As construction of the impressive and modern Titanic Belfast building speeds ahead, the past mingled nicely with the future on November 12 when a nearly exact replica of the grand staircase that sank with the doomed ocean liner was installed in the building’s Titanic Suite, which is set to become a 1,000-seat banqueting hall.
The original grand staircase, built with the rest of the Titanic in Belfast’s Harland & Wolff Shipyard in 1911, rose an impressive five decks through the ship’s first-class accommodations and was topped by an iconic glass dome. James Cameron’s 1997 film Titanic featured a smaller replica of the stairs, which set the scene for many grand entrances, chases and dramatic escapes.
The 10,000-piece staircase has been hand-crafted by Oldstown Joinery, a family firm from the town of Bellaghy. At 23 ft high and 24 ft wide, the staircase is constructed from the wood of a red oak tree—the same material used in the original. The joiners have also been careful to use techniques similar to those that builders would have used in 1911.
Sean Diamond, owner of the Oldtown Joinery, said that it was “the most challenging job we’ve undertaken in our 20-year history, but it’s also the most rewarding and something which I hope will wow the public for years to come.”
The bulk of the staircase was delivered through the roof of Titanic Belfast. Sections of the stairs were lifted 100 ft into the air by a crane, in a process that took several hours and required 20 builders to then carry and position the sections in the banquet hall. Workers from the Oldtown Joinery will complete the staircase on location, adding the finishing touches in the coming weeks. It is estimated that upon completion the staircase will weigh 4.5 tons and will have demanded 1,500 hours of work.
Titanic Belfast is set to open in spring 2012, in time to commemorate the Titanic’s maiden voyage.