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Titanic - What happened in the Engine and Boiler rooms

From SN Guides

Note from Benjidog 28/10/09: This is an account provided to me in a complete state and should not be altered or it will lose context and integrity. I have posted it as a matter of opinion of whoever produced it and do not claim it to be 100% accurate. If anyone wants to comment on it, please create a discussion thread by clicking the tab at the top of the page rather than altering it. I have just realised that I have not completed the biography section and will do so as soon as I get some time.



This page is an attempted reconstruction of the chronological sequence of principal events which would have taken place in the Engine and Boiler Rooms of RMS Titanic after her collision.

The TITANIC struck the iceberg at 11:40 p.m. on the night of 14th April 1912 and as a result the vessel suffered damage to the structural plating of the hull about 10 foot above the level of the keel and for about 300 feet of the ships length. The speed of the vessel immediately prior to the incident was in excess of 21 Knots (24 MPH) and as a result the damage to the hull would have occurred in about 10 seconds.

Sequence of Events

The first reported communication between the Bridge and Engine Room would have been the "STOP" signal received on the telegraphs positioned between the two main reciprocating propulsion engines. This signal to stop the engines would have caused more than a little confusion in the machinery spaces, coming as it did during a normal ocean passage and with no prior warning of any impending problem or hazard. In fact it is recorded that none of the Engineers were in attendance at the control station for the main engines at that time and the telegraph replies were made by two greasers whose duty it was to lubricate the lower moving parts of each reciprocating engine.

However the engineers would have responded quickly to the sound of the telegraphs and would have brought the engines to a stop within a few seconds thereafter by means of closing the steam supply valve to each engine and subsequently reversing the direction of engine rotation momentarily to bring each wing propeller to a stationary position.

While these manoeuvres were under way the Boiler Rooms would have been advised by telephone of the revised steaming conditions in order that the personnel in these spaces could take the necessary action. For example closing the boiler furnace fire dampers to reduce the rate of steam generation and thus prevent, the boiler safety valves from lifting and venting the steam to the atmosphere by way of the pipes located in the three foremost funnels.

Simultaneously in the Turbine Engine Room the duty engineer would have immediately started to adjust the large change over valve in the exhaust steam pipeline from each reciprocating engine tc the turbine to re-direct the steam from each reciprocating engine directly to its respective condenser rather than to the turbine which was uni-directional and therefore plays no part in manoeuvring the vessel. The turbine and its associated shafting and propeller would nevertheless have continued to rotate in the "ahead" direction for a short time being driven by its momentum and the effect of the "way" of the vessel acting on the turbine engine driven propeller. The Engine Room staff would have would have alerted the Chief Engineer, who would most probably have been in his accommodation at the time, of the situation as soon as possible. He, and the remaining "off-watch" engineers would then have made their way back to the machinery spaces and to their appointed machinery surveillance positions.

The time of the first telegraph order from the Bridge to the Engine Room relative to the time of the impact with the iceberg remains undetermined with any degree of total accuracy. We have drawn this conclusion from the ambiguity and contradictory statements of witnesses to the office of the British enquiry into the loss of the TITANIC. The evidence presented to the enquiry on the events taking place in the Engine and Boiler Rooms at that time was not assisted in any way by the total absence of any input from any engineering officer, of which all were lost in the sinking. This evidence gives no clear indication of the sequence of events in the 20 or 30 minutes that elapsed between sighting the iceberg, the subsequent collision and the joint conclusion by the ships staff and Thomas Andrews, the senior Harland and Wolff representative, that the vessel would be lost Whether the telegraph rang immediately before or after the impact is, for our purposes, of little consequence in establishing the chronology of the events in the machinery spaces.

However in determining the order of telegraphed instructions we have chosen to accept the evidence of personnel who were present in the vicinity of the Engine Room at the critical times and accordingly we believe that the sequence of events was as follows:-

11.40p.m. STOP 11.50 p.m. SLOW AHEAD 00.00 am STOP 00.05 am SLOW ASTERN 00.10 am STOP

As we cannot trace any record of any "Finished with engines" command having been signalled from the Bridge it must be concluded that the final "STOP" from the "SLOW ASTERN" as indicated above was the last engine movement to take place.

For the remainder of the time until the vessel sank at 2.18 am on the 15th April the main concerns of the engineers would have been:

  1. The maintenance of the electrical power generator engines and the provision of an adequate supply of steam supply to these engines to ensure continuity of electrical power to the ships light and all other essential services.
  2. Efforts to increase the pumping capacity of the vessel to combat the in-flow of sea water into the vessels forward compartments.
  3. The manual raising of the machinery space watertight doors, an action which was cleared by the Bridge, to accelerate action 2 and to facilitate the continual and proper surveillance of those items of machinery which were still required to be in operation.

Watches and Responsibilities

As was standard shipboard practice, the engineers would have been on regular cycle of 4 hour watches, for example, Midnight to 04.00 am. 04.00 am to 08.00 am and 08.00 am to 12.00 Noon. The same engineers would have maintained the same watch cycle, say each of the 12 to 4 watches in any 24 hour time period (am and p.m.) and it would appear from this that there were 21 watchkeepers on board which would equate to 7 per watch and allocated to duty as follows:-

  • 12-4 Watch: Junior 2nd, Senior assistant 2nd, Junior 3rd, Junior Assistant 3rd, Senior Assistant 4th, Senior 5th and Senior 6th.
  • 4 - 8 Watch: Senior 2nd, Senior Assistant 2nd, Senior 3rd, Junior Assistant 3rd, Junior 4th, Junior Assistant 4th and Extra 5th.
  • 8 - 12 Watch: Junior 2nd, Junior Assistant 2nd, Senior Assistant 3rd, Senior 4th, Junior Assistant 4th, Junior 5th and Junior 6th.

We have established the usual location and duty of each engineer during a normal shift in the machinery spaces and for ease of explanation have elected to list the 8-12 watch crew as they would have been the duty watch when the vessel struck the iceberg. Until the time of the collision they would have been generally involved in the general routine of the machinery operation as listed in the following table


Engineer Location Duty
Junior 2nd - Mr J.H. Hesketh Main Engine Room In complete charge of the watch
Assistant 2nd -Mr J Shepherd Main engine Room but more likely walking around the entire plant Generally giving reports to or receiving reports from other watch keepers and reporting to the Junior 2nd Engineer
Senior assistant 3rd - Mr Hodge Turbine Engine Room Observing Turbine bearing temperatures, lubricating oil pump pressure and cooler temperatures. Turbine gland steam pressure. Main condenser vacuum, condensate and sea water cooling temperatures. Condenser cooling water pumps, condensate
Senior 4th - Mr Hodgkinson Main Engine Room Observe all Main Engine and thrust bearing temperature, hotwell pumps, two feed water heaters and feed water temperature to and from each. Boiler feed water pumps, the auxiliary condenser and its sea water circulating and air/water extra
Junior Assistant 4th -Mr Dodds Electric Power Generating Room Observe all bearing temperatures of the electric power generating engines. Ampere readings and all propeller shaft bearing temperatures.
Junior 5th - Mr Mackie Boiler Rooms Observe steam pressure, all boiler water levels in gauge glasses. Operate Bilge pumps and ash ejector pumps as necessary and generally oversee all Firemen and Trimmers.
Junior 6th - Mr McReynolds Boiler Rooms As for Mr Mackie.

Sequence of Machinery Operations

What follows is the chronology of the operations involved in the machinery operations, the location of the relevant equipment and the personnel involved when the incident occurred and when the first "STOP" engine command was telegraphed from the Bridge.

Sequence of Machine Operations

Operation Location of Equipment Personnel Involved
Response to "STOP" signal Between Main Reciprocating Engines Main Engine Greasers
Close steam stop valve to each engine At engine manoeuvring control station 2nd Engineer
Telegraph advise Boiler Room At engine manoeuvring control station Senior 4th Engineer
Telegraph advise Turbine Room At engine manoeuvring control station Senior 4th Engineer
Operate reversing gear control on each engine to stop engine and bring propeller shaft to a standstill At engine manoeuvring control station 2nd Engineer
Operate steam to condenser change over valve At forward end of Turbine Engine Room Senior Assistant 3rd Engineer
"SLOW AHEAD": Operate the reversing leaver to the Ahead position and slowly open the steam stop valve to attain 3 5 RPM Between Main Engines 2nd Engineer
"STOP": Close the steam stop valve Between Main Engines 2nd Engineer
"SLOW ASTERN": Operate the reversing lever to the astern position and slowly open the steam stop valve to attain 35 RPM Between Main Engines 2nd Engineer
"STOP": Close steam stop valve and operate the reversing lever to the ahead position to bring the propeller shaft to a standstill. Between Main Engines 2nd Engineer

In the Boiler Rooms the engineers would have been very active in keeping a close watch on the boiler water levels and ordering the Firemen to shut in the doors which control the flow of air to the fires. After about 10 minutes of "Stop Engines" the Chief Engineer, Second Engineer and all other Watchkeeping Engineers, an additional sixteen engineers would have been present in the Engine Room and available for duty.

For reference purposes we have listed the White Star Line engineering staff on board TITANIC at that time, however we have not included the Harland and Wolff staff as under normal operating conditions they would not be in attendance. We acknowledge that at the time of the incident the Harland and Wolff staff would have been in attendance and indeed rendered every assistance possible. It is also worthy of note that all of the Harland and Wolff engineering staff were lost with their White Star colleagues in the loss of the RMS TITANIC.

RMS Titanic Engineering Crew

RMS Titanic Engineering Crew

Name Position Age Photo Background
J Bell Chief Engineer 51
W E Farquharson Senior 2nd Engineer 38
N Harrison Junior 2nd Engineer 38
J H Heskith Junior 2nd Engineer 33
B Wilson Senior Assistant 2nd Engineer 27
H Harvey Junior Assistant 2nd Engineer 34
J Shepherd Junior Assistant 2nd Engineer 32
G Hosking Senior 3rd Engineer 36
E Dodd Junior 3rd Engineer 38
C Hodge Senior Assistant 3rd Engineer 29
F Coy Junior Assistant 3rd Engineer 25
J Frazer Junior Assistant 3rd Engineer 29
L Hodgkinson Senior 4th Engineer 46
J Smith Junior 4th Engineer 34
H Dyer Senior Assistant 4th Engineer 24
R Dodds Junior Assistant 4th Engineer 30
A Ward Junior Assistant 4th Engineer 24
A Parsons Senior 5th Engineer 27
W D Mackie Junior 5th Engineer 32
R Millar Extra 5th Engineer 26
W Moves Senior 6th Engineer 23
W McReynolds Junior 6th Engineer 21
H Creese Deck Engineer 44
T Millar Assistant Deck Engineer 33
P Sloan Chief Electrician 31
A Allsop Junior Electrician 34 Image:Alfred-Allsop.jpg Born in Manchester and served his apprenticeship with H.H. Hall & Co. of Liverpool. This was followed by employment with Campbell & Isherwood of Bootle, Hame Electric Company of Liverpool and the Northern Electric Company of Liverpool. Joined White Star in August 1904 as assistant electrician aboard the Celtic. Served on Majestic and Oceanic before joining the Titanic. Lived in 134 Malmesbury Road, Freemantle, Southampton and left a widow (Hilda) and one child. His estate was worth £152 6s 7d.
H Jupe Assistant Electrician 31
A Middleton Assistant Electrician 26
A Ervine Assistant Electrician 18
W Kelly Assistant Electrician 23

Main Contributors

  1. Benjidog (formatting and presentation only)

The source material for this article came into my hands from a Harland & Wolff source that prefers to remain anonymous - it is believed to be based on investigations done within the company after the accident and may have been published before - if so I do not know where or by whom.

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