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The Ship of Dreams
R.M.S. Titanic
Engineers : After Collision

When Titanic struck the iceberg the situation changed immediately and all engineers not then on duty would have been summoned to the engine room by means of alarm bell located in the Engineers' accommodation. The letter reproduced below indicates the standing instructions operated by White Star Line and the situation as it is likely to have existed in the engine room at that time.
Letter from F.J. Blake RNR, White Star Line Engineering Superintendent in Southampton. Published in The Engineer, 26 April 1912.
When a ship leaves port a complete boat list is made up. That list is pinned up in the room of every watch on the ship and also on the notice board in the engineers' quarters. In the case of an ordinary collision, in which probability the engineers would have an opportunity of getting away, they are directed to take charge of boats but in a case like the disaster to the Titanic all engineers would be required below to endeavor to stop any leaks that might take place in the watertight bulkheads, and perhaps to take steps to support the bulkheads. All the pumps would be working to their utmost capacity and the electrical engineers would be keeping their dynamos running as long as possible. The emergency dynamo would be kept running as long as there was steam to supply it.
When this accident happened and the telegraph rang from the bridge either to stop or reverse the engines a call bell would be rung from the engine room to the engineers' quarters intimating that all engineers were wanted below. At sea and at such a time this would at once be recognised by the "watch off" as being an emergency call and they would be down below in a few minutes. They would then be under the direct orders of the chief engineer who would depute the engineers to different duties necessitated by the exceptional circumstances and at such duties these men would remain until ordered out of the engine room by the chief engineer. They would be working surrounded by miles of live steam pipes and they would be superintending or assisting in drawing out fires or doing other work where everything was under pressure of steam of 200 lb. The engineers of the Titanic were the pick of the service. They were second to none and chosen from boats in the company's fleet on account of their excellent record. There can be no doubt that it was entirely due to the heroic devotion of these engineer officers that the ship remained afloat as long as she did.
The pumping of water from the flooding compartments was essential and delayed the sinking by many minutes. Stopping leaks in bulkheads and shoring up bulkheads also delayed the inevitable but the engineers would have known very quickly that the ship was doomed. Joseph Bell, the Chief Engineer, would have realized that the ship would founder as soon as he knew the extent of the damage and that message would have soon spread to the remainder of the engineers. The tasks they were asked to perform left no doubt as to the seriousness of the situation and as many of the engineers held certificates of competency as engineers they were knowledgeable enough to understand the basics of ship stability.
Boilers not required to supply steam for the pumps and dynamos had to be shut down, keeping them under pressure was dangerous. Engineers could not afford the time to check that feed water was being supplied to all boilers and if the water level in a boiler fell too low the furnace could collapse resulting in an explosion. Cold sea water coming into a hot boiler under pressure could also cause an explosion due to the thermal stress induced and so the boilers in No 6 and No 5 boiler rooms had to be shut down with great urgency. Any boiler explosion would have killed people but would also have damaged watertight bulkheads and possibly the hull. This would have resulted in the ship foundering much more quickly. To prevent such explosion fires had to be raked out of the furnaces and steam pressure had to be reduced rapidly; this was done by manually lifting the safety valves using the easing gear fitted to valves for that purpose and it is the operation of this easing gear which resulted in the roar of steam from the vent pipes together with the natural release from boilers generating steam no longer required by the engines.
The scene in the engine and boiler rooms must have been chaotic but the engineers would have known what was expected of them and they stayed at their task even though they will have known that they could not save the ship and that their lives were at risk. Their only hope was to delay the ship's sinking until help arrived. As time progressed the situation became more desperate but so did conditions as the ship trimmed by the head; moving about the boiler rooms and machinery spaces would have become more difficult and dangerous and the noises from the ship as she strained must have been unnerving. Engine and boiler spaces would have been full of steam and smoke from the drawn fires adding to the sombre atmosphere which must have pervaded these spaces. Many of the engineers would have been scared and afraid, that would be natural. They would have been thinking of their families at home and the probability that they would never see them again. Who would take care of their loved ones? Shipping companies of the time were not noted for their generosity as was proved by the fact that all survivors went off pay as soon as the ship went down.
They did not know if help would come and from their position deep in the heart of the dying ship they were isolated from the open deck and the stars above. Trapped in a steel tomb their fear and anguish can only be imagined but they knew what was required of them and they did their duty to the passengers and their fellow seamen. Pumping and electrical lighting had to be maintained as long as possible and all engineers stayed at their tasks until the very end.
When the order to abandon ship came it was much too late for them; they could not possibly reach the open deck through the complex warren of passageways deep in the bowels of Titanic and many probably did not even try. Climbing steep ladders from the engine room or boiler rooms was a difficult enough task at the best of times but with the ship trimmed excessively by the head climbing some of these ladders would have been almost impossible. It is likely that many did not drown but were crushed to death as machinery and boilers broke free when the ship trimmed even deeper by the head; some will have been scalded as steam pipes broke free from the boilers still operating to keep the pumps and dynamos working. They died to a man doing their duty. They were paid to do that duty but they were not paid enough to lay down their lives. They sacrificed themselves so that all might stand a better chance of life by keeping Titanic above water longer than would have been the case without their efforts. The disaster was none of their doing but they died heroes trying to correct the mistakes of others.

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