Another disadvantage to the quadruple expansion engine, apart from vibration and sub-optimal performance, is complexity of the machinery. A mariner at the time made this comment about the pins joining the pistons to connecting rods:
"The vessel has two sets of quadruple expansion engines,
I believe this means there would be four of these pins in each
set of engines. Now, if one of these pins
were to break say the high pressure cylinder
where the steam enters from the
boilers, and where, of course, the greatest
steam is, the connecting rod would immediately
fly over with a crash, and probably
go through the skin lining, and thus cause
an inrush of water before anything could
he done to stop the leak."
The Waratah had two engine rooms housing the steam engines and if this were to have happened, water could have rushed into the one engine room causing a rapid and marked list to that side before action could be taken to secure the gash in the hull. Under such circumstances the Waratah would list dangerously. A heavily loaded Waratah, lower in the water with reduced buoyancy, would not have taken kindly to a deteriorating situation of this nature. One of the pins could have failed under circumstances where Captain Ilbery pushed a very heavy steamer, with fire on board, in an attempt to reach port.
I have assumed the Waratah must have struck a reef off Cape Hermes to have foundered as quickly as she did. But there are other scenarios such as this would could equally account for the rapid sinking of a steamer. She could also have struck half submerged wreckage, which had potential to cause major damage. Whatever it was, one moment there were running lights and the next, after the smoke cleared, a void where once the great steamer made a gallant attempt to return to Durban.