(Irishmanlost, reproduced with permission)
RMS Titanic is without doubt the most famous ocean liner in history and most of us know how the story ended in 1912 – at the bottom of the North Atlantic, several hundred nautical miles southeast of Newfoundland. But the story of the Olympic class liner’s birth is less well known, with Titanic‘s life starting out on a now sorry-looking concrete slipway in a Belfast shipyard.
The Harland and Wolff shipyard where Titanic was built remains active in a reduced capacity. When the Olympic class liners – Olympic, Titanic and Britannic – were built for the White Star Line, the dream was to rival Cunard’s great liners of the day (Lusitania and Mauretania, the latter holding the Blue Ribband for 22 years from 1907). While the Cunarders pushed for speed, White Star went for unrivaled luxury, never more so that with Titanic.
Titanic and Olympic were built side-by-side adjacent to the former Drawing Office, which, along with the old Harland and Wolff offices, are the only buildings left from 1912. Though rundown, the Drawing Office remains a beautiful building which reflects the industrial pride of the age. It has changed little since the Titanic’s day, and it’s even rumoured that priceless blueprints of the famous ships might have been stored in the otherwise abandoned building until recently.
Several decades ago, the shipyard’s main operations were moved to the east side of Queen’s Island in central Belfast, which was deemed more suited to the needs of modern ship building. As a result, the famous slipways, alongside the Drawing Office, now stand on an abandoned and largely empty strip of land – a far cry from the days when 30,000 men worked at the yard.
(Images: Google Earth (right), Archiseek)
But like other cities gripped by modern redevelopment, this lonely corner of Belfast is set to house an exciting new district known as the Titanic Quarter. The fully restored slipways and former Drawing Office will form the centre of the scheme, with RMS Nomadic – the last vessel built for White Star Line – preserved alongside. When it’s complete, the eponymous Titanic Quarter will be a fitting tribute to the iconic liner and the men that built her.