Timeline Article: Bruce Ismay Discusses Speed with Captain Smith

Elizabeth Lines Later in Years (Left),
Captain Smith (Top Right), Bruce Ismay (Bottom Right)

Saturday, April 13, 1912
Early Afternoon

First class passenger Elizabeth Lines and her daughter Mary are enjoying coffee after lunch in the First Class Reception Room. Not long after they had sat down, White Star's director Bruce Ismay and Captain Smith sit down at a table nearby. Lines overhears Ismay talking to Smith about Titanic's daily runs thus far on the maiden voyage, and compared them to those of Titanic's slightly older sister, Olympic.

An excerpt of Elizabeth Line's Testimony at the U.S. Inquiry Hearings after the disaster:

"I heard Mr. Ismay - it was Mr. Ismay who did the talking - I heard him give the length of the run, and I heard him say:

"Well, we did better today than we did yesterday, we made a better run today than we did yesterday, we will make a better run tomorrow. Things are working smoothly, the machinery is bearing the test, the boilers are working well."

Then I heard him make the statement: 

"We will beat the Olympic and get in to New York on Tuesday."

I heard "We will beat the Olympic and get in to New York on Tuesday" in those words.
Those words fixed themselves in my mind."

The White Star Line's Titanic and Olympic were built for luxury and size and were never meant to be the fastest ship on the ocean. That was the Cunard Line's market. It was generally a routine on a brand new ship not push the engines to full speed, but to give them a proper run in period. This was a precaution to avoid damage to the engines. However, as with any shipping line, White Star always wanted to do a little better with each new ship than the previous one built. That not only included design and construction, but also performance. It would have been natural for Ismay to want Titanic's performance to be just as well or even better than Olympic.

Mrs. Lines gives a lengthy testimony about her experiences on Titanic, but gives the only known testimony where someone heard Bruce Ismay discuss the speed of the ship. Her description of the conversation gives the impression that Ismay was primarily the one speaking and Captain Smith listened and acknowledged his words. One thing is clear, Ismay wanted to beat the Olympic's record and that required more speed. Ultimately, the last of the boilers were lit and Titanic sped up to nearly her top speed. 

The captain is the only one that can order more speed. Would Captain Smith have ordered more speed if the conversation with Ismay hadn't taken place?