Titanic's Cargo Gear

Noel F. Jones

Active Member
May 14, 2002
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I have some reservations about Capt.Charles Weeks' exposition on the working arrangements at Nos.1 and 2 hatches.

His postulated system of work for No.1 hatch has an inherent risk of damage at the So'ton end. Here the draft would have to be set down alongside the coaming by the shoreside hook to be then picked up by the ship's hook. Because the ship node is necessarily located over the square of the hatch, this would entail the draft impinging against the coaming as it became aweigh in order to get it over the square. This repetitive flaw would certainly not do the slings nor their contents any good.

I could see it working at the New York end because the house fall would combine with the ship's runner to form a cargo span which would obviate the need to land the sling on the deck.

As for No.2 hatch, why would working this entail four winches? Once the derrick had been topped, the requisite winch could be disengaged from the topping lift and redeployed to the cargo runner. Thereafter, where no shoreside node was available to complete a cargo span, the boom could be radially swung by manpower. I would estimate one winch to work the runner (two, where a house fall was available to be worked) plus six men at the most, three on each of the derrick guys.

Reverting to No.1:

The use of the foremast stay to supply a cargo working node seems problematic to me. Firstly, the foremast is not a samson post; secondly, the arrangement would be very unstable, particularly when the lateral component of force is at its greatest. I would ask - was there no provision for swinging the jumbo derrick boom round to bring it over No.1 hatch, albeit offset?

As for poring over old photographs, could it be that the object Capt.Weeks sees hanging from the foremast stay was the anchor ball? It would depend upon where the ship was depicted of course.

Finally, 'express transatlantic liner' notwithstanding, all vessels should be equipped to handle cargo in contingency circumstances; for instance, to lighten ship when aground and far from shoreside facilities. Or to work cargo from 'overside' when requisitioned for trooping for instance. I would be inclined to refer to an authenticated builders' rigging plan or GA to see if this essential attribute was indeed fulfilled. On the present evidence it is not.

Noel
 
Aug 10, 2002
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Noel:
As to the working at #1 hatch. The rigging plan quite plainly shows a Gin Block hanging from the stay. While I haven't used that method myself, I've seen it illustrated in cargo and seamanship text books. It is sometime called "Pick and Strike" I understand your concerns about the lateral force on the draft, it concerned me also. I suspect they limited the size of a draft to what a couple of longshoremen on deck could control. Thus preventing it from hitting the combing. Then again they may never have used it in that fashion. Instead they may have used the shore crane in Southampton, and it with a house fall in NY.

As to #2, a single boom on the centerline would most likely be used as a swinging boom not married to a house fall. It would need to be topped up to plumb the hatch square, the topped down to plumb the pier apron, so the topping lift would need to be attached to an active winch. I've used such many time myself and the guys were also, always made fast to a winch, it gives you better control. That is why I said four winches.
Further, the Gooseneck is on the after side of the boom directly astern of it so I would seriously doubt its ability to slew around to plumb #1.

The photographs I was looking at had her berthed alongside and both anchors appeared to be in the hawse pipe, therefore I ruled out the anchor Ball

Noel, it is the Rigging Plan for #401 that I was referring to, along with the other items I cited. In reference to your comment about ships being Self Sustaining, in recent years the MIlitary Sealift Command has found it necessary to convert a number of ships to crane ships, so as to be able to work cargo on container ships where there are no shoreside cranes. Beyond that only #1 hatch would have given them a problem.
Regards,
Charlie Weeks
 

Noel F. Jones

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May 14, 2002
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Charles:

I've taken another look and, depending upon the exigencies of the berth, it seems there would indeed be sufficient outreach to work No.3 by means of a static topping lift.

However; I now see that there would be insufficient outreach when working No.2 without some kind of double luffing arrangement. Hence another winch barrel would indeed be needed to work the topping lift.

I still suspect that manpower would have been preferred when it came to to radially slewing the boom.

On the matter of the 'house fall', I have only ever seen this arrangement used in North American ports. Being dependent upon ship's gear, it imposes a restriction upon shipboard maintenance while alongside. A vessel is struck idle if, by reason of some maintenance imperative, her plant has to be shut down.

According to his biographer, New York shipowner Hans Isbrandtsen for one expressed dissatisfaction with the system when comparing it to the craneage available in European ports.

On the matter of craneage at Southampton:

There may indeed have been a capacity to work No.1 without any need for ship's gear; why install cranes otherwise?

Rather than relying on contemporaneous photographic evidence: if I remember correctly, Southampton docks were largely the product of the London and South Western Railway Company; maybe their archive might throw up something by way of architects' drawings or publicity specifications of berth capacities
.
Gripping stuff this, I bet we've got the audience transfixed!

Noel
 
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David Haisman

Guest
I'm not too transfixed by all of this and when I worked with the ''marrying up of derricks'' on cargo ships the system was quite simple involving just three men onboard.
An AB worked each winch, port and starboard, and another AB stood at the hatch coaming giving out raise and lowering instructions.
The outboard derrick was always used as the ''plumb'' derrick and the inboard used for slewing purposes.
After the cargo net was clear of the hatch coaming, that particular AB would walk to the ships rail and give further slewing and lowering instructions to those men working the derricks.
The reverse procedure would apply when loading.
This was always done by ''Wharfies'' in New York and shore cranes in Southampton.
Pier 90, as with other piers in New York, had not much quayside to speak of but had purchases running along steel girders of which were worked expertly by shore gangs.
The sheds were just a few meteres away from the edge of the wharf, hence the shore side running gear.
The outboard derrick was the ''plumbing derrick'' and its runner ''married up'' to the inboard derrick by the use of a ''monkies face plate''
The inboard derrick did the slewing and also to drop cargo onto the wharf.
The continuous use of pulling on guy ropes is totally unecessary with this rig-up and one would hope the good seamen on Titanic would have sussed that one out also.
Perhaps someone can let me know what the SWL of Titanic's derricks were and the deck lowering distance from heel head.
Perhaps someone could also tell me why Titanic couldn't use such a system with the running gear she had.
I haven't made a study of that ship or any other come to think of it but prefer to draw on my own experience and the way I was taught when working a British Merchantman.
I'm afraid this all appears to me to be another typical attempt on this web to try and baffle all with science on basic seamanship.

David H
 
Aug 10, 2002
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David:
Like you I'm using some of what I experienced and applying it to the equipment I see on the Titanic. Unlike some other ships i.e. Lusitania or Mauretania Titanic didn't have paired cargo booms. Therefore she could only pair one of her Gin Block and runners with a house fall, (what you refer to as, shoreside running gear). She would use her Jumbo ( Heavy Lift) Boom as a swinging (Slewing) Boom. She could use her electric cranes individually in a slewing manner. As you said the gear was operated by wharfies (Longshoremen) in New York, however the gear was raised by the deck force before arrival. My guess is that the heaviest drafts of cargo that she handled were automobiles therefore they were handled at #2 by the Jumbo Boom.
Regards,
Charlie Weeks
 
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David Haisman

Guest
Charlie,

From where I'm sitting with just a photo of Titanic I would imagine the derrick would be used solely for what Noel suggests.
The derrick on the after end of her fore mast appears to be seated without the ability of a slewing table.
With the rake of the foremast I think we can rule out any probability of this derrick being considered a Jumbo.
However, that derrick must have had a swivelling ability around the heel pin as in a static position, it wouldn't be much use for anything.
That's one of the reasons I asked about the SWL of that derrick relying on just one interference fitting heel pin and the length.
When serving as an AB on the Alcantara, we used hydraulically operated cranes for all hatches for cargo and beaming up.
When they were working you could hear hydraulic rams banging throughout the ship!
Stevedores wouldn't touch them due to their unpredictability of ''creeping'' and ''walking back'' when supposedly stopped.
The Alcantara of 23 000 tons built for Royal Mail Lines in 1926 had cranes that were no where near as efficient or as good as those of Titanic built 15 years previously.
Just an indication of the thought that went into some of Titanic's construction.
I mention these cranes as I'm sure the intention on Titanic would be to use them similarily, that being to land cargo on deck once brought up from the hatch.
The cranes were capable of landing cargo on the dockside but shore cranes were preferable due to their slewing radius.
Cargo ships in my experience use their derricks as described when loading and unloading cargo onboard British merchantmen.
When the derricks are plumbed over the hatch there is no further need to raise or lower topping lifts or to use snatch blocks.
When two derricks are used to operate this system the guys are set and remain static throughout the process with this cargo handling procedure.
As mentioned several times in my previous posts on crewing of British merchant ships, we just never had the man power to employ too many to carry out these jobs.

David H
 
Aug 10, 2002
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David:
Regarding the derrick on the after side of the fore mast, in Hall & Beveridge's book "Olympic & Titanic The Truth Behind the Conspiracy" on page 46 the top picture shows #2 hatch with the heavy lift boom topped down to plumb the hatch square, also you can see that the gooseneck is on the after side of the mast. I'd say it is about 8' above the deck. And if it couldn't be slewed side to side, it would as you said be useless. I haven't found that boom's rated SWL, but am still looking. I would guess a 5 ton capacity would handle any automobile of those days.
As to the Alcantara's hydraulic cranes, I sympathize, I served on the N.S. Savannah, she had hydraulic winches, they were miserable to work with, noisy,leaked oil and crept. Which also brings up the subject of raked masts, Savannah had them, they didn't help, but they did work.
We used pairs of booms as you describe, we called them Married Falls. You spotted the booms then heaved the guys tight. Raise the load by heaving on one winch, then burton across by paying out on one while heaving in on the other, then lower away.
As to crew, on freighters we had a Bos'n, two day men, six ABs, Three Ordinaries. On the passenger ships we had many more. AS I said the deck crew raised the gear before arrival and cradled it after departure, the longshoremen worked it in port.
Regards,
Charlie Weeks
 
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David Haisman

Guest
Hello Charlie,

Thanks for getting back to me on that however, I wouldn't consider the derrick in question to be anything other than a ''normal services'' job.
We always referred to Jumbo's as being on ''heavy lifts '' or ''foresters''(cargo ships with up to two jumbo's and twenty odd derricks or more) that would be capable of lifting a locomotive off of the dockside in some cases.
These would be relatively shorter but with a far greater ''girth'' than that on Titanics foremast and would have wire topping lifts of 3 or 4 fold purchases.
These jumbo's would have their own sampson posts in many cases as this would never do on a raked foremast.
The head blocks would weigh anything up to half a ton or more and when overhauling this gear you would need to have plenty of experience and rigging skills.
No doubt we use alternative methods and term many of our work practices differently to yourselves but probably end up with the same results.

David H
 
Aug 10, 2002
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David:
Generally I found that Jumbos had different SWLs depending on the number of Back Stays that were rigged. I doubt that Titanic's Fore Mast had any Back Stays, that is why I figure that that boom was strong enough to handle an automobile at most.
Regards,
Charlie Weeks
 
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David Haisman

Guest
Charlie,

Jumbo's were certainly rated with a different SWL depending on the service the ship owner was involved in.
Titanic's derrick was typical of many passenger ships I had sailed on and cars usually loaded in a cradle in those days along with general cargo.
Ship owners weren't happy about too many cars being loaded down hatches mainly because nothing could be loaded on top of them on the tween decks.
I would consider that was all Titanic had, a general services derrick.

David H
 
Aug 10, 2002
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David:
That sounds good to me. When you say derrick, do you mean boom or crane? To us they are different items. Very few ships seem to have married falls (two fixed booms) any more, slewing cranes or swinging single booms are more prevalant.I'm sure Titanic had what WSL and H&W thought proper for the service she was intended for.
Regards,
Charlie Weeks
 
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Scott R. Andrews

Guest
Hello Charlie,

Regarding the working of the No. 1 hatch, in addition to the gin block you noted hanging from the stay above, there was provision for a derrick on the forward side of the mast as well. If you check the rigging plan, you will see the step plate drawn in this position with a notation stating "Step plate for derrick; derrick supplied by owner". The existence of the actual derrick, at least in the case of the Olympic, is confirmed by its appearance in a number of photographs, most notably the much-published series of photos taken while the Olympic and Titanic were together at H&W for the last time, when the Olympic returned to Belfast for propeller repairs. I don't know which books you have available, but if you have "Anatomy of the Titanic", see pages 14-15 and 96-97. In both photos, the two derricks on the Olympic can be seen. There is also a photo, probably taken from near the Musgrave Channel looking back towards the Lagan, showing both ships in profile, which shows the two derricks as well; see the top photo on page 53 of "O & T: The Truth Behind the Conspiracy". I have no idea why they had the forward derrick rigged in this instance.

Since there were no crutches on the deck forward of the foremast, and the lookout cage precluded the possibility of stowing this derrick in the same manner as the one on the after side mast, what was done with the derrick when not in use is anyone's guess. If this derrick was carried on board, I have yet to see a photo which shows it in its stowed location, where ever it may have been. One possibility that has occurred to me is that the forward derrick wasn't carried onboard but, instead, one was maintained at Southampton and one at New York, as with the cargo spans noted at the bottom of the rigging plan. (Of course, this fails to explain the appearance of the forward derrick in Belfast.)

Regards,
Scott Andrews
 
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David Haisman

Guest
Hello Charlie,

Yes, perhaps you may refer to a derrick as a boom however, that term was never used in that context when I was at sea for that equipment.
On the many passenger ships, tankers and cargo ships that I had served on throughout the 50's, 60's and 70's, ship designers and naval architects usually made provision for alterations in cases of war.
It should therefore not be too surprising to find some odd fittings about the vessel and the many misleading write-ups, especially on a ship like Titanic.

To find reinforced deck plates strategically placed for example, was quite common on some ships, obviously for gun enplacements and derrick provision would of course been at a premium when one takes into consideration trooping service.

David H
 
Aug 10, 2002
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Scott & David:
Indeed I've seen the photos you refer to, I haven't noticed the plate you mention or a place to attach the topping lift block. Also as you mentioned no boom cradle on the fore deck. Very perplexing. Which also brings to mind, when we view the wreck we see the remains of the fore mast but, I don't recall seeing anything of the heavylift boom. What became of it?
Regards,
Charlie Weeks
 
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Scott R. Andrews

Guest
Hello Charlie,

"...I haven't noticed the plate you mention or a place to attach the topping lift block..."

Looking at the photos previously referenced, the attachment point for the topping lift block appears to be on the forward side of the mast at about the same elevation as the corresponding point for the derrick on the after side of the mast, though, I'm still looking for a photo that shows this feature clearly. A picture showing the step plate and pivot pin for the forward derrick is little bit easier to find. On page 134 of "Anatomy of the Titanic", the step plate for the forward derrick appears immediately above the bell. This is the approximate location depicted in the rigging profiles for all three Olympic-class ships.

Regards,
Scott Andrews
 
Aug 10, 2002
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Scott:
I looked up the picture on page 134 that you mentioned, and yes I see the two bands and vertical pin. But I haven't found where the topping lift goes. I have seen the picture you mentioned of Olympic in Belfast showing that fwd boom, but none of such on Titanic. Due to the rake of the mast and location of the crow's nest they must have either cradled the boom or unstepped it when bound for sea. I haven't seen a cradle so assume they unstepped it. There again I haven't found any pictures with it on deck. My rigging plan must be incomplete because it doesn't show the bands and pin that are in the picture.
Regards,
Charlie Weeks
 

Noel F. Jones

Active Member
May 14, 2002
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Well thank you Scott for clearing that up, viz.:

"Regarding the working of the No. 1 hatch, in addition to the gin block you noted hanging from the stay above, there was provision for a derrick on the forward side of the mast as well. If you check the rigging plan, you will see the step plate drawn in this position with a notation stating "Step plate for derrick; derrick supplied by owner"."

I knew there had to be a more substantial arrangement for working No.1 than some wobbly half-R'sed block hanging from a foremast stay.

Presumably the topping node was on the same mast-hound as the derrick on the afterside.

All the Shipbuilder says is that "The hatchways to Nos. 1 and 2 holds are served by three steam winches.".

All this seems to confirm my impression that, in the absence of a shoreside node, the necessary slewing was done by muscle power rather than steam.

Why "derrick supplied by owner" one wonders. This seems a most perverse contractual arrangement seeing that No.1 had a not insignificant cargo capacity. You may well be correct in assuming a jury boom was stationed at each terminal. However, if she needed to jettison cargo on passage or elsewhere, she would be stuck with that mickey-mouse forestay block arrangement and no way to get her slings over the sea-rail!

One would think that prudence - and underwriters - would dictate that the boom be taken to sea.

Noel
 
Aug 10, 2002
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Noel, Scott & David:
I will certainly make a note of this possible boom at #1 for future reference. However the rigging plan I have doesn't show even the attachment plate much less the boom. In the picture Scott mentioned the attachment certainly is there. I have seen one or two photographs of Olympic in Belfast with a boom rigged at #1, I'm currently searching for others. I have not seen any such picture of Titanic or even heard mention of such a boom on her. Therefore I doubt whether she was rigged with such. I well understand that naval architects design ships to do what the owner wants. Therefore even amongst ships of a class, different owners could have them rigged differently. The company I sailed for had a couple of C-2 freighters that were double rigged at each hatch (four booms and winches) plus a Jumbo Boom at each hatch. This was much more equipment than was normal for C-2's, but it served our purpose.
Regards,
Charlie Weeks
 

Senan Molony

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Jan 30, 2004
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”￾The Olympic’s cargo capacity is so large, and so rapidly does the vessel “turn round”￾ for a return voyage, that her entire cargo capacity has not yet been used on any trip. It has been impossible to get enough labourers to stow, in that short time, the full cargo capacity of the ship.”￾

(from The Times, Friday December 13, 1912. Extract is from a display advertisement placed by the White Star Line.)
 

Noel F. Jones

Active Member
May 14, 2002
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"...that her entire cargo capacity has not yet been used on any trip."

Which seems to be an admission that too much cargo capacity was built into these vessels!

Actually, where schedule-keeping and passenger revenue take precedence, it must often have been the case that cargo got shut out.

Noel