What is the cold start-up sequence/procedure of Titanic?


Apr 20, 2004
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Does anyone know, or does anyone know where I can find out, how long it took to heat up the water (starting with cold water, and with empty furnaces) in Titanic's boilers and get a head of steam that could run the engines?

I'm not talking about full steam pressure, but you know, kind of enough steam to get underway, and leave port.

I have more questions...

Was boiler water pre-heated first?

How did they light the fires in the furnaces? Wood? Barbecue Fire lighter fluid?

How long did it take for a fire in a furnace to reach a reasonable temperature?

Be interesting to see a schematic layout of Titanic's engine room, that shows how all there various steam apparatus was connected together. Does any such thing exist?

[EDITOR'S NOTE: SEE Cold Starting the Titanic]
 
Mar 22, 2003
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www.titanicology.com
Jason: A few answers to your questions. According to Fredrick Barrett, a leading stocker on the Titanic, it typically took about 12 hours to bring a boiler on line from the time it was first lit. The feedwater to the boilers was preheated in two stages: First it was heated in a surface heater which was used to condense steam exhausted by the electric dynamo engines. This raised the feedwater temperature from about 70F to 140F. Then it was heated in a contact heater that condensed steam from the other auxiliary engines. This raised the feedwater from 140F to 230F.
A good thread to look which would give you more details is at ....
 
Apr 20, 2004
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Thanks for that, Samuel.

As to the pre-heating, the surface heater used during the first stage would, of course, not been available during a cold start. Same with the second stage. I wonder if there was some kind of Donkey boiler used to pre-heat the water in the "cold start" process?

Remarkable web site this. The thread you posted a link to was interesting in terms of the information provided by some members, in particular Scott Andrews, and also because of the references made to literature containing plans of the engine room, ie. Mark D. Warren's commemorative edition of "Shipbuilder". May be I should start looking for this

I wonder what the "Engineering" magazine published on Titanic? As I understand it, there was never a commemorative edition done, but there must have been several issues with articles featuring systems from these ships prior to 1912.

Where can I find out more about this?

Many thanks...
 

Kiwi__Power

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Feb 17, 2015
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This is a bit of a technical question(s). I'm very intrigued as to the cold start-up sequence/procedure of starting up a ship such as Titanic.

The whole ship would be pitch black would it not, especially the boiler rooms and engine room. Titanic has no shore power connection? Would a team of engineers and firemen navigate their way to the boiler room, check the water level and light up?

Then would they start the generators exhausting to atmosphere to get the lights on quickly or would they start up all the auxiliaries first in the dark and get the condenser operating, then start the generators?

Also, while in dock they must have kept steam on 24/7 to run the generators and the refrigeration systems, I read that boiler room 1 was used for this because it has an ash hoist. How many boilers from boiler room 1 were needed to run the generators, refrigeration, condenser, service pumps, feed pumps etc while in dock and at what rate was coal being consumed just to stay put? I'm wondering because during coaling of the ship, if they didn't coal quick enough they'd be consuming it faster than gaining it.
 

Doug Criner

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Dec 2, 2009
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They had a donkey boiler that provided steam when the main boilers were shut down. An when turning around in port, they could continue to fire one or more of the main boilers.
 

Kiwi__Power

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Feb 17, 2015
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But on a ship as vast as the RMS Olympic, you couldn't just turn the lights out because there is so much internal space without natural light or natural ventilation. From what I found the power generation requires 1000-2000bhp which would take at least two boilers, then the CO2 evaporators for the refrigeration systems, I'd take a guess that would need 20hp at least? Then what about all the air pumps, feed pumps, sea water pumps, they would all take a little bit. I think you'd end up needing about 3 single ended boilers of the 29 boilers to keep all the essentials going while docked for supplies or coal.
 

Adam Went

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Apr 28, 2003
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Just on a side point here, would the coal shortages at the time have had any impact on how the ships were kept running to an extent whilst in port? Interesting subject!

Cheers,
Adam.
 

Doug Criner

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Some ships were idled in Southhampton due to the U.K. coal strike. But once ships reached New York, they could fill their bunkers. Reportedly, some of the coal that was still available in the U.K. was poor quality.
 
Mar 12, 2011
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I think Titanic did have a shore power connection though, did she not? I vaguely remember seeing a picture here of either her or Olympic(probably olympic) with a large cable hooked to a connection on the side to give electrical power while they were doing maintenance of some kind. They would probably have to.

Speaking theoretically, assuming the ship was loaded with coal but sitting idle with no access to power or an auxiliary steam source, I imagine they would use portable lanterns or flashlights to see as they got the first couple boilers lit. It would be a number of hours before they had built up enough pressure to do anything useful with them. They probably only needed a couple of the double sided boilers going to run the ships electrical system and auxiliaries, or they may have needed all (or at least 4 of) the single sided boilers. That assumes they would have everything running though, they may not run all the dynamos in port, or all the refrigeration, or all the engine room auxiliaries. The steam demands of those systems were tiny compared to the engines. Once more boilers were needed to start getting the ship ready to move, keeping in mind they would have to start doing this 12 hours or more before the engines were actually needed, I think they would probably transfer hot coals from the operating boilers to the unlit ones to speed up the process of getting the fires going. You can only speed the process along so much though, aside from practical considerations, fast changes in temperature of any kind are just not good for boilers in general.

I don't believe there was any provision to vent the engines or generators to atmosphere if the condenser wasn't running (could you imagine the stack talk from Titanc's engines if they could?). At least, from the plans I've been able to look at, there doesn't appear to be any method of doing so. Somebody with more expertise on the ins and outs of Titanic's engineering section might correct me on that one.

As far as coal consumption exceeding the crews ability to refill the bunkers, I wouldn't worry too much. As I said above, the auxiliaries and generaters consumed a tiny fraction of the amount of steam the engines did, and coal consumption would not be very high.
 

Kiwi__Power

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Feb 17, 2015
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Good reply thanks! Is it possible that the cable you saw was actually a water pipe? I read that they would run boilers and generators even in dry dock by venting the exhaust to atmosphere and feeding the boilers from the feed tanks instead of the condenser, and they would use the shore water supply to keep the tanks full while they busily evaporate it away. A shore power connection for Titanic would be 16,000A at 100V? The cables cores would be ridiculous. I'm sure Titanic would have the ability to exhaust to atmosphere, if the sea water pump(s) that cools the condenser(s) failed or for some reason they couldn't use the condenser(s), it would be lights out, total black out shut down of the ship.
William C Daldy deck plans.jpg
I've been volunteering as an engineer/stoker on a 1935 steam tug boat called the William C Daldy. It has the ability to exhaust to atmosphere but it is a lot younger than Titanic. We switch to atmospheric when we are tied up, after the captain is finished with engines. This allows the feed pump empty the condenser and the deck crew can continue to use the winches while we pump up tanks, switch to shore power and shut down the generator. There is only one condenser on the tug, but it has dual air pumps, dual feed pumps, one dedicated sea water pump but the general service pump can be used to pump sea water through the condenser if required, among many other things that nifty pump can do.

William C Daldy deck plans.jpg
 

Stephen Carey

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Apr 25, 2016
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This is a bit of a technical question(s). I'm very intrigued as to the cold start-up sequence/procedure of starting up a ship such as Titanic.

The whole ship would be pitch black would it not, especially the boiler rooms and engine room. Titanic has no shore power connection? Would a team of engineers and firemen navigate their way to the boiler room, check the water level and light up?

Then would they start the generators exhausting to atmosphere to get the lights on quickly or would they start up all the auxiliaries first in the dark and get the condenser operating, then start the generators?

Also, while in dock they must have kept steam on 24/7 to run the generators and the refrigeration systems, I read that boiler room 1 was used for this because it has an ash hoist. How many boilers from boiler room 1 were needed to run the generators, refrigeration, condenser, service pumps, feed pumps etc while in dock and at what rate was coal being consumed just to stay put? I'm wondering because during coaling of the ship, if they didn't coal quick enough they'd be consuming it faster than gaining it.
A couple of years since you posted this, but I have written a series of "cold starting procedures" for Titanic -Olympic, Mauretania, Aquitania, Empress of Britain (1935) and Normandie, with Queen Mary still to go. The first drafts are on a site called "Earl of Cruise", though I have started updating them with a bit of atmosphere of coal dust etc. Check them out or get in touch with me on [email protected]
Stephen
 

Alex Clark

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Mar 24, 2012
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Fascinating read. I’ve seen the Aquitania one also and will read that tonight. Are those for the Mauritania and Empress of Britain going to be posted on your blog too?

Also, having read the article on the engineers of the Titanic, I noticed there are slightly differing descriptions of the furnace doors in the two articles. The cold start article says that more than one door at each end of a boiler could not be opened, to prevent the draft blowing out hot debris etc. The second article says that it was the opposing doors at the boilers’ ends could not be opened together. This gives s slightly different impression. Could you elaborate on that?
Regarding the reversing gear being engaged without reducing the throttles on the engines, would this not be potentially damaging to the engine? I’m assuming not as it was an acceptable procedure but I did wonder what kind of forces that would put on the pistons.
 

Mike Spooner

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Sep 21, 2017
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Pre start a cold steam engine can be seen at the Kempton Steam Museum England near to Kempton Park horse race track, South West of London.
Where there is the worlds biggest working steam engine, a 800 ton triple-expansion engine is stared up about 7 week-end in the year. it is strongly recommend NOT to deliver cold steam into a cold surface. Even hot steam on a cold surface will only expand too quickly in volume of steam all chances will blow the head seal.
So the process to pre-warm the engine before start up is by small heated steam pipe work runs around the engine delivered from the boiler. That will take a minimum of 12 hours although Kempton will take no chances and run them for 24 hours before start up.
 
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