The Management and Care of the

Main Engines and Auxiliaries

of the Battleship OREGON

Written by William G. Reitzel; Contributed by Richard Reitzel 
Click here to read the wartime letters of OREGON's  Asst. Engineer Joseph Mason Reeves
To read an account of  Engine Room life on OLYMPIA, click here.
To see the Cruiser OLYMPIA's engine room, click here
This article is extremely rare and unique. It is the brief manual written by one of the Battleship OREGON's engine room crew explaining how to prepare and maintain the OREGON's engines. Information f this type is very rare. The work of the crew who worked below decks is frequently forgotten. Conditions were very difficult (read about a typical engine room experience by clicking here), and the work was not glamorous as was firing the guns. The engines were triple expansion steam engines meaning that when the first piston was expanded by steam, the steam was not exhausted but was directed into a second cylinder, expanding that piston. Again, the steam was then exhausted into a third cylinder expanding the third piston before being exhausted, The steam was used three times, leading to the term "triple expansion engine."

The manual's author was William G. Reitzel. Reitzel was born in Alden, N.Y. in April 1881. His father died in a rail accident in 1895 and shortly thereafter his mother remarried. Will and his stepfather did not get along and so he left home and on September 15, 1898, at the age of seventeen, he enlisted in the US Navy.

While he never saw action during the Spanish American War he did serve on the Battleship OREGON from Oct. 12th 1898 until July 26th 1901. He was aboard when the OREGON left New York harbor to return to the Asiatic Squadron, saw action during the Philippine-American War participating in the U.S. blockade of Manila Bay and the Lingayen Gulf and the bombardment and capture of the Philippine city of Vigan. In June of 1900 the OREGONwas enroute to Taku, China to assist in the China Relief Expedition when the ship was wrecked in the Straits of Pechili. In August 1900 the OREGON returned to the coast of China and cruised off the Yangtze River serving as a station ship at Woosung during the Boxer Rebellion. During an engagement Will was knocked unconscious and had both eardrums ruptured from the blast of a cannon.

After his discharge he returned to Western New York, then to New Jersey where he worked at Standard Oil and married a girl he met there. Around 1909 they moved back to Western New York where they raised their family. Over the years Will was employed at Pierce Arrow Co., Bell Aircraft and operated a couple small businesses of his own. He was a member of the Spanish American War Veterans society in Buffalo and, a hardcore Republican, was always active in local politics. He died in Springville, N.Y. in October, 1948.

His younger brother, Titus, served in the Army Air Service during World War I. As of this writing, March 2004; two grandchildren, seven great grandchildren, ten great-great grandchildren and four great-great-great grandchildren survive Will Reitzel.

The Manual:

"Preparing to get underway.

When preparing to get underway delays may be caused by gaskets blowing out, a valve coming off its stem, a lever or screw sticking, relief valve springs breaking, stuffing boxes leaking, etc.

For this reason it is better to have all auxiliary machinery running and turn main engines about an hour before time for getting underway.

First turn steam on capstan and see that it is all ready for heaving short. It is understood that all engines of any size should be will drained and oiled before starting.

See that all men are at their stations. Open outlet delivery and injection and start circulating and then start the air pump.

 Turn steam on cylinder jackets if any and drain them. Start the engine stop valves off their seats and allow steam and hot air from boiler, which by this time should have begun to form, to pass through engines to condenser beside warning cylinders, this steam will help to form a vacuum. See that drains of cylinders and steam chests are open. They should be shut when steam instead of water comes through. If engines are of 3000 I.H.P. or larger are warming up see that there is nothing stowed about moving parts of engine that will get caught or anything loose around engine room that will roll in moving parts when ship rolls. Fill cups and oil cans, see that wicks are in good condition and oil pipes clear.

It is well to put wicks in and give journals a chance to be well oiled.

When the oiler makes his rounds he should see that none of the jam nuts are loose or split pins out and all grummets & covers removed. Also slacken nuts on stern gland stuffing boxes.

If a clutch coupling, see that it is coupled up properly, not too tight or to loose, and see that everything in the shaft alley is properly secured for sea. Try all valves on water service and see that water will flow through and leave them all open except the main valve so that when getting underway there will only be one valve to open.

Examine bilge pumps and strainers and wee that they are o.k. and try pump to see that suction is clear. Warm up and try reversing engine. Turn steam on and try steering engine."

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