Inside the protective covering above the grand staircase domes

Feb 14, 2011
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Bill Sauder once wrote a stunningly detailed writeup on the lighting that eminated through the protective covering above the grand staircase domes. (on Marks list i think). Bill- if you are out there, here is my question-

I assume there was access to the interior of that protective covering, should maitenence be required for the dome within (i.e if the chandelier had wiring problems, etc). How would one be able to get inside the protective covering above the dome? Would the glass panes be removable, or was there a small access hatch?

I assume the lighting was all natural, with no artifical electric lighting above the dome?

Did you mention there were small portholes on either side of the housing above the dome, to further let in light?

The one element of the glass domes that mystifies me is the color of the domes...Were they frosted white, as it appeared to be in the Cameron film?

Of was it stained glass, perhaps an off yellow?

I doubt the glass was clear- the view of the interior of the protective housing abouve each grand staircase dome would have been most unsightly.

Any guess the time of day the large chandelier was turned on? I cant fathom it being on in the daytime..

Regards

Tarn Stephanos
 

Dan Cherry

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Mar 3, 2000
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Several years ago, it was questioned elsewhere on how the dome was lit, and here is a synopsis of what I remember. During the day, the skylight housing allowed light in. The Titanic's GSC dome had two small ports on the aft side of the housing. It is doubtful these ports which faced the #2 funnel were useful for letting in light. Curiously, there were several ports on the Olympic's sylight walls.
The box-like bins on Titanic remain a mystery in my knowledge in identity and function.

At night, the Titanic's chandelier was lit, and small electric lights tucked behind the woodwork around the base of the dome helped light up the dome. Otherwise, it would be a large, black cap.

As near as can be determined, the glass in the done was white frosted.
 
Feb 14, 2011
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Thanks for this information. I am a bit of a stained glass buff, and naturally am drawn to the glass domes of the great liners. Their lighting sourses has always puzzled me, but your information on the lighting for the Olympic class grand staircase domes makes perfect sense. I suspect though, on other vessels, such as Mauretania and Lusitania, the lighting that would eminate through thier magnificent skylights was 100% sunlight. Imagine the beautiful colors of the dome above Lusitania's 1st class lounge!!

I still holding hope that at the bottom of the grand staircase shaft remnants of titanic's glass dome will be found.

Cheers

tarn Stephanos
 
Jan 5, 2001
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Hi Tarn!

<FONT COLOR="ff0000">...I suspect though, on other vessels, such as Mauretania and Lusitania, the lighting that would eminate through thier magnificent skylights was 100% sunlight. Imagine the beautiful colors of the dome above Lusitania's 1st class lounge!!

If I remember correctly, Ken Marschall told the TRMA that he knew Mauretania made use of such backlit/lights aboard her -- so that is why he believed that the Olympic dome was lit (at night). He also said that the dome would not have been a 'black hole' at nighttime. In the daytime, I agree about the sunlight.

Best regards,

Mark.
 

Bill Sauder

Member
Dec 19, 2000
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Tarn:

Thanks for your kind comments about the old skylight write-up, I had quite forgotten about it until you reminded me. Sorry for taking so long to get back to you, my plate is rather full at the moment and not everything can be done "first."

"How would one be able to get inside the protective covering above the dome (to change lights)? ...was there a small access hatch?"

This is one of those things that has bothered me for some time as well since I got to change the lights in the Queen Mary's chandeliers too *ugh*. The first possibility is a ladder, but considering the extreme height of the dome and the difficulty of handling/storing large ladders on ship, it seems more likely that there was access from the top of the skylight shed. Curiously, the top of the shed consists of rectangular glass except for the very center panel, which is circular. I strongly suspect that this is a scuttle of some kind which allows an electrician access into the skylight shed.

Once the scuttle was opened, the electrician simply reached into the chandelier at the dome apex and changed the bulbs. What about the glass dome? The dome had a circular opening in the crown called an oculus which was hidden by the chandelier itself. It is not widely known, but both domes were tied into the ventilating system. In the case of the forward dome, the stoke hold vent forward of No. 2 funnel had a small trunk that ran into the skylight shed. Air from the accommodation would pass through the chandelier and help keep the lights cool. The opening of this suction trunk can be seen in wreck footage and I think in a few of Ken's paintings.

The main lounge dome and chandelier had exactly the same arrangement, as do many of the chandeliers on the Mary. The bulbs generate a great deal of heat which must be controlled for passenger comfort and eliminate a possible fire source.

"(Were there lights behind the dome to illuminate it at night?)"

My guess is no. Mauretania had lights behind her domes and so did many other ships of the period to keep the skylights from becoming vast blank spaces at night. Titanic's domes differed in one very important respect: enormous chandeliers in their crowns. I suspect that when the lights in the chandelier came on, the decorators were satisfied with the front-illumination of the glass, and that back lighting would have been too feeble to justify when contrasted with the light thrown out from the center.


"Did (Titanic have) ... small portholes on either side of the housing above the dome, to further let in light?

Olympic did have small ports in the sides of her skylight sheds but Titanic did not. I suspect that on Olympic, they were included because the decorators were worried that the light thrown down from the roof glass would light the crown of the dome well enough, but that the dome shoulders might be dark because of insufficient light (more properly, the light striking the glass at a too-oblique angle causing glancing reflection and absorption of light due to the high angle of incidence.)

The decorators seem to have put the sidelights in the dome shed to insure that the edges were as well lit as the top. After installation, they were perhaps covered up as a test and, when it was discovered that they did not materially assist in keeping the dome uniformly lit, were omitted on Titanic. The two that were kept (the ones Dan points out) were probably used as access scuttles so that the glass could be cleaned.

"(Was the dome glass) frosted white ... or was it stained glass, perhaps an off yellow?"

I don't know and usually defer to Ken's opinion when interpreting possible colors on antique photographs. He's never suggested anything other than white, since the photos show a light-value for the panes and I understand that if they were yellow, it would register as a darker gray owing to the chemical sensitivity used in photographs at the time. He's busy with the Cameron footage right now but I will ask him when we speak next. The glass is certainly not clear.

"Any guess the time of day the large chandelier was turned on? I cant fathom it being on in the daytime.."

It's possible that the chandelier was left burning all the time. On Cunard ships it was the practice to leave deck lights on 24 hours a day. When asked why, one Cunard Captain used to answer "In case we have to pass through any tunnels."

Bill Sauder
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Feb 14, 2011
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Hi Bill!
My goodness, you are an endless wealth of information. Thanks for the details on the dome coverings.I think the only other thing I was wondering about were the forward and aft grand starcase domes the same size?

Pity neither of Olympic's domes have survived.
I believe at the White Swan Hotel, there is a dome, but from a different White Star Liner. (The Calgaric methinks..)

regards

Tarn Stephanos
 
Feb 14, 2011
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Here is one question- would the light from the glass dome chandelier have reached down to E deck? Im reminded of that great Ken Marshall painting of passengers climbing the grand staircase, and one can look all the way down to E deck. If one were down on E deck looking up, i wonder if that chandelier illumination would reach them. I have read the lighting on Titanic was rather dim compared to modern lighting, so it would be an interesting scene..

thanks


Tarn Stephanos