By Roy Mengot
When David Livingstone of Harland & Wolff joined the
1996 expedition to the wreck, he brought with him a set
of the construction plans for the ship to aid him in his
assessments of what he might see during his dives on the
These construction plans are available to the public and
show forgotten features of the ship as well as a look at
the work the builders had done. While the construction plans
are probably not worth the cost to the general Titanic student,
they are invaluable for the technical student of the ship,
and do shed light on life aboard Olympic and Titanic for
the passengers and crew, as well as the work done by the
Most of the plans are drawn in 1/48 scale, resulting in
a 20-foot long plan for most decks and are 3 feet wide.
The original drawings were drawn on linen, not paper, and
the linen fabric texture shows quite well in many of the
The "Iron" plans show the iron work of the ship's
construction; deck plates, floor joists, ribs, and structural
walls. They do not show the layout of non-structural items
such as cabin walls. Interior plans were done separately
and, aside from the basic 'general arrangement' plans, H&W
no longer has these.
Most of the plans are marked simply "Promenade Plan
Nos 400-1" indicating the hull numbers for Olympic
(400) and Titanic (401). In many areas where a change was
indicated for Titanic, a hand scrawled note says "401"
and the text. The intent was to maximize the use of the
same drawings on both ships. As it is, some changes to both
Olympic and Titanic were not fully incorporated back into
the plans. Some references to 433 (Britannic) appear as
Boat Deck Plan
The Boat Deck iron plan shows a few interesting oddities.
The front of the bridge overlooking the well deck was wooden,
while the bulwark on either side going to the bridge cabs
was steel. The bulwark from the backside of the bridge cabs
was change from wood (Olympic) to steel on Titanic.
The inner cabins on A-deck had skylights. This was accomplished
by placing a porthole (called a skid light) along the bottom
edge of the officer's quarters, which let light shine on
a 21" skylight in the inner rooms. In the officer's
rooms, a slanted cover encased this unit and the officer's
bed was probably used to cover this protrusion into the
The photo above was taken on May 31st, 1911 when Titanic
was launched and Olympic was handed over to the White star
line. Note the construction debris on the deck. Skid lights
in the side of the officer's quarters were part of the skylights
for interior A-deck cabins. The Illustrated London News
photo above shows a skid light behind Capt. Smith's leg.
The photo is indeed Titanic as the skid lights on Olympic
were oval shaped, Titanic's were round.
The wheel house was modified during Olympic's construction.
The plan shows a crude hand drawn curve added to the square
front of the wheel house. The curved front was incorporated
into the ship's construction. Titanic's wheel house was
further modified to be narrower and longer, with changes
to the front of the officer's quarters. These Titanic changes
appear as light lines on the plan and you need to look for
them in the linen texture. No notes are added. Items like
this make it clear that even the builder's construction
plans don't tell the whole story.
Scuppers and waterways
All decks on the ship had a 3" camber, or the center
of each deck was 3" higher than the sides to facilitate
the run off of water, whether from rain or fire hoses. Streets
have a crown in the middle for the same purpose.
All decks on the outer surfaces had a waterway (gutter)
down the outer edges. Water ran down the decks to the gutters
and there were scuppers (drains) in the gutter to channel
the water out a convenient hole. The gutters on the boat
deck and A-deck were 7 inches wide, 13" wide on B-deck
and 15.5 inch wide on C-deck.
On the upper decks, the drains emptied down pipes hidden
along the pillars of the lower promenade decks. The drains
and gutters all appear in photos, if you take time to notice
them. The decks were washed daily to keep the wood tight
and to wash off all the cinders from the funnels. There's
no need having all that ash tracked back into the ship.
Promenade Elevation plan
An elevation plan shows side views of the walls. The A-deck
elevation shows the precise wall, door, and window locations
and sizes. It also has a top view showing the layout of
all the structural walls.
The elevation plan shows the precise placement of the
windows. Shown are the aft bay windows for the 1st class
lounge on the starboard side. Note the intricate shading.
The 6-8-10 across the bottom indicate the frame numbers.
2P 8'-11"x21"x.42" indicates two pieces are
needed 8'-11"x21" and .42" thick. P&S
means port and starboard. The slash marks indicate overlapping
What did H&W use to keep the walls from squeaking in
A note on the plan says "In way of all webs, corners,
expansion joints, fore end of deck house, and wherever creaking
is thought liable to take place, one ply of flannel is to
be inserted between iron connections."
Apparently the area in the lounge pantry around the aft
expansion joint creaked on Olympic because a note there
says, "401 <frame specs> Flannelled!,"
dated 6-2-12. (All dates are written as day/month/year).
The front to the weather wall on the promenade deck with
a door and window was sketched on the plan with a '401'
and a reference to another drawing and dated 14-2-12. In
short, this front to the weather wall was added less than
two months before sailing. Jack Eaton, co-author of Titanic:
Triumph and Tragedy took great delight in learning this
little fact from the plans at the Titanic International
convention in April, 2000.
The plans show the window and entry door changes for the
two added cabins in the reception area by the aft Grand
Staircase, but not the interior wall arrangement. The port
cabin would be A-37 occupied by Tom Andrews, and the starboard
cabin would be A-36, occupied by Father Browne as far as
Web Frames and décor
In the 1st class lounge, there are walls between the bay
windows that extend into the room 9' 1". They are not
intended to divide the room partially into conversation
areas, they are structural support for the long walls. The
nearly 4 X 7-foot hole was added to reduce the weight.
Since the wall is there, the decorators took advantage
and installed windows or sunken mirrors. The woodwork then
masks these structures to create conversation areas.
The 1st class lounge divider walls are web frames providing
support for the long walls and roof. The decorators used
them to create separate conversation areas. The inset from
the plan shows that the hole to be added was sized by the
decorators and they inset the mirrors seen in the photo.
A-deck iron plan
A small note on the A-deck iron plan indicates a modification
to some ceiling joints and includes "Approved by Mr.
Andrews" in January of 1912. A number of small notes
on various plans show technical changes made over Olympic
to simplify or correct problems. They indicate the level
of detail Tom Andrews dealt with in the ship's construction.
A minor change to the ceiling joists indicates the approval
of Tom Andrews. This change involved adding strength to
the beams under A-deck around the aft mast (frames 95-102).
This may have been done to change the vibration characteristics
of the beams. Strength wasn't an issue here but there may
have been a vibration 'buzz' here on Olympic.
B-deck Iron plan
The B-deck plan still has the Olympic layout and doesn't
show the elimination of the B-deck promenade and the changes
to the windows as a result. It was used for Titanic though
as it shows small detail changes marked '401'. B-deck is
the 'strength deck' of the ship as it is the top of the
structural hull. The sides of B-deck, A-deck and the boat
deck are superstructure and are made of light weight materials
compared to the structural hull. The expansion joints both
relieve stress imparted to the superstructure by the flexing
of the hull and prevent the superstructure from acting as
a structural part of the hull. The wall studs are not integral
with the ribs, are lighter weight, and spaced farther apart
on 4.5' centers.
Shipping the engines
The engines and boilers were added to the ship after it
was launched and sent to the fitting out basin. At launch,
the uptakes for the first three boiler rooms were 20 X 45
foot gapping holes that went from the boat deck to the boiler
room floors. The watertight bulkhead rose in the center
of the hole as high as E-deck. All the interior bracing
for the fan shafts and vents was added later as well.
For the reciprocating engines, a T-shaped hole 42 feet
long and 38 feet wide was left through the decks for lowering
in the engine components. After installing the engines,
this hole was filled in by the decks, the aft grand staircase,
and a light & air shaft to the first class galley to
shrink the hole to 24 X 20 foot under the tank room on the
The turbine engine required a hole 25 X 48 feet and slightly
offset to starboard. After installation, the decks were
filled in to produce a hole 18 X 20 feet for the uptake
to the #4 funnel.
These holes are marked as "shipping spaces" for
the drive train components. While I mention them here, they
appear on all affected decks.
The shipping spaces were areas in the decks left open
at launch. The holes were used for lowering the machinery
at the fitting-out quay. These areas would be finished after
the engines and boilers had been "shipped" through
these spaces for installation. "Bhd below" indicates
a structural bulkhead is present or will be added on the
Titanic appeared as a complete ship to the casual observer
as it was launched. To a worker on the boat deck, there
were five gargantuan holes that went 10 stories down to
a near hollow keel with a lot of wood bracing along the
sides. These spaces are clearly marked on the plans.
It does conjure the image of a worker standing on the engine
room floor looking up a 10-story shaft at a 50-ton cylinder
partially blotting out the sun as it's lowered.
Bath and WC
As mentioned, cabin walls are not structural and are not
marked on the iron plans. Bath and toilet rooms are structural
in that they all have a 3.5-4 inch steel lip (coaming) around
the base of them. Hence they appear on the plans. Passengers
needed to step over these lips to enter and exit. The same
can be seen on the Queen Mary today.
Pantries, service rooms, and all lavatory rooms had the
steel lip as well. These make it easy to equate locations
on the iron plans with the deck plans.
Lavatories are structural as they have a steel coaming
(lip) around the base and appear on the 'iron plans'. Cabins
are not structural and do not appear. Outer walls for the
deck houses are structural and are shown.
Forecastle and poop deck
Although still properly part of B-deck, the forecastle
and poop deck are not included on the B-deck plan. They
were drawn up separately.
The poop deck shows the holes for the large skylights over
the steering engines just forward of the docking bridge.
3rd class passengers had a chance to look in on the big
steam engines that turned the rudder, if so inclined. These
were the only heavy steam machinery visible to any passenger.
The cranes and capstans are the other heavy objects indicated
on the plans. Bollards and vents had added supports that
show on the wreck, but not on the plans.
The poop deck plan above shows the port crane, the forward
wall of the 3rd class smoke room below, the associated bar
bulkhead below, the support girder, and a jumble of other
data. The picture shows the result of the drawing on Olympic
during her fitting out. Note the center post supporting
the crane. A post is found under all of the cranes.
C-deck iron plan
C-deck includes the indoor center of the ship and areas
under the forecastle and poop deck, and the outdoor well
Lots of holes
Holes through the decks do not include small holes for
vents and plumbing. These are shown on other specialized
plans. Stairwells, cargo hatches, light and air shafts for
the galley, cargo hatches, and the funnel uptakes are the
major holes that provide landmarks.
Under the forecastle are the holes for the nearly 4-foot
diameter mast and two 2-foot diameter holes for the anchor
chains to pass through the deck to the chain locker below.
The #3 cargo hatch was called the 'Bunker hatch' on the
plans because either cargo could be stored at the bottom
or reserve coal could be 'bunkered' there.
The crew had a class system similar to the passengers and
it shows on the plans. Under the forecastle, the seamen
used the 'Seamen's stairway' to go down to their quarters.
The firemen, trimmers, and greasers used the 'Firemen's
stairways' to go to separate quarters in the very bow of
the ship. The firemen had their own mess hall, the seamen
had one too, and the greasers had a third. These classes
of crew didn't mix together much at all. The seamen had
a bath by their quarters on E-deck. The boiler crew did
C-deck under the forecastle shows the stairs for the
Seamen (center) and the Firemen (upper right). The 4' hole
for the mast appears in the lower left. Vertical dotted
lines are floor joists. Horizontal solid-with-dashed lines
indicate overlapping floor plates. Other deck structures
are drawn with solid lines.
The hole for the dumbwaiter from the 1st and 2nd class
galley to the Ale Carte restaurant appears on the B and
C-deck plans. Though the restaurant had it's own galley,
the butcher shop and bakery were in the main galley, and
all supplies from ship's stores were passed up to the restaurant
via the dumbwaiter.
Lack of holes
As mentioned, B&C decks are the strength decks that
take the greatest burden of pull-stress as large waves pass
under the center of the ship. In the area between the 1st
and 4th funnels, there are no stairwells or openings outboard
of the stack uptakes. Both decks have a heavier gauge stake
along side the funnel uptakes and get thicker going outboard
to the sides. This allows the entire area on either side
of the uptakes to function as an uninterrupted stress bearing
surface. Some of the German designs featured split uptakes
and other openings outboard of the center and were prone
to cracking the decks.
The grid systems
Specific locations in the ship were marked using various
grid systems. For the overall ship, 'frame numbers' were
used. A frame consists of the ribs on each side of the ship,
the keel beam at the base, and one floor joist for each
deck going up. The frames are then numbered starting from
the center of the ship and going from 1 to 157 forward,
and from 1 to 148 aft.
A location such as the aft wall of the forward well deck
is at '83 fwd'. The front of the poop deck is at '117 aft'.
You can't calculate distances easily with this. There is
no 'frame 0', just two 'frame 1s' and the frames are not
evenly spaced for the length of the ship. The spacing is
narrower at the bow and stern and the plans indicate where
the spacing changes occurred. The spacing is of use to modelers
because portholes and doors are always centered in a frame.
Knowing the frame system allows more accurate placement
of almost everything.
The rows of deck plates are lettered from a center row
'A' out to row 'H' port and starboard. Deck plates would
be cut and marked by plate row (or "strake") and
Oddly, there are still two rows of plates past row 'H'
that are not marked.
Similarly, shell plate strakes are lettered A to X from
the keel around the sides up to B-deck. The watertight bulkheads
are labeled 'A' to 'P' working back from the bow (with no
bulkhead 'I') and the walls to the coal bunkers on either
side of the water tight bulkheads are lettered 'Q' to 'Z'
going back from #6 boiler room.
Rudder steering gear
The rudder rose to the steering gear room on C-deck under
the poop deck. There is reinforcement under the deck for
the heavy steam steering engines that turned the rudder
as well as for the rudder mount itself. All steering commands
from the helm on the bridge were translated to commands
to make the steam steering gear twist the rudder one way
or another. This was done automatically via cables.
On the wreck today, the poop deck above seems to have been
pushed in and now rests on top of the steering gear.
E-deck iron plan
E-deck is the only deck featuring cabins for all passenger
classes and a full mix of crew.
As a side note, I noticed there were a number of 3rd class
cabins that are roughly 6 X 7 feet, and had 4 berths. I
suspect we won't see any of these rooms on any "Titanic
The stairway down to the squash court shows a modification
dated Feb. 8, 1910. A stairway that would have been steep
down the backside was crossed out and a new arrangement
is just drawn over the plan. They couldn't erase things
easily on the plans and they were not going to redraw them.
Changes to the drawings were done by simply crossing
out the old and redrawing the new. The stairs to the squash
court were modified from a steep drop down the back of the
court to a longer wrap-around arrangement. The tiny escape
hatch from #6 boiler room is seen at upper left.
Escape from below
E-deck is the top of the forward watertight bulkheads and
you find escape shafts for the crew in the lower spaces.
One is located at the front of #6 boiler room (upper left
in the drawing above). It's 24 X 30 inches and would contain
a 42-foot ladder up this tiny shaft. Personnel in the boiler
room used it following the collision to get out.
Four more such escape shafts appear for the compartments
of the generator room, the #5 and #6 cargo rooms, and the
aft propeller shaft spaces.
"Scotland road was the main hallway that ran most
of the length of the ship. In addition to connecting the
forward 3rd class to the after 3rd class, and to their dinning
room in the center, it was the main travel path for all
the crew that served the passengers.
The plans show that for most of its length, it's about
8 feet wide and has 7-inch wide gutters (waterways) going
down both sides. These gutters would have given a more 'alley
way' look to it. Besides the hundreds of crew and all of
3rd class using Scotland Road to get about, food was moved
to the forward grew galley via this route from ship's stores.
Were the gutters there so they could just hose it down at
There were 5-foot square trap doors in the floor for shipping
(replacements?) furnaces down to the boiler rooms. These
would be brought in through the numerous doors in the side
of the ship on E-deck.
In the center of the ship, there are 5 baths for the 250
or so stewards and galley staff. 3rd class passengers wandering
the hall or going to and from meals probably got to see
the staff wandering to and from the baths and lavatories
in their robes. For all of 3rd class, there were just two
baths located aft most on D-deck.
In Cameron's "Titanic", Rose uses Scotland Road
to rescue Jack from the Master at Arms office. While the
plans don't show plumbing, the overhead hanging pipes were
probably there as well, adding additional charm to the décor.
The engineer's mess
As mentioned, there was a class system for the ships crew
and the engineers were pretty much first in the pecking
The engineer's mess was half the size of the firemen's
mess for 1/10 the people. It was one flight up from their
rooms and the food came down one flight from the 1st/2nd
class galley on a dumbwaiter. The plans only show the stairway
down and the footings to the dining room and pantry.
By contrast, all of the stewards and staff serving the
passengers had no dining room at all. They grabbed a plate
of stuff in the galley and ate where they stood before going
about their duties.
G-deck is different in that they only draw the port 2/3
of the ship. The starboard 1/3 is assumed to be a mirror
of the port side unless indicated in notes. The refrigerated
storage rooms for the ship's groceries are indicated aft
as well as the base of the squash court and the area of
the 3rd class open births forward.
Dealing with coal
The plan throws a great deal of light on the business of
moving coal around. The coaling doors above were used to
drop in the large chunks of coal that were normally delivered
to ships. G-deck formed a shelf around the boiler rooms
and was the work space for breaking up the coal. The big
chunks needed to broken up into smaller pieces by the trimmers
for easier shoveling by the firemen.
The broken coal was thrown down holes in the deck into
the 24-foot deep coal bunkers. The trimmers then cross level
the coal across the roughly 90-foot of the bunker to keep
coal ready for use at the boilers.
Trimmers literally went to work by dropping through
a hole in G-deck and started manhandling coal. The trianle
shaped trimmer's hole in the drawing above opened to the
aft port coal bunker in #6 boiler room. Consider also that
boiler rooms are hot and clammy.
The tank top iron plan
The tank top was the floor above the keel in that the multi-cellular
bottom of the ship was bounded by the keel and tank top.
The bilge and ballast tanks were sandwiched between the
two, as well as a great deal of plumbing. In all of the
machine spaces, there was a raised working floor and more
pipes ran between the tank top and the raised floor. There
were simple trap doors in the raised floor to allow access
to the tank top. To enter the cellular bottom, the tank
top had a large number of manhole covers that were bolted
down, permitting the double bottom to remain water tight.
The tank top was the of the ship from the dynamo room to
#6 boiler room. Fore and aft of that, the tank top surface
was a narrower wedge and the frames of the ship extended
out along the keel to the sides. The sides of #3 bunker
hatch were open and additional coal was dumped between the
frames and rested on the keel plates themselves.
There are a large number of plans needed to design a great
ship and this article has touched on the major deck plans.
Other plans studied include:
The lines plan which shows the contours of the ships
hull. This is very useful for a modeler trying to accurately
reconstruct the shape of the hull.
The plating plan shows the side plates, portholes,
bilge keel, and fittings such as mooring cleats in the side.
The port side of the center anchor well was a removable
plate. The sides were not uniformly 1" thick. Fore
and aft of the funnels, the side plates papered down slowly
.7" and even .6". As these areas of the ship had
less buoyancy than the wider center of the ship, it was
necessary to reduce the weight at the ends to avoid load
stress. To compensate somewhat, the ribs were spaced closer
together at the very bow (2' on center) and at the stern
(27" on center).
The three watertight bulkhead plans show all the
water tight bulkheads including all the structural support.
Higher decks had lighter studs and lower sections were supported
with I-beams to account for water pressure at varying depths
should the compartment be flooded. The bulkheads were not
uniform straight walls. In several places, the bulkhead
on a given deck will be shaped, offset, or molded around
something. This required decks in offset areas to require
watertight caulking as well as the bulkheads. Watertight
bulkheads were only caulked on one side.
The engine room columns plan shows all the columns
and the associated steel work in the engine rooms. This
would be a must-have plan for someone doing a model of just
the engine rooms as it shows details of all the columns,
beams, upper engine room wall details, and other information
not shown in the engine room schematics.
The mid-ship cross section shows the different sizes
and thicknesses of the decks, girders, web frames, cellular
hull dividers, etc. The does show plate thicknesses in details
not found on many of the deck plans.
The expansion joint detail shows all of the smallest
details about the fore and aft expansion joints including
how the planking was framed and the construction at the
sides and on the deck houses. The joints were covered with
a leather cover that had a small drain hole at the base.
At B-deck, the outer strake of deck on B-deck (stringer
strake) was doubled 1" plates. The top most strake
of the sides (shear strake) was double 1" plates as
well. These were joined together with a .9" L-beam
to produce a top edge to the structural hull that was 3
inches of steel on the lattice of the frames. In contrast,
the sides of B-deck were superstructure built of 1/4"
plate on lightweight studs tacked to the top of the structural
hull and spaced farther apart. The purpose of the expansion
joint was to relieve the superstructure of the stress of
the bending forces being carried by the structural hull.
Four years of architectural drafting I had in high school
served me well in being able to read the plans.
Understanding the ship's plans puts photos of the ship's
construction in a new light. They provide a link to the
men who drew and read them and moved iron and wood to realize
the plans in a finished ship. Many of their hand written
notes still adorn the plans, perhaps even by the hand of
The plans also highlight or indicate features of the ship
that were part of daily life for the crew or passengers
but were lost of forgotten in the books by noted authors
that we all have read.
Hopefully this sampling from the plans underscores how
much information is still available about the ship and what
we can still learn about the people who built and sailed
on Olympic and Titanic. They're trying to tell us the story,
ya just gotta sit and listen.
About the Author
Roy Mengot is a defense systems engineer with Raytheon
Systems Company in Dallas, Texas. He's studied the Titanic
at Woodshole and other sources and built a model of the
wreck that won 'Best in show' at the 1997 International
Modeler's Society convention. He was just named as a member
of the Marine Forensic Panel of the Society of Naval Architects
and Marine engineers.
Visit his web site on the wreck at www.flash.net/~rfm/.