Hank Bracker

“Being constantly active made time fly, and so it didn’t take long before the day of departure came. It was January 4, 1953, and with the last of everything we needed aboard, we set sail just as many did before us. We were among those that continued the tradition of... “they that go down to the sea in ships” and we were very aware that this tradition rested on our shoulders.
With the sound of three short blasts on the ship’s whistle, we backed away from the pier. This ship was unlike most ships of that era and we all noticed a definite difference in her sounds and vibrations. At that time, most American vessels were driven by steam propulsion that relied on superheating the water. The reciprocating steam engines, with their large pistons were the loudest as they hissed and wheezed, turning a huge crankshaft. Steam turbines were relatively vibration free, but live steam was always visible as it powered the many pumps, winches, etc. Steam is powerful and efficient, but can be dangerous and even deadly. Diesel engines were seldom used on the larger American ships of that era, and were not considered cost or energy efficient.
The Empire State was a relatively quiet ship since she only used steam power to drive the turbines, which then spun the generators that made the electricity needed to energize the powerful electric motors, which were directly geared to turn the propeller shafts. All in all, the ship was nearly vibration free, making for a smooth ride.”


Hank Bracker
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