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Empress of Ireland - Voice Tubes

by Michele Gervais, Curatorial Projects Coordinator

Time 0:01:13


A major form of communication within the steamships that brought immigrants to Canada were voice tubes, or voice pipes, as this example seen display salvaged directly from the 1914 wreck of the RMS Empress of Ireland.

We built some working voice tubes as props in our exhibit to connect the Bridge (located here) to the Engine Room (located way over there).

The voice tubes would have been used crucially during Empress’s final moments as the fog closed in and Captain Kendall called orders from the Bridge to avoid a collision with the approaching coal ship Storstad.

We can only imagine some of the words that passed through them in those fateful moments. Voice tubes are a quick and effective form of communication but they couldn’t prevent the fateful collision.

Using prop brass cones salvaged from an old tug and conduit pipes, you can experience for yourself the clarity of the voice tube as your voice travels to the receiving end. You can even hear a whisper clearly through our tube system.

Full steam ahead!

Reverse Engines!

Full steam ahead!

Return to our Empress of Ireland video gallery. →