Transmission 13: Drew Bello

Arthur Bello, engineer and boiler room operator, is pictured bottom row, fifth person in from the left. Courtesy of Drew Bello.

Arthur Bello, engineer and boiler room operator, is pictured bottom row, fifth person in from the left. Courtesy of Drew Bello.

When Uncle Art was supervising the installation of the propellers, he met William Francis Gibbs.  Art said to Gibbs, “Real fine lines – that’s a beauty!” to which Gibbs responded “That she is.”

He told me that the SS United States had special, secret trials runs where she ran on two engines that peaked at 200 RPM and two that reached 199 and 201 respectively. The ship ran at 1000/1000, meaning 1,000 degrees Fahrenheit with 1,000 pounds of steam pressure. When she went against two naval Destroyers in Cape Henry, Virginia, the Navy’s radar system recorded the 5-mile run — the SS United States blew the Destroyers out of the water. Apparently the Navy then placed restrictive plates, steam chokes, on the engine to reduce the steam going in, thereby decreasing her RPMs. Originally her horsepower was 67,000, but the restrictive plates toned it down.

Art was the second engineer, then eventually into moved to the boiler room. Following the maiden voyage, the SS United States ran on six boilers with thirteen burner total, six on the steam side, seven on the opposite side. When they were all roaring, he said the white heat flames resembled Hell.

My brother passed away in a tragic clubhouse fire when he was just a child. One week later, my father and I were able to board the Big U with my uncle. At the time, I believe my father and I were the only civilians who saw the engine room. Since then, I’ve felt like the ship was my adoptive brother.

— Drew Bello, nephew of Arthur Bello, Second Engineer and Boiler Room Operator