Antique engines like the Arthur Foss’s require more attention than modern diesels, keeping both engineers busy. More than 200 places must be oiled before starting the engine and re-oiled every few hours. While running the engine, engineers made every change manually, using levers, switches, and buttons to start, stop, and adjust. In addition to these tasks, engineers monitored temperatures and pressure levels just like their modern counterparts.
Engineers also remained alert for the bell that signaled a command from the bridge to change speed or go in reverse. When this signal came, the engineer on duty hurried to the aft starboard corner on the engine room’s lower level to make the change and signal the bridge in return. These tasks could keep the engineers so occupied that they lost contact with the world outside the engine room for hours at a time.