While her days were numbered from the outset, Titanic was a legend during her own lifetime, and has become increasingly immortalised ever since. In this article, we take a look at the famous liner’s origins, from the abandoned Drawing Office and slipways of Harland and Wolff to the murals of east Belfast and the awesome Titanic Quarter that is rising from the dereliction.
RMS Titanic was built alongside her sister ship Olympic on two massive slipways. Below left shows Olympic in the foreground with her younger and less complete sister Titanic behind. The yard is alive with men constructing the future of ocean travel, and it’s hard to imagine that this corner of the yard lies abandoned today, a wasteground of empty slipways and rusting cranes.
Workers standing beneath Olympic’s enormous propellor help lend scale to these massive iron wonders. This was shipbuilding on an unprecedented scale, helping to define an industry that would never be the same again. (Read more about Harland and Wolff’s collaboration with White Star Line in our previous article: The World’s Most Famous Slipway.)
All Set to Sail
The completed Titanic is seen here in dock, resplendent in fresh livery and ready to bring cutting edge technology and comfort to an A-rated guest list, while transporting thousands of others to a better life in the New World – or at least that was the intention.
The Grand Staircase
The first-class only Grand Staircase was one of the most impressive features of the ship. With no expense spared, the finest craftsman in Ireland created two identical sets of steps (fore and aft) – which plunged five storeys from the Boat Deck to E Deck. The Grand Staircase still plays an important role, as a vast empty hole through which submersibles can gain easy access to the wreck, and even today some balustrade details are still extant. The staircase on the right is a replica at the Titanic Experience in Orlando, Florida.
The Drawing Office at Harland & Wolff Shipyard
It’s ironic to think Titanic is now the world’s most famous wreck while its birthplace remains largely forgotten. Abandoned but not deserted, some real treasures lurk behind the sturdy doors of the old Harland & Wolff Drawing Office which, like the rusting steam cranes below, played a key role in the development of the liner that became the yard’s enduring legacy.
These cranes helped build Titanic while the Drawing Office, hauntingly empty, is where the ship was designed and its construction project managed. With its nineteenth century sinks and ornate features, the Drawing Office is almost a microcosm of the Titanic story. Incredibly, a selection of blueprints gather dust in what amounts to an abandoned warehouse. Rumour has it that the scale set in James Cameron’s epic film was constructed from blueprints – long since thought lost – hidden away in the dusty store rooms of the Belfast Drawing Office.
The Titanic Quarter
The image above (right) shows a scale model of the £1.5 billion Titanic Quarter, which will create 20,000 jobs over a 15-year period. To the left is the land today,with the famous concrete slipways (Titanic’s on the right) in front of the isolated Drawing Office. The model shows how the fully renovated office and slipways are to be integrated into the final scheme, in an exciting waterfront development that blends modern architecture with Belfast’s maritime heritage.
Titanic Murals on the Streets of Belfast
Belfast is known for its striking murals, many depicting the sectarian strife that plagued the city for years. But this one, on Dee Street, shows Captain Edward Smith above Titanic with the famous Harland & Wolff shipyard forming the backdrop. The caption reads “Nearer My God to Thee” and is dated April 14, 1912 – the fateful night Titanic struck the iceberg. To the right, the words “Titanic, built in Belfast”, reflect the pride of the city and particularly the shipbuilders of East Belfast.
Titanic in the News – For Better or Worse
(Images reproduced with permission of Lisa Stone, mysteriousnovascotia.com)
The World’s Most Famous Slipway
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The Midget Submarines of Aberlady
Great Carrier Reef: Chronology of a Sunken Supercarrier
Deep Blue Sea: Aircraft & Aircraft Carriers Lost Beneath the Waves
Belfast’s Historic (& Troubled) “Holy Land”