Wednesday, February 20, 2008
Boilers were very important in ships during that time and they worked like steam engines on locomotives and had a hundred men shoveling coal into the boilers a mile a minute and getting a work out. The whole idea of a boiler, of course, is to boil water into steam for propulsion. In designing a boiler, there are two ways to do this. One way is to pipe the water through the hot exhaust gases from the fire, through a series of tubes, and heat the water that way; this is termed a water-tube boiler. The other way to do it is exactly the opposite: fill the boiler with water, and pass the hot exhaust gases through the water and out to the funnel uptakes via a series of tubes. This is termed a fire-tube boiler, the most common type of which (on ships) was the Scotch marine boiler. Stokers worked on shifts and got 10 hours of rest. To pass the time away, they would sing, tell a narrative, converse, and things like that. There were 29 boilers although in all 10 were open during the voyage.
These are things a stoker must know:
"Laying fires - We will describe a normal case of raising steam in a three furnace tank boiler in which, to insure a gradual increase in the temperature of the various parts, and to diminish, as far as practicable, the stresses due to their expansion, the time allowed is rarely less than eight hours. The three furnaces would often be lighted together, and no fixed rule can be given as to the absolutely best procedure in this respect, but the practice of first lighting one furnace only, and after an interval dealing with the others, is perhaps the best plan, and this will be described.
A measured quantity of coal is placed on the floor plates in front of each of the boilers which are to be used; the bars of each furnace should then be “primed” i.e. covered throughout with a layer of average sized pieces of coal. One furnace, usually the lowest, is next “wooded” i.e. pieces of firewood, arranged to facilitate the access of air to all parts, are placed at the furnace mouth over a bed of oily waste, shavings, etc. The wood is next “topped” - i.e. the space between the wood and the furnace crown is filled with pieces of hand picked coal.
"Lighting fires - To light the fires, the oily waste, etc., is kindled; at the same time the furnace door is left wide open, and the ash pit doors closed, so that a good draught is insured through the fire, and the flame is carried over the coal laid on the furnace bars and tends to ignite it. Both the furnace and ash pit doors of the other furnaces are kept closed to prevent the access of cold air. Lighting the fire in one furnace tends to set up circulation in the water, and promotes uniformity of temperature throughout the mass.
As the fire burns it is continually topped with hand picked coal, and after about two hours there will be a fairly substantial fire at the mouth of the furnace. After this has been done, it is usual to light one or both of the wing fires from the fire in the central furnace. These fires are made at the front of the bars and constantly topped with hand picked coal, the furnace and the ash pit doors of these furnaces being arranged similarly to those of the middle furnace. If only one wing furnace is lighted at first, the other would be similarly treated about one hour afterwards.
"Spreading fires - After about four hours the center fire is “spread” - i.e. the fire, which till now has been at the front of the furnace is spread over the partially ignited coal on the remainder of the bars, after which, this furnace door is closed and ash pit door opened, to admit the air underneath the furnace bars and promote the combustion of coal throughout. The other fires are similarly treated at about the fifth or sixth hours, at the discretion of the person in charge."
Stokers were paid 27 english pounds each month. There were several water fountains where if a stoker were extremely parched, they could get a glass of water. Most of the stokers did not survive the sinking. Imagine having to go from the 98 degrees of extreme heat to water 28 degrees fahrenheit. One of the first recognizable features of the debris field leading to the discovery of the TITANIC wreck was a boiler.