The construction of the Titanic in Belfast

The Titanic under construction - Public domain
The Titanic under construction - Public domain

Did you know that? The Titanic is an ocean liner that was built in Belfast, Northern Ireland. Pure product of the “Harland & Wolff” shipyards, it was the work of more than 15,000 Irish people, all determined to make the Titanic the largest ocean liner in the world. This huge shipyard was worth in Belfast an important notoriety, unfortunately damaged by the sinking of the Titanic during its maiden voyage.

History of the construction of the RMS Titanic

The shipyard of all possibilities

The Titanic project

The Titanic project

We’re setting the stage for you. It’s the early 1900s… The turn of the century seems to inspire the greats of this world, and push Western civilization to the limit. Technological overachievement, and overachieving the impossible. The world likes to believe that the 20th century will be an opportunity for mankind to reinvent itself.

But the Titanic story really began in 1907, when J. Bruce Ismay and James Pirrie dined together in London. J. Bruce Ismay was then Managing Director of the shipping company White Star Line, while James Pirrie was a senior partner in Harland and Wolff, a company that owned many shipyards in Belfast, and was responsible for building all of White Star Line’s boats.

They note that a rival company, the “Cunard Line”, has just launched the Lustania and the Mauretania, two boats which could weaken their activities. It must be said that both the White Star Line and the Cunard Line connect Europe to America. Competition is fierce and each company is trying to outdo the other.

The two men then like to imagine a liner of a brand new temperament, as disproportionate as it is comfortable. A super liner, with capacities oversized compared to the competition, comfortable, luxurious, and capable of connecting America faster than any other boat of the time.

Thus was born the idea of the R.M.S. Titanic.

The R.M.S. Titanic (Royal Mail Steamer, Paquebot Courrier Royal), is therefore destined to be a masterpiece of early 20th century technology.

This liner will have to carry up to 2,400 passengers, 2,000 tons of cargo… All at an average speed of 22 knots. The Titanic will leave Southampton every Wednesday and reach New York 6.5 days later…

Such were the aspirations of these two men, in any case.

The time of construction

The Titanic under construction - Public domain

The Titanic under construction – Public domain

The Harland and Wolff shipyards located in Belfast (Northern Ireland) are in charge of the construction of the Titanic as well as 2 other super liners (the Olympic and the Gigantic). The construction starts then, and the figures of the shipyard are impressive :

  • more than 14,000 men employed
  • 2 giant dry docks built
  • a 75-metre high overhead crane (the highest of its time ever built)

The construction is arduous, intense and difficult. Nevertheless, it is of crucial importance for England. Indeed, England intends to shine by its know-how in terms of shipbuilding… throughout the world.

For the specifications are impressive. Let’s face it, the Titanic will be a jewel of innovation and technology. Here are some of its features:

  • the liner will be 269 meters long and 28 meters wide
  • it will have chimneys 42 meters high and masts 64 meters high,
  • it will be able to accommodate up to 3503 people:
    • 905 first class,
    • 564 of 2nd class,
    • 1134 in 3rd class
    • along with 885 crew members.
  • it will have 11 decks (including 8 for passengers),
  • the boat will be propelled by more than 46,000 horsepower, using 3 propellers with a total weight of 98 tons

The White Star Line pays great attention to the safety of the liner during its construction. This is why it insists on a double-bottomed hull with 16 watertight compartments. The watertight doors are closed from the bridge by means of an electric lock. The vessel can thus continue to float with 2 main compartments flooded.

Very quickly, the construction makes the world talk about it. In America, New York is obliged to rethink the length of its quays to be able to accommodate the Titanic, because of its impressive dimensions.

The Titanic - Public Domain

The Titanic – Public Domain

Everyone is looking forward to seeing this gigantic liner set to sea.

On March 31, 1909, the Titanic was finally completed. However, it would have to wait until May 31, 1911 in Belfast to be officially inaugurated in front of thousands of people.

The interiors were fitted out in March 1912, and trials were held in April of the same year. Everything seemed perfect, and two days later, the ship arrived in Southampton, from where she sailed for New York a week later.

On April 4, 1912, in Southampton harbour, the crew of the liner Titanic completes the final preparations before the big departure on April 10.

Everything suggests that the Titanic is ready. Built with care, controlled, tested… It’s ready to break through the waters of the Atlantic Ocean… But it was without counting on a dramatic mistake, which will cost the lives of thousands of passengers…

So much more to discover...