Seeing those bells touches a tender spot. We used them for several years when I was on the Belle. Later, some ornery engineer cut the lines from the pilothouse and was about to chuck the bells. Mike Fitzgerald (may his shadow never grow less) saved the day and the bells. Later still, Bill Ray reconnected them, hoping this unique system could again be used. It didn't work out. The present-day engineers do not trust themselves to readily recognize the signals. The stopping bell has some sort of hitch in its gitalong. The pilots also lack this faith. All-in-all it is a sad story.
Anyone who has ever used a spreadsheet or studied basic computer programming can readily understand the system. It is a simple IF-THEN, GO-TO. If the engines are running and a bell rings, then goto the approriate speed or direction. If the engines are not running and a bell rings, then goto the appropriate speed or direction.
Once learned, the bell system is a fast and efficient means of communication. It frees the engineer from handling the telegraph. It can be heard all over the boat, so the engineer is not obliged to stay within earshot of the faint tinkle of the telegraph.
It is sad to lose this picturesque and historic means of communication when two hours of practice could make it work.