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'It's a tradition': Titanic model returning to Halifax Public Gardens

A 3D model of the RMS Titanic is seen in this image. (Courtesy: Brad Browne) A 3D model of the RMS Titanic is seen in this image. (Courtesy: Brad Browne)
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For the first time in two years, a model of the RMS Titanic will return to the Halifax Public Gardens, thanks in part to public demand.

The first pond model of the Titanic was launched on May 31, 1995 in Griffin’s Pond. While the original model lasted for 20 years, the next version wasn’t as sturdy, and sunk in 2022.

“It was in the pond for seven, but floated for six,” laughs Brad Browne, who’s behind the newest model. “The other ones would have been the classic fiberglass wood construction. So, wood hull forms with wood planking, and then covered in fiberglass to seal it all in.”

Brad Browne is seen standing in front of Griffon’s Pond at the Halifax Public Gardens. (Amanda Debison/CTV Atlantic)

Building the new model

All of the models were built by the Maritime Ship Modellers Guild, a group of artists who recreate and repair model boats, many of which are displayed at the Maritime Museum of the Atlantic on Lower Water Street. During the Guild’s annual spring meetings, members decided the time was right to build a new one.

“And I said, 'How about we try a 3D printing one?'” said model builder, Browne. “So, I 3D printed a model of the Titanic that’s just about nine feet long.”

A 3D model of the Titanic as it was being built is seen in this image. (Courtesy: Brad Browne)

Another member of the Guild started the project, but passed it on to Browne after moving out west. Browne moved the model to his garage in November 2023, and started the building process.

“Between November and about March, I assembled the hull, painted, sealed, primed, puttied, epoxied fiberglass, etc… with the goal of making the model strong enough and resilient enough to be able to last for a number of years here in the pond.”

Browne printed 18 modules for the hub, and another eight for the superstructure. The longest print time was 50 hours, while the shortest was 20. The whole process took months.

“Like, that's printing straight. Click, start, walk away, come back 50 hours later and it spit out all the plastic to make the big part."

While the outside is very detailed, the interior of the ship is a "wide, empty shell."

“The hull itself is anywhere from six to 10 mm thick,” explains Browne. “And we’ve filled the hull with aluminum bars to strengthen it, as well as lead shot to weigh it down. And there's actually additional steel weight that goes into it.”

A 3D model of the RMS Titanic is seen in this image. (Courtesy: Brad Browne)

The whole model weighs 200 pounds, and will need a truck to carry it to the Gardens.

“Everyone’s got a hobby,” adds Browne. “I suck at golf, so I do this.”

Browne says because of the 3D build, if the new model needs repairs, he could print off a new piece within a few hours.

The lure of the Titanic

While it’s not the only ship model in the Public Gardens, it is the most popular.

“We receive queries about the Titanic model from visitors every year,” explains Deanna Ryan-Meister, president of the Titanic Society of Atlantic Canada, or TSAC.

The two-year hiatus of a Titanic pond model in the Gardens brought more questions.

Model two of the Titanic at Halifax Public Gardens is seen in this image. (Courtesy: Friends of the Public Gardens)

“People would call me and say, 'Where’s the model? I came to see this model,'” adds Ryan-Meister. “So, that really told us how important this particular model is.”

For the people behind the project, it’s an important piece of Maritime history and tradition.

“It’s extremely important because it shows our local residents and beyond the importance of our history,” adds Ryan-Meister. “And it continues the tradition of pond models, because we don’t see that very often in the world.”

The pond models are typically launched in the spring, and removed in the fall for maintenance and storage.

“So it's finally going to be back after not being in for two years. It's a new type of model and hopefully a sturdier model.”

Celebrating 40 years

While the Halifax Public Gardens was founded in 1836, Friends of the Public Gardens, which preserves and promotes the green space, is marking 40 years as a charitable society.

“We've accomplished a great many things, and we're very proud of our heritage and our link with the gardens, which is the only Victorian garden in North America,” said Judith Cabrita, president of Friends of the Public Gardens.

Cabrita says the RMS Titanic pond model is an "intrinsic" part of the Gardens.

“We’re very excited, people are asking for it,” explains Cabrita. “It's very much of a favourite of the locals who come to the Gardens on a regular basis, and they've all been asking, 'Where is it? Where is it? When is it coming?' And so we're excited that we're going to fulfill that wish.”

The 40th anniversary celebration will run from 1 to 3 p.m. on Saturday, with the launch of the new, 3D model of the RMS Titanic into Griffon’s Pond at 3 p.m.

A favourite of fowl

While people have been vocal about the missing model, it’s also been missed by the Gardens' inhabitants.

“The ducks and the blue heron absolutely love it,” adds TSAC’s Ryan-Meister. “A heron lands on the bow of the ship, and it moves and tilts as it proudly walks around it”

A previous pond model of the Titanic is seen at Halifax Public Gardens. (Courtesy: Tracey Oakley)

Hence, the fall cleaning.

“They also do their business on it,” explains Ryan-Meister. “There is work to be done once it comes out of the pond ever year.”

Cabrita agrees.

“We have a blue heron that loves to be on its deck and fish from there,” said Cabrita. “She doesn't come back to the garden all the time, but as soon as the Titanic's there, she'll be back.”

In fact, there are dozens of lifeboats from the original model, lying at the bottom of the pond, thanks to ducks who ripped them off.

Images of the new 3D pond model of the Titanic and more can be seen here.

For more Nova Scotia news visit our dedicated provincial page.

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