Where and how was the Titanic built?

Before RMS Titanic had even left Southampton in April 1912, the ominous signs of tragedy were there. Thousands of people had gathered at the port to greet friends and family and catch a glimpse of the record-breaking ship, then the largest ship in the world. To the chagrin of the spectators, Titanic was almost immediately met with disaster: as the ship was pulled out of the dock by tugs and began to move away, the shifting water caused the nearby SS New York City be drawn to the new vessel. Quick thinking by Captain Smith and a nearby tug succeeded in preventing a collision and New York City was towed out of harm’s way, but a serious accident which could have led to the cancellation of the trip was avoided by very little.

The Edwardian era was a golden age of shipbuilding. Developments in steamships allowed people to cross oceans faster and more safely than ever before. Soon luxurious passenger ships were being built, attracting well-paying clientele, and companies tried to outdo each other with increasingly lavish ships – no expense was spared.

Dominating the oceans

The White Star Line was founded in 1869 by English shipowner Thomas Henry Ismay. First a freight carrier, the company quickly became one of the most prestigious in transatlantic passenger traffic and, from 1908, began working on three liners: RMS OlympicRMS Titanic and RMS Giganticlater renamed British. The trio of ships, which made up White Star Line’s Olympic class, were intended to give the company an edge over its rivals and were renowned for their comfort, luxury and reliability rather than speed. Belfast shipbuilders Harland and Wolff undertook most of the design work for Titanic.

Thomas Henry Ismay, founder of the White Star Line company. (Image by Alamy)

The team was led by Naval Architect Thomas Andrews, assisted by Assistant Naval Architect Edward Wilding and Chief Draftsman Alexander Carlisle. Andrews had taken over the role of chief architect from Carlisle, who had officially retired in 1910, although he continued to work on the project as a consultant. It was Carlisle who was responsible for of the titanic graceful lines, as well as a design – rejected – to allow Titanic carry twice as many lifeboats.

Thomas Andrews, Chief Naval Architect of the Titanic

Thomas Andrews, chief naval architect of the Titanic. (Image by Alamy)

Lord Pirrie, who was director of both Harland and Wolff and White Star Line, was responsible for the whole project. In July 1908, plans for Titanic were officially endorsed by Joseph Bruce Ismay, President of White Star Line and son of founder Thomas Henry Ismay. Olympic and Titanic were built next to each other, with work beginning on Olympic in December 1908 and the Titanic the following March.

A colossal task

Harland and Wolff was considered one of Britain’s most prestigious shipbuilders. But despite being the largest shipyard in the world, the company initially did not have facilities large enough to build these two gigantic ships. Three holds were therefore converted into two larger holds to accommodate the huge ships. A steel gantry was added, along with cranes and electric lifts. The usual workforce of 6,000 people has more than doubled for the construction of the two Titanic and Olympic.

It took 26 months to Titanic to build. The first to be built was her keel – the backbone and the very bottom of the ship. The hull, the watertight steel body, was then built around it. Four 20-meter funnels towered over the ship and ensured that it dwarfed any other ship. 269 ​​meters long, Titanic was the largest man-made moving object in the world. Expectations were certainly high.

Plans for the new liners White Star Line, Titanic and Olympic

The plans of the new liners White Star Line, Titanic and Olympic. (Photo by SSPL/Getty Images)

Harland and Wolff was one of Belfast’s largest employers. Many shipyard workers lived with their families on the streets around the docks. Working in a shipyard was difficult and dangerous, and 246 injuries were recorded during Titanic was under construction – including severed limbs, falling from the ship or crushed legs under steel. There were also eight fatalities during construction and one worker died on the day the ship was launched when a wooden support fell on him.

When was Titanic spear ?

Just after noon on May 31, 1911, Titanic was launched in Belfast in front of a crowd of around 100,000 people. Those lucky enough to have tickets watched from the slipway, with many more standing on the banks as the ship glided through the Lagan River. Titanic was then towed to her accommodation basin further down the river at Thompson’s Dock, the largest purpose-built drydock in the world at the time, where the ship’s machinery and interiors were installed.

The Titanic was powered by two nine-meter-tall steam engines, which drove the ship’s three propellers: two directly and one via a turbine. The ship’s 29 boilers were powered by 159 furnaces, which required 660 tons of coal per day. It allowed Titanic to reach a top speed of 24 knots (28 mph).

Some of Titanic's 29 massive boilers in the Harland and Wolff shipyard

Some of Titanic’s 29 massive boilers in the Harland and Wolff shipyard, ready to be installed. (Photo by SSPL/Getty Images)

Those who were wealthy enough to travel first class were surrounded by luxury and comfort. No expense has been spared and everything has been specially designed, from the gold light fixtures to the oak staircases.

Second class accommodation and facilities rivaled those of first class on board of the titanic rival ships. Even for third-class passengers, the standards would have been better than many of them were used to. The ship had 10 decks, of which eight passengers could use. Only the two lower decks were out of bounds: these were the orlop deck, where the cargo was stored, and the top of the tank, the bowels of the ship and the deck on which the machinery and boiler rooms were located.

Why did people think that Titanic was ‘unsinkable’?

White Star Line marketed both Olympic and Titanic as “practically unsinkable” – and declared it in a 1910 advertising brochure. of the titanic the hull had 16 special watertight compartments, which could be sealed in an emergency and prevent water from damaged sections from flooding the rest of the ship. The ship could stay afloat if no more than four of its forward compartments were flooded – but when the collision with the iceberg occurred, the impact caused six compartments to open to the sea. Numerous bulkheads ( walls between compartments) had watertight doors, which closed automatically in an emergency. Also, although the bulkheads extended above the waterline, they were not covered at the top – in other words, water could (and did) spill over the top in neighboring compartments.

On February 3, 1912, Titanic moved to the drydock, where her huge propellers were added. After a final coat of paint, Titanic was complete. It could hold up to 3,547 passengers and crew and, when full, weighed over 52,000 tons. A number of sea trials were carried out to ensure the engines were in full working order and to see how the vessel handled at different speeds, with a practical emergency stop proving it could be stopped from a speed of 20 knots (23 mph) in just over half a mile.

The anchor of the White Star Titanic liner is carried to its destination in Belfast by horse-drawn cart

The anchor of the White Star Titanic liner is carried to its destination in Belfast by horse-drawn cart. (Photo by Thematic News Agency/Getty Images)

From Belfast, the ship heads for Southampton to prepare for her maiden voyage. of the titanic the first trip was originally scheduled for March 20, 1912, but was delayed; in September 1911, Olympic had been involved in a collision with HMS Hawkewhich had diverted manpower and resources from of the titanic building for Olympic Games repairs. Who knows what could have happened if Titanic departed on her original sailing date in March, before the ice region extended so far south?

On April 10, after a near miss with New York City, the Titanic was finally ready to begin its journey to New York. Crowds lined Southampton Dock to say goodbye to friends and family and catch a glimpse of the magnificent ship. Titanic sailed to Cherbourg in France and then Queenstown (now Cobh) in Ireland to pick up more passengers, many of whom hoped to start a new life in America. On April 11, Titanic left Europe and sailed the Atlantic.

The construction of the Titanic in numbers

159 | The number of ovens supplied of the titanic boilers

176 | The number of firefighters (drivers) who shoveled coal into the furnaces and kept them running

£1.5m | The cost of building Titanic. Today that equates to around £120million

£2 | The weekly salary of a construction worker Harland and Wolff

22 | How many buses could fit in the length of Titanic

9 | The number of workers killed during the construction and launch of the ship

This article first appeared in the July 2021 issue of BBC History Revealed

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