TITANIC-TITANIC.com | Titanic's Fitting Out
Once the launch was over, Titanic was towed to Harland & Wolff's fitting out basin. Here, the mainly empty vessel would be turned into the incredible floating palace she would eventually become. It was now the turn of highly skilled craftsmen to create the lavish interiors, and an army of joiners, painters, plumbers, electricians, tilers, carpet-layers and designers went to work to create the legendary cabins and rooms. And of course, these people couldn't work without supplies and equipment. Hundreds and thousands of items kept arriving at Harland & Wolff, arriving by the ship, train, and road. Manufacturers who were supplying goods for the Titanic made quite sure that their potential customers knew about it, as seen in this beautiful advertisement for Vinolia Otto Toilet Soap here on the left. After all, what better advertisement for any company than to announce that your product is being used on the finest ship in the world, and maybe by some of the richest people in the world too?
A 300 page 'builders specification book' was used as a guide to furnish and decorate the ship, and this guide comprised 15 sections, such as 'General Design and Description', 13 pages, 'Castings, Decks, Lockers, Doors and Bulwarks', 22 pages, 'Ventilation and Heating', 31 pages, 'Plumber Work, Etc.', 16 pages, and 'Cementing and Painting', 10 pages.
Whilst all of this interior work was taking place, Titanic's exterior was also being completed. Because of the limited space underneath the Arrol Gantry, much of the upper deck-work could only be completed once the ship had been launched. The last of the upper superstructures, such as the officers' quarters, the gymnasium, the bridge and the wheelhouse, and the raised roof over the First Class Dining Saloon were added, along with the four huge funnels, the two masts, the lifeboats and their davits, ventilation units, cargo cranes, etc. The ship's three huge propellers would also be fitted during the coming months.
The picture here on the right depicts Titanic's sprawling boat deck during fitting out, with Harland & Wolff's massive floating crane in attendance. (Capable of lifting 250 tons, the crane was bought second-hand from Germany.) Noticable in the picture at the very bottom is the curved base of the front of the wheelhouse (A), and also it is possible to see the large opening for funnel No. 1 (B). The raised roof over the First Class Dining Saloon is clearly visible (C), and the forward-facing window in the navigation room is visible too (D) as well as the forward-facing window in the Chief Officer's cabin, (E).
Sometime during the summer of 1911, Bruce Ismay proposed that Titanic's maiden voyage would depart on March 20th, 1912. The White Star Line began to issue timetables, posters and stationary advertising the March sailing. But events were about to overtake these arrangements, and not in a minor way. Only three months after her own maiden voyage, and under the command of Captain E.J. Smith, Olympic was involved in a collision with a Royal Navy cruiser, HMS Hawke. Although nobody was injured, and Olympic remained afloat, the damage was severe enough to warrant a return to Harland and Wolff, as they were the only company with a dry-dock large enough to accomodate her, and on 4th October, Titanic was moved from this dry-dock to allow her sister in. It took almost two weeks to patch Olympic well enough for the trip to Belfast, and she arrived back at her birthplace on October 6th. Workers who were engaged on Titanic were transferred to Olympic, and Titanic's maiden voyage would have to be re-arranged. Five days after Olympic arrived at Belfast, an announcement in the London Times gave April 10th, 1912 as the new date for Titanic's maiden voyage.
On November 30th, 1911, with her repairs now completed, Olympic left Belfast, and immediately returned to Southampton to begin her 5th voyage to New York. Titanic was returned to the Thompson Graving Dock and work continued at full speed to have her ready for her April departure. In January, Titanic's 16 lifeboats, built 'in-house' by Harland and Wolff, were fitted to the boat deck. They were supported by a new design of davit which cleverly allowed two or three lifeboats to use the same pair of davits, allowing more lifeboats to be carried. Harland and Wolff designer Alexander Carlisle had proposed the fitting of 64 lifeboats, but his later designs provided for only half that amount, 32 boats. But after consultation between White Star and Harland and Wolff, that number was halved again, to a mere 16 boats, plus the four Englehardt collapsibles.
With just over four weeks to go before her maiden voyage, Titanic underwent a fairly major design change, which is quite unusual for a ship almost ready for service. Passengers traveling on Olympic had complained that whilst walking on the forward part of the promenade decks, they were quite often sprayed with water thrown up from the bow. White Star reponded to this by replacing the open windows in the affected area with sliding glass windows, which provided full protection from the elements, but could still be cranked open when required. The two pictures here on the left depict this conversion quite clearly, the upper picture showing Titanic with the original open window design, shared by Olympic. The lower picture shows Titanic again, but the promenade deck windows are of the new design, enabling her First Class passengers to remain dry, and also making her much easier to identify from a distance.
Titanic's April 1st sea trials were looming fast, and the ship was practically complete now. Various members of the crew began to arrive throughout March, many of them engineers who had to familiarise themselves with the systems and machinery in the vast new ship. First Officer Charles Lightoller arrived in Belfast on March 20th, whilst the junior officers - Pitman, Boxhall, Lowe and Moody - all arrived on March 27th, with orders to report to Chief Officer William Murdoch, who was already aboard.