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Bismarck steering gear?

Posted: Mon May 08, 2006 3:20 pm
by Karl Heidenreich
I know that some of you are going to laugh about this (specially Foeth) but there it goes: In a Battleship, specially in Bismarck, how did the steering gear worked? I mean, physically: how the command at the helm at the bridge translates in movement in the rudders at the bow? Wires? Hydraulics? Where and how does the system travels from the bridge to the bow?

Posted: Wed May 10, 2006 9:08 pm
by marcelo_malara
In Hood, Warspite and Dreadnought, the movement of the steering wheel in the bridge or conning tower turned a vertical shaft, which ended in a bevel gear under the protective deck. There the movement was transferred to a horizontal shaft which ended in a valve box abaft the engine room. The valve box controlled the steam flow to two steam piston engines, which turned via various gears a horizontal shaft that run to the section of the hull over the rudder. The final portion of the shaft was screwed, and as the shaft turned, a piece travelled fore and aft, moving a tiller that turned the rudder.

Posted: Wed May 10, 2006 9:17 pm
by Karl Heidenreich
Somewhere in this very forum someone (I can´t remember who) wrote that Bismarck steering system was a little more complex than in other BBs. Is that so?
Best regards.

Posted: Wed May 10, 2006 10:21 pm
by marcelo_malara
Really don´t have Bismarck steering arrangement, but the ones I have are already quiet complex!!!

Posted: Thu May 11, 2006 11:08 pm
by Dave Saxton
The primary system on the Bismarck class was electric. The helm was actually push buttons. It was a drive by wire system. This electronic system was also integrated into the fire control systems. Minor adjustments in target angle and gun laying for bearing were made by adjusting course automatically by the fire control system. Disabling of the stearing may have had an effect on fire control effectiveness after the crippling? Thomas can probably provide more detailed data on the technical aspects of the electronic systems.

At the time of Bismarck's sailing, I'm not convinced they had all the bugs worked out. The stearing jammed momentarily while entering Denmark St, and a collision with PG was barely adverted. Lindemann had to shout commands up to the conning tower, adjusting the power to each screw.

They were back up systems incuding a huge manual wheel, directly coupled, in the stern. It required several men to literally manhandle it. The crew of one of the 5.9" turrets were assigned to man the manual backup system.

Posted: Thu May 11, 2006 11:25 pm
by Karl Heidenreich
There was not a steering wheel (traditional helm) at the bridge? :think:

Posted: Thu May 11, 2006 11:42 pm
by marcelo_malara
So Dave, the Deutschland class had had the same system for a number of years at the time of Bismarck entering service, the bugs should had been solved by then.

Posted: Sat May 13, 2006 7:44 pm
by Ulrich Rudofsky
The pushbutton system is well illustrated in a number of commonly available books. The helmsman did not even have a window. As far as I remember it was just three buttons port, starboard and straight ahead.

Posted: Tue May 16, 2006 1:59 am
by tommy303
Hi Ulrich,

The helm console consisted of a right and left rudder button. On Bismarck there were helm consoles on the peacetime navigation bridge--one in the wheel house and one on the open gallery in front of the wheel house. The latter was normally used when docking or manouvering in harbour so that orders could be more quickly passed to the helmsman.

A third was provided in the conning tower.

My memory is a little fuzzy about it, but I believe the tempoary breakdown when Bismarck almost rammed the Prinz Eugen occurred as Prinz Eugen was pulling ahead of Bismarck after the latter's radar broke down from the shock of gunfire when she engaged Norfolk. It would seem that Lindemann was shifting position from the navigation bridge to the conning tower The changeover required the helmsman in the conning tower to coordinate with the helmsman in the wheel house. If a mistake was made, and the helm console in one position was not set to inactive before the other was set to active, the rudders would jam and the ship would be out of control.

Posted: Tue May 16, 2006 11:41 am
by Ulrich Rudofsky

Yes, sir, it could have been simply an operational snafu like that rather than a severe technical or design failure that so many people have come to believe in. All we know is what Prinz Eugen saw (excerpt PG KTB):

2020 / 2020 hours-
Der schwere Kreuzer hält Bb. achteraus Fühlung. Bismarck sendet Kurzsignal.
Enemy cruiser maintains surveillance off portside stern [underlined by hand]. Bismarck sends encrypted signal.

2037 / 2037 hours-
auf Kurs 230°.
course 230º.

2044 / 2044 hours-
Kommt der schwere Kreuzer auf Bb-achteraus in 206° Seitenrichtung in Sicht, eröffnet Feuer auf Prinz Eugen. Verband geht auf Höchstfahrt. Prinz Eugen setzt sich auf Befehl Flotte vor Bismarck. Während des Aufdampfens an Stb. von Bismarck auf Bismarck Ruderversager. Ruderlage Stb.. Prinz Eugen kann nur durch 40° Hartlage (bei der hohen Fahrt sonst nicht zulässig) sich einer weiteren Annäherung entziehen.
The heavy cruiser comes into view at port astern at 206° azimuth, and opens fire on Prinz Eugen. [Underlined by hand by Brinkmann. UR]. The formation goes to flank speed. Prinz Eugen positions himself according to Fleet order in front of Bismarck. While picking up steam to starboard of Bismarck, Bismarck has rudder failure. Rudder position is starboard. Prinz Eugen is able to extract himself from closing further by 40° hard full rudder (which, as a rule, is not allowed at this high speed).

2048 / 2048 hours-
[Considerable illegible handwritten comments and underlines by Brinkmann and someone else. UR]
Auf Kurs 190°.
course 190º.

Posted: Tue May 16, 2006 5:55 pm
by Bgile
I bet there was some serious spilled coffee!

Posted: Tue May 16, 2006 7:41 pm
by Ulrich Rudofsky
You are right. Spilled coffee, yes, and also a lot of Ego! It is quite possible that tommy's scenario is right. It may not have been a mechanical failure afterall :lol: , but simply helmsman or command switching errors :oops: :oops: :oops:

Posted: Tue May 16, 2006 9:16 pm
by tommy303
Hallo Ulrich,

I should imagine, that had the temporary loss of control been due to a mechanical or electrical fault, it might have taken some time to track down the problem and put right. However, Bismarck appears to have regained control very quickly, which is in line with a mix up at the helm consoles (which I seem to recall being the case, if not with Bismarck, at least with another major KM vessel--unfortunately I simply cannot recall which ship). Correction of having two helm units active at the same time would have been merely a matter of setting both to inactive, informing the electrical switching board room of the problem in case they needed to reset a circuit breaker, and then setting the proper helm to active--and voila, helm control regained.