Belfast Telegraph

Sunday 21 September 2014

Titanic's little sister open again

The SS Nomadic under repair in the dry dock

The boat used to take people to the ill-fated Titanic is set to welcome passengers on board again after a £7 million refurbishment that took seven years to complete.

The SS Nomadic - the last remaining vessel of the White Star Line - opens its doors to the public for the first time this week and is expected to attract more than 44,000 visitors over the next year.

Built by Harland and Wolff shipyard workers in 1911 at the same time and using the same Thomas Andrews designs as its mighty big sister, the Nomadic is Belfast's latest offering to the lucrative Titanic tourist trail.

The refurbished ship, which was bought at auction in France in 2006 for 250,000 euros, still retains many of the original features.

Denis Rooney, chairman of the Nomadic Charitable Trust which was behind the restoration campaign, said: "Visitors can walk in the footsteps of the passengers who boarded Titanic. They can touch the same materials, enjoy exactly the same experience. The only other way you can get this close to the Titanic experience is to go on a submersive expedition and see the wreck. This is the real deal."

The Nomadic is now a permanent fixture at Hamilton Dock - beside Belfast's new £90 million Titanic museum - from where it made its maiden voyage to France in May 1911.

Tourists enter through the first-class lounge, which is decorated with ornate plaster work and detailed wood carvings the same as would have been seen on the Titanic.

The Nomadic took 159 days to build. It measures 233.6 feet long and 37 feet wide - exactly a quarter the size of the Titanic - is 1,273 tonnes and was able to reach a speed of 12 knots. While its most famous task was taking passengers to the Titanic, the vessel also served other great transatlantic liners until 1968 and had many famous passengers including Charlie Chaplin, Richard Burton and Elizabeth Taylor, Mary Pickford and Marie Curie on board.

Its survival has been against the odds. Nomadic was used as a mine sweeper and troop carrier during the First World War and as an escape vessel in the evacuation of Cherbourg in the Second World War. It was also saved from the scrapyard on countless occasions and spent years as a floating restaurant beside the Eiffel Tower in Paris.

Restoration work, funded by European and National Lottery grants, was meticulous and involved removing tonnes of barnacles and scraping off layers of toxic paint.

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