Did Titanic have functional fireplaces

Dec 4, 2000
Anyone who has owned a fireplace knows how tricky they can be. Even the best of chimneys can be plagued with downdrafts under some wind conditions.

Imagine being an engineer told to design a flue system for a fireplace on an ocean liner. You have to not only contend with the vagaries of the natural wind (which is 30% stronger at sea on average), but also a 21+ knot gale arising from the forward motion of the vessel.

Putting a fan on the uptake would work, but combustion residue would make this approach a maintenance nightmare. Natural venting into one of the funnels is much more attractive. However, a small fireplace would not seem to generate enough heat to warm the entire column of air all the way to the top of a funnel. Cold air can act as a natural "plug" if the chimney is too tall.

Hats off to H&W if they managed to find a way to make fireplaces work at sea without annoying backdrafts.

--David G. Brown

Bill Sauder

Dec 19, 2000
Roy brings up several interesting observations about the configuration of the fireplaces in the Lounge and Reading Room. Because the question about their functionality is a perennial thorn in the side of Titanic researchers, Parks has allotted space at his website for me to present my evidence in full, supported by graphics, which I think demonstrate that the fireplaces in these rooms were beautiful dummies.

It will take about a week to get the material ready for viewing. I do not think it is exactly fair to let things hang for that long, so here is a summary of the reasons for my opinions, to be demonstrated in full in seven day’s time.

1. Dummy fireplaces were the norm on steamships in public rooms. Lusitania had five fireplaces on her promenade deck. Four were dummies, and the fifth in the smoke room burned coal.

2. The proportions and construction details of the Lounge fireplace is inconsistent with a functional fireplace but similar to the dummies on Lusitania.

3. The thickness and construction details for the wall between the Lounge and Writing Room is not sufficient to enclose a flue.

4. The primary purpose of the fore and aft cornice in the Reading Room is to conceal a longitudinal girder placed 10 feet out from the centerline of the ship. Photos will show that it is hollow, and specifications will demonstrate that the perforations are to exhaust spent air through a fan on the roof. It is also not the only cornice with perforations for this purpose on Titanic, only the most conspicuous because it is painted white.

5. There is no precedence for a draft-induced fireplace on any ship, and that such a fan does not appear on the list of fans surviving from Olympic or Britannic.

See you all next Wednesday with the goods.

Bill Sauder
Feb 18, 2003
So the fourth funnel was connected to the first class smoking room fireplace. And another thing weren't all the fireplaces functional, i mean some of them were electric weren't they?

Erik Wood

Apr 10, 2001
To be honest I didn't know that there was this much information about the fireplaces available. Leave it to Roy M. and Bill S.

I too was interested to hear that the fireplaces where not functional. This doesn't surprise me, as starting a fire in a passenger space doesn't exactly excite me from a safety standpoint. Especially considering fire safeties where few and far between in 1912.

Bill Sauder

Dec 19, 2000

There is a flicker of a suggestion that the Reading Room fireplace may have been electrified at the end of the Olympic's career, but not earlier. Period architecture demands that a fireplace be used as a focal point, and so non-operational fireplaces were provided.

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