A model of the Titanic, created by Thomas Bennett, will be on display at the Adelia M. Russell Library throughout April. | Alison James
A model of the Titanic, created by Thomas Bennett, will be on display at the Adelia M. Russell Library throughout April. | Alison James

Archived Story

Titanic exhibit sets sail at library

Published 11:39am Wednesday, April 3, 2013

The RMS Titanic was the largest ship afloat before it sank in 1912, but it can be seen in miniature during the month of April at the Adelia M. Russell Library.

Thomas Bennett from the Hackneyville/Goodwater area created the detailed model.

“This is my fourth ship,” Bennett said. “I think it might be one of my favorites.”

Bennett began his shipbuilding hobby with a model of the U.S.S. Constitution – a project that began when he was out of work after surgery.

“I figured, ‘I need to find something to keep me busy,’” Bennett said.

A trip to a hobby store in Opelika landed him with the ship building kit.

“From the moment I got up until I went to bed every night for that six weeks, I stayed on that ship,” Bennett said.

The U.S.S. Constitution was only the beginning. Bennett next tackled the Robert E. Lee steam ship … then a Cutty Sark … before someone challenged him to tackle the famed ocean liner the Titanic.

“I figured, ‘Man, why not? I’ll try the Titanic,’” Bennett said.

With the anniversary of the sinking of the Titanic last year came a commemorative model kit, which Bennett purchased.

“It came with laser cut parts and real wood grain laminate,” Bennett said. “It’s a sophisticated, superior ship in its class.”

But the 1/400 scale model wasn’t detailed enough for Bennett, which is why he added all the accents, including more than 600 tiny passengers. He said he also refuses to mount his creations on stands, preferring instead to place them in display cases to sail on blue waves.

“It comes alive that way,” Bennett said. “I like creating it … I like the ship best when I add life to it – when I give it a heartbeat.”

Bennett brought his model to show workers at the library, and Director Amy Huff suggested displaying the exhibit.

“I could imagine anybody having the patience to do something so intricate,” Huff said. “It’s very nice.”

Bennett said his modeling hobby has turned into what might be considered a small museum in his home, with one room dedicated to his models, including the ships and a number of World War II pieces, as well as collection pieces including die cast cars and trains.

Bennett said his building hobby started as a child, but he has greatly improved in skill since then.

“I did model cars when I was a kid but nothing technical,” Bennett said. “Anybody can make a model car.”

These days Bennett hand paints everything and compares completing a project to crossing the desert.

“It just takes forever,” Bennett said. “It’s tedious, but I don’t mind it.”

The exhibit will remain at the library throughout the month of April.

“I love for people to see it,” Bennett said. “It makes it worthwhile. I just hope they like it – I tried to make it look as realistic as possible.”

The display also includes a binder of photographs depicting Bennett’s creating process and a Life magazine about the Titanic.

The Titanic’s first voyage was its last, but the Titanic replica won’t be Bennett’s last project.

“I’m thinking about getting one of those container ships,” Bennett said. “I think that’d be pretty interesting.”