TITANIC-TITANIC.com | Titanic's Bridge And Wheelhouse
Despite the highly-luxurious interiors that the Olympic-class liners were famed for, there was still at least one area of Titanic that was almost a throwback to the days of sail - the navigating bridge, although to be fair, things were improving all the time.
Titanic had been designed and built by Harland and Wolff for one job, and one job only - crossing the notoriously rough North Atlantic, so it might come as somewhat of a surprise to find that the bridge was still of the 'open' variety, that is to say, the sides were open to let the elements in at all times, not the best form of protection to the officers manning the bridge.
Also surprising to many is the fact that the ship's wheel was not in the main bridge area, it was actually in a tiny room immediately behind the bridge, separated by windows. This room, called the Wheelhouse, usually had a quartermaster (QM) on duty who would operate the helm via the wheel.
The bridge contained all of the usual equipment for a ship of the day. The main items of interest were the three polished ships telegraphs, which showed the direction and speed and sent the orders to the engine room. There was a compass binnacle that stood immediately in front of the wheelhouse, so that it could be clearly seen by the helmsman. The watertight door switches were also housed on the bridge, as were the controls for the automatic fog warning equipment, a device for automating the timing of whistle blasts in fog and poor visibility. There were also four telephones, each of which had a light to indicate which one of them was ringing.
The photograph here on the left is the only known picture of Captain Edward Smith on Titanic's bridge, and was probably taken at Southampton, England. You can just make out the starboard wing-bridge in the distance, and the open sides of the bridge are clear to see too. Looking to the left of Smith through the window, you can just make-out the handles of one of the three ships telegraphs pointing upwards in the 'All Stop' position, suggesting that the ship is probably stationary.
Even though some descriptions of the sinking describe Captain Smith being seen later elsewhere on the ship, these have usually been unsubstantiated, and it's quite likely that he died at his post - on Titanic's bridge.