Titanic blueprint to be auctioned


Frank McElroy

Member
Dec 31, 2003
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Titanic blueprint to be auctioned

An original blueprint of the Titanic is to be auctioned by the daughter of an engineer from the ship, who narrowly avoided the tragedy.

http://news.bbc.co.uk/go/em/fr/-/1/hi/northern_ireland/4207437.stm

According to a number of sources, the story about the blue print is that, Thomas Andrews had the only one and that it went down with the ship. Afterwards, the only blue print that was available was that from the OLYMPIC. I have contacted Aldridge Auction and they told me, that they are very thorough in determining the authenticity of TITANIC things before auctioning them.

I have thought about this story. I wonder why an engineer would have an original blue print. All the engineers went down with the ship, so somehow this engineer would have obtained the blue print and then taken it off the ship when it got to Cherbourg. Then he would have taken it to his home, apparently when the repair job on the other ship in Cherbourg was finished. I guess all this is possible, but it sure sounds a bit strange. I look forward to anything further on this story. I hope the blue print is not a forgery, and that it is a genuine blue print.
 

Ernie Luck

Member
Nov 24, 2004
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Frank

Have a look at the Marketplace thread. There has been a lot of discussion on these blueprints.

I note the sale is mentioned in the 'Mail-on Sunday' newspaper today

Regards Ernie
 
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Scott R. Andrews

Guest
Frank,

One thing to remember: don't confuse an "original blueprint" with an "original tracing". Contrary to what the word has come to mean in the common vernacular, a blueprint is a photographic copy of the original tracing. When the layman hears the word "blueprint", this is often interpreted to simply mean "plan" or "drawing"; to the draftsman, this term means "copy". In this sense, I have numerous "original blueprints" for the Olympic and Titanic myself - copies made from the original tracings. In this instance, however, they were made by H&W-TS on a modern electronic large-format copy machine in the late 1990's, and not in 1912 by the original blueprint process. Instead, they are black-on-white, like a common photocopy.

A blueprint is a copy produced by overlaying the original tracing onto paper or linen that has a coating of ammonium ferric iron(III) citrate (ammonium iron(III) citrate). The original tracing, which was drawn on translucent drawing cloth or vellum, was overlaid on the blueprint medium and then exposed to bright light (often, ordinary sunlight) for a specified number of minutes. The exposure to light chemically altered the entire surface of the print medium to ammonium ferrous citrate (ammonium iron(II) citrate) except for that portion which was masked by the linework of the tracing.

After exposure, the face of the print medium remained unchanged to the naked eye until the print was placed in a potassium ferricyanide solution. This reacted with the coating which changed color, while the exposed coating was converted to form a compound called "prussian blue". The entire surface now had the characteristic color of a blueprint. After the print had been removed from the potassium ferricyanide solution, it is washed. The prussian blue continued to adhere to the paper or fabric while the unreduced portion of the original coating was washed away, leaving behind the white linework. A similar process is still used today as an artistic medium, with the resulting work known as a "cyanotype" or "cyanograph".

At the time, there were probably dozens of these blueprints around made from any given original tracing produced in the drafting offices at H&W. They were distributed to numerous workers and engineers on the slipway and during fitting out. Copies of this type were made and sent off to the various satellite offices of both the builder and owner as well as to the BoT and other regulating bodies. Copies were supplied to the ship as well, and copies would have been available for the use of tradesmen and subcontractors who were brought onboard in Southampton and in NY to perform maintenance and repairs. People being sent H&W to Southampton or other ports would have also carried their own reference copies for a given job they were being sent to do. In other words, at one time there were many copies of the original drawings in existence outside of the shipyard. In a way, it's somewhat surprising that more of these haven't come to light via the auction houses in recent years.

Regards,
Scott Andrews
 

Frank McElroy

Member
Dec 31, 2003
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Scott,

I never knew there was so much involved in a blueprint/tracing, or for matter a difference. I thank you sincerely. It sounds like you once worked in a drawing office; I am always willing to learn something new from people with the knowledge and experience.
The one thing I can't work out is why he had the drawing in the first place, for a ship he didn’t work on, he was only "hitching a ride" and then disembarked at Cherbourg to help repair the “S.S. Rotterdam”￾.

Take care
 
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Scott R. Andrews

Guest
Hi Frank,

Yes, I used to "spread lead" in the old days before we got our first CAD equipment back in the early 80's. The prints we made were all "blue-lines" by the time I started my working life, a far cry from the blueprints used previously. (still, it had drawbacks; the smell of the ammonia fumes from the developer stage of that blue line machine was enough to knock you over...).

A few of the "Old Coots" (hell, thinking back, they were probably the same age I am now!) had extensive experience with making real blueprints, and my first boss had actually worked in a place that still made blueprints, but had no blueprint machine! Instead, they had what amounted to a table with a hinged frame mounting a large pane of thick glass. The tracing was laid onto of the table and the glass closed on top of the two, pressing them together. The whole thing was mounted on glides which allowed it to be slid out through a opening, something like a large mail flap, beneath one of the drafting room windows. They would set a timer for so many seconds on a sunny day or so many more on a cloudy day. On rainy days, they couldn't make blueprints. From what I was told, this thing was a hold-over from the turn of the century (it was the about 1930) and there were plenty of office-sized machines available by that time, but the owner of this company was about as tight with a buck as they come!

As for why Mr. Wilson had a Titanic blueprint with him, I can only speculate. Perhaps H&W took advantage of the situation, i.e, his arrival in Southampton en route to Cherbourg and the Rotterdam on Company business, and had him attend to straightening out a few last minute bugs on the new White Star liner.

Regards,
Scott Andrews
http://titanic-model.com/
 

Frank McElroy

Member
Dec 31, 2003
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Scott,

I bet those early days where hell, I bet that smell of ammonia was something else, make my eyes water just thinking of it.

And as for the timer, possibly had a setting on the side: (Lots) sunny day, (Few) cloudy day, (None) rainy day and maybe one more for “You cannot be serious”, you mentioned that the “owner of the company was about as tight with a buck as they come!” he must have been related to my very first boss (as I recall he like to be called “governor”, I think it made him feel more part of things, if you know what I mean). Thinking back I still remember my apprentice days, with happy and not so happy memories,

When you said “H&W took advantage of the situation” and that they “had him attend to straightening out a few last minute bugs on the new White Star liner” this makes more sense, why have a chap go all that way without making use of his talents en route, I just thought of something was “Rotterdam” the name of a ship or was it the city of Rotterdam in Holland, I’m thinking it must be the latter.

I see you are into model making or are you just interested in models, I have a friend Roy Mengot whom I correspond by email quite regularly, he's one hell of a nice guy, I have his site linked on Hugh’s site http://uk.geocities.com/frankiemcelroy/purser_mcelroy.html

Take care,
 
S

Scott R. Andrews

Guest
Hi Frank,

According to the story as related by Mr. Wilson to his daughter, he was sent down to Cherbourg via Southampton to assist with some repairs on the H&W-built ss Rotterdam (1908). Ships on Holland America Line's Rotterdam-New York service usually called at one of several French ports on both the west and eastbound crossing. Le Havre, Cherbourg and Brest were among the ports at which HAL ships called. At other times, calls across the Channel at Dover, Southampton or Plymouth were occasionally added to the route.

I see you and I have a mutual friend in Roy Mengot. Roy's a really great guy and, in addition to being well-versed in the structural matters pertaining to the Titanic, he's an excellent model maker. If you haven't yet had the pleasure of meeting him in person, I hope you will have the opportunity. While Roy is great to communicate with via e-mail, he's at his very best sitting across the table while sharing a pint. He's a very animated conversationalist and has a terrific sense of humor.

Best wishes,
Scott Andrews
http://titanic-model.com/
 
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If you ever meet Roy in person, I hope he brings his vidio on how he put together his wreck model. I saw the thing when he brought it to the Topeka tech gathering a couple of years ago and it was a hoot!
 

Frank McElroy

Member
Dec 31, 2003
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Dear Scott and Michael,

I will have the opportunity one day, hopefully in the near future to meet Roy in person (when I finally retire) Scott you say “he's at his very best sitting across the table while sharing a pint, He's a very animated conversationalist and has a terrific sense of humour” I myself feel this is the only way to sit down and discuss a great subject, like Titanic, in a relaxed frame of mind, as for the “terrific sense of humour” he must be a man after my own heart, Michael I am now intrigued by this video on how he put together his wreck model,

The last time we spoke, I asked Roy if he minded if I linked his site to Hugh’s, he said …. “I'm honoured! I've checked out your website in greater detail, don’t be surprised if you get an email from one of the top Titanic authorities”… and I did.

But with regards to his wreck model, he said to me that …. “The wreck model was truly a labour of love for me, in more ways than one. Before I started the model, my goal was to be as technically accurate as Ken Marshall’s paintings. At Woods Hole on my last day there, another researcher was looking over my shoulder as I surveyed the Argo/Angus photos, capturing data on my drawings. I stopped on a shot in the debris field and said, "Gee, that looks like a pair of women's high button shoes I haven't seen published." After 'work', I called my brother, elated at having 'cracked' Woodshole and seen all the raw data. Then at dinner, I thought about those shoes. That looked like a victim with the right foot up and left foot down. I went 180 degrees through an emotional crash. I cried my heart out.
After that, experience with the shoes. I wanted to do right by the victims of that disaster. The result was a model that was WAY beyond my capabilities as a modeller. I still look at it and wonder, "Who built this?"
Frank this situation is similar to yours, when writing about your great uncle, never let emotion or relationships get into your line of research, you must do it right by the man and his memory and keep at it, you are doing a great job so far, I’m sure there is more” ….

This I have tried to follow, what I have written, I have done with respect and I suppose a bit of affection for the man, but like Roy there are times when I find myself with tears in my eyes, thing about what they must of gone through on that fateful night, my only drawback is not a great deal has be written about Hugh away from Titanic, about his home life, and that which has I find is not always 100% historical correct, I find the writers of such events have used it to some extent as a licence of fantasy.

Take care and Thanks.
 
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>>I went 180 degrees through an emotional crash. I cried my heart out.<<

It's amazing how often something like that happens. Sooner or later, Titanic becomes more then just a date on a calander that history has chosen to take notice of. Something butts in to drive the true human aspects of the tragedy home. For you, Frank, it's a bit more personal. One of you're own reletives went out on that ship and never came back home.
 
May 3, 2005
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For Scott R. Andrews-

Thanks for the information on blueprints. One of the things I remember from a class in Junior High School Mechanical Drawing Class was the drawing of the object in question - black ink on tracing paper - then placing the tracing paper over the blue print paper in a glass frame and exposing it to sunlight. Then washing and "developing" it with the final end product the print with white lines on the dark blue background as depicted in the 1997 movie. I also did this at home with photographic negatives since blue print paper was a lot cheaper than photographic "contact prints".
:)
The result was a blue and white "positive" of course instead of black and white.
 
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P.S. Another thought. : It would have seemed logical to me that the original tracings would have been kept on file at the Harland and Wolfe offices in Belfast ?
 
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Scott R. Andrews

Guest
Hi Robert,

Yes the originals, which were prepared on drafting linen, were kept at H&W. Thankfully, as a common practice, most shipyards held onto their original drawings. As a result, a number of people, myself included, were able to obtain copies of some of these drawings between 5 and 10 years ago. The Cameron film also benefited from the existence of the original construction drawings. The fact that these drawings were also used to build the Olympic, and that she lasted into the mid 1930's, probably saved these drawings from being destroyed, as Lord Pirrie had implemented a policy at H&W of clearing out all redundant documentation once it had reached seven years of age or greater. In another bit of luck for these drawings, the Luftwaffe either ignored or entirely missed that portion of the yards were these drawings were stored.

As far as I know, these drawings and numerous others which were held onto for various reasons, were finally deeded over to the Ulster Folk and Transport Museum. At the present time, the museum is not offering reproduction services, so the drawings are currently unavailable. I have also heard that some of the drawings which were available from H&W "went missing" during the final days between the closure of the archives the UFTM's taking control of the collection. The thought is that these may have ended up walking off as "souvenirs".

Regards,
Scott Andrews
 
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Actually, in terms of preservation, what needs to happen is that all the surviving plans from the archive need to be recorded in some sort of digital format with the originals being restored/conserved as far as possible with existing technology. That way, if historians need copies of the plans, they can be had with a credit card number and a few strokes of the keyboard to print it all out...and without doing any further damage to the originals.
 
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Scott R. Andrews

Guest
Mike,

I agree 100%. A good electronic copy of each sheet is all that is needed. Once something like this were available, it would be a fairly simple, though time-consuming process to give the electronic versions a "cleaning" to rid them of all of the "background" you get in copies of these drawings due to 90-odd years of ground-in dirt they've accumulated.

The shame of it is that H&W-TS could have easily done this. The machine they used was a large format engineering printer similar in configuration to the ones you see in any Kinkos. You know the basics -- the reader portion of these machine is basically a scanner -- about all anyone needs to do is tell the processor where to send the data and in what format to output it. For some unknown reason, H&W never made electronic files of these drawings; instead, they continued to physically run these fragile drawings through the rollers of this machine every time a copy was ordered -- almost a criminal act, if you ask my opinion! I've seen a few different versions of some of the same drawings I have and, in addition to the variations in image quality, new damage in one form or another is visible between copies -- growing tears, new tears, holes with missing linework or text, taped-up rips and pulled threads (these drawings were done on drafting linen) -- all from unnecessary handling, improper storage and general abuse.

Regards,
Scott Andrews
 
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>>they continued to physically run these fragile drawings through the rollers of this machine every time a copy was ordered -- almost a criminal act, if you ask my opinion!<<

I would have deleted the "Almost" part from that statement.
wink.gif


One can only hope that the Ulster Folk and Transport Museum will ultimately see the light on this matter. Demand may not be what it once was, but it's there, and I wouldn't be surprised if there's some renewed interest in the near future...say around 2012!

If nothing else, if they don't take positive steps to conserve and preserve what they have, they will have failed in miserable and spectacular fashion in their mission to preserve history.
 

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