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April 10, 2012

Titanic replica sets sail ... in a pond

MIDDLEBURG, Pa. — "It goes like heck," said Vern Heimbach of his 6-foot-long model of the Titanic. "I've had it in the pool, and it does not like to stop."

That's right. In the swimming pool.

The model – built on a scale of 1 to 144 of the original ocean liner -- is not just a showboat. With a custom-built rudder, propellers and remote control, it's made to sail, all the while looking like its namesake, down to the tiniest detail.

At least, as much detail as Heimbach, 33, of Middleburg, Pa., could find. The Titanic sank 100 years ago off the coast of Newfoundland only a few days into its transoceanic voyage and photos of the doomed ocean liner are rare.

Heimbach said many pictures of the Titanic are actually of its sister ship, the lesser-known though nearly identical Olympic.

The Titanic, he said, was “just neat” and its stately look caused him to order a model ship kit that included the hull, four funnels and most of the life boats. He made just about everything else on the ship, doing most of the painstakingly detailed work in the past year.

"I tried to stay as close as I could to how it was supposed to be," he said. He consulted reference books and, of course, watched the 1997 James Cameron movie, “The Titanic,” starring Leonardo DiCaprio and Kate Winslet, no less than 13 times.

The research helped him accurately replicate lights, windows, stairwells, and railings, though when he couldn't find pictures or diagrams, he had to use his own judgment.

With balsa wood and oak tag, he built vents, stairwells, and the many odd-shaped, important-looking but unidentifiable contraptions found on any ship. He used telephone wire and individual strands from metal screens to make poles and railings around the upper decks, working with pliers and tweezers to glue everything into place before painting it.

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