Spanish American War Website Banner

Boiler Rooms of the Cruiser OLYMPIA

By Patrick McSherry 
Please Visit our Home Page to learn more about the Spanish American War

If the OLYMPIA's  guns are its arms; its bridge, its brain; and its engines its legs....then its boilers are its stomach. In the OLYMPIA's immense boilers, the steam was created that powered the two 9,000 horsepower engines and various pieces of auxiliary equipment. Passing directly forward of the engine room, visitors would find themselves face to face with some of the vessel's boilers.

Passing through the hatch from the engine room, the visitor would find himself staring at the ends of one of the four double-ended boilers, with its four furnaces. To the right, a hatch leads to the coal bunker. To the left is a hatch which would have lead into an identical boiler room. Between the two boiler rooms, and actually between two of the boilers, a passageway exists that would lead forward, to the opposite end of the boilers, where more furnaces existed. Using this passageway when the boilers were fired up must have been dangerous, since the passage is narrow and the surrounding boilers must have made the bulkheads very hot. A roll of the sip would throw the stoker against the heated bulkhead.

A Boiler Room aboard the Cruiser Olympia

In this image, two of the four furnaces in this boiler can be seen. Behind the stoker, the hatch leading into a coal bunker can be seen. The railing in the foreground is a more recent addition and would not have been here originally.

Overall, work in the boiler rooms was extremely uncomfortable. In addition to the tremendous heat from the furnaces, and the back-breaking work of shoveling coal, the stokers, water tenders, etc. had to deal with the roar of the steam and nearby engines, and also suffer from the coal dust that filled the air.

The boilers of the OLYMPIA are called "fire tube" boilers or "scotch" boilers. These boilers, of an older type than the type that was becoming more common, had the heated air from the furnaces' fireboxes pass though tubes, which, in turn, passed through the reservoir of water. The more modern "water tube" boilers had the water pass through the firebox. The fire tube boilers took more time to heat up, were more dangerous if an accident should arise (more boiling water to deal with) and weighed much more than more modern boilers.

On OLYMPIA, there were 4 double-ended boilers, and 2 single-ended boilers. Each "end" of a boiler had four furnaces each, which were used to heat the water in the boiler. This gave OLYMPIA 824 square feet of grate area and 28,298.64 square feet of heating surface.

Return to Tour Introduction Page

Return to the Engine Room Page

Proceed to the Coal Bunker Page

To visit the website bibliography, click here. To visit the website video bibliography, click here
Support this Site by Visiting the Website Store! (help us defray costs!)
We are providing the following service for our readers. If you are interested in books, videos, CD's etc. related to the Spanish American War, simply type in "Spanish American War" (or whatever you are interested in) as the keyword and click on "go" to get a list of titles available through

Visit Main Page for copyright data

Return to Main Page

Return to Tour Introduction Page