The RMS Titanic - From Idea to Reality
IN LONDON, ENGLAND, 1907, THE managing director of White Star Lines, J. Bruce Ismay, was invited to dinner at the mansion of the wealthy Lord James Pierre, a partner in the firm of Harland and Wolff, one of the largest shipbuilders in Belfast. The topic of this dinner was the new Cunard flagships, the Lusitania and the Mauretania, which were each faster and more luxurious than any previous ship. Naturally, this was a problem, since the Cunard Line was the only major British competitor to White Star Line in the fight for the Atlantic Ocean's passenger lines. During this dinner, they conceived a plan to build a series of "Olympic"-class ships that would best the Cunard Lines and their giants. Two ships were to be started immediately, with a third ship to be constructed in the following years. Each ship would be 15000 gross tons larger and nearly 100 feet longer than both the Lusitania and the Mauretania. These leviathans would be so enormous that the docks at the Harland and Wolff shipyards would need to be extended even farther to accommodate the length and width of three normal ships.
On December 16th, 1908, one year after the meeting of J. Bruce Ismay and Lord James Pierre, the first keel plate was laid for the Olympic. The keel plate for the Titanic was laid three months later. Thomas Andrews, nephew of Lord Pierre, oversaw the construction of these monster steamships. Andrews, an incredible worker who paid great attention to detail, was often seen revising plans for the ships past four o'clock in the morning. Because of the immense size of these three ships, the already gigantic pier that the White Star Line used in New York City would have to be lengthened. Initially, the New York Harbor Board balked at the idea, but the businesses of New York realized the profits that would be brought by these three ships and their wealthy passengers. Eventually, the piers were extended.
These new Olympic class vessels would feature the new state of the art watertight compartment system. These enormous closable watertight compartments would seal off sections of the ship that had taken on water in the event of a collision. Although the company never officially stated so, these ships were generally considered to be unsinkable, or as one White Star employee put it: "God himself could not sink this ship,"
On June 14th, 1911, the maiden voyage of the Olympic commenced with a large sendoff crowd gathered at the pier featuring prominent speakers. The Olympic began its safe reputation as an ocean liner until its scrapping in 1932. Master Shipbuilder Thomas Andrews sailed on board as a passenger on the Olympic, and noted anything and everything that could be improved. Although sharing almost exactly the same specifications, the Titanic was to be the more luxurious of the two completed ships. An example of improvements over the Olympic was the First Class lounge. Olympic's lounge featured a sparsely carpeted parlor room, while the Titanic's passengers sank ankle-deep in lavish carpet and upholstery as well as richly detailed ornamental carvings adorning the floor and ceiling. Although Mr. Andrews did have a few minor complaints, the Olympic pleased both him and the White Star Line, and hoped that the Titanic would continue the legacy of the Olympic-class ships. Harland and Wolff launched the freshly painted Titanic on May 31, 1911, much to the pleasure of the spectators gathered there. Once in the fitting out basin, the Titanic would remain there for ten months, the workers toiling for countless man-hours to complete her extravagant interior. On February 3, 1912, the Titanic was put into dry dock. There, the Titanic had a final coat of paint applied and the propellers were installed. Finally, on April 2, 1912, Captain E.J. Smith boarded the Titanic and prepared to take her out on her maiden voyage.