Why did they shut the dampers?


Dec 23, 2005
43
0
156
Hey, can anyone tell me why the shut the dampers when titanic was about to hit the berg. what was the purpose of this? and also did the damper shut off the boiler from the funnel?
 
Oct 28, 2000
3,242
550
388
The simple explanation is that "dampers" are door-like openings on the fireboxes beneath the boilers. Opening or closing them...or adjusting them in between...controls the flow of oxygen to the burning coal and, thus, the amount of heat generated.

When the ship is steaming at speed the engines transfer heat from the steam into rotational energy to turn the propellers. New heat must be added to the system to replace that taken out by the engines. So, the dampers are opened.

When the engines stop turning they also stop removing heat from the system. If the dampers were not closed, the fires could overheat the boilers causing too much steam to be generated. So, closing the dampers was a safety measure.

-- David G. Brown
 
Oct 28, 2000
3,242
550
388
Closing the dampers was not connected in any direct way to closing the watertight doors. The decision to close dampers was strictly related to the need for steam to propel the ship, operate the electric dynamos, and power the ship's bilge pumps. As long as enough heat was being extracted from the system, the dampers would remain open.

However, the two main reciprocating engines were the big consumers of steam. So, when they stopped, the dampers were closed. During the emergency, everything seemed to happen at once (a familiar condition to anyone who's been in a marine casualty). This is why the dampers and the watertight doors seem linked.

Sometime after impact -- I put it about 7 minutes after -- Captain Smith re-started the ship's engines. Quartermaster Olliver said he called for "Half Ahead" speed. When this order rang down to the engine room steam was once again needed to turn the engines. Stoker Dillon heard someone shout to, "keep the steam up."

Ths ship moved for only a few minutes, then coasted to a final stop. According to fireman Beauchamp of stokehold #10 in boiler room #6, it took about 20 minutes to draw fires there and sluice down the hot coals with water. He was sent on deck about "midnight" in crew time, which was 2422 to 2424 hours April 14th time.

As Beauchamp and his fellow stokers tramped up the escape latter from boiler room #6 steam began escaping from the forward funnel. No one survived who knew for sure, so we have to assume this was steam from the boilers of #6 being vented for safety. That was about 2422 in April 14th hours, or 11:58 o'clock in crew time -- two minutes before the scheduled crew change of watch.

-- David G. Brown
 
K

Kristjan

Guest
did they vent the steam up the funnel themselves or did it go through auto safety valve if the pressure was going above 215 psi?
 
Jul 9, 2000
58,666
881
563
Easley South Carolina
What happened was that the safeties lifted. It happens automatically when the pressure of the steam approaches dangerous levels. If they hadn't and the excess steam had been allowed to buildup unchecked, the very likely result would have been the boilers exploding.

This can really ruin your day!
 
Oct 28, 2000
3,242
550
388
Michael -- is the above the technical reason for how I got my post under the wrong thread? the safeties popped?

-- David G. Brown
 
Oct 28, 2000
3,242
550
388
OK serious business -- the steam venting from funnel #1 could have been an automatic discharge caused by safeties lifting, but I doubt that's what started it.

The first discharge of steam occurred simultaneously with the evacuation of boiler room #6 after the furnaces were raked. Even with the fires drawn and cold, there would still have been steam in the boilers. Good safety practice would have been to "blow off" that steam since there was going to be no one in the boiler room. I'm thinking that the ordinary practice of good engineers coupled with the simultaneous abandonment of boiler room #6 explains the start of the discharge.

The end of the venting may be another story. It may have been steam drawn out of the boilers in boiler room #5. The two, boiler rooms #5 and #6 were paired up funnel #1. Fireman Barrett alludes to this being the cause of the "dry" boilers in #5 after the blackout.

-- David G. Brown
 

Jim Currie

Member
Apr 16, 2008
6,661
1,395
323
NewtonMearns, Glasgow, Scotland.
Hello there.

To damp a furnace simply means to reduce or cut off the air supply to the blazing coals. There were two ways to do this; by shutting the furnace door or by reducing the aperture of the flue from the furnaces. Believe it or not, many a household coal fire had a'damper'. It was a simple flat plate mounted in the back of the chimney and activated by a rod. At night, the home owner would push the damper rod in, the plate would swivel and shut off the escape of hot gasses up the chimney from the fire. This caused the fire to smoulder quietly all night, In the morning, the damper rod was pulled out and the fire roared away up the chimney. There used to be an old song about it; the first few lines of which went: (to the tune of 'Hokey-cokey')
" You push the damper in.
And you pull the damper out,
But the smoke goes up the chimney just the
same".

Thought I'd share that with you!

Back to Titanic: there was a steam safety valve mounted on top of each boiler. If the engineers did not quickly vent the main steam lines to atmosphere from the engine room up through the funnel vents, the pressure would build in the steam space of the boiler, the valve would lift and fill the boiler room space with steam vapor. At the same time, the pressure of the escaping steam would entrain any water in the boiler and the boiler would become dry. It happened in one of the boiler rooms but I can't remember which one.

JC
 
Oct 28, 2000
3,242
550
388
Jim -- the water came out of the boilers in boiler room #5. When it happened was never pinned down in testimony. All we know with certainty is that the "dry" boilers were discovered at the end of the blackout when lights in all of the boiler rooms were extinguished.

-- David G. Brown
 
Nov 14, 2005
2,308
1,203
308
If they didn’t shut the dampers, the boilers would explode.
Under certain conditions yes they could explode. But they would have needed to have water in them and the safeties would have needed to fail. Just opening or closing the damper for the air flow probably wouldn't have done it on there own without other conditions. But they knew what to do to help deal with that problem. Good thing they did as steam under pressure can be devastating. I've seen it first hand. Boiler and steam line explosions can make for a really bad day. This is what happened where I used to work.
.jpg
 
Last edited:
  • Like
Reactions: 1 user

Cam Houseman

Member
Jul 14, 2020
2,212
531
188
16
Maryland, USA
Under certain conditions yes they could explode. But they would have needed to have water in them and the safeties would have needed to fail. Just opening or closing the damper for the air flow probably wouldn't have done it on there own without other conditions. But they knew what to do to help deal with that problem. Good thing they did as steam under pressure can be devastating. I've seen it first hand. Boiler and steam line explosions can make for a really bad day. This is what happened where I used to work.
View attachment 74773
wow!!
 

Tim Gerard

Member
Feb 26, 2019
190
107
88
Under certain conditions yes they could explode. But they would have needed to have water in them and the safeties would have needed to fail. Just opening or closing the damper for the air flow probably wouldn't have done it on there own without other conditions. But they knew what to do to help deal with that problem. Good thing they did as steam under pressure can be devastating. I've seen it first hand. Boiler and steam line explosions can make for a really bad day. This is what happened where I used to work.
Wow, hope you were OK after that happened on your ship.

I know this is a HUGE oversimplification, but I'm not mistaken the Chernobyl explosion was basically a massive steam explosion.
 
  • Like
Reactions: 1 user
Nov 14, 2005
2,308
1,203
308
Wow, hope you were OK after that happened on your ship.

I know this is a HUGE oversimplification, but I'm not mistaken the Chernobyl explosion was basically a massive steam explosion.
Yes steam and hydrogen gas from what I've read on that. Same thing that happened with the japanese plants after the tsunami. I'm sure theres more to it but both contributing factors. The steam line explosion was at the plant I worked at in Nevada not on the ship I was on. I missed that explosion by about 20 minutes or so. Aircraft carriers are huge and I never saw the engine room or the bridge in the approx 2 years on her. The closest I got to the bridge was a space where the captain held captain's mast. I wish now that I could have seen the engineering spaces but at the time I had no buisness in there so I missed out. I hope they let you see them on the Midway. Plan on going as soon as I can. Cheers all and Merry Christmas!
 
  • Like
Reactions: 1 user
Feb 12, 2021
1
0
1
Under certain conditions yes they could explode. But they would have needed to have water in them and the safeties would have needed to fail. Just opening or closing the damper for the air flow probably wouldn't have done it on there own without other conditions. But they knew what to do to help deal with that problem. Good thing they did as steam under pressure can be devastating. I've seen it first hand. Boiler and steam line explosions can make for a really bad day. This is what happened where I used to work.
View attachment 74773
shoot where you ok
 
Nov 14, 2005
2,308
1,203
308
shoot where you ok
Yes. I had left the area about 20 minutes before that steam line ruptured. Happened right around shift change so for my group we were in the shop and dodged it. Unfortunately most of the operators were in the area and many got killed or injured. Steam can be devastating as history over the years has shown us. At least on Titanic they didn't have to deal with the added problems a steam explosion would have added to their ordeal.
 

Similar threads

Similar threads