The How the Titanic Worked.


How did the Titanic work?

The Hollywood version of the Titanic involved a great love story, some comedy, and the obvious tragedy. While some may think that this was a glamorized version of the actual events, the truth is that the feature film did a great job of sticking to the facts, albeit a shortened version. The Titanic, essentially, was destroyed by an iceberg that plowed into its side however much more went into it than that. But this was allowed to happen due to a number of factors including the arrogance of those that were in charge of controlling and building the ship, as well as the fact that the crew was warned about the presence of icebergs ahead of time. Although none of the facts or all of the hindsight in the world can bring back the approximate 1,513 passengers and crew members that were killed by the sea that day, they are definitely part of the reason why the sinking of the Titanic was not only one of the saddest disasters to happen in history but one of the most controversial as well.


The idea of the Titanic came from a discussion one evening in 1907 between two men, J. Bruce Ismay and Lord Pirrie. Ismay was the son of Thomas Ismay, the creator of White Star Line. Thomas Ismay founded his company on the thought that people would travel much more often by boat if there were some more luxurious models to do so on. Pirrie, on the other hand, sat on the Board of the Harland and Wolff shipbuilders. These two men were discussing the newest line of ships from Cunard’s Line and they were sure that they could build boats that were stronger, faster, and more luxurious. They created the idea of 3 ships that would embody these visions. They would be called the Gigantic (which later had its name changed to Brittanic), Olympic, and Titanic.

These 3 ships would be constructed very similar in design and one of the main focuses would be on making them massive in size. Pirrie and Ismay wanted to make sure that they were much larger than the ships in the Cunard’s Line and they guessed that when all was said and done, all 3 ships would be about 1.5 times the size of any of the Cunard’s ships. The original drawings of the ships showed 2 masts and 4 smokestacks. In reality, only 3 smokestacks were necessary but the men included another to add a look of symmetry. The fourth smokestack was later redesigned into a ventilation system. Originally Alexander Montgomery Carlisle was hired for the design but later would be replaced by Pirrie’s nephew, Thomas Andrews.

Structure of the Ship

Because the dimensions of the ship would be approximately 882.5 feet long, 92.5 feet wide, and a gross weight of approximately 45,000 tons, the design team, including Pirrie and Ismay, would need to be extremely creative in the tools and resources that they used. They needed to all be incredibly strong and able to support such a huge weight and size. The Parson’s Turbine was one material that was used for the creation of the ship and this was a very important component as it worked off the exhaust steam that came off the ship’s two reciprocating engines. These engines were almost 4 stories tall! These engines, along with the 2 three-blade propellers that measured 23.5 feet in diameter as well as the four-blade propeller that measured about 17 feet in diameter, created enough horsepower within the ship for it travel up to 24 knots.

This kind of power needed a lot of room for all of the equipment that drove it. Because of this, at the rear (or the hull) of the ship, there were different compartments, all that were divided by reinforced bulkheads. These compartments held the turbine room, the engine room, six boiler rooms, 11 stokeholds and rooms for refrigeration. On top of this innovative design was a creative design by Thomas Andrews. This design was the watertight doors that could come down automatically or via manual controls and stop the spread of flooding from one compartment to another. In his design scheme, the ship would still stay afloat just fine with 2 of the 16 compartments flooded and could even be capable with as many as 4 compartments flooded.

One of the first problems the Titanic and the other 2 ships faced was quite ironic. Their very creative design schemes and ‘larger than ever before’ designs actually worked against them. Because no ships had ever before been built to this size, no harbors or docks had either. There were also no tools in existence that could be used to build a ship that was so large. Because of this, the White Star Dock and the Great Gantry were also created, before any of the ships were. The Great Gantry was a set of 10 cranes that worked together to lift different materials and equipment up to the decks of the ship that were being worked on. The Olympic was the first ship to be built and it was completed in 1911. In 1912, the Titanic was also completed and ready for her maiden voyage.

Once it was complete, the total cost for the construction of the Titanic was approximately 4.3 million pounds, or $7.5 million USD. The ship was everything that Pirrie and Ismay had envisioned, a truly luxurious hotel in the Ocean. Guests aboard the ship were not to ever have to mingle amongst awkward and ugly pieces of ship equipment and the look and feel of the ship in many instances became more important than necessary components of a ship, such as safety equipment. The number of lifeboats that were needed far exceeded the 16 that were onboard but the number was reduced so that the boats wouldn’t interfere with the look of distinction of the ship. This would later become a fatal and historical mistake.

The interior of the Titanic was designed in a series of decks, 9 in total, and most labeled Decks A – F with one deck along the top of these and 2 along the bottom. They would appear to be layered when looking at a profile of the ship and they appear, from top to bottom, in this order:


  • Boat Deck – This is where the Captain’s Bridge is and the location from which the ship is navigated and maneuvered through the water. There was also a gym and an open deck here that was pine-paneled.
  • Promenade Deck (Deck A) – Here there were two flights of stairs, located between 4 giant funnel stacks, that were to be used by first-class passengers. On this deck was also a reading and writing room; a lounge; a smoking room for male first-class passengers only; and a café that was designed to look like an outdoor patio, it was called the Verandah Café/Palm Court.
  • Bridge Deck (Deck B) – This held a smoking room for second class male passengers; first-class cabins; a restaurant; a café; and a third-class poop deck. This was where third-class passengers could go if they wanted a short stroll or to play games. They could do this amongst large pieces of cargo and equipment.
  • Shelter Deck (Deck C) – This deck held the purser’s office as well as a smoking room for third-class passengers and a library/lounge for second-class passengers.
  • Saloon Deck (Deck D) – This area was mainly for first-class passengers as it was here that held their reception area as well as their dining saloon. It was placed in between funnels to make sure the first-class passengers would be the least disturbed while they were eating. The second-class dining saloon was also located here but in a much less ‘out of the way’ position and the first and second-class galleys were also found here.
  • Upper Deck (Deck E) – Here there were second and third-class cabins.
  • Middle Deck (Deck F) – Here there was the third-class dining saloon as well as the Turkish baths.
  • Lower Deck/Orlop Deck – On this deck there were squash courts; a post office; workshops offering carpentry, plumbing, and electrical courses were offered. There was also a long series of refrigerated rooms here that kept the food and perishables.
  • Tank Top – Boiler rooms and engine rooms.

The interior design aspects of the ship were considered to be some of the most contemporary designs of the time and they included things such as wicker in the casual dining areas, potted palms and other plants, bright wallpaper, and subdued pastel fabrics. It was also greatly decorated in an Edwardian style with beautiful touches of Georgian and Louis XV touches. The glass fixtures and other hardware was often done, or at least reinforced with, iron and that was another ultra-modern touch for the time. People were greatly in awe of the beauty and splendor that the Titanic represented and were very eager to be part of her first voyage out on the open sea.

From looking at the way the decks were arranged, it’s undeniable that the first-class passengers were taken into much greater consideration than the lower class passengers. However, the designers of the ship and those in control of the maiden voyage wanted to ensure that the trip aboard the Titanic was a highly remarkable one for all of its passengers. These individuals were well aware that most of the third-class passengers were foreign immigrants that were travelling to America (as the Titanic was destined for New York) for the first time to begin their new lives. The designers of the Titanic wanted to make sure that it was their first taste of the wonderfulness that was waiting for them in their new home.

The Passengers

The Titanic first left its harbor in Belfast to pick up its passengers in Southampton, England. It then travelled to Cherbourg, France and Queenstown, Ireland to pick up the remaining passengers. Altogether there were 2,208 passengers and 899 officers and crew members onboard Titanic. 329 of those made up the first-class, 285 were second-class, and the majority of the passengers, 710 of them, made up the third-class passengers. The first-class passengers were mainly wealthy socialites and prominent figures who simply had too much money to spend and wanted to be one of the firsts to get a taste of such luxury. The second-class passengers were mainly businessmen, along with members of the clergy, and third-class was mainly comprised of European immigrants. The actual numbers are difficult, if not impossible to verify as there were many transfers to other ships, passengers cancelling their trip, or those that were simply left behind. There are so many of these passengers who claim to have missed that fatal maiden voyage that they had been scheduled to take, that they have formed a ‘Just Missed It!’ club. According to certain reports that have investigated these claims, a total of 6,000 people have claimed to have ‘just missed’ the trip. However, these stories are often difficult to believe as well as the ship could simply not accommodate that many people.

Tickets onboard the Titanic were as expensive as all of the amenities found within it. A first-class ticket was known to cost between $2,500 and $4,500, which today would be about $43,000 to $78,000. Third-class tickets didn’t cost nearly as much but they still weren’t cheap by any standards. One of these tickets cost around $35, which would be about $620 today. Third-class accommodations weren’t horrible either although over 700 people did have to share 2 bathrooms. However, they were given real mattresses instead of the straw-stuffed material that was often found on other ships. However, because these cabins were the closest to the engines and the boiler room, these were also the hottest accommodations with a lot of noise and vibration being felt and heard from the equipment.

The Mistakes

So what happened to lead to the tragic events? Well one of the biggest reasons was just that – the ship was simply too big. While this could have become a preventable problem, there were certain unique situations it ran into purely because of the fact that it was so big. The fact that there were only 16 lifeboats was one of these problems. There was only this small amount because at the time, regulations and safety standards were only designed for boats of a specific size. Even boats at this maximum size were only required to have 16 lifeboats and so, this was considered to be the requirement. Another problem with the size of the ship was that it was too big to be properly tested. Because of this it was only tested for 7 or 8 hours before it left for its maiden voyage and during this time, it was never even pushed to its greatest speed. There was also not enough time for the crew to properly practice emergency procedures, such as lowering the few lifeboats. Only 2 lifeboats were ever lowered in practice and so this led to an inaccurate calculation of how long it would take to lower all 16. The ship also didn’t even leave with all of its crew members and some members that were on the ship weren’t even signed official posts until the second day of sail. Another major problem was that the ship ran on the Marconi emergency system. While this was considered to be advanced technology, it was too advanced and most people didn’t even know how to use it yet. Perhaps the most fatal mistake however was ignoring the number of warnings that the ship had received about ice floes, patches, and icebergs.

There were a total of 4 iceberg warnings altogether, the last coming just an hour before the fatal hit was made. Once the iceberg was spotted, an alarm was sounded and emergency procedures begun. The ship was steered away from the iceberg but it did not have time to stop or slow down all that much. Although the side-steering was designed to save the ship from impact, it actually exposed the most vulnerable area of the ship to the berg and once the ice ripped holes all along the ship’s side, 5 of the compartments began to fill. Captain Thomas Andrew, after surmising the damage, announced that it would be approximately one to one and a half hours before the ship sank completely.

The Titanic

the Titanic.

 The How the Titanic Worked of the Titanic.

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