Wheels


Frank Mallia

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Aug 11, 2004
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Hi all sorry this may be a stupid question but i am no expert in ships, I wish to ask how many wheels did titanic have? I know there's one on the docking bridge and i used to believe there was one in the wheelhouse but i noticed from the movie Titanic when E.J.Smith moves towards the bridge as his final resting place he looks on the forward part of the bridge and there is a wheel then he goes in the back of the wheelhouse and there's another wheel, the one which he clings on to as the water bursts through the windows? what were all these wheels used for? Thanks
 

Shane Worthy

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Aug 12, 2004
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There was three wheels, Frank. One in the wheelhouse, one on the open bridge infront of it, and one on the after bridge. Generally, they steered with the one in the wheelhouse. The other two were used for docking and emergencies. They also had two steering engines in case everything failed, they could steer using cables from the capstans to the tiller.
All Ahead Full!
 
Dec 2, 2000
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>>if there were 3 wheels what one in the bow was used most and why would they use it??<<

Mmmmmmm...what Shane said was that the wheel was on the open bridge, not the bow. If I recall correctly, this wheel would be available for use in emergencies or for use when transiting restricted waterways such as harbours.
 

Shane Worthy

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Aug 12, 2004
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Michael's nailed it,
Nicholas, have you seen Jim's 'Titanic'? Ruth remarks, "Why do you have two steering wheels?" Thomas Andrews replies, "We really only use this near shore."
You see, in a ship's wheelhouse, the Quartermaster does not steer on visuals. He is to steer straight ahead unless otherwise noted by an officer. At nights, the wheelhouse is closed off by blinds, so the Quartermaster can see the light from the compass. This steering can only be done on open water.
When in harbor, the QM is moved up to the auxilery wheel, so he can see what is happening as the commanding officer gives him directions.
I hope this clarifies.
All Ahead Full!
 
Dec 2, 2000
58,641
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Easley South Carolina
>>He is to steer straight ahead unless otherwise noted by an officer.<<

Just a clearification, the quartermaster steers a given course using the compass as his reference and only changes to a new course when the deck officer gives the order to do so. Keeping the lights out except for the absolute dimmest bare minimum is one of those prerequisites for safety as the watch team needs to be able to maintain their night vision. This is as important today as it was then because there are things out there that are just about impossible to spot by radar. Wooden fishing craft for example...and they didn't have radar in 1912. That made being able to detect something in your path visually even more important.
 
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David Bubb

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What is the purpose of the flags on either side of the flying bridge? They are visible in only a few pictures and seem to have something to do with the ship being in close proximity to tugs...anybody know?
 

Dave Gittins

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Apr 11, 2001
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I think I've found the flags.

They are visible in good prints of Titanic going on trials at Belfast. They are on thin poles on the docking bridge. The best photo I've seen is on page 26 of Don Lynch's book.

At a guess, they might be some sort of guide for the tugs. Each pole has a man beside it, possibly holding it up. Maybe they are extra warnings of where the propellers are.

Any ancient steam mariners on board?
 
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David Bubb

Guest
Yeah, the pictures are indeed hard to come by. I have a large "blown-up" view of the ship (one of my favorite I might add) on her sea trials that clearly shows the flags. I also vaguely remember a reference to them...perhaps on this site somewhere, or in one of the many TITANIC books, I honestly don't recall which
 

Bob Read

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Mar 3, 2002
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The only place I have seen the flags on the docking bridge described are in survivor Lawrence Beesley's "Loss of the S.S. Titanic".
He describes them as being either red or white.
Red indicated danger of collision, and white indicated all clear.

Regards,
Bob Read
 
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David Bubb

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Ok, well to whom were they indicating "danger" or "all clear"? Obviously any nearby vessels would be aware of any imminent collision and there was phone communication between the docking bridge and the bridge so...
 

Bob Read

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Mar 3, 2002
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David:
I think we have a system with multiple redundancies. We had phone communication, docking telegraph communication, and flags. There probably would have been officers stationed at the wing cabs on either side of the navigating bridge. They would be able to see the flags on the docking bridge. It is hard to imagine an occurance where the telegraphs and phones were inoperable from docking bridge to navigating bridge. But if there were, the flags could be used. This was a time of transition and there were holdovers from earlier days. No doubt the flags were a holdover.
I said nobody could probably imagine a situation where both the phones and telegraphs would be cut off from communication with the bridge. But on the other hand nobody imagined that this ship could be sunk by an iceberg. Better to have too many backups than too few (if you can afford them).

Regards,
Bob Read
 

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