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Hi guys, just new here. I have a puzzling question about the telegraphs in the engine room of the ss Australis. I took some pictures in her engine room on voyage S61, in October 1977. I recently stumbled across these and had a closer look. Low and behold, on one of the telegraphs shown, it states “Back” instead of the usual “Astern”. The second telegraph is partially visible, and shows “Astern”. Does anyone know with any certainty as to why we have these two terms? Any telegraph I have ever seen has always shown “Astern”.
Comments appreciated, photo attached.
 

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US built ship. "Back" was used in engine orders instead of 'astern' (but not always). Other telegraph dial looks slightly different so one might be a replacement?
 

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Interesting. I've seen "Back" used on US naval vessels, but never on a merchant ship. Naval vessels also use 1/3, 2/3, Full or Standard, and Flank whereas merchant vessels were Slow, Half, Full. I felt that the 1/3 and 2/3 orders were actually superior to Slow and Full as they are less likely to be misunderstood when heard orally.
I recall one incident on a MSTS Victory Ship when my order of Slow Ahead was misunderstood by the watch officer who ordered Full Ahead. The order was immediately countermanded by myself and Full Astern was ordered.
 

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IMG_0001.jpg

Took a trip to UK and back on the Australis in 1969. This was a 35mm slide I obtained from the Purser showing the Captain and the engine room telegraphs. Sad end to the old girl.
 

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Do I read that telegraph correctly, does it say "CLOSE DOORS"?

What's that?
 

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Ah! Makes sense.

The photo you can see TWO telegraphs.

One of them is partly hidden. It is a 'DOCKING TELEGRAPH'. Not to the engine room, it is to the focsle and the stern. They are all orders from the bridge for orders, Let go sternline, let go spring, Avast', etc. One handle would send orders to the focsle, the other sends orders to the aft mooring station.

This would be used if the telephone was out of commission.

The close telegraph is the engineroom. The orders for Full, Astern, Dead Slow, Half, Full etc as normal. In addition... COSE WATERTIGHT DOORs. The handle on the other side of this unit probably has the OPEN WATERTIGHT DOORS. These WT doors would be for Boiler Room, Engine Room and Shaft Tunnel WT doors. You know... for Fog or Imminent Collision.

The word BACK.... you hear in the old movies, submarines (US)…. you would hear commands like 'ALL BACK TWO THIRDS'? They would understand that BACK means the same as ASTERN. Because of the reduced space on the telegraph face the word is BACK... instead of the usual ASTERN.

Why would this ship have it. Probably not usual. The s.s. AMERICA was designed by William Francis Gibbs. He built many passenger ships and other ships, including the ss UNITED STATES. He was a bit of a 'safety freak'. In 1927 one of his ships, the MALOLO, Matson's new liner, was out on trials near Nantucket, 25 May 1927. MALOLO collided in fog with a Norwegian steamer JACOB CHRISTENSEN. Struck midships, right between the Boiler Room and the Engine Room. She was flooded and almost sank. She took on 7,000 tonnes of water. However, she was able to kept afloat and was towed back to New York and was repaired. I would guess that with this event in mind, he wanted to make sure a similar event might happen to the new s.s. AMERICA and so... Watertight Door Orders makes good sense.

I had lunch with his daughter, Susan Gibbs, last year. Interesting woman. She heads the ss UNITED STATES Conservancy.

Stephen


Remember: Four Telegraphs inside the wheelhouse. Two on port side, two on starboard side. One of for engines (twin screw) and one for Docking.
T
 

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Only an idle deckie would think of ringing down for a plumber to close the wheelhouse door! Or an idle approver of drawings that would allow it to be done by telegraph.
 

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Everyone needs a job!

WARWICK FORT. Every morning soon after sunrise I was told to call the E/R … 'Water on deck, Please'. The Mate, Malcolm Cameron did not wear any uniform. Only a 'Denholm Kilt'.... company issue towel, and Japanese seaboots. When the firemain was charged he would take a shower, salt water, out on the bridge wing.
 

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Queen Mary:

OUTER PROPELLERS FULL AHEAD!!!!!!!!!!!

INNER PROPELLERS FULL ASTERN!!!!!!!!!!


Makes sense. The engines have been idle for 53 years. If you walk too close to those telegraphs, you get an injury. No idea why they are not just left at STOP?

Stephen
 

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Generators telegraph? My my. Them Cunard deckies must have had a rare appreciation of spinning reserve.
 

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View attachment 198167

Took a trip to UK and back on the Australis in 1969. This was a 35mm slide I obtained from the Purser showing the Captain and the engine room telegraphs. Sad end to the old girl.
I travelled Melbourne - Panama - Southampton on Australis in 1970, fifty years ago. I occupied one of eight berths in a cabin that was below water level and right next to the Port propellor. We counted every revolution, all the way, for thirty six days.

I share the sadness at her end. She was a wonderful vessel and I have great memories from that voyage. The daily fresh bread in the Dining Room was fabulous!
 

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Generators telegraph? My my. Them Cunard deckies must have had a rare appreciation of spinning reserve.

'Deckies' didn't play with these telegraphs, they were for the 'Gingerbears' to play between themselves. Starting Platform to Generator Room, Steering Flat, to Boiler Rooms. Not even a repeater of these were on the bridge. They would disturb the peace and quiet on the bridge.

Here is one of the Boiler Room telegraphs.

Stephen
 

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Stephen, there was some jigger on the bridge who told me off when I climbed over the rope to get those telegraph photos.
I pointed out the shaft telegraph positions and their danger, and he replied "They are only dangerous to people like you who don't obey the posted instructions"!

He was dressed as a 2nd officer! Probably never been to sea in his life!
 

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A pair of military ones (working. A shot of my playroom) by Evershed and Vignolles (as in the developers of the megger). They also produced a stoking indicator (Kilroy's) that indicated which furnace was to be stocked (I have another, later, pair but I think they are both engine room ends although they do work together).

An RN type on SH explained why there is no Standby, Dead Slow or FWE.

'Slow' is a set speed. 'Half' directs the engine room to observe the speed required conveyed by other means (not sure if the Mountbatten gear did not have something to do with that). 'Full' meant much the same as our double ring - "shiit or bust that-a'- way".
 

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Stephen, there was some jigger on the bridge who told me off when I climbed over the rope to get those telegraph photos.
I pointed out the shaft telegraph positions and their danger, and he replied "They are only dangerous to people like you who don't obey the posted instructions"!

He was dressed as a 2nd officer! Probably never been to sea in his life!

LOL. I did have thought about the photos. My thought was, "Hmmm, I guess they have removed those brass railings since I was last on board." I guess they haven't! :)

Years ago... like 30 at least, I was on board. There were a couple of guys at the Observation Bar. We were having a great discussion about the ship. One of them says, "You want to come with us on a tour?" I went and they were definitely not official guides at all. They also were armed with torches. Spent about two hours poking around the areas 'behind the scene'. Most of it was in shambles. Things never touched since last voyage.


The 'Captain' on the Queen Mary... I don't think he has been to sea either!

My favourite place on board... Sir Winston's Restaurant. Great place!
 

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Stephen, the brass rails are still there - to the right in the first photo. The suedo-2nd is behind with his shirt hanging out, cuffs rolled up, and tie askew!

I seem to recall counting either 11 or 12 Telegraphs on the bridge in total! One would hope the message would always get through!

Agree with you on Sir Winston's. The food was superb. This location used to be the engineer's quarters back in the day. We stayed 3 nights.

And the 'Commodore'? Everette Hoard I think was his name. Saw him once and decided we didn't need to go there!
 

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