being changed on the "Behind the Scenes of GotA" page in the Cape Race section of my website.

J.W. Ray & Co. was still in existance when I talked with them a few years ago. They used to have a website, but that site appears to no longer to be operable. For people with money to spend, they sold a telegraph with facings similar to what Titanic had for the home. Unfortunately, it appears that the company had retained no specific record of their installation aboard Titanic...the Browne photograph of Olympic's bridge and the Daily Sketch photograph of Smith standing in front of Titanic's bridge remain the best historical sources of information about Titanic's engine telegraphs. I don't know what the company's situation is today...maybe someone in the UK could call the number listed in the Merseyside (Liverpool) directory and check up on them.

Parks
 

Paul Visser

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Sep 19, 2007
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Hi people,

My turn to pick your brains.....

Were the red and white lights in the boiler rooms, and the bell which was mentioned in the inquiry somehow connected to the telegraphs or were they manually operated by the engineers using a switch or switches? Were there any other lights in the boiler rooms like standby or slow speed or anything like that as well?

Looking forward to your replies,

Paul Visser
 
Mar 3, 1998
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Paul,

You've caught me without my reference material, so I'll tell you what I can remember off the top of my head.

The boiler-room telegraphs were not linked to the engine-order telegraphs. The boiler-room telegraph system transmitted basic commands from the engineering platform in the engine room to the individual boiler rooms. The coloured lights illuminated glass placards on which commands -- such as STOP, FULL, SLOW -- were etched. This told the leading fireman what his gang should be doing. STOP was red, and I think blue was for SLOW and white for FULL, but I could be mistaken. I have the reference for this at home somewhere...maybe it's in Shipbuilder.

At any rate, the FULL command did not differentiate between AHEAD and ASTERN. If the bridge crashed the engines back from FULL AHEAD to FULL ASTERN (which, despite Boxhall's insinuation, I don't believe happened in Titanic), there would be no corresponding change on the boiler-room telegraph. The light would remain at FULL.

There was no flashing red light in the boiler rooms, as was shown in the Cameron film. That was the invention of the second unit director. The only red light in the boiler room was a steady one behind the letters STOP on the boiler-room telegraph.

Parks
 
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Mary S. Lynn

Guest
Yes, Parks. The picture I was referring to was the one of the telemotor pedestal for the ship's wheel...not the dual Telegraphs. (mea culpa). It's such a famous picture, and I confused it. I think I was just intrigued by the multi-movie depictions of Whoever-was-portraying-Murdoch whanging that telegraph handle back and forth. Thanks for your continued expertise. Thanks, also, to Paul Visser.
 
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Sean L.

Guest
quote:

I think I was just intrigued by the multi-movie depictions of Whoever-was-portraying-Murdoch whanging that telegraph handle back and forth.
Me too. After seeing those shots I sort of came to the conclusion that the telegraph handle had to be moved to a certain position in order to reset the mechanism for the new order or something.

This would suggest that Murdoch ordering STOP then FULL ASTERN really just gave him a reason to ring more bells down below. In that case I can see where Paul came from with his '3 bells' theory in that there was indeed three sequences of bells:

FULL AHEAD to STOP
STOP back to FULL AHEAD
FULL AHEAD all the way over to FULL ASTERN

This is another point where the 1997 movie deceives us. In the 'Take Her to Sea, Mr. Murdoch' scene all you hear in the engine room is 1 bell and the needle moves from HALF to FULL AHEAD.

But in the iceberg scene when Murdoch runs back out onto the bridge wing after ringing for FULL ASTERN you can faintly hear several bells and the camera shows the bridge telegraphs 'acknowledgement needles' pointing to FULL ASTERN.

If you're wondering how I know all of this, I pay extra close attention to the bridge scenes in the movie because that's where my fascination with Titanic lies - the command center.

Oh, BTW, this is my first post here. I was utterly fascinated with Titanic when I was young. Later on in life my fascination waned as other things took up my mind. But since I found this place I'm more fascinated than ever.

You guys cover all the bases - and I do mean ALL the bases!

Love this place!​
 

Jeremy Lee

Member
Jun 12, 2003
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About the bells stuff, as it was said above, the sound did not come from the telegraph but from the music, so it was the coordination problem, not the machine.