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Titanics Engines (oil system)

Discussion in 'Engine Room Engines & Propulsion Systems' started by Steven Christian, May 16, 2018.

  1. For any of you engineers. I know on modern ships they never change the oil they just keep it clean with lube oil centrifuges and filters. With some ships having 30,000 gals or more of lube oil that makes perfect economic sense. How did they do it back in Titanic's time and how much oil was in the system on the Olympic class liners? I read that Titanic had filters. Were those good enough back then to keep the oil in spec or did they do oil changes on those ships. I looked around but didn't find the answers.
  2. Tim Aldrich

    Tim Aldrich Member

    I don't know the specifics of the Olympic class engines so I'm going to be speaking in general terms based on what I know of lube systems on other steam engines. Take whatever I write after this sentence with a grain of salt (heck, make it two grains for good measure).

    A lot of the lubrication would have been accomplished by gravity. There would have been some oil cups which would either drip oil where needed (sometimes via pipes), or there may have been wicks that would have wiped oil on whatever parts brushed past. Grease also would have been brushed on whatever needed it. A lot of it done by men with oil cans and buckets of grease. While the engine was running. I would assume that some bits may have had pressure lubrication via a mechanical lubricator (very interesting to watch them work). In a general sense, the reciprocating engines were probably a "total loss" oil system. Cylinders could have received lubrication via displacement oiler (also fun to watch).

    The turbine engine on the other hand I wouldn't have a clue how it would have been lubricated. Being that the turbine was all closed up and the turbine shaft would be inaccessible to a bloke with an oil can, I could see a closed pressure lube system being used for that.

    I seem to mention the Kempton Park steam engine (plenty of video on YouTube) a lot, but I feel that it's a decent representation of steam engine technology from that time period. There are also some great videos taken in engine rooms of restored steam ships. Watch a lot of them and you'll start to notice oil cups, lubricators, grease brushes and the like. As I mentioned at the beginning, I'm guessing and comparing what I've seen (and read about) to Titanic. I can't prove anything. I'm hoping someone who knows the little details will chime in some day. The engineering department of Titanic is my favorite part of the ship. Hope I answered at least one of your questions.
    Steven Christian likes this.
  3. Thanks for your reply. I'm not familiar with a "total loss" oil system. Never heard that term before. I will go watch some of those video's you mentioned. I was mostly interested in the recip engines. I would think the turbine bearings were a closed pressurized system also. Our turbines were. The bearings floated on pressurized oil and had seal rings because of the vacuum. But we ran at much higher temps and pressure than the turbine on Titanic. 3600 and 1800 rpm coupled to 2 pole and four pole generators. Had to run at that speed to get 60 hz so your clocks kept time and your fridge motor didn't burn up. Of course today 60 hz clocks are probably as rare as a coin operated telephone now a days.

    P.S. I went and looked up "total loss" oil systems. I understand what they are. We had some equiptment that used that but we called it "once thru" I believe the term was. Gravity fed thru bearings which drained to a lube oil sump then pumped to a waste oil tank which was sold to oil re-claimers.
    Last edited: May 17, 2018
    Tim Aldrich likes this.
  4. Rancor

    Rancor Member

    Hey Steven,

    As Tim said the reciprocating engines were all gravity lubricated using 'wick oilers'.
    I'm not sure regarding the turbine, I'll have to check one of the books but I don't have it to hand at the moment. I suspect you are correct though there must have been a forced lubrication system for the bearings.

    Interestingly the main dynamo engines were forced lubrication using a wet sump and internal pump. The emergency dynamos were manually lubricated.

    The filters you mention were for removing any oil from the feed water before it was pumped to the boilers. The Olympic class each had 4 filters.
  5. Aaron_2016

    Aaron_2016 Member

    On a related note. Captain Lord of the Californian reached the scene of the disaster and said - "All we could see there were some boxes and coats and a few empty boats and what looked like oil on the water."

  6. Ok thanks. I thought I read where the oil system had filters also. Will double check that. I was thinking that maybe the engines at least for the crank shaft might have used "slingers" Those were .more common on older equipment. The more I look at the Olympic class liners propulsion system the more I am impressed. I always thought it was slick to use the exhaust steam from the recips to drive the LP turbine. In a way they were one of the first "combined cycle systems out there. Combined cycle nat gas power plants are pretty much the standard now.at least for the ones recently built.