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Old 17th Jan 2022, 1:13 pm   #1
Sparks
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Default 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.

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Old 17th Jan 2022, 2:24 pm   #2
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Default 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
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Old 17th Jan 2022, 3:08 pm   #3
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Default 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.
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Old 17th Jan 2022, 5:54 pm   #4
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Default 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.
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Old 17th Jan 2022, 6:32 pm   #5
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Default Re: On-board ship communications

The Titanic had a 50-line exchange, and some directly connected telephone circuits.
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Old 17th Jan 2022, 6:54 pm   #6
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Default Re: On-board ship communications

Quote:
Originally Posted by Sparks View Post
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
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Old 17th Jan 2022, 8:23 pm   #7
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Default 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!
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Old 17th Jan 2022, 11:30 pm   #8
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Default Re: On-board ship communications

I have read that morse keys were used for communication within ships.
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Old 18th Jan 2022, 9:06 am   #9
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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.
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Old 18th Jan 2022, 11:06 am   #10
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Default Re: On-board ship communications

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Originally Posted by kellys_eye View Post
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.
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Old 18th Jan 2022, 2:34 pm   #11
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Default Re: On-board ship communications

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[
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'!
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Old 18th Jan 2022, 4:23 pm   #12
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Default 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.
 
Old 18th Jan 2022, 9:17 pm   #13
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Default 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!

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Old 18th Jan 2022, 10:51 pm   #14
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Default 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.
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Old 19th Jan 2022, 1:22 am   #15
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Default Re: On-board ship communications

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Originally Posted by Joe_Lorenz View Post
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.
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Old 19th Jan 2022, 7:09 am   #16
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Default Re: On-board ship communications

My experience is limited to this
http://www.classicrotaryphones.com/f...1914#msg181914
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Old 19th Jan 2022, 9:05 am   #17
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Default Re: On-board ship communications

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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.
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Old 19th Jan 2022, 4:57 pm   #18
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Default Re: On-board ship communications

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.
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Old 19th Jan 2022, 5:08 pm   #19
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Refugee View Post
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.
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Old 19th Jan 2022, 8:37 pm   #20
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Default 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.
 
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