Titanic and Olympic Engine Room Damage


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Aaron_2016

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Curious to know if the Titanic suffered the same defects as the Olympic twenty years later when serious fractures were discovered inside the Olympic's engine room. At first they thought it was minor and the Olympic would only miss one voyage, but then they discovered it was very serious and after a lengthy conference the ship was taken out of service for 3 months for repairs. Would these fractures have occurred on the Titanic in 1912 or increased the possibility of her breaking in two? News reports in 1932 said -



OLYMPIC SAILING CANCELLED
Passengers Offered Accommodation on the Georgic. The White Star Line announced yesterday afternoon that the usual examination of the engine room of the Olympic, after she arrived at Southampton from New York on Friday last, revealed that a small fracture was discovered......

OLYMPIC’S TROUBLE
Owing to an engine defect the sailing of the White Star liner Olympic from Southampton to New York today was cancelled. A small fracture has developed in one of the journals of a crankshaft. It will be repaired in time for her next voyage.....

OLYMPIC'S DEFECTS CONFERENCE WITH SHIPBUILDERS
The White Star Line has issued the following statement regarding the liner Olympic, at present docked in Southampton: There will be a conference Tuesday at the head offices of the White Star Line......

OLYMPIC'S ENGINE TROUBLE - LONDON CONFERENCE WITH BUILDERS
The White Star Line issued the following official statement at Southampton today regarding the liner Olympic: There will a conference on Tuesday next at the offices of the White Star Line.....

THE OLYMPIC’S ENGINE TROUBLE
The conference lasted several hours, and at its close the following statement was issued;— “The White Star Line announces the Royal Mail steamship Olympic is to undergo a complete overhaul".....

OLYMPIC TO UNDERGO THREE MONTH OVERHAUL
An order has been placed with Messrs Harland and Wolff for a new propeller shaft for the White Star liner Olympic which is to undergo three months overhaul.....


1933 - A few months after repairs were completed the Olympic's engine was still causing problems and made the news again:


OLYMPIC IN PLYMOUTH - ENGINE TROUBLE
The White Star liner Olympic reached Plymouth yesterday from New York hours late owing to engine trouble. Three days ago a defect a turbine put one of her three propellers out of action and reduced her speed.....

OLYMPIC TWELVE HOURS LATE - TROUBLE IN TURBINE
The White Star liner Olympic reached Plymouth yesterday from New York twelve hours late owing to engine trouble.

LINER 12 HOURS LATE - OLYMPIC DEVELOPS ENGINE TROUBLE
The White Star liner Olympic reached Plymouth today from New York, 12 hours late owing to engine trouble. Three days ago a defect in a turbine put one of her three propellers out of action and reduced her speed....


Was the above a series of fractures that may have occurred to any ship or was this a defect in the Olympic and possibly the Titanic?


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Rob Lawes

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Below is a picture of the Type 42 Destroyer HMS Manchester. In later life this class of ships suffered from severe cracking.

Along the starboard side level with the top of the ships side, you can clearly see the strengthening beam installed to reduce the hull flexing and thus prevent cracking.

As Sam said, its an age thing.

hms_manchester_400x300.jpg
 

Alex Clark

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I always enjoyed photographing type 42s and 22s during replenishments. I have a set of HMS Manchestervfrom about 2005. Nice looking ships.
 
Jan 5, 2001
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Aaron

When did 'A small fracture has developed in one of the journals of a crankshaft' turn into 'serious fractures [plural] were discovered inside the Olympic's engine room'?

Curious to know if the Titanic suffered the same defects as the Olympic twenty years later when serious fractures were discovered inside the Olympic's engine room.
The reports you are referring to are discussing repairs that were required to the ship's reciprocating engines after twenty one years' continuous service.

These repairs had already been scheduled to take place during an overhaul in November 1932, but they were brought forward. They included renewal of crankshafts and new balance weights, which reduced 'the load on the top half of the main bearings by at least one-third' and improved the overall balance of the engines. The result of these repairs and modifications was that the reciprocating engines performed better from 1933 to 1935 than they had at any other point in her career.

1933 - A few months after repairs were completed the Olympic's engine was still causing problems and made the news again:
'Still' causing problems? This is the turbine engine, not the reciprocating engines. A couple of blades in the turbine rotor had been damaged and these rows of blading were removed. They did not have a material impact on the turbine's efficiency and were therefore never renewed.

Regards


Mark.[/B]
 
A

Aaron_2016

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Aaron

When did 'A small fracture has developed in one of the journals of a crankshaft' turn into 'serious fractures [plural] were discovered inside the Olympic's engine room'?

On 18th October 1932 the papers reported that there was "Trouble in the engines the Olympic" and how "It was hoped that it would possible to remedy it in time for to-morrow’s sailing." The next day on 19th October 1932 the regional newspapers reported that a small fracture was discovered saying - The White Star Line announced yesterday afternoon that the usual examination of the engine room of the Olympic, after she arrived at Southampton from New York on Friday last, revealed that a small fracture had developed in one of the Journals of a crankshaft. It will be repaired in time for her next voyage". Ten days later on the 29th October reports said "When the sailing of the Olympic from Southampton to New York, scheduled for October 19, was cancelled it was officially stated that routine inspection had revealed a small fracture in one of the journals of the port high pressure ... " (Can't read the rest without paying for subscription, but one can only assume it was more serious than first thought.) Two days later on the 31st October reports said in big letters - "Olympic's Defects and Olympic's Engine Trouble - Conference With Shipbuilders". Two days later on the 2nd November reports said the Olympic was to undergo a complete overhaul following a lengthy conference with the builders that lasted several hours. On 14th November reports said - "An order has been placed with Messrs Harland and Wolff, Bootle, for a 30-tons propeller shaft for the White Star liner Olympic, which is to undergo a three month overhaul at Southampton."

Without knowing the Olympic was already scheduled for a complete overhaul so soon after the defect or defects were discovered I naturally read the reports and believed there was a serious problem with the engine room and was curious if the Titanic had a possible defect in her engine room that might rapidly show when her engine room was put under immense stress i.e. being lift up or keeled over to one side, as the Olympic sailed in quite a few storms and was put under those conditions.


'Still' causing problems? This is the turbine engine, not the reciprocating engines. A couple of blades in the turbine rotor had been damaged and these rows of blading were removed. They did not have a material impact on the turbine's efficiency and were therefore never renewed.
Not long after her repairs and overhaul were completed the newspapers on the 15th September 1933 said "The White Star liner reached Plymouth to-day from New York 12 hours late owing to engine trouble. Three days ago a defect in a turbine put one of her three propellers out of action and reduced her speed to 20 knots." As this was not long after her overhaul and repairs to her engine room I naturally assumed that this defect might have been related to the original problem and if not then there was another problem. Just curious if it was a previous defect that resulted in her voyage being cancelled and the lengthy conference followed by her 3 month overhaul. The Olympic had gone through quite a few storms and conditions that put stress on her hull. I was just curious if it was possible for the Titanic to have suffered the same kind of damage at an accelerated rate when her hull rose up or keeled to one side, but I understand now it was not the same kind of damage, and was simply the age of the Olympic and years of normal wear and tear that eventually caused the fracture or defects to occur.

Many thanks.



.[/B]
 
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Without knowing the Olympic was already scheduled for a complete overhaul so soon after the defect or defects were discovered I naturally read the reports and believed there was a serious problem with the engine room
It's a perfectly legitimate question and I don't criticise you for a moment for raising it, Aaron. However, the distinction between repairs needed to the reciprocating engines compared to the hull structure in the engine room is a vital one. The news reports of the time were not all correct, but they're referring accurately to the reciprocating engines. Olympic's reciprocating engines were apparently the largest triple expansion marine reciprocating engines of their type built by H&W or any other builder. The basic design was sound and they served Olympic well, but the modifications in 1932 significantly improved the balance of the engines and we know that some refinements were made to their more powerful counterparts on Britannic.

It was sometimes the case that longitudinal working of a hull structure resulted in defects appearing in a vessel's reciprocating engines (primarily the bedplates). However, the ship was surveyed extremely thoroughly at the time and this was ruled out.

Not long after her repairs and overhaul were completed the newspapers on the 15th September 1933 said "The White Star liner reached Plymouth to-day from New York 12 hours late owing to engine trouble. Three days ago a defect in a turbine put one of her three propellers out of action and reduced her speed to 20 knots." .[/B]
The turbine engine was stopped on Sunday 10 September 1933, relatively early in the voyage. The turbine was stopped at 12.35, then both reciprocating engines were stopped at 12.52. Four minutes later, the reciprocating engines resumed at half ahead for two minutes. After stopping again, Olympic resumed her voyage at 1.20 with the reciprocating engines on 'full ahead'. Allowing for the detention, her steaming time was 6 days 4 hours and 24 minutes, averaging 20.4 knots.

Regards


Mark.
 
A

Aaron_2016

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It's a perfectly legitimate question.....
Many thanks. You are certainly an expert in the highest regard, and I have heard your name mentioned a number of times here in Belfast as the man with the know-how, especially at the Titanic museum and at Waterstones book store near the city hall. Forgive the text in my previous message. Trouble with typing while walking at the same time. :) Wonder why the Olympic was scrapped not long after the overhaul. Was she too much to insure?


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Aaron,

I appreciate your kind comments. It's always nice to be talked about in a good way, but we all have much more to learn and I fully include myself in that. Part of that process is asking original questions and looking into theories in an open-minded way, as you've been doing. I have always had an interest in historical methodology and the deductive processes and was interested in the conclusions drawn.

Wonder why the Olympic was scrapped not long after the overhaul. Was she too much to insure?.
It's largely to do with the change of ownership in terms of the merger between Cunard and White Star, IMHO. By 1935, they had Majestic, Berengaria, Aquitania and Majestic on the express service at a time when they were planning two new vessels to operate it (Queen Mary and later Queen Elizabeth). It was not merely that these ships were older and too numerous, but the company believed that even three brand-new ships on the Aquitania or Olympic model would not be economically competitive against foreign competition. Queen Mary cost little more to operate for a round trip than Berengaria and had far greater earnings capacity. Economics and technological advances dictated two ships were needed.

Olympic had the lowest running costs of these four ships by a significant margin but, unfortunately, she also tended to earn the lowest revenues as well. These vessels had all been built in response to Olympic and that should not really be surprising. As a result, depending on the measures used Olympic had the third or fourth worst net profit figure (including depreciation and all expenses in full). They therefore withdrew her from the North Atlantic express service full time and intended to use her for cruising from the summer of 1935, including two further North Atlantic voyages which would have taken her into 1936. It appears they believed the cruises would not be sufficiently profitable, especially when combined with North Atlantic crossings where they expected her to make losses, and so the company had no further use for Olympic.

At that time, there were other ships in the combined fleet with a greater book value than Olympic. Her insurance was renewed for another year in March 1935.

On the topic of insurance: Before the Titanic disaster, J. Bruce Ismay was in discussions with others including Cunard's chairman about coming to some pooled insurance arrangement to spread the risks for ships such as Lusitania and Olympic. These huge ships represented an enormous single liability in the event of a total loss (the three 'Olympic' class ships cost more in cash terms than the entire 23 ships in the White Star fleet were worth in 1908). It was not seen as an urgent matter - the thought of a total loss seemed so unlikely - and nothing was done before Titanic foundered only weeks later!

Regards


Mark.
 
A

Aaron_2016

Guest
On the topic of insurance.........
Thank you. I wonder how much the company depended on American influence and financial support following the crash of 1929 and if US investors pulled out or jumped ship and invested with Cunard instead as they appeared to be a more stable company with a long foreseeable future as a competitive shipping line.


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Evening Aaron,

Thank you. I wonder how much the company depended on American influence and financial support following the crash of 1929 and if US investors pulled out or jumped ship and invested with Cunard instead as they appeared to be a more stable company with a long foreseeable future as a competitive shipping line.
In 1929, the White Star Line was no longer part of IMM. It was under a British combine, which controlled the shares. I wouldn't have argued Cunard was necessarily a more stable company at that time. They went downhill pretty fast in 1930-31, just as so many other shipping lines did. In fact, in important respects White Star seemed to be clawing its way back and its operating performance was not bad in 1932: the new Britannic and Georgic generated very substantial profits at a time when few shipping lines had vessels capable of earning strong positive returns. It was, largely, the weaker partner in the merger because it was weighed down by a legacy of debt.

I summarised the contrasts, briefly, in a post on another forum:

Ironically, IMM’s takeover of White Star in 1902 started a period of about three decades during which White Star was part of a larger combine: IMM and then the Royal Mail Group. Both these combines shared a propensity to milk White Star’s profits by taking out generous dividends, rather than reinvesting in the company’s fleet to secure future revenue and allow for the necessary depreciation. Shipping is a capital-intensive industry and, in the long term, such practices were fatal as the company became over-indebted and its fleet aged and lost competitive strength. As an independent company, Cunard continued with a conservative financial policy and benefited from it.

From 1922 to 1932, Cunard and White Star earned similar revenues, but through a mix of factors Cunard earned a profit of £4,489,000 and paid dividends of £3,806,000, leaving a surplus of £683,000; White Star made a profit of £1,461,000, paid dividends of £3,000,000, and left a deficit of (£1,539,000).

The end result was that, by the time Cunard and White Star merged, the relatively strong position White Star enjoyed in the early 1900s compared to Cunard had reversed. Summarising Weir, I’ve previously written that in the early 1930s: ‘Cunard’s position was “one of financial soundness, due in the main to conservative finance, ample past earnings, wise and consistent depreciation allowances and moderate dividend payments. On the other hand, the Oceanic company’s [White Star’s] position is financially weak, due to defective financial policy, insufficient depreciation, unjustified dividends, all causing a position today in which the company is entirely dependent on its bankers”.
Best wishes


Mark.
 

mitfrc

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Olympic probably could have survived to do hard war service as a trooper in WWII like Aquitania did, but Mark explained perfectly the reasons why this didn't happen. That said, the hungry horse on those Type 42s (the sagging of the plates between framing) that Mr. Lawes posted is in part an intentional design decision, not just age -- actually, two design decisions. The first was that the Royal Navy chose a strategy of building ships for a fixed duration of service and then replacing them, the USN preferred to build ships that would go through SLEPs to improve electronics capability (we are talking cold war era here). Unfortunately HM Government doesn't necessarily like funding replacements on schedule. The second design decision is that the lighter, very tensile hull would flex without opening seams when suffering shock damage from a nuclear near-miss. The ship would then activate her NBC wetters to spray down the upperworks and resume regular combat operations. A heavier, stiffer hull might have held up to a longer service life, but would suffer heavy damage from the unique effects of a nuclear shock environment. Basically, a Type 42 is a very limited design comparison to an early 20th century liner, especially a British built one, despite their both being British-built ships.
 

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