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-   -   On-board ship communications (https://www.vintage-radio.net/forum/showthread.php?t=187722)

Sparks 17th Jan 2022 1:13 pm

On-board ship communications
 
By this, I mean the likes of passenger cruise ships, cross-Channel ferries and so on. Were/are they fitted with GPO-style telephone exchanges with simple telephones in cabins, crew quarters, bridge, engine room etc ? Or were wired or wireless intercom or sound-powered telephones used ? I acknowledge that marine band VHF radio would be found on the bridge.

Thankyou.

paulsherwin 17th Jan 2022 2:24 pm

Re: On-board ship communications
 
I'm no expert on this, but I know the arrangements varied by era and size and type of ship. The big 1930s liners had very substantial telephone systems with big manual switchboards - presumably it wasn't worth installing Strowger automated exchanges given the pattern of use. Only the first class cabins had phones actually in the rooms. The ships also had facilities to allow passengers to make ship to shore phone calls.

Plenty of technical info on the Queen Mary here: http://www.sterling.rmplc.co.uk/visions/decks.html

kellys_eye 17th Jan 2022 3:08 pm

Re: On-board ship communications
 
Sound-powered telephones were fitted as critical safety systems and meant as emergency backup comms between bridge, engine room and steering compartments although many used them for 'ordinary' comms to such locations as required.

Old style analogue (strowger) and more modern digital equivalents were fitted for passenger use and even on smaller merchant marine vessels for cabin-to-cabin use.

I'm not sure if these systems had a 'direct line' to shore services - usual practise was that you spoke to the Radio Officer(s) and booked a call which they then set up and called your room back for the call to commence. This could be achieved via whatever radio frequency was appropriate (MF, HF or VHF and, latterly, SatCom of various types A,B, C etc).

As a Radio Officer (Merchant Marine) I had to set up various calls in this way but not very frequently - calls via Sat-A (for example) cost around 6/minute (IIRC) and that was back in early 80's. No doubt they've become a lot cheaper but they are still expensive.

For Channel crossings it would be far simpler to use a mobile phone and many such systems are in use onboard those vessels that remain in comms range for that service.

Sparks 17th Jan 2022 5:54 pm

Re: On-board ship communications
 
Thankyou both. I remember once seeing some film of a bedroom on Britannia (Royal yacht) and there was a 700 style telephone in there. I wondered then what it might be connected to.

wireman 17th Jan 2022 6:32 pm

Re: On-board ship communications
 
The Titanic had a 50-line exchange, and some directly connected telephone circuits.

paulsherwin 17th Jan 2022 6:54 pm

Re: On-board ship communications
 
Quote:

Originally Posted by Sparks (Post 1441510)
Thankyou both. I remember once seeing some film of a bedroom on Britannia (Royal yacht) and there was a 700 style telephone in there. I wondered then what it might be connected to.

I don't think Britannia was typical of 1950s maritime fixtures and fittings :)

majoconz 17th Jan 2022 8:23 pm

Re: On-board ship communications
 
I was an RO on the "Empress of England" in the 60's. First Class cabins had telephones that were connected to a manual exchange in the back of the Purser's office - the bridge had a push-button phone where you could call other senior officers or specific locations on the ship but not connect into the Purser's system. If a passenger wanted to make a call to a shore station then that had to be organised through the Pursers office who would check with us to arrange the call - often difficult in the middle of the day as propagation was not good, evenings or early mornings were best. There was a little phone booth next to the Purser's office which connected to the radio room. Hopefully a full duplex call could be made but often only half-duplex or simplex was useable and the passenger had to be 'schooled' to say "over" at the appropriate times and use the PTT switch on the handset - often the passenger would be nervous and not let the PTT go!

Silicon 17th Jan 2022 11:30 pm

Re: On-board ship communications
 
I have read that morse keys were used for communication within ships.

kellys_eye 18th Jan 2022 9:06 am

Re: On-board ship communications
 
Quote:

Originally Posted by Silicon (Post 1441612)
I have read that morse keys were used for communication within ships.

You may be mistaking that for the Morse (Telegraph) used between wheelhouse and engine room to communicate engine demand. The 'morse' in this case is the name of the cable used to connect the two telegraph devices together - basically a sheathed steel wire physically connecting the two handles on the telegraph unit.

The wheelhouse would crank one handle to the required speed/direction and the engineroom would 'reply' by copying the handle position to acknowledge the call.

This was necessary as there is no direct connection between the wheelhouse and the engine (like a throttle cable and carburettor!) - the engineers had to make the necessary adjustments to the main engine in regard to speed and rotation direction.

russell_w_b 18th Jan 2022 11:06 am

Re: On-board ship communications
 
Quote:

Originally Posted by kellys_eye (Post 1441454)
Sound-powered telephones were fitted as critical safety systems and meant as emergency backup comms between bridge, engine room and steering compartments although many used them for 'ordinary' comms to such locations as required.

Sound-powered telephones are still deployed as a back-up. I believe their use was made compulsory after the SS Morro Castle disaster in 1934.

kellys_eye 18th Jan 2022 2:34 pm

Re: On-board ship communications
 
Quote:

Originally Posted by russell_w_b (Post 1441678)
[
Sound-powered telephones are still deployed as a back-up. I believe their use was made compulsory after the SS Morro Castle disaster in 1934.

Indeed - current regulations insist on 'un-powered' communications between bridge, engineroom and steering compartments as a minimum. This can be (and still is in some situations) achieved using 'voice pipes'!

Guest 18th Jan 2022 4:23 pm

Re: On-board ship communications
 
Quote:

This can be (and still is in some situations) achieved using 'voice pipes'!
And why not, very reliable not much chance of salt water corrosion affecting electrics.

Joe_Lorenz 18th Jan 2022 9:17 pm

Re: On-board ship communications
 
Yes, salt water corrosion is a problem less to "voice pipes".
I was told by a retired sailor - most seriously - they would have to use wooden "plugs" to prevent rodents to enter these pipes and thus disturbing communication. I cannot judge if this is/was true or sailor's yarn!

Regards, Joe

Silicon 18th Jan 2022 10:51 pm

Re: On-board ship communications
 
Some American ships had 'blinker' lights on either end of the yardarm.

They were used for non-directional communication and were operated by a telegraph key in the signal bridge.

Infra Red lights were mounted inboard of the blinkers and were used at night.

These were in addition to the searchlights operated by shutters that are often seen in the movies.

Refugee 19th Jan 2022 1:22 am

Re: On-board ship communications
 
Quote:

Originally Posted by Joe_Lorenz (Post 1441877)
Yes, salt water corrosion is a problem less to "voice pipes".
I was told by a retired sailor - most seriously - they would have to use wooden "plugs" to prevent rodents to enter these pipes and thus disturbing communication. I cannot judge if this is/was true or sailor's yarn!

Regards, Joe

I was told many years ago that they had a whistle stuck in them so that you blew down the pipe to make it work like a ringer. The rats would never get in unless the whistle got pinched.

dagskarlsen 19th Jan 2022 7:09 am

Re: On-board ship communications
 
My experience is limited to this ;D
http://www.classicrotaryphones.com/f...1914#msg181914

Dave Moll 19th Jan 2022 9:05 am

Re: On-board ship communications
 
Quote:

Originally Posted by Refugee (Post 1441919)
I was told many years ago that they [voice pipes] had a whistle stuck in them so that you blew down the pipe to make it work like a ringer. The rats would never get in unless the whistle got pinched.

That was certainly the case with the "speaking tubes" in (posh) Victorian houses, which were the same technology.

roadster541 19th Jan 2022 4:57 pm

Re: On-board ship communications
 
3 Attachment(s)
The ship, on which I am presently working, has an automatic electronic switchboard with phones in each cabin and all working and recreation areas.
There is also a voice powered system connecting bridge, engine room, steering/propulsion compartment, bow thruster room and emergency generator room. The voice powered system has a hand cranked ringer on each extension.
I have attached some pictures of the phones in the engine control room and bow thruster room and a typical cabin telephone.
The story about rodents in voice pipes does seem a bit unlikely as they did have a plug in them which doubled as a whistle.
The first ships, which I sailed on, built in the 1950s, only had telephone connection between bridge and engine room and possibly steering compartment. I don't think that there was even a phone link between ER and C/E cabin. These were traditional mechanical telegraph communication between bridge and ER with no engine control room, simply engine manoeuvering controls at one side or end of the engine. Telephone or voice pipe communication was difficult due to the high background noise levels in the ER.
Rod

kellys_eye 19th Jan 2022 5:08 pm

Re: On-board ship communications
 
Quote:

Originally Posted by Refugee (Post 1441919)
I was told many years ago that they had a whistle stuck in them so that you blew down the pipe to make it work like a ringer. The rats would never get in unless the whistle got pinched.

This much is true. Without the 'whistle' your attention could not be raised by simply shouting hence you had to blow down the tube to initial comms.

Guest 19th Jan 2022 8:37 pm

Re: On-board ship communications
 
Rod (roadster541) has it explained first hand. I ask if the cabin 'phones have "dial to land" capability? Mind you if I was on a cruise dialing for a cocktail would be more than adequate.

bikerhifinut 19th Jan 2022 8:52 pm

Re: On-board ship communications
 
Quote:

Originally Posted by kellys_eye (Post 1441644)
Quote:

Originally Posted by Silicon (Post 1441612)
I have read that morse keys were used for communication within ships.

You may be mistaking that for the Morse (Telegraph) used between wheelhouse and engine room to communicate engine demand. The 'morse' in this case is the name of the cable used to connect the two telegraph devices together - basically a sheathed steel wire physically connecting the two handles on the telegraph unit.

The wheelhouse would crank one handle to the required speed/direction and the engineroom would 'reply' by copying the handle position to acknowledge the call.

This was necessary as there is no direct connection between the wheelhouse and the engine (like a throttle cable and carburettor!) - the engineers had to make the necessary adjustments to the main engine in regard to speed and rotation direction.

I never saw such a device on any vessel I was on that didnt have direct bridge control of the engine.
The Telegraph was an electrical device that worked on the principle of the "Powerotor" .
A permanently polarised armature, bearing mounted, and moved by the electromagnetic field produced by interconnected coils in the stator section forms the receiver part of the system. And in the same manner, the transmitter section which is moved by the bridge control lever rotates an armature in the field produced in the transmitter stator, causing an imbalance in the field which is transmitted by wires to the engine room control platform. So the pointer in the ER moves and the imbalance is also used to operate a relay to sound a buzzer. When the command is acknowledged, the lever in the ER is moved and the pointer on the bridge receiver moves to match the engine movement commanded, and the buzzer stops.
Thats a rough precis I just dug out of my old cadet workbook, now falling apart.....................

Andy.

dagskarlsen 20th Jan 2022 6:02 am

Re: On-board ship communications
 
I have asked a little around, and it seems like the 3 most common solutions was:
1) Really old tube system with whistle
2)Magneto telephones with local batteries
3)Magneto telephones with voice powered transmitters

Guest 20th Jan 2022 8:28 am

Re: On-board ship communications
 
Quote:

The Telegraph was an electrical device that worked on the principle of the "Powerotor
So that is why in all the films I see the handle is waggled to the extremes before the wanted position, to reset the system. Also makes the bell ring.

paulsherwin 20th Jan 2022 10:29 am

Re: On-board ship communications
 
Again, I have no personal experience of these, but I know a range of electrical and mechanical systems were used for the engine order telegraph, depending on the era.

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Engine_order_telegraph

On modern ships everything is controlled electronically from the bridge of course, apart from when the emergency backup arrangements are in use.

The Royal Navy in particular distrusted electrical communications and believed they were vulnerable in combat. Most RN ships were still using speaking tubes and engine telegraphs well into the 50s.

roadster541 20th Jan 2022 12:41 pm

Re: On-board ship communications
 
In reply to Merlin's question, There wasn't generally a connection between ships' internal phone system and a shore line. In the pre satelite phone days, as mentioned in a previous post by an ex RO, any personal messages would have to go through the RO and be sent via HF radio if deep sea and generally only for serious health problems, births or deaths.
Nowadays there is generally Wifi on board for crew use as well as official business, using satelite phone at sea and local mobile network when in port.
Mechanical telegraphs were in use on new vessels up to around 1960. Those which I remember used a chain connection similar in size to a bicycle chain; not a problem when the bridge was directly above the ER, but when the bridge was midships and the ER aft, that would mean very long chain runs.
The electric telegraph took over in the 1960s and remained the primary means of engine control communication until bridge control of the main engine(s) became commonplace in the 1970s.
Rod

Dave757 20th Jan 2022 12:51 pm

Re: On-board ship communications
 
Hi,

I believe that the navy at one time had communications from lookout positions
on ships to 'whoever they reported to' using a morse key. Perhaps wind noise would
have been a problem with verbal communications.

I have seen such a device made by McGeoch's of Birmingham incorporating a morse key.

Kind regards
Dave

bikerhifinut 21st Jan 2022 12:10 am

Re: On-board ship communications
 
Quote:

Originally Posted by merlinmaxwell (Post 1442235)
Quote:

The Telegraph was an electrical device that worked on the principle of the "Powerotor
So that is why in all the films I see the handle is waggled to the extremes before the wanted position, to reset the system. Also makes the bell ring.

No that's Artistic licence, no such drama or histrionics in real life.

Andy.

bikerhifinut 21st Jan 2022 12:30 am

Re: On-board ship communications
 
Quote:

Originally Posted by roadster541 (Post 1442303)
In reply to Merlin's question, There wasn't generally a connection between ships' internal phone system and a shore line. In the pre satelite phone days, as mentioned in a previous post by an ex RO, any personal messages would have to go through the RO and be sent via HF radio if deep sea and generally only for serious health problems, births or deaths.
Nowadays there is generally Wifi on board for crew use as well as official business, using satelite phone at sea and local mobile network when in port.
Mechanical telegraphs were in use on new vessels up to around 1960. Those which I remember used a chain connection similar in size to a bicycle chain; not a problem when the bridge was directly above the ER, but when the bridge was midships and the ER aft, that would mean very long chain runs.
The electric telegraph took over in the 1960s and remained the primary means of engine control communication until bridge control of the main engine(s) became commonplace in the 1970s.
Rod

I may of course have been lucky in that I did my cadetship with a company that embraced relatively modern technology in its newbuilds, but none of the ships I sailed in that were built in the 1950s had anything other than a Robinsons or similar electric telegraph.
As to verbal comms, the sound powered telephone was present in all vessels to enable comms between all places that mattered, ie Bridge ER Steering Flat and masters bedroom. (not cabin)
and the old soundpipe to the masters cabin and ER was in evidence, and it was used.
Most ships I was in had a morse key of some sort on the bridge that operated an all round light usually mounted at the top of the signal mast above the wheelhouse, not used much but there in case.
a previous posters comment about "Shuttered searchlight" would be the Signal lamp, usually called the "Aldis" in much the same way as all vacuum cleaners are called "hoovers", there were a few methods of executing the shuttering action, some more reliable than others. They did make a usable portable searchlight though.
For reasons that may be explained by psychologists, Radio Officers capable of phenomenal morse speeds seemed to hate sending messages vis signal lamp, whereas deck officers like myself had a similar phobia about morse sent by "sound", this is a topic I have discussed with fellow radio amateurs and there must be a reason for it.
Andy

Pellseinydd 21st Jan 2022 12:17 pm

Re: On-board ship communications
 
Quote:

Originally Posted by Sparks (Post 1441429)
By this, I mean the likes of passenger cruise ships, cross-Channel ferries and so on. Were/are they fitted with GPO-style telephone exchanges with simple telephones in cabins, crew quarters, bridge, engine room etc ? Or were wired or wireless intercom or sound-powered telephones used ? I acknowledge that marine band VHF radio would be found on the bridge.

Thankyou.

I have one of the three GPO style pre-decimal 'Button A/B boxes that were fitted/used on the Canberra cruise liner until 1992. They then became 'unusable' because the old 'Florin' sized 10p piece was withdrawn in 1992. Although they were 'pre-decimal' the slots weren't the usual Penny/sixpence(6d)/shilling (1/-) .

Instead they had a 2/- (florin/two shilling) slot at the front with the usual 6d and shilling at the rear. There was a 'stick on' notice on the front of the A/B plate stating -
6d = 5 cents
1/- = 10 cents
2/- = 20 cents

Thus both old UK pre-decimal coins and Australian decimal coins could be used depending where the ship was. Not sure of New Zealand coinage?

The 'coin denomination' plate was the old style cast metal silver finish but with '2/-' for the front slot and the usual 6d and 1/- slots further back.

paulsherwin 21st Jan 2022 2:00 pm

Re: On-board ship communications
 
Both Australia and NZ decimalised the 'ten bob note' rather than the pound, giving 10 cents to the pre decimal shilling. Britain didn't do this because the pound sterling was still an important global reserve currency at the time.

Red to black 21st Jan 2022 8:58 pm

Re: On-board ship communications
 
What a fascinating subject!, thanks

rambo1152 22nd Jan 2022 1:57 am

Re: On-board ship communications
 
When I used to listen to ship-shore traffic, phone calls were often charged in Swiss Francs.

Sparks 22nd Jan 2022 11:04 am

Re: On-board ship communications
 
It appears our ships have covered all means of wired communications. Quite a melting pot.

Station X 22nd Jan 2022 2:11 pm

Re: On-board ship communications
 
Interesting video here with voice pipes etc. Engine room telegraph stuff starts about 18 minutes in:-

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ocUD07fvf48


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