Titanic Pigeon Forge- Titanic Attractions Missouri
As you drive East along the Tennessee Parkway through Sevier County the landscape start to change. The Great Smoky Mountains emerge on the horizon, forming a border between this land locked state and North Carolina. In Spring, the route is lined by the white blossom of prickly pear trees. An d then, out of nowhere, at the brow of a hill, the famous buff-coloured funnels of the world’s most famous ship suddenly appear. In the middle of America’s Southern states, you have stumbled across Titanic.
Purpose of the Pigeon Forge
This is not some kind of mirage. It is the world’s largest Titanic attraction
which has been built and lovingly kitted out in the tow of Pigeon Forge, Tennessee. Now in year 2, Titanic Pigeon Forge attracts one hundred thousand visitors a month and is constantly adding to the exhibition. Visitors are given a specific boarding time and enter the ship through the recreation of a White Star Line ticket office. They are given a boarding pass with the details of a passenger with an interesting story to tell. As they journey through the exhibition, they will find out more about who they are and what happened when tragedy struck.Titanic Pigeon Forge shares many of the principles which are evident at the Halifax Maritime Museum of the Atlantic
and which will also be used within Titanic Belfast when it opens next April. The idea is not to put on show artefacts which have been brought up from the bottom of the ocean, but to honour the crew and passengers who were lost and to tell their stories through articles which were left behind or which were brought back from the surface of the wreck site or in the case of survivors, taken with them onto the lifeboats. The entire emphasis is on remembrance, commemoration and honouring their stories. In each case where a particular passenger or crew story has been featured, care has been taken to seek the input and final approval of the exhibit from family members. For example, there is a recreation of the first class cabin occupied by Isador and Ida Strauss, founders of Macy’s department store in New York. The owners of the Titanic attraction
consulted with the wider Strauss family about how they would like to see the story portrayed and they were extremely moved by the results when they saw it for the first time.
The Recreation Process
As well as taking individual stories from the Titanic and bringing them to life, the attraction has also lovingly recreated sections of the ship. There is a first class corridor which by the clever use of mirrors, creates the effect of the length of the ship. The centrepiece is a recreation of the grand staircase complete with milk glass dome. This has been constructed in oak and is a breathtaking surprise for the visitor as well as a popular venue for weddings and vow renewals. There is also an entire section devoted to Father Frank Brown, without whose photographs we would not have such a clear picture of life on board Titanic during her few days at sea.
An average walk around the exhibition takes at least two hours. Guides are stationed around the ship to give more detail and explanation. All are in 1912 costume, some adopt a character from the ship complete with English accent. A sign on the door from the back of house staff area says, “You are now entering 1912.” Many of the staff fooled me into believing they were from England because of the care and attention they had put into getting their accent and phraseology just right.
Belfast in Tennessee
As for Belfast, it is featured heavily from the moment you enter the attraction. RJ Welch’s photographs of the shipyard during Olympic and Titanic’s construction are featured, including the famous photo of the draughtsmen at work in the drawing office. American visitors are left in no doubt that Belfast is the true home of Titanic and that she is an Irish ship built by Irish men.
What is next for the Titanic in America?
Pigeon Forge is one of two attractions owned and operated by Cedar Bay Entertainment. The other is in Branson, Missouri. The Tennessee structure is the larger of the two. Plans are afoot for a third Titanic attraction in New York City within the next few years. Owners, John and Mary Joslyn had the idea after John’s dive to the wreck in 1986 and his subsequent tv specials. He was so captured by the story of Titanic, he wanted people to share in the many facets of the ship's short but incredible life and that is what has been achieved at both attractions. While both John and Mary come from a television production background, they have been careful not to sensationalise the Titanic story and to treat it with respect. The average visitor is left with a feeling of having learned so much more about the ship than the events of her last hours. Many I spoke to felt that they now understood what it must have been like to be on the ship in the last hour, to experience the terror and the cold, all the while hoping that rescue would arrive.
If you are in the Southern or central States of America, I thoroughly recommend a detour to Pigeon Forge to spend a few hours learning more about some of the ordinary people caught up in Titanic’s tragedy.
View the Pigeon Forge website here
How to get there