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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:
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:-
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
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.
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
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.