Lusitania: An Illustrated Biography of the Ship of Splendor -- NOW AVAILABLE!
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With the breakup and dismantling of the Olympic, many might have assumed that that was the end of the line for her. And while the ship as a whole certainly had met the end of the line, her fittings and furnishings found new life.
When her lavish interior fittings and appointments were sold at auction in November of 1935, they each went in their own directions. Although some of them have been lost to time, much of them can still be seen today. These surviving fittings give us an opportunity to look into the past and get a glimpse of the Olympic’s grandeur and hence that of her two sister ships.
Perhaps the largest collection of interior fittings from the Olympic can be found in the White Swan Hotel, located in Alnwick, England. The paneling from the First Class Lounge was installed in the dining room of the hotel, giving a glimpse of the great beauty of the Olympic and her sisters, and of the hard work and craftsmanship that went into their fitting-out. In addition to the paneling from the Lounge, the White Swan also boasts the revolving door that led from the First Class Smoking Room aft to the port Verandah Café. There are also oak balustrades from the First Class Grand Staircase lining the various staircases within the hotel, while lead and stained glass windows as well as wall sconces from the liner light the dining room. Some of the overhead light fixtures from the Olympic’s Grand Staircase and the First Class Smoking Room have also found their way there.
Private collectors also hold much material from the Olympic. Fifty years after the ship was scrapped, some of the ship’s oak woodwork was found in a barn in Northern England, and it as promptly put up for sale. Every now and then, one can even find Olympic material up for auction in a way that could never have been dreamed of when her fittings were originally auctioned off: over the internet. Here, bidders can view the objects from the comfort of their living room or office, and can place bids against people from completely different countries. Because one cannot see the items first-hand, however, potential bidders should always remember the age-old adage of “buyer beware”.
For those not up for bidding at auctions either in person or via the internet there is another, and perhaps most satisfying way of seeing a part of the Olympic today. The Royal Caribbean Cruise Line has always been notorious for the great expense they lavish on creating luxurious spaces aboard their ships. In this, they follow the footsteps of the White Star Line. Royal Caribbean, also called RCCL, recently introduced a cruise ship called Millennium into their family fleet of monster ships. Aboard the Millennium, in one of the dining rooms, the company decided to install the intricately inlaid walnut paneling and leaded glass from the Olympic’s First Class a la carte Restaurant.
Remarkably, nearly a century after the Olympic was first conceived, one can still sit on board an ocean-going vessel and soak in the ambience of the great liner and her two lost sisters. Through the deck comes the tremor of the ship’s engines although driven by diesel engines instead of coal- or oil-fired boilers and reciprocating engines, there is a certain warmth, comfort, and vitality that comes with that vibration. There is still the chatter of passengers, and clatter of fine china and crystal, the gentle sway of the ship as it works its way through the waters.
Even more recently, a batch of five windows from the Olympic's First Class Lounge have been acquired by the Nomadic Preservation Society and brought to Belfast to display aboard White Star's last surviving ship.
Today, the remnants of the Olympic, first of the great White Star trio, still offer glimpses into the past, into the beauty that she offered when she was the “Old Reliable” of the North Atlantic passenger ferry, and still give us a connection to her tragically famous sister, R.M.S. Titanic.