You better make that two donuts...
In 1907, a limousine pulled up in front of a mansion. A man of medium height, with a dark mustache steps out of the car. He walked quickly up the stone path, and up the steps too the entrance. As he enters, the butler quickly removes his long overcoat, and top hat. This man’s name is John Bruce Ismay; he is the president of the White Star Line.
John Pilkington, and Henry Threlfall Wilson formed the White Star Line in 1845. All of the White Star Line’s business was conducted in Liverpool, England. This Shipping Line was started mainly to be involved in the Australian gold rush. The White Star Line Shipping Company used charted sailing ships from the time the company came into existence. Not until 1863 did the White Star Line acquire a steamer. After the fall of the Australian gold rush, the White Star Line concentrated on the shipping route between Liverpool and New York. In 1867, they invested heavily in new steamers, and at that time the Royal Bank of Liverpool failed. This disaster left the company bankrupt, with the outstanding debt of $527,000.00, and no way to pay it back. Thomas Ismay was the president of the White Star Line at this time [Bruce Ismay’s father] and came into contact with men by the name of Gustavus C. Schaube, and Gustav Wolff. If Thomas Ismay would agree to have Gustav Wolff [Harland & Wolff ship-builders] build his ships, Wolff’s uncle Schaube, would finance the ship-line. Thomas agreed, and a new partnership was formed between the White Star Line shipping company, and the Harland & Wolff, ship-builders. The agreement was this, H&W would build ships at cost, plus a fixed percentage, and they would not build ships for White Star Line’s rivals. So, on July 30th, 1869 the first orders were arranged with H&W. It was to be a new class of liners, the oceanic class. There would be four ships in this class, the Oceanic, Atlantic, Baltic, and Republic, and by 1871 the shipping company was on route again between New York and Liverpool.
Through the next years, the White Star Line would abound in profits. The shipping company also acquired new ships such as the Germanic, Teutonic, Majestic, Celtic, Cedric, Baltic, and Adriatic, all of these built in between 1875 and 1907. The Teutonic won the Blue Ribbon for being the fastest ship on the seas at the time.
In 1902 the International Mercantile Marine [IMM] took over many ship-lines, and Bruce Ismay wanted no part of it. But! He could not compete with it, so he joined it. So, by 1903 the White Star Line was part of a large American conglomerate, owned and directed by John Pierpont Morgan.
As John Bruce Ismay entered Lord Pierre’s home, he had something on his mind, something very serious. After formal greetings were made all around, Ismay was shown into the dining room. Ismay and Pierre had a long friendship, not just as partners in the struggle to be the best shipping-line and ship-builders, it was deeper than that, they had a true friendship that went beyond the expectations of the shipping world. After the elaborate dinner and dessert, they set around a small table discussing many different things that had been going on. It was then, when they were sitting there smoking cigars and drinking hot tea, that one of the most important discussions of the age took place. Sooner or later shipping came up; there was a major problem.
The Cunard Line, the rival shipping company had built two ships like the world had never seen. Not in size, or luxury, or beauty like the others, but in speed. These new liners, the Lusitania, and Mauritania, had set new speed records, they were faster than any other cruise ship in the world at the time. Pierre and Ismay were not concerned about speed, but these new ships were cutting into their profits. The White Star Line didn’t have a ship to challenge these new queens. Ismay begin to sketch something on a piece of paper, things were running through Ismay’s mind, a new ship! That’s what we need to compete with the Cunard Liners! It would have to be a ship of grand scale, something like the world had never seen, something that would put the Cunard shipping line back in their seats. Something that would overcome the elements, something that would attract the paying eye, something….something…… We will build a ship that has more luxuries than any other ship, we will build a ship that is indestructible, and we will build a ship like the world has ever seen. That was definitely the answer! A new class of ships! But what will this cost people, it was simple, the same fixed rate. Which was cost +10%, something everybody could afford, from first class, to third class. This would not be unusual for the White Star Line. They had been more concerned with luxury more than speed for the last several years. On the other hand the Cunard Line was definitely more concerned with speed. Ismay didn’t want to compete with the speed of these new ships, he would lose. This was a battle that neither party could afford to lose.As the evening drew on, Ismay took his leave. Back at his house, he must have been more excited than words could tell, it wasn’t every day you get to build and own the biggest ship in the world!
As days grew into weeks, blue prints and plans were being made on a major scale. Finally, the H&W designers brought a small model of the new class of ships for Ismay to inspect. Ismay did not show his emotions as he viewed the ship with satisfaction. The head designer at H&W must have been shaking slightly as the president of the White Star Line inspected the design of the ship. Finally as Ismay stood up from crouching over the model, he said, “I think it’s fabulous!” The ship designer let out a sigh of relief.
This class of liners would need to have names that would fit them properly. Until this moment they were known as ships 400, 401 and 402. The first to be named, was Olympic, after the Greeks. Such a name sounded fitting for such a ship! What would they call ship 401, the second in the group of three? What about the mighty Titans, rivals of the Olympians in the early days, surely this ship must be named TITANIC! Ship 402 would have a simple name, but fitting never the less, Gigantic. On July 31, 1908, the order was put in at H&W for the new class of ships, R.M.S Olympic, and Titanic. Gigantic was ordered after Titanic and Olympic’s launch. As John Bruce Ismay signed the contract with Harland & Wolff, these ships would be built no matter what happened. When Ismay put his pen to the contract, he had untold joy in his heart, finally these new ships were becoming a reality. For over a year he had dreamed of this moment.The Belfast work force gasped!In the history of shipbuilding had there been a ship of such proportions, never before had man built a ship like the Titanic. Until now, the Cunard liners Lusitanian and Mauritania had been the largest ships in the world. The men of H & W were invited to build not only one, but three ships much bigger than the Cunard liners. These new ships would be 90 feet longer, 4 feet wider, and 15,000 tons heavier. The Titanic would be a massive ship, nothing like the world had ever seen, she would be 883 feet and 9 inches long, and 92 feet wide. This leviathan would displace 60,000 tons; the empty hull alone would weigh 26,000 tons.
From the top of the funnels to the keel would be 175 feet tall, 35 feet of that would be under the water line. Also the Titanic was taller above the water than most urban buildings of the time.
Titanic altogether had four funnels-which were constructed at another site from H & W, and then transported to the H & W for placement on the ship, they weighed 60 tons apiece and were big enough to drive two locomotives through at the same time. The fourth one was a dummy added mainly to vent the engine rooms and the galleys, but it also made the ship look more powerful, third class passengers especially thought the more funnels the ship had the faster it would go.
When finally built, the Titanic would be the biggest man made object ever moved until the 1920’s!
Titanic would have three massive propellers, two three bladed ones that were 23 feet and 6 inches tall, and a smaller four bladed propeller that would be 16 feet and 6 inches tall.
The Titanic had 24 double-ended boilers and 5 single ended boilers that would be placed in 6 boiler rooms, the double-ended boilers would be 20 feet long and 15 feet and 6 inches high, the single ended boilers were 11 feet long and 9 inches. Altogether she would have 159 furnaces. Once on the sea, she would use 850 tons of coal each day.
She had two reciprocating, four cylinder, triple expansion, direct acting inverted engines: creating 30,000 horse power, the left over steam would go to a third engine, a low pressure Parsons turbine: creating 16,000 horse power, this engine could not be put into reverse. Added all together would generate 46,000 hp. This would not make a fast ship, but the White Star Line was concerned with elegance and luxury, more than speed. These engines would drive the ship through the water at more than 23 knots at top speed, which is not too bad considering that the ship weighed 60,000 tons.
The Titanic had a rudder that weighed 100 tons, and the Titanic’s center anchor weighed 15 tons and was as tall as a house. Each chain link was as tall as a man and weighed 100 pounds.
Before construction could begin on these new ships, H & W had to update their piers, gantry’s, and slipways.
The Titanic and Olympic were built side by side although Olympic was started a few months before Titanic.
The keel was laid down on March 31, 1909. During construction timber props were used to hold her up.
14,000 men worked on Titanic, being the highest employ rate H & W had ever had. If you happened to be late to work once the shipyard gates were closed, there was no way to get in, you just lost a whole day’s pay.
Over the course of the construction, 17 men lost their lives due to the unsafe working conditions. One of the losses was a 15-year-old boy.
In order to lower the massive engines in place, H & W had to order special floating cranes from Germany that could lift 200 tons to set the engines and boilers down into the ship. This cost $30,000 to the H & W Company. The engines set on their own weight just like the boilers and the huge funnels. The funnels had cables running down to the deck to help hold them in place in case of rough seas.
The Titanic was also supposed to be the symbol of modern technology, not in just the size of the ship but in safety too. To live up to the high standards she had a double bottom, a double hull of 1 inch steel plates that were 3 feet wide and 16 feet long, each piece weighed 3 tons, 3,000,000 rivets were used to hold the ship together, and a new design of 16 watertight compartments with watertight doors that could be closed from the bridge or by automatic electric sensors. This is when the newspapers started to call her unsinkable, a term that quickly flourished in the minds of the designer and J. Bruce Ismay. Soon the world started saying…. “This ship is unsinkable” and the term “no, not even God could sink this ship” came about. That is what this ship would be known for, Sadly, as everyone would come to find out, there was a terrible flaw; these watertight bulkheads only went up to E deck. The ship could only float if any four or five of her compartments filled with water. But none could think of a disaster that would cause more than four of her compartments to fill up, but which means that this ship was not unsinkable if there was the possibility of that danger.
A man by the name of Andrew Carlyle had been chief designer of the Titanic until the issue of how many lifeboats were necessary came up. The British Board Of Regulations was out of date. It stated that a ship of 10,000 tons must have at least 16 lifeboats, but these new ships were five times that big and Carlyle new it. The Titanic was designed to carry 3500 passengers and crew, fully loaded. Which means these new ships would need 64 lifeboats to cover every one board. Carlyle argued these points with Lord Pirrie, and J. B. Ismay. “ These new ships must carry enough lifeboats for every one on board.” Said Carlyle, then Pirrie stated, “The Titanic is its own lifeboat” ‘and having 64 lifeboats festooning the deck of the ship would scare people away”. He argued that this ship was made with the latest advances in safety technology and most of all “you designed her.” Carlyle was getting flustered with Pirrie and said, “don’t you see anything that is designed by man is liable to destruction.” Then Pirrie clearly told him that these ships would meet the requirements of the BBOR, only having 16 lifeboats, and four collapsibles. Then Andrew Carlyle, after being in the family business his whole life, walked out for good. He was not going to design a ship that would not have enough lifeboats for all the passengers and crew.
After he left, H & W needed a new chief designer, so they called on Thomas Andrews, [he had actually helped design the Titanic with Carlyle] to pick up were Andrew Carlyle left off. They chose Andrews to keep this operation in the family business. [Andrews was Pirrie’s nephew!!!]
With the main structure of the ship completed, launching of the Titanic was set for May 31st, 1911. For the occasion 100,000 people turned out. There was no christening of the Titanic, White Star Line and H & W did not take part of that tradition. So, at 12:13 the hydraulic triggers were pulled and the largest man made object moved for the first time, slid down the slipway on 22 tons of tallow and fat, and other types of grease, and of course her own weight. The Titanic reached a speed of 12 knots and was brought to a halt by anchor chains and cable drag chains. The whole process took 62 seconds. As one worker put it after watching the ordeal, “they just builds’em and shoves’em in.”
The Titanic was towed to the H & W fitting out wharf, from installing passenger accommodations, to engineering equipment, and just mainly making her seaworthy.
Carpenters, carpet layers, steamfitters, metalworkers, and electricians [just to name a few of the trades used] all had a chance to show their handy work.
Specifications to the Titanic were going to be based upon those of the Olympic. There would be some changes made, and as a result, the Titanic would be a thousand tons heavier than the Olympic, and even more luxurious. One of these changes would be to close the 1st class promenade deck in by glass. Passengers had complained about being splashed with spray from the sea. This change made a notable difference between the two ships.In the next months to follow, the empty hull of the Titanic would be formed into the most elegant, and luxurious ship the world had ever seen sailing the sea.