Titanic's firefighting equipment

J

Jason Bidwell

Guest
Hello,

Just yesterday I was reading a book about the explosion and sinking of the riverboat "Sultana" in 1865 (with the loss in life of about 1700 Union soldiers recently paroled from Andersonville and Cahaba prisons). The book briefly talked about what could have been done to fight the Sultana's fire, and this perked my interest about what fire control measures the Titanic had available. Does anyone know the answer to this?
 

Dan Cherry

Active Member
Mar 3, 2000
775
1
0
Jason,
I know for sure the Titanic had a system of hoses and hydrants (plugs) on her upper decks. Some of these hydrants can be seen in the boat deck pictures, near the davit bases, two on the forecastle and one on the poop deck. These hydrants can be seen in use on Olympic in various pictures where crew members were washing down her decks

I am under the impression that based on Lightoller's testimony, the Titanic also had a smoke detection system.

Hope this helps!

Dan
 

Erik Wood

Member
Apr 10, 2001
3,519
4
168
I do know that a primitive fire detection system was in place. I recall reading about filement paper (or perhaps my pipe is filled with something other then my Captain Black tobacco) or something to that extent.

I am sure Titanic had some sort of Fire pump on board but I would hope that Parks S. or Mike S. would pop in on this.
 

Dan Cherry

Active Member
Mar 3, 2000
775
1
0
Actually, Erik, if I may...
The Titanic had a system of hydrant 'plugs' on the decks, spaced along the boat deck, B-deck and on the poop deck and forecastle. One hydrant was found by Dr. Ballard during the 1986 expedition still on the port side forward deck. I do not yet know where the hoses were stored, but the hydrant plugs are easily visible in Titanic photographs.

More later...
Dan C.
 

Erik Wood

Member
Apr 10, 2001
3,519
4
168
So was the hydrant hooked up to a main fire pump, or how did the water get from where ever it was to the hose???

Dan, do you know anything about the fire detection??? I haven't a clue.
 

Erik Wood

Member
Apr 10, 2001
3,519
4
168
I too am wondering about just the general arrangment of the firemains and there connection to the hydrants and hose stations. Hopefully Cal, or Mark C. will be able to help us on this.
 

Dan Cherry

Active Member
Mar 3, 2000
775
1
0
Erik,
I am afraid I do not know about the Olympic-class firefighting system. I am a visual researcher of Titanic, and know little about function or setup. I would presume off-hand that some of the small piping seen in the A-deck ceiling between the beams are half drain pipes for the rain gutters along the boat deck, and the other half are water mains. Where the water mains go to from there is a mystery to me. I do not know if the 4-inch pipe under the A-deck deck overhang (above the B-deck windows) is part of that water system. Like you say, perhaps Cal or Mark Chirnside could shed some light on the subject.
It might make for an interesting white paper. Takers?

Dan C.
 

Erik Wood

Member
Apr 10, 2001
3,519
4
168
I am working on a beast of a paper myself. I will pass. But I will be interested to see what comes of it.
 
S

Scott R. Andrews

Guest
Tom,

All of the ship's pumps were steam-driven. Most of the pumps were of the vertical, single or duplex, direct-acting piston type, and were double acting. "Vertical" refers to the arrangement where the steam cylinder(s) are positioned above the pump barrel(s); "direct-acting" means that the pump piston was directly connected to and driven by the steam piston rod, rather than through levers, beams or cranks; "single" or "duplex" refers to the number of pump barrels the steam cylinder is powering; "double-acting" means that fluid was drawn into and expelled from both ends of the the pump barrel. The main and auxiliary condenser circulating pumps were of the centrifugal, or rotary impeller type. The main circulating pumps were driven by two-cylinder compound engines, while the auxiliary circualting pump was driven by a single-cylinder double-acting engine.

Regards,

Scott Andrews
 

Erik Wood

Member
Apr 10, 2001
3,519
4
168
Scott,

Do you have any info on where the water was taken in for use, and how many pumps there where and how they were located??? Also, do you happen to know how many fire stations there where, where a hose would be rigged??
 

Bryan Ciobanu

Member
Apr 22, 2005
66
0
76
very interesting, So there were some kind of detection system? Does anybody have more information about it?

B.A. Ciobanu
 

Noel F. Jones

Active Member
May 14, 2002
857
0
0
On a cursory inspection of The Shipbuilder I can find no mention of fire-fighting hydrant systems, apparatus or detection systems.

The links given above tell us that a hydrant system was in place.

Noel
 
Jul 11, 2001
547
1
146
Noel, I agree. The hydrant system shown certainly exists, but the only time I have seen a photo of any of them in use was to hose down the deck. There is that photo taken on the Olympic that shows several crewmen (some of them shoeless) were swabbing the deck.

I am guessing that those pipes we see overhead along the A-deck promenade fed those hydrants. One would also think those same hoses were to be used to fight a fire.
 

Noel F. Jones

Active Member
May 14, 2002
857
0
0
Quite, David. The absence of comment in the 'trade press' is significant. Presumably this was before the advent of sprinklers and smoke detector systems (now somebody is bound to come on to tell me there was a smoke detector in the Great Pyramid of Cheops or somesuch); nevertheless one would think that such safety systems as had been built in would have been vaunted.

In my experience fire hydrants were indeed used for deck 'wash-downs' but there was absolutely no doubt as to their prior function.

Lack of mention could be indicative of complacency - an assumption that large passenger vessels were incombustible. But this contrasts with the emphasis upon watertight subdivision. I perceive an unresolved anomaly.

Which causes one to ask: has any record of emergency stations survived? This should show the allocated staff dispositions prior to boat stations and should give a clue as to fire-fighting capability.

Noel
 
S

Scott R. Andrews

Guest
Erik,

Sorry for my tardiness -- I just noticed your question regarding the pumps, etc. According to the practice at that time, the sanitary water supply pumps doubled as the fire pumps. On the Titanic, there were four sanitary pumps located in a group in the after starboard wing of the reciprocating engine room. These drew seawater through a inlet valve and sea chest located in the turn of the bilge, just above the tank top. These pumps were duplex, direct double-acting, with 12-inch pump barrels and steam cylinders, and a 15-inch stroke.

As for fire station/hose bibb locations and their number, I was lucky enough to get gander at some detail snaps taken of that blueprint sold at auction some months back. While I didn't see the entire drawing, it was clear that there were literally dozens of these throughout the ship. Several mains were indicated, branching off the rising main coming up out the after end of the reciprocating engine room. The ones internally were marked "fire main, p & s", while the two large pipes running beneath the A-deck overhang, were marked, as Noel noted, "wash deck & fire main, p & s". I also noted a number of pipes with valves from reduced pressure steam lines marked "fire extinguishing steam". I would presume that these were valves used to flood the compartment to which they were attached with steam to suffocate or beat down a fire.

As to why The Shipbuilder didn't mention anything about the ship's firefighting apparatus or fire suppression systems, I would guess that this was simply because there was really nothing novel or unique here. Other than the size of the installation, nothing seems to have been any different than what was typical provided aboard any other passenegr vessel at that time. I know that The Shipbuilder did make mention in this regard to the smoke detection system on the Mauretania in the special number dealing with that ship. This device consisted of a cabinet which housed a number of glass tubes, all of which were viewable through a window in the cabinet door. The glass tubes were attached to individual lines of small bore piping that was run through the ship to the various segments of the accommodation and hold spaces. The cabinet contained a fan which exhausted to the atmosphere, causing a pressure drop within the cabinet and, by extension, within the piping; this would cause any smoke present within the vicinity of the inlet of a given smoke pipe to be drawn up into the glass tube, giving a visual indication of a possible fire and it's location to the crewman assigned to watch this thing.

Regards,
Scott Andrews