Wheels and Wheel Houses Question

May 3, 2005
If "ANTR" and "Titanic (1997)" are accurate there appear to be at least two Wheels - one on the Bridge and one just aft of the Bridge in an enclosed Wheel House (where QM Hichens is depicted at the Wheel...Captain Smith is shown at the Wheel on the Bridge as the windows smash and the water rushes in. )

Queen Mary photos and deck plans show only one location for the wheels...in the Wheel House itself.

Was there a reason for the placement of the wheel house on Titanic as mentioned above ? Just from a layman's observation (from that idiot who claims to have served in the USN
;-) ...the ship on which I was stationed was admittedly relatively small and had only one wheel...on the enclosed bridge).It would seem that this (on the Titanic ) would be something like steering a car from the back seat ?
Feb 5, 2007
Hi, The front bridge was for when you are in shallow water like a harbour and you need to dodge obsticles quickly the back bridge was for open waters where in the unlikley event you saw something you could be told about it in plenty of time by the lookout by Queen marys time they probably got rid of the back wheelhouse and just had one with all the telephones and stuff you need to talk to the lookout
Feb 5, 2007
Sorry i just relised i did'nt explain it well In the front wheelhouse there are windows to see things and dodge them quickly but as in open waters anything that could be dangerous you can be warned about by the lookout so they decided to have a wheelhouse where you cant see outside
Dec 2, 2000
Easley South Carolina
I'm inclined to agree with Chris on this one. The one in the sheltered wheelhouse would have been a protected position for use on the open ocean, with the wheel on the forebridge being used primarily for restricted waterways and harbours.

There was also the question of redundancy for safety reasons. If the wheels on the bridge were inoperable for some reason, the wheel on the docking bridge could be used in an emergency.
Mar 22, 2003
Chicago, IL, USA
The wheelhouse on the Titanic had windows (30" X 37") and you could look out during the day. However, at night they were shuttered up so no light would come out onto the open bridge from the wheelhouse and possibly interfere with the night vision of the OOW or anyone else on watch there. Inside the wheelhouse there was a wheel, a lighted steering compass, a light over the course board, telephone communications to the engine room, afterbridge on the poop, the forecastle head, and the crow's nest. Also clocks, thermometer, and barometer, flag and signal lockers. The wheelhouse had two doors with access onto the open bridge. It also provided access to the pilot's cabin, the captain's quarters via the captain's navigating room, the officer's chart room, and the corridor leading to the officer's cabins on the port side. The advantage of the wheelhouse was that it provided an enclose heated shelter for the helmsman allowing him and any junior offer there to concentrate on the task of keeping the ship on its course.

The open navigating bridge contained the engine telegraphs, another steering compass and wheel, the WTD switch and warning bell. This part of the bridge, directly in front of the wheelhouse, was semi-enclosed but entirely open from the sides. It had windows (30" X 37"). The telegraphs and binnacle were not lighted out here at night, again to protect the night vision of the watch officer. Outside this area the bridge was completely open leading out to the wing cabs located port and starboard. These had windows with clear glass (34" x 31"), and had Morse sigaling lamps on top. There were also a pelorus mounted port and starboard just outside the semi-enclosed part of the navigating bridge for taking relative bearings.

The term bridge comes from the days of the paddlewheel steamboat because there once was a bridge between the paddlewheel housings on either side of the ship. This was such a convenient place for the navigation controls that the concept was retained after paddlewheels were superseded by screw propelled vessels.

Jim Currie

Apr 16, 2008
Funchal. Madeira
To add to what Sam says: the aft steering position was there to ensure that in the event of mechanical failure of the midship steering wheel - there would still be a means of direct communication with the rudder. In later years this was termed the emergency steering position. May even have been so then