Inside The Luxurious Gym On The RMS Titanic

Published December 29, 2013
Updated July 29, 2021

The Titanic gym was a favorite amenity among some first-class passengers, who paid a shilling to work out.

Titanic At Port

Wikimedia CommonsThe Titanic had a gym alongside a number of other first-class amenities.

When the RMS Titanic set sail on April 10, 1914, many viewed it as a technological marvel — and the epitome of luxury. Not only was the Titanic the largest ship in the world, but it contained a number of impressive amenities. Alongside Turkish baths and squash courts, the Titanic also had a gym.

Here, first-class passengers could stay fit for a small fee. And as the ship sunk, a small contingent gathered there, wondering what they could do to stay alive.

Inside The Luxury Gym Of The RMS Titanic

Gym On Titanic

The Bridgeman Art LibraryA passenger in the Titanic gym.

First-class passengers dined on French ice cream, eclairs, and steak. To work off all that decadence, they only had to pop over to the Titanic’s gym.

The gymnasium, which was located on the ship’s Boat Deck, adjacent to its Grand Stairway, included a number of top-of-the-line exercise machines. There were cycling machines, rowing machines, a boxing bag, and weights.

The gym also included an electric horse and an electric camel — both of which mimicked the experience of riding.

Though first-class passengers on the Titanic had paid top dollar for their voyage, they also forked over a small fee to use the Titanic gym. Anyone watching their waistline paid one shilling — about four or five dollars today — to use the gym.

RMS Titanic Gym

Wikimedia CommonsThe gym included rowing machines, parallel bars, weights, stationary bicycles, and more.

There, they exercised under the watchful eye of Thomas McCauley. One survivor described McCauley as “a ruddy cheeked, spry little man in white flannels.” The ship’s physical educator, McCauley oversaw Titanic gym activities and helped people use the machines.

McCauley may have also made sure that people followed the rules — the first and foremost of which dictated different gym hours for men and women. Women could use the Titanic gym from 9 a.m. to noon; men from 1 p.m. until 3 p.m.

Sketch Of Ship Exercise Machines

Wikimedia CommonsA sketch of the Titanic gym from “the White Line Triple Screw Steamers” booklet, 1912.

From April 10 to April 14, people in first-class enjoyed the Titanic gym as an amenity. But after the ship struck an iceberg around 11:40 p.m. on April 14, frightened passengers gathered in the gym — wondering if they’d survive the night.

The Passengers In The Gym During The Titanic Sinking

One of the first-class passengers who went to the Titanic gym as the ship sank was Richard Norris Williams. Richard had boarded the ship with his father, Charles, in Cherbourg, France.

R Norris Williams

Wikimedia CommonsWilliams in 1916, shortly after surviving the sinking.

As panic spread, Charles and Richard decided to head toward the upper decks. They hoped to go to the bar but along the way ran into some distressed passengers trapped behind a locked door. Richard broke down the door with his shoulder. (This irritated a ship official, who threatened to report him to White Star Lines.)

Next, they found that the bar was closed. So, the two went instead to the Titanic gym. They found a number of other passengers there, and the physical educator himself, McCauley. As Richard pedaled a stationary bike to keep warm, McCauley told the passengers he wouldn’t use a lifejacket. He believed it would slow him down.

But nothing could slow — or stop — the catastrophic sinking taking place. Before long, Richard and Charles were in the icy cold water. There, Richard watched a huge ship funnel crush Charles, and he barely escaped with his life after swimming to a lifeboat.

That night, Richard became one of the 706 Titanic survivors. He may have also been one of the last people to have ever seen the ship’s luxurious gym.

“I turned towards the ship. It was an extraordinary sight,” Richard later wrote. “As the bow went under, the stern lifted higher and higher into the air, then pivoted and swung slowly over my head. Had it come down then I would have been crushed.

“Looking straight up I saw the three propellers and the rudder distinctly outlined against the clear sky. She slid into the ocean. No suction. No noise.”

Others who waited out the sinking in the Titanic gym were not so lucky. McCauley, who may have remained at his post, went down with the ship. In all, about 1,500 people died that night.

Today, the Titanic gym makes up just a small piece of the ship’s colossal legacy. But the doomed ship continues to fascinate. Not only did the 1997 film gross billions at the box office, but there are even plans afoot to build the “Titanic 2.”

This iteration will track closely to its predecessor and will include a gym — electric camels and all.

After learning about the Titanic’s luxurious first-class gym, take a look at 33 rare Titanic photos before and after the sinking. Or, look through these heartbreaking photos of Titanic artifacts.

Kaleena Fraga
A longtime contributor and current staff writer for All That’s Interesting, Kaleena Fraga has also had her work featured in The Washington Post and Gastro Obscura, and she published a book on the Seattle food scene for the Eat Like A Local series. She graduated from Oberlin College, where she earned a double degree in American History and French.