Scale-models, in exquisite detail, were produced by shipyards and professional model-making companies to show, in miniature form, how new ships would look. These models were often used for advertising or for display purposes, typically in company offices and travel agents. The model of the Titanic on display at the Merseyside Maritime Museum was made by the builders of the Titanic, Harland & Wolff in Belfast. Measuring 20 ft in length, the model was produced to showcase the Olympic-class liners.
The earliest photographs of the builder's model are found in the Harland & Wolff collection held at the Ulster Folk and Transport Museum. Perhaps the earliest photograph of the model from April 1910 shows the unmistakable outline of the Olympic and Titanic.
However, even at this stage - six months before the launch of the Olympic and over a year since the keel of the Titanic was laid - there are differences to the final designs. The most notable difference are three large cowl vents atop the engine hatch between the third and fourth funnels. Additional the bridge wings and bulwark are not as built.
Later photographs, show the model in an ornately-decorated wood and glass case, supported on eight stout wooden legs, and changes have to the engine hatch venting, bridge wings and bulwark. The model is shown internally illuminated.
It is reported that after the sinking of the Titanic the model was altered to represent the Britannic. The Olympic was still in service and the Britannic was under construction at Belfast, so it is unclear whether the model would have been altered to represent the new Britannic irrespective of the Titanic disaster, or whether the sinking of the Titanic was the impetus for the alterations.
Whatever the case, later photographs from 1914, reproduced as period postcards, show the model as the Britannic, displayed alongside the first White Star Line vessel to carry the Britannic name, a vessel built in 1874.
The Britannic (1914) is shown with her boat deck enclosed by bulwark for its entire length and large gantry lifeboat davits forward by the first funnel and aft, with two pairs besides funnel four and on a platform over the poop deck at the stern.
Additionally the promenade deck is glassed in for the first third of its length, although this arrangement of windows differed slightly to that of the Titanic, which had its forward promenade deck glassed in, unlike the Olympic.
Reportedly in the 1920s, with the Britannic lost during the First World War, the model was altered again to represent the Olympic. The model was displayed at the British Empire Exhibition stage in 1924 at Wembley in West London and later in 1926 at the Winter Gardens in Blackpool, Lancashire. The model remained there until 1951 when it was donated to the National Museums Liverpool.
In 1957 the model was loaned by the museum to the J Arthur Rank Organisation for their production of the film 'A Night to Remember', although the model was not used for filming purposes.
A photograph from 1957 shows the model leaving the museum's stores. From this photograph it is possible to determine the changes made in the 1920s. Although she carries the name Olympic on her bows, the arrangement of windows on A and B deck is unchanged from the model when it represented the Britannic. However, the lifeboats are different; the gantry davits are gone as is the boat deck bulwark, replaced with a single row of lifeboats.
A photograph taken during pre-production of the film shows the Titanic's fourth officer, Joseph Boxhall, standing by the model in his role of technical advisor to the film makers.
In 1982 the model was restored by the museum. The decision was taken to restore the vessel to represent the Titanic, although it is not definitely known that the model ever carried the name Titanic. The arrangement of windows from the Britannic was retained, but the lifeboats were altered to represent the original arrangement of sixteen rigid and four collapsible lifeboats.
The model is now displayed at the Merseyside Maritime Museum as part of the "Titanic and Liverpool: the untold story" gallery.
- Board of Trade (1912) Report on the Loss of SS Titanic London: His Majesty's Stationary Office, p. 7.
- Hood, A. G. (ed.) (1911) 'The White Star Liners "Olympic" and "Titanic".' In Marine Publications International Ltd (1988) Olympic & Titanic: Ocean Liners of the Past Northamptonshire: Patrick Stephens Ltd
- National Museums Liverpool (2013) Builder's model of the Olympic/Titanic, 1912 Liverpool: http://www.liverpoolmuseums.org.uk/maritime/visit/floor-plan/liners/titanic/titanic-model.aspx
- National Museums Northern Ireland (2013) Titanic photographs - Builder's models Belfast: http://www.nmni.com/titanic/Home/Photo-Galleries/Builders--models.aspx
- White Star Line advertising poster, 1912