What broke down in the Marconi room?


Feb 14, 2011
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I have read the day before the sinking, some gadget in the Marconi room broke down, and it took all day for Phillips and Bride to find and repair the problem.

I suspect Parks might know the answer to this.
What exactly was the problem, and is that particular piece of equipment in the silent room, or marcooni room?
thanks


Tarn Stephanos
 
B

Brian R Peterson

Guest
Hi Tarn,

The transformer in the Silent Room was what was giving Bride and Phillips an issue on April 13th.

The device had failed during the night and was not repaired and operational again until nearly 5:00am, this was the main part of the reason Bride and Phillips were so backed up with passenger messages.

Best Regards,

Brian
 
Feb 14, 2011
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Thanks for the information Brian!
Per chance do you know exactly what broke down within the transformer, and what they did to effect repeairs?
I assume it was a short of some kind?

Can you imagine what would have happened had the transformer broken down right before the collision?
The death toll certiasnly would have been higher.

It seems Titanic had one stroke of good luck in that the transformer was repaired before the collision with the iceberg...

regards

Tarn Stephanos
 
Jun 18, 2007
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Marcus covers this in brief detail in his book...but maybe Parks will get to this thread before someone feels the need to resort to transcribing out the relevant passages!!!!
 

Dave Gittins

Member
Apr 11, 2001
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Tarn, you are correct. It was a short. A lead from the secondary coil of a transformer somehow came in contact with a metal part of the equipment. Phillips and Bride spent most of the time looking at a condenser which they thought had failed. Once they spotted the real trouble, they fixed it in a few minutes with insulating tape.

Bride told the tale to The New York Times but the reporter wrote 'secretary' instead of 'secondary'. Proof of the gap in transmissions can be seen in "Signals of Disaster". You can see where Titanic came back on the air soon after 2-00 a.m. New York Time. It's questionable whether the incident really held up many passenger messages. The main reason for the backlog was that Phillips saved them for Sunday night, when he could contact shore stations directly. He seems to have cleared the few messages he had on hand in the hour after the radio was fixed.
 
Mar 3, 1998
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Sorry, I was so tied up with another thread that I didn't see this one until now. Dave explained it correctly.

A little more detail, if you're interested:

The transformer consisted primarily of two coils, or windings, of copper wire, wound over a soft-iron core. The secondary winding was divided into two parts so that they could be configured to operate in either series or parallel (depending on whether it was desired to transmit on the long or short wave). Connected to the secondaries were a pair of choke coils, whose purpose it was to protect the secondary windings of the transformer from being damaged (i.e., insulation being burned through, exposing bare copper wire) by the high potential of the osciallatory circuit. Evidently, one or both of the choking coils didn't do their job properly and as a result, there was heat buildup somewhere in the secondary, which burned through the insulation, allowing exposed wire to come in contact with the transformer casing. Where exactly the short occurred cannot be determined from Bride's account, but I suspect that since the transformer casing held high-flash insulating oil into which the coils were immersed, and Phillips was reported to have fixed the issue with insulating tape, that the short occurred at the point where the leads for the secondary were brought to the terminal; in other words, up high in the casing and above the level of the oil.

The transformer was and still is in the Silent Room, in the aft port corner. The choking coils that once hung on the wall above it have fallen to rest on the top of the transformer casing. The bare copper wires that connected the choking coils to the secondary terminals are still there, although one broke when the coils settled. The brass bars used to configure the secondary terminals are still in the parallel configuration, proving that Titanic was operating the long wave (as expected). I wouldn't mind recovering the transformer, lifting the lid, and examining Phillips's patch work.

By the way, the maintenance manual for the Marconi telegraph set warns operators not to attempt to diagnose or fix a fault in any of the high-tension (high-power) components. It instead advises them to operate off the induction coil of the emergency set until such time as Marconi engineers can fix the problem. Phillips showed remarkable initiative in analysing and fixing the apparatus on his own...and it's a good thing he did, too.

Parks
 
Mar 3, 1998
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No, Kritina, just a couple of nuts who immerse themselves in Titanic minutia in a sad attempt at avoiding the difficulties of everyday living in the real world.

I think that the proper term is "geek."

(grin)

Parks
 
Feb 14, 2011
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Thanks Parks and Dave....
Your collective knowledge of marconi lore never ceases to amaze me..

I wonder if there are any traces of the repair still evident in the trasformer...
Perhaps there are remnants of the insulating tape?

I wonder if Olympic's Marconi equipment experinced similar breakdowns..

THANK YOU for the detailed information....

regards

tarn Stephanos
 
Jun 18, 2007
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"I think that the proper term is "geek." "

And what is wrong with that? It's from the efforts of the dedicated that the rest of us junkies get what we need!!!!! It's a win-win situation.
happy.gif
 

Dave Gittins

Member
Apr 11, 2001
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I wouldn't class myself as a geek when it comes to radio, but I do have some interesting material from an Australian radio ham who has replicated many devices from the Titanic era, including a rotary spark unit and a magnetic detector.

I look forward to Parks explaining, in words of fewer than three syllables, how the "Maggie" worked. I sort of understand it, and apparently "sort of" is about all most people manage. It seems Marconi himself didn't fully understand it, but it worked, so it lingered on for years. Truly an amazing gizmo.
 
Mar 3, 1998
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<font color="#000066">I look forward to Parks explaining, in words of fewer than three syllables, how the "Maggie" worked.

No fair, Dave. I'll try, but I can't guarantee that I won't slip up and use a multisyllabic word now and again (and "multisyllabic" doesn't count because I haven't started yet).

The Maggie had a clockwork mechanism that kept a continuous band of soft iron moving through two sets of coils. Above each coil sat a set of horseshoe magnets. As the iron band moved past the magnets, the attraction of the iron pulled the lines of force of the magnets' field along with it. As the band passed from North pole to South pole of each magnet, the direction of magnetism was reversed.

Now for the interesting part. Signals received through the aerial were routed through the small coils, which had both primary and secondary turns of wire. The aerial was connected to the primary. When the aerial current flowed through the primary, it changed the state of magnetism in the moving band. When it didn't flow, there was no change to the normal state of magnetism. This change was picked up by the secondary by induction, which passed it to a condenser in the form of a vibration, where it was amplified so that it would significantly impact the diaphragms of the headphones.

Does this explanation help? I left some detail out for the sake of brevity, assuming that you could fill the gaps with your own understanding.

If the horseshoe magnets were arranged so that like poles were together (S-N-N-S), there was a hissing, or "breathing," sound heard in the headphones. If the poles were arranged in a N-S-N-S configuration, the hissing was eliminated, but the sensitivity of the receiver was lessened. Arrangements of the magnets was therefore a personal choice of the individual operator. Sometimes, operators used the hissing sound as an audible fault indicator...if the "breathing" stopped, then the clockwork needed to be rewound or the band had stopped for some reason.

Would your friend have the initials P.J. by any chance? If so, I have tried communicating with him in private, but have gotten the impression that he does not think very highly of me. Our conversation faded after only a couple of e-mail exchanges.

Parks
 
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Brian R Peterson

Guest
Hi Parks,

I am fascinated by the workings of the Titanic era wireless, could you send me a private message with a more detailed description of the above post as I have little knowledge of the actual system itself.

Best Regards,

Brian
 
Mar 3, 1998
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Brian,

Instead of doling this out piecemeal, why don't we wait until my book on the Marconi apparatus gets published later this year. In that book, I will have detailed descriptions of every single component of the apparatus, along with pictures, schematics, exploded views, etc. If you really want to learn about Titanic's wireless apparatus, that's the way to do it...at least, that's my motivation for writing the book.

Parks
 

Dave Gittins

Member
Apr 11, 2001
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Parks, his initials are indeed PJ. I wouldn't call him a friend. My experience was much the same as yours. No doubt he has plenty of other things to do. He's an architect and town planner when he's not playing with radios.
 
B

Brian R Peterson

Guest
Hi Parks,

Thanks for that tidbit of info Parks! I was not aware that you were publishing a book on the topic, but I do look forward to it coming out, what is its title so I know what to look for
smile.gif


Best Regards,

Brian
 
Mar 3, 1998
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Dave,

It's good to know that his apparent nonchalance is not personal. I was a little put off when he asked why I was bothering to model the Marconi rooms when their form was already known, stated that the Olympic pictures are good enough for our understanding of Titanic, and expressed doubt that Titanic carried a 5kW set.

At least I have learned from his past work and can build upon it.

Brian,

I don't have a name for the book yet, because I have learned that publishers usually choose the name that they think will sell lots of copies. Even if I do have a say in the title, I want to wait until the book nears completion before I select one. Don't worry, though...I'll put out advance notice here on E-T, so everyone who wants one will have an opportunity to order.

Parks
 
May 3, 2005
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Parks-

I see you haven't been on this thread since 31 January 2004, but maybe you'll catch this one.:

What was the frequency of the tone of the Marconi transmitters ? I'm basing my opinion of around 440 HZ since it is reported to be the frequency at which the human ear "hears" best and I remember a shipboard radar that used an electric motor driven spark gap for modulation. However, the transmissions would have probably been more of a "buzz" than a musical note as heard on present day CW code transmissions. Any comments will be welcomed. Just a bit of curiosity on the subject.

Regards,
Robert
 
Mar 3, 1998
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Robert,

Most of the merchant ships, Titanic included, of that era were restricted to two frequencies for transmit and receive: the long wave (600 metre, or 500 kHz) and the short wave (300 metre, or 1000 kHz). Normally, the ships conversed on the long wave. The apparatus had to be physically reconfigured to work the short wave, and therefore the short wave was rarely used. Everybody talked on one frequency.

Most of the ships operating that night were equipped with plain spark dischargers. For the 5-kW apparatus installed aboard Olympic, the spark was the result of the condenser discharge across two stationary electrodes. This would result in the "buzz" that you mentioned. Titanic, though, was the only ship in the area that night that carried a rotary spark discharger. 16 electrodes spun at high RPM past two stationary electrodes, with multiple spark discharges combining to produce a 60-Hz tone that approximated the sound you hear in later CW systems. Much lower in tone than present-day systems, but completely different from the other plain-spark sets. That's why, when Titanic called, she sounded completely different from any other ship.

Parks
 

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