Titanic's Blueprints
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 wreck.

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 builders.

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 copies.

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 well.

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 room.

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 joints.

What did H&W use to keep the walls from squeaking in heavy seas?

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).

Late decisions

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.

New cabins.

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 Queenstown.

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 boat deck.

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 deck below.

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 decks.

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 not.

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 frame number.

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 II".

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

"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 regular intervals?

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 order.

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 iron

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.

Other plans

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 Tom Andrews.

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/.



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