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USS Texas Hard Hat Tour

Here, months after the fact, are a few of my pictures from the Hard Hat Tour of USS Texas (BB 35) that I took in October. There are two mysteries for MO readers to help the Texas staff solve, so be sure to check out the whole post and sound off if you have some answers for us.

The auxiliary rudder control deep in the bowels of the ship, back near the stern. Four wheels to steer in the event of battle damage disabling the regular controls. Someone on the bridge would call down with the heading and 16 men would manhandle the rudder from here. Note the quality of the woodwork, remembering that this is an emergency system deep in the ship, never to be seen by the public. Also note the widespread rust in the compartment. This was flooded for several years before a major restoration in 1988.

This is one of the ship’s oil-fired boilers. This compartment, too, was flooded at one time. The rust line was near the overhead of this boiler room, showing the extent of the flooding.

Here is the boiler next to the one in the previous picture. As you can see, it’s been partially restored. Though it’s difficult to make out in the picture, each of the silver-painted round openings is normally covered as in the other picture. If you look closely, you can see that one (in the bottom center of the picture) is covered on this one.

TEXAS MYSTERY #1: Which ship were these boilers originally intended for?

The Texas was converted from a coal-fired to an oil-fired ship in the aftermath of the post-WW1 naval limitation treaties. A number of US capital ships, including the entire South Dakota class of battleships, were cancelled. Much of the machinery intended for these cancelled ships was used to modernize older ships, and the Texas’ boilers came from one (or more) of them. I asked which ship’s boilers the Texas received, and the docent told me that they had been unsuccessful in their attempts to discover the answer to that question.

So, MO readers, can you help? Do you know where to find out which ship the Texas’ oil-fired boilers were originally intended for? Do you know someone who might know? (It’s probably either a South Dakota-class battleship or a Lexington-class battlecruiser. Another possibility would be the Colorado-class USS Washington, though I don’t know if she got her boilers before she was cancelled.) Let me know, and if it can be verified I’ll proudly pass the information on to the Texas group.

Here’s a target indicator in the plot room. Information would be dialed down from spotters for the men targeting the ships batteries.

Here’s another shot of the plot room. These boards were for, if I recall correctly, anti-aircraft batteries.

This is, obviously, the electrical board for the ship. It took up the entire bulkhead. The compartment, really more of a passageway, was too cramped to get a full picture of the thing. Barely visible under the arm of another guest, is a wooden railing that ran the length of the passageway to keep crewmen from being thrown into the circuitry by rough seas, sudden maneuvers, or hits by enemy fire. And, I imagine, broadsides by the Texas herself.

This is the meter showing the ship’s draft.

TEXAS MYSTERY #2: What is this thing?

This picture was taken in the compartment called Central Station (A-118), which contained the secondary wheel. I think that if the main wheel in the pilot house and the wheel in the Central Station were both disabled, it would fall on the multiple wheels in Steering Room noted above. Nobody seems to know what this handle is for. They’ve tried to follow it up but haven’t had any luck. It’s on the starboard side of the compartment, near the forward bulkhead. Anyone know? Show your grandpa that was in the Navy or something.

As you can probably tell, this is inside one of the main turrets, No. 1 in this case. The breech of the starboard 14″ gun is open and you’re looking at some powder bags.

Here’s another, closer, view of the breech. For a drawing showing the interior of the turret, see this. The drawing even has the breech open.

Last, but not least, is the pilot house. Very cool.

Murdoc heartily recommends the Hard Hat Tour for anyone interested in seeing parts of an old battleship that are normally closed to the public. These photos should give you an idea of the sorts of things you’ll encounter and learn about, and you can see that it’s probably not for the average Joe. Still, I think anyone with even a passing interest in ships, engineering, or naval history will find it three hours well-spent. They ask for a $30 donation for everyone who takes the tour, and I’ll vouch for the worthiness of the collection.

The planned major rennovation of the ship recently lost its federal funding, and the ship is in trouble. Go check her out if you get a chance.

Upcoming tours are on January 20, March 17, and May 5, 2007. You must pre-register. Contact information is on the Hard Hat Tour page.

If you go and get a lot of good pictures, contact me. I didn’t get nearly as many pictures as I wanted, in part because I was so engrossed in what I was learning from the guides and in part because I was busy poking my flashlight into nooks and crannies searching for (and finding) additional interesting stuff. I meant to return to the ship for a regular visit a couple of days later, so I held off taking a lot of pictures in public areas for my return visit. But the return didn’t work out and I came back with far fewer pics than I intended.

I could spend a day (no joke) just knocking around the place. A week, if they’d let me wander about in the non-public areas.

Here’s the Texas in action off the coast of France in WW2:

Bombardment of Cherbourg, June 1944
A heavy German coast artillery shell falls between USS Texas (BB-35), in the background, and USS Arkansas (BB-33), while the two battleships were engaging Battery Hamburg during the bombardment of Cherbourg, France, 25 June 1944.

I didn’t take that picture.

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Comments

  • Matt says:

    Thanks for the info Murdoc… The Hard Hat tour of the USS Texas looks really interesting.

  • Scott Flathouse says:

    Did the hard hat tour include the Main Battery Fire Control House? I was visiting the ship this weekend, and noticed the lights inside the Fire Control House, and was wondering if there were any special tours that went up that far.

  • Philip Anthony Champagne says:

    I had, and did donate to Military Museum at Fort Taber in New Bedford, Massachusetts, a photo of the Texas arriving Havana 1939. On the fantail, Rear Adm. & 8 USMC orderlies, incl. P.F.C. Ludger A. Champagne (Dad), later to appear w. flamethrower, 45, and machete in Flags of Our Fathers’ as a Staff Sgt.

  • Rob LeBlanc says:

    My brother-in-law and I just toured the USS Texas this past weekend (03-01-08) and are interested in the hard hat tour in May. I do have a question though…at the end of the tour, the guide told us that there were 5000 ships that crossed the English Channel for D-Day, and the USS Texas was one of only 4 left. What are the other 3?

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