Giant Ships Soon to Join the Atlantic Fleet

New York Times

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Olympic and Titanic, Carrying 5,000 People---12,000 Tons Heavier, 50 Feet Longer Than Any Ship Afloat

VISITORS to the commercial capital of Ireland by way of the Victoria Channel through Belfast Lough for the first time cannot fail to notice and in noticing must be sublimely impressed by the huge, towering shipbuilding gantries 225 feet high and 1,000 feet long which loom up a mighty structure to the eyes of the voyager as the ship which carries him to the shores of Ireland enters the fairway between Carrickfurgus [sic] on the Antrim side of Greypoint Battery, County Down. Long before he can trace the outline of the great central city of the Irish shipbuilding and linen industries these colossal landmarks are distinctly defined against the southern horizon.

It is underneath these huge structures the mighty White Star liners Olympic and Titanic, the most enormous vessels ever built, are being welded into shape, and already through the intricate steel latticework the outline of the former vessel is every day becoming more manifest to the observer.

Night and day for six days in each week the work goes on unceasingly, and has been going on for some nine or ten months past.

The entire framework—the skeleton, so to speak—of the Olympic has, been completed, the after-body decks up to the upper deck have been plated, and amidships and forward the lower deck beams have been placed in position. From the engine room aft the hold columns and deck girders have been fitted in conjunction with the framing to obviate the necessity of the usual wood shoring aft. Then, again, the shell plating of the giant steamer has been completed to just above the upper turn of the bilge, the whole so far having been hydraulic riveted from the keel up.

The stern frame, weighing, over seventy-two tons, was placed in position fully six weeks ago, and the boss arms, weighing forty-three and a half tons aft and forty-five tons forward, have likewise been built into the framework, and only a few days ago the bed plates, three in number, each weighing over fifty tons, were cast and are ready to be fitted into their allotted space in the engine room.

It is a noteworthy fact that the rivets in the ship's double bottom inclosing [sic] the water ballast tank number half a million and neigh 270 tons. The heaviest single plate weighs about four and a half tons and is 36 feet long, while the largest beam is a trifle over four tons and 92 feet long. By and by the rudder, which is being forged on the northeast coast of England and will weigh close upon 125 tons, probably the largest single forging in the world, will be placed in position, and this last operation will more or less complete the outward hull work of the ship.

Early in the progress of the work of construction a difficulty arose in connection with the shoring and staging of the ends of the vessel owing to the great height of the latter from the ground, but this was eventually overcome by means of a number of light steel latticework trestles, which were constructed for staging and shoring purposes. Meantime in the engine shop, an immense building on the other side of the Queen's Road from the shipyard, work is steadily proceeding with the two high-pressure reciprocating and one low-pressure turbine engines for the Olympic, which will be finished simultaneously with the launching of the ship during the early Autumn of next year. At present there are over 1,000 men employed on the hull of the big vessel and probably 500 more in the engine shop, but as the work progresses jobs will be found for additional hands until as the great undertaking approaches completion almost 3,000 workmen; including carpenters, joiners, cabinetmakers, artificers, decorators, &c., will be swarming all over the structure, each man and squad of men to their allotted tasks.

The work on the Titanic, which occupies the inner berth; is not so far advanced as in the sister ship, The tank bottom has, however, been practically completed, and in a few days' time the framework will be tackled, the understanding being that at least four months will elapse between the launching of the two vessels.

Relative to the actual dimensions of the two new ships nothing in the shape of official data has been allowed as yet to transpire, but from statements that have been made at different times by those supposed to be in the know it is understood that the length will be approximately 840 feet, beam 92 feet, and depth 64 feet, with a gross tonnage of between 45,000 and 46,000 tons.

That is to say, they will be from forty-five to fifty feet longer than the Mauretania with a tonnage exceeding that of the largest of the two big Cunarders of about 12,000 tons, which represents the gross tonnage of each of the five big Orient liners recently launched 'on the Clyde and at Belfast.

The Lusitania in comparison to the new liners

Then again, the displacement of the White Star boats will be about 60,000 tons each, as against the 45,000 tons of the Lusitania. Driven by engines with a 30,000 (combined) horse power, the speed, it is intended, shall not exceed twenty-one knots, and what is of special interest to the city on the Lagan, the vessels are to be registered at the Port of Belfast.

The carrying capacity of the new liners, the first of which, it is expected, will not, be completely equipped and ready for sea until early in the year, 1911, will exceed that of any other ship afloat by one-third. Under normal conditions each liner will carry 5,000 persons all told.

There will be accommodation for 600 first cabin passengers, about the same number of second cabin, some 3,000 steerage passengers, and the crew will number about 600 hands. Each vessel will have nine steel decks, and on the upper of these there will be a spacious entrance hall, dining saloons, smoking rooms, libraries, women's parlors or drawing rooms, grill, lounges rooms, and restaurants, as well as a main saloon about 90 feet wide.

One of the upper decks is to be completely inclosed to serve as a ballroom or skating rink. Instead of canvas partitions or awnings to keep out wind and rain the whole will be inclosed with glass sliding windows similar to those in railway carriages.

By day this spacious apartment may be used as a sun parlor or promenade, and it will be large enough to enable several hundred passengers to move about with ease and comfort.

In addition to extended suites of rooms complete flats will be available, thus making it possible to cross the Atlantic in the enjoyment of all the privacy of one's own home.

The oceangoing "flats" will comprise bedrooms, sitting rooms, private bathrooms, and even a private library, all en suite. Cabins with private Shower baths attached, a great salt water swimming bath large enough to permit of diving, and well-equipped gymnasium are to be among the features which will be introduced.

The main dining saloon will be furnished to seat 600 persons at once, and should a guest tire of this grand chamber he can wander from one café to another—each day have his meals in a different apartment.

Arrol GantryThe veranda café will also be a leading feature of these ships. It will be placed on one of the upper decks far astern, fully fifty feet above the sea level, and as it will be constructed with exposed rafters entwined with vines and creeping plants and have latticed sides, it will make the illusion of a café at the seaside almost perfect.

Each steamer will be divided into upward of thirty steel compartments separated by heavy bulkheads. An automatic device on the bridge will control all these heavy, steel doors, making it possible for a single hand to close them all in almost an instant in case of danger. Each of these doors will be electrically connected with a chart on the bridge, where each door will be represented by a small electric light, and when one of these doors closes, the light will burn red; but while it remains open the disk will be quite dark. The officer on the bridge will thus be able to see at a glance whether or not all the compartments have been closed.

Yet another set of safety devices will guard against fire in any portion of the vessel: A series of thermostats will be scattered throughout the great framework, so arranged as to indicate a rise in the temperature above a certain point, Should the temperature reach the danger paint, the fact will be immediately communicated to the officer on the bridge by the ringing of an electric bell, while an electric light on a great chart on the wall will burn red.

Each ship will have three propellers and, like the big Cunarders, will carry four funnels and two steel pole ventilator masts. They will also be fitted with wireless installations and search lights, as well as the now inevitable daily bulletin newspaper.

At present the work of constructing these leviathans is more or less under the superintendence of the Right Hon. A M. Carlisle, the Managing Director of Messrs. Harland & Wolff; but as the boats begin to reach the completion stage Lord Pirrie, Chairman of the company, will personally, supervise every detail, especially in the fitting up and interior economy of the steamers in regard to the proper arrangement of which he is regarded as one of the greatest living authorities.

Just a word or two about the gigantic gantries which had to be erected before a single plate could be placed in position or rivet driven home. These are each capable of bearing a dead weight of 75,000 tons. It took nearly twelve months to erect them, during which time the whole of the north yard was practically idle, the total cost being close upon £400,000; of which the gantries and slips cost £250,000, the balance being made up of hydraulic and pneumatic plant, alteration of works, and a floating crane capable of lifting at one haul a weight of 250 tons

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William James Pirrie


Encyclopedia Titanica (2008) Giant Ships Soon to Join the Atlantic Fleet (New York Times, Sunday 12th December 1909, ref: #8046, published 20 August 2008, generated 5th August 2021 10:20:22 PM); URL :