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Updated: Nov. 24th, 2007

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Elevator Motor Room. Daniel Klistorner collection.

The Elevator Motor Room of the 1st Class elevators on Olympic.
Daniel Klistorner collection

Switchgear of Dynamos 3 and 4. The Shipbuilder / Author’s collection.

Switchgear of Dynamos 3 and 4. The Shipbuilder / Author’s collection

Telephone Exchange Switchboard. The Shipbuilder / Author’s collection.

Telephone Exchange Switchboard. The Shipbuilder / Author’s collection

Advertisement for N. Burt & Co. (1). The Shipbuilder / Author’s collection.

  Introduction - While electric lighting aboard ships was once considered a luxury, by Titanic’s time it had become a necessity both for comfort and safety, as it was superior to oil lamps or any other systems of lighting. The electrical installation aboard Titanic was very elaborate and extensive, as electrical power was used for many devices and small motors in addition to general lighting. Except for the propelling machinery, electrical generating equipment and galley ovens, nearly everything from potato peelers to cargo cranes ran on electricity. For this reason, Titanic had, in addition to a very large, steam-driven main generating plant, an auxiliary (emergency) generating plant capable of powering most of the ship’s essential equipment as well as the ship’s navigation and emergency lighting.  Titanic’s central generating station, called the “Electric Engine Room,” was situated between the wing propeller shafts in a separate watertight compartment about 63 feet long and 24 feet high, immediately abaft the Turbine Engine Room at the Tank Top level. The main generating plant consisted of four 400-kilowatt dynamos manufactured by W. H. Allen, Son & Co. of Bedford. In total, these produced 16,000 amperes at 100 volts DC . . . (continued)


Image above, Advertisement for N. Burt & Co.
The Shipbuilder / Author’s collection

  Feeder switchboard - The feeder switchboard, which functioned as the main distribution panel to route electricity to all areas of the ship, was located in the switchboard gallery at the Orlop Deck level above the forward end of the Electric Engine Room. From the main dynamo switchgear, the current passed by insulated cables below the switchboard gallery to the feeder switchboard; like the main switch gear, this was constructed by Dorman & Smith. The main feeder switchboard was located at the forward end of the gallery, near the watertight bulkhead separating the compartment from the Turbine Engine Room. It ran athwartships across nearly the full width of the compartment and faced aft. The switchboard consisted of 25 panels equipped with gear for controlling two circuits on each panel, making 50 circuits in all, each of 600 amps capacity. Each of the 25 panels was manufactured of black polished slate, upon which was mounted the fuses and automatic cutouts for the two circuits that shared the panel . . . (continued)


   Lighting and fixtures - The light fixtures and electric lamps on Titanic were of widely varying designs, from ornate fixtures in the 1st Class public spaces to simple utilitarian ones in the 3rd Class, crew and cargo spaces. The electric light bulbs fitted within them could be clear, semi-frosted, or totally frosted as the situation required. Light bulbs and bulb holders on British vessels were practically all of the bayonet-socket type, but on American and Continental vessels the Edison screw-socket type was widely used. The type using a single center-contact cap was required for the single wiring of the ship.

   In the 1st Class staterooms, in addition to the usual fixed lights, there were cleats fitted for portable electric lamps or fans. Special dimming lamps were also provided so that a light of small candlepower could be kept burning throughout the night. The light switches were attached to plates within convenient reach of each berth. All 1st Class staterooms on Titanic were provided with a reading lamp over the beds, something Olympic’s staterooms lacked in their original design
. . . (continued)


   Passenger elevators - Titanic’s 1st and 2nd Class passengers were provided with lifts, or elevators. 2nd Class passengers had only one at their forward staircase, while 1st Class passengers had three located side-by-side immediately forward of the grand staircase. Though the 2nd Class elevator was used a great deal, the 1st Class elevators were found to be less popular. An observer on Olympic would write in 1911 that the 1st Class elevators were “seldom used by passengers, as they are fitted in a bad position and too much cased in. They are scarcely ever seen or thought about by those passengers who are berthed abaft the main staircase.” Britannic was built with an after 1st Class elevator to remedy this problem. It was also noted by passengers that the elevators would stick when the ship rolled in heavy weather. This problem was later rectified on Olympic.

   Located within the 1st Class area of the ship were three 15-cwt elevators numbered 1, 2 and 3. They were situated side-by-side within a foyer located forward of the main staircase, and traveled 37'-6" between A Deck and E Deck
. . . (continued)


Other topics in this chapter:

Main electric generating sets - Emergency generating sets - Main switch gear - Cables and wiring - Fuse boards - Switches - Electric bells - Loud-speaking telephones - Cabin telephones and central exchange switchboard - Service hoists - Kilroy’s stoking indicators - Plus details of individual branch circuits

Copyright 2007 Beveridge, Hall, Andrews, Klistorner and Braunschweiger.

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