What really sank the Lusitania?

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Theories abound as to whether or not a failure in the Lusitania’s steam engines and piping was the cause of the ill-fated second explosion that sank the ship so rapidly on May 7, 1915.

The 787-foot passenger ship has long been believed to have been sunk by a torpedo from a German U-boat during World War I.

Now, enthusiasts can get a better look at the design and structure of the vessel Sept. 15 at Swann Galleries in New York City.

The original mechanical plan of the Lusitania’s steam piping by its builders [estimate : $10,000-$15,000], drawn in 1907, could hold some clues to the disaster. Filed on Nov. 25 of that year, the ship was likely inspected the day the drawing was created.

Titled “Q.S.T.S. Lusitania, Arrangement of Steam Piping to Deck Machinery, Thermotanks, Galleys and Pantries, Main Deck Forw’d,” this drawing is an artifact of a renowned ship and nautical tragedy.

Other sale highlights include:

• The letter from King Charles II authorizing Edmund Andros to take possession of New York from the Dutch, also dubbed “New York State’s Birth Certificate.” This manuscript, acquired as Lot 1 in the Malcolm Forbes auction in 2002, is estimated at $100,000-$150,000.

• George Washington’s running account with his personal physician, James Craik, detailing the medical care of Washington, his family and his slaves — estimated at $15,000-$25,000.

• Historical photographs of volunteer firemen on Fremont Street in Tombstone taken in 1885, just four years after the gunfight at the O.K. Corral. Few images survive of early Tombstone, and this one appears to be otherwise unknown. Estimate $3,000-$4,000.

“The Eric C. Caren Collection is unusual and in many instances, exceptional,” says Rick Stattler, director of Printed & Manuscript Americana at Swann Auction Galleries. “Ranging from the birth certificate of New York State to Beatles memorabilia, the collection is both inclusive and accessible — with lots starting from $200 and up.”

For information about the Eric C. Caren Collection, call (212) 871-3020, Ext. 100.