RMS Titanic: Fascinating Engineering Facts


These journals contain stunning images of
the construction of the Titanic and its near identical twin the Olympic. I found these
journals at the University of Illinois Library. The journals, written between 1909 and 1911,
take me back to a time before the Titanic sunk; they give me a new perspective and let
me appreciate the enormity and the scale of the engineering of the Olympic-class ships.
So let me share with you some fascinating details about the Titanic and its twins, the
Olympic and Britannic. The story starts here: in the Harland and Wolff shipyard in Belfast
Ireland. This large framework, called a gantry, surrounds the ships as they are built. It
supports the overhead cranes and scaffolding used by workers as they construct the Olympic
and the Titanic. Notice that just beyond the far end of the gantry lies the Belfast Harbor.
Workers will build the Olympic here on the right, and then nine months later, before
the Olympic is finished, they will start, on the left, the Titanic. When completed the
Olympic’s stern, or rear end of the ship, will point toward the harbor. The ship’s
construction starts with its keel, seen here as a long, dark shape. The keel is the backbone
of the ship and gives the ship rigidity. If we look at keel from the land-side we see
the keel blocks that support it. These wooden blocks, typically pine, separate the ship
from the slip—the concrete floor of the gantry. Each keel block stands about five
feet high, so this creates a space under the ship for workers to construct the ship. Workers
built the ship outward from the keel; here they construct the Olympic’s double bottom.
In pink, we see the framework that separates and supports the two bottoms of the ship;
the second bottom, is shown in orange. Its made of steel plates and is sometimes called
the tank top because the double bottom contains 44 water-tight tanks. Most of the tanks carried
seawater used as ballast to balance and add weight to the ship, but some carried freshwater.
In total, the double bottom carried over 5,000 tons of water—or about 1.5 million gallons.
Once they’ve finished the double bottom, workers erect the framing for the hull. From
this view we see the framing for the stern of the ship. Its what a worker would see standing
on the tank top, from the fore and looking toward the aft of the ship— that’s where
the harbor is. Looking closer, we see the rib-like structure and the start of the transverse
frame of the ship. Workers rivet to this frame the hull, which will form the skin. So far,
we’ve watched the Olympic’s construction. In the gantry that ship sits here in the background.
In the foreground lies the keel of its twin, the Titanic. Its construction began nine months
after the Olympic. We see here, attached to the keel, the framework of the Titanic’s
double bottom. Notice this large, claw like mechanism lying on the ground, and these three
hung from cranes. These are hydraulic riveters, which workers used to install most of the
three millions rivets on the Titanic. Here we see the almost complete hulls of both the
Olympic and Titanic. Work inside the Olympic progresses rapidly: the state rooms are being
erected and plumbing is being fitted throughout the ship. To prepare for the Olympic’s launch
workers paint the ship a light gray so it will stand out in black and white photographs,
although they repainted the ship black soon after its launch so that it matched previous
White Star Liners. To ease the slide into the water, the slip was greased with 23 tons
of tallow, oil and soap. And then the order to release the ship was given, the hydraulic
triggers were released, and the ship slide into the harbor reaching a speed of twelve
and a half knots. Notice that the ship is launched backwards. There are many reason’s
for this, but among them is that the stern, the rear, is wider that the bow, so it is
more buoyant. In a mere 62 seconds after launch, the Olympic was afloat. The moment the ship
hit the water is its official launch date, although it was mostly empty. Here it weighs
only about 27,000 tons and so rides high in the water. The draft—the vertical distance
between the bottom of the ship and the surface of the water—is only 18 feet. After it is
completely fitted it will weigh nearly twice that: 52,000 tons. With that additional weight
the Olympic will drop until the water reaches the border painted on the hull—a draft of
about 34 feet. The Olympic cannot move by itself and so a tugboat tows it to the fitting-out
quay where a gigantic crane loads the ship. Here the crane lifts aboard a cylindrical
boiler. The final outfitting—including attaching the propellers—is done in dry dock. And
then, once everything is in place, the Olympic is ready for the sea. Seven months after this
launch the Titanic was launched. I have from this journal a few photos of that event, but
keep in mind the Olympic got the big press because it was first. The Titanic only becomes
of more interest in retrospect. This photograph shows the twins, the Olympic and Titanic.
Although built side-by-side this was the last time they were photographed together. Less
than a year after the launch of these two giant ships, one suffered a collision that
ripped a gaping hole in its side. That ship, was, of course, the Olympic. In September
of 1911 the Olympic departed the Port of Southampton, England, sailing towards the Isle of Wight.
The Olympic turned into the Solent Straight and passed a British warship, the H.M.S. Hawke.
The Hawke’s commander was surprised by the Olympic’s wide turn, but he managed to take
a safe position behind and to the right of the Olympic. The Hawke then increased its
speed to pass the Olympic, but the Olympic’s wake sucked the Hawke inward rapidly; the
Hawke tore a large hole in the Olympic. And below its waterline the damage was even greater.
The bow of the Hawke was completely smashed in. The Olympic limped back to Southampton
where the holes were temporarily patched with wood, before returning to its home dock in
Belfast for repairs. The Olympic’s sibling also suffered a traumatic blow that caused
it to tragically sink. I’m of course talking about the Britannic. The Britannic was the
same size and very similar to the Olympic and Titanic. Although intended to be a passenger
liner, the ship was drafted into military service in World War I as a hospital ship.
While in the Mediterranean it hit a mine or was struck by a torpedo, and sank in less
than an hour. Despite these accidents, the Olympic-class ships were great feats of design and workmanship. Just consider
the propulsion system of the Titanic: the ship had two sets of reciprocating engines.
These engines were fueled by coal, which was stored along the bottom of the ship. Exhaust
gasses from the boiler discharged through these smoke stacks, which are frequently called
“funnels.” Now, they don’t look like funnels until you look at them the right way:
they’re upside down funnels. This cross-section of the Olympic shows the boilers sitting atop
the double bottom. Exhaust from the boilers is funneled up and out of the ship. It’s
well known that the aft-most funnel on these ships is a “dummy”—it was built primarily
for aesthetic reasons—although it did not service the boilers, it was used as a ventilation
and extraction shaft for the engine and turbine rooms. The Titanic needed 4,000 tons of coal
for a trans-atlantic trip, which took twenty-four hours to shovel into the bunkers. Here, in
this photo of the S.S. Minnehaha, coal is being loaded into coal ports on the side of
the hull. Loading coal into the Titanic worked much the same way. This loading left streaks
of coal dust on the hull and so nearly all ocean liners at the time were painted black
to help hide these traces of coal. After the advent of oil fueled ships, lighter colors
became more popular. As the Titanic crossed the Atlantic, 650 tons of coal per day was
shoveled into cylindrical boilers, where it was burned to produce steam. These boilers
were nearly sixteen feet in diameter; this picture shows a single boiler — notice the
two workers beside it. The steam was piped to these reciprocating engines. The engines,
when viewed from the front of the ship, look like this. The orange is the piston rod and
inside the cylindrical casing is the piston. This worker peering out of this casing gives
a sense of engine’s size. Excess steam from these engines was used to drive a turbine
engine. This shows the turbine under construction and without its outer casing. Note the workers
at the top: this is huge. If you look closely you can see that the turbine is made of hundreds
of individual blades. A shaft transfers power from the engines to the propellers. The ones
on the left and the right were powered by the reciprocating engines and each propeller
weighted 38 tons. While the central propeller was powered by the turbine engine. It was
cast as a single piece of manganese-bronze and weighed 22 tons. The outer propellers
were used for tight navigation of harbors, while the central propeller was only used
in open seas. Also, unlike the others, the central propeller could not be driven in reverse,
only forward. Even with this powerful propulsion system the Olympic-class ships were not the
fastest at the time, which was intentional. The White Star Line decided that their ships
should focus on comfort and luxury over speed. It’s clear that the lavishly decorated rooms
on the Olympic and Titanic certainly made the passage more enjoyable, but there were
some hidden design choices that made these ships the pinnacle of comfort for all classes
of service. The ships were steered using these helical gears. Each ship had two sets of both
the spur gears and the beveled gears. These massive gears are nearly six feet across,
made of solid steel and each weigh thousands of pounds. Notice the herring-bone pattern
on the teeth. This pattern allowed a tight engagement of the teeth and resulted in reduced
vibration transmitted to the rest of the ship. Altogether, the gearing on the Titanic weighed
about seven and a half tons. This very large structural piece is called the boss arms,
these arms held the shafts of the outer propellers in place, and because of their size and strength,
they reinforce the hull, which reduces panting. Panting occurs when variations in water pressure,
say the crest versus the trough of the wave, flex the hull inward and outward. Less flexing
results in less vibrations felt by the passengers. These boss arms, also called shaft brackets,
were fitted 20 feet apart at the very aft of the ship. While the Titanic and Britannic
both had tragically short careers, the Olympic triumphed. In it’s lifetime it made over
500 trans-atlantic journeys, carrying over 400,000 passengers, and sailing one and a
half millions miles. It even spent four years as a U.S.-Canadian troop transport during
World War I, earning the nickname “Old Reliable.” After twenty-four years of service, the ship
was decommissioned and scrapped for parts. The Olympic-class ships were absolute marvels
of engineering. I hope its for their revolutionary engineering, rather than their failures that
the ships are remembered. I’m Bill Hammack, the EngineerGuy. I thank my advance viewers
for their useful feedback on a draft of this video. If you’d like to be an advanced viewer
sign up at engineerguy.com/support. Thanks for watching.

100 thoughts on “RMS Titanic: Fascinating Engineering Facts

  1. You trickster you!!
    "I'm of course talking about…The Olympic"
    "It's sister ship suffered a similar fate which caused it to sink. I'm of course talking about….The Britannic"

  2. While enjoying the titanic, if anyone of you want to learn about Jehovah God and The Bible make sure you contact me please, ok guys.

  3. Thanks for the video. I found it very informative and gave me a new perspective of these ship.

    It was widely thought that the Britannic was torpedoed as there was two explosions. This and the fact the Germans did sink at least two other hospital ships which they claimed was carrying weapons and ammunition but the Red Cross had investigated and had shown this not to be the case. So they had done this before.

    But it is now thought that it was a mine and the second explosion was a fuel air explosion cause when coal dust was thrown into the air by the first explosion and then ignited when mixed with the air. Interestingly when the wreck was dived on the evidence did point towards a fuel air explosion.

  4. Your video was so perfectly informative, the graphics were spot on and your voice was made for this. Thank you!

  5. Man, 16 inch boilers… that's almost a foot and a half! That's huge! lol
    I think you meant to put 16' (feet) not 16" (inches) in the video.
    Really great video though!

  6. Really? Really? Man this video was made fast. "Inside the cilindrical casing is the piston" "The smokestacks handled the engine exhaust" you are blowing my mind!

  7. The reason the titanic sunk was because someone challenged "GOD" saying He could not sink the ship. "GOD WON!"!

  8. Amazing photos. I'm very interested in the construction of dreadnaughts, battleships and battlecruisers, their armament and equipment. I have some fantastic books with similar photos, but I'm always looking for more. Totally boggles my mind that they could construct these ships sqaure and true without lasers and other modern gear. Also the machining of the turbines seems an impossible task with the tools of the day.

  9. Bill, love your Channel Love this film in the Informative way you present it, indeed All your Short Films are done in this Perfect way, through your Great Speach and Communication Skill we Learn thank you Bill.

  10. Well done…very interesting and informative…different from any other video on the titanic and especially including the sisterships…good job!

  11. The titanic was sunk by the luminati .Adirect order was given by the reptilian  commander positioned under the great pyramid beneth the vatacan

  12. 2:37 that is not correct. on the left is not olympic. that is another ship on slipway no, 1. the keel is from olympic and not titanic.
    olympic was built on slipway no. 2 and titanic on slipway no. 3
    here you can see: http://aftitanic.free.fr/titanic/h_and_w_05.jpg

  13. Do a google search for the damaged side of Titanic! The side furthermost from the dock has a discolored section of the hull from the coal fire and this is the area in which the Iceberg hit

  14. 668 thumbs down by people who, in spite of their vast knowledge of essential oils, did not make their first million by 23, and still live with mom.

  15. Sank – not sunk – ooh I'm a pedant 😀 – and I'm in Belfast so I can be a stickler. America and Britain – separated by a common language – 🙂

  16. You need to be on TV, sir. This stuff is too damn fine for YouTube. Absolutely amazing content. Saw how aluminum beverage cans are made and then came here to see how the Titanic was made. I can only wish I had youtube and access to content like this when I was growing up a curious kid in the 80s. Who knows how well I would have done at school 😉

  17. Thank you sir. Thank you for not putting a bunch of filler and other useless crap at the beginning of the video. Straight, concise and to the point. With a few twists! Nicely done.

  18. You spoke of the Boss Arms supporting the propeller shafts. While serving on USS Seawolf SSN 575 I slept on the outboardmost bunk in the stern room which was about 6 feet from the USN version of Boss Arms, called Strut Bearings. The bearing surface was lignum vitae, open to sea, lubricated by seawater. At very slow speeds, rotation friction was too low to form a hydraulic wedge and the shaft contacted the wood and squeaked as it rolled. The squeak was plainly heard through the hull and always signaled a slow slow bell while I was in my rack.
    Thought it might be interesting,
    Karl

  19. BEAUTIFULLY done video. LOVED the use of colors in the photos. Very nice voice. BRILLIANT ‼️

    This video made me become a subscriber. 🙏🏼

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