Featured Article: Differences Between Olympic and Titanic

ince Olympic was 50% larger than the largest ship afloat, no one knew how she would handle out on the open seas. She was the first of the "Olympic Class" and was sort of the guinea pig of the class.

Olympic sailed on her maiden voyage on June 14, 1911. Thomas Andrews, the ship's designer, and Bruce Ismay, Whate Star's president, were on board during the maiden voyage just as they would be for Titanic's the following year. Andrews went along to spot areas for improvement and to fix problems before the ship arrived in New York.

Even though Olympic and Titanic were considered twin sisters, to a shipbuilder it's a common goal to make your newest ship better than the last. So Andrews made some modifications to the design of Titanic while she was still under construction. Some of the modifications were obvious and some weren't.

The most obvious were:

Titanic's Enclosed Promenade Deck

Comparison of Olympic and Titanic's exterior configurations.

Olympic had two promenade decks that ran the full length of the upper decks on the port and starboard sides. One was open air, and one the other was enclosed with vertical sliding windows. While on board Olympic during her maiden voyage, Ismay noticed that the enclosed promenade on B deck was used very little compared to the open air promenade on A deck. 

While Titanic was still under construction, Andrews decided to reconfigure Titanic's plans to include large state rooms on B deck instead of an enclosed promenade. On the port and starboard sides were a line of 3 cabins with private enclosed promenade decks. They were called the Parlor Suites. Ismay occupied the Parlor Suite rooms B-52, 54, and 56 on the port side of Titanic during her maiden voyage.

Further aft on the starboard side, Andrews designed a new restaurant that resembled a Parisian styled café. Long and narrow with a series of windows on one side that looked out upon the ocean. White painted walls covered with green ivy climbing white trellises. This restaurant was named the Café Parisien.

Artist's conception drawing and a photograph of Titanic's Café Parisien. 

An expansion to Titanic's À la Carte Restaurant was incorporated as well due the unexpected popularity of Olympic's restaurant.

The À la Carte Restaurant aboard Olympic and Titanic.

With all the changes made to B deck, the outside windows of Titanic had a sporadic spacing between them. While Olympic's windows were evenly spaced the whole length of the deck.

Because of these new additions to B deck, Titanic was lacking an enclosed promenade deck. Therefore, Andrews made the decision to enclose the forward half of the open air promenade on A deck to compensate.

The Bridge Wings Caps

Olympic's bridge wing caps were even with the side of the ship. Titanic's bridge wing caps were extended just a little beyond the side for better view. Olympic's bridge wings would later be extended during her refit that followed Titanic's sinking.

Olympic at left, and Titanic at right.

"Like the Olympic, yes, but so much more elaborate. Take the dinning saloon - Olympic didn't even have a carpet, but the Titanic - ah, you sank in it up to your knees."

-Baker Reginald Burgess

With all of Titanic's improvements and modifications she exceeded Olympic in volume at 46,383 GRT (Gross Registered Tonnage), a measure not of weight but of volume, a 2.3% increase over Olympic. Because of this, Titanic legally earned the title of the largest ship in the world.

Titanic's 38,760 LDT (Lightweight Displacement Tonnage), a measurement of a ship's weight without cargo, was a 1.3% increase over Olympic.

However, Titanic's 13,550 DWT (Deadweight Tonnage), a measurement of cargo weight, was a 3.4% decrease compared to Olympic.

Because both ships had the same external dimensions, but with a difference in their DWT, Olympic and Titanic had the same Displacement Weight (ship + cargo) of 52,310 tons.