Waltonwood employee builds Titanic model while recognizing his own gift

By: Victoria Mitchell | Royal Oak Review | Published May 23, 2016

 Porterfield, 24, said the detail work was the most time-consuming portion of constructing a model of the Titanic from scratch. It took him four years to build the model using mostly materials he found in recycling bins.

Porterfield, 24, said the detail work was the most time-consuming portion of constructing a model of the Titanic from scratch. It took him four years to build the model using mostly materials he found in recycling bins.

Photo by Donna Agusti


ROYAL OAK — When Randall Porterfield began building a nearly 11-foot replica of the Titanic four years ago in the privacy of his bedroom, he knew something special was happening.

“Practice makes perfect, but I believe I have a gift,” he said.

The Detroit resident’s inspiration to try such a project was born from his tenacity and belief that he could accomplish anything.

The process began with studying hundreds of photos, books and movies to design the ship to be as historically accurate as possible.

Porterfield’s love for the Titanic began when he attended the traveling Titanic artifact exhibit in Detroit while he was in fourth grade.

“The model that was on display deeply gripped my imagination and made me want to do a model of my own,” he said. “This idea was just an image in my mind; now it is a reality before my eyes.”

His love for the ship was cemented after seeing the James Cameron film, “Titanic.”

Working from eye, not from scale, Porterfield constructed the 10-foot-5-inch replica out of cardboard found from recycle bins and friends and family members. He built a wooden structure to support the ship’s body and used some copper wire for roping.

He worked on it on and off for many years, gaining praise from those who watched the process.

“They were speechless,” he said. “They think it is impossible and they wonder how I did it. They tell me I should go to school for it.”

Porterfield, 24, said the most tedious part was creating the smaller details, such as the railing, cranes and access ladders. He constructed, painted and finished the massive ship with as much detail as possible. He creates his models from scratch; he never uses kits.

After talking about the endeavor with some of his fellow Waltonwood of Royal Oak employees, the senior living community asked Porterfield to bring in his model as a part of a Titanic remembrance program they were planning for the 104th anniversary of the ship’s descent into the North Atlantic.

After carefully carrying the ship from his bedroom into a U-Haul truck and through the doors of Waltonwood, his prize piece was on display for everyone to enjoy.

“When you think of what an undertaking that must have been for this young man to take on a project of this size, to me it’s amazing,” said Waltonwood of Royal Oak visitor George Nagher. “It’s really interesting the physical size of it. It’s amazing to me.”

Nagher frequently visits his mom at Waltonwood and has enjoyed seeing the replica.

“I was here when they brought it in and I thought, ‘My gosh. How did he know how to proportion it?’” he said.

The ship is displayed in the community’s great room near the sitting area and fireplace.

Waltonwood of Royal Oak Executive Director Antonia Schrock said she is proud of Porterfield.

“If he could do that, he could do anything,” she said.

Porterfield said he plans on leaving his Titanic model at the senior living community until it finds a new home. He likes to dream big and hopes that further interest to display his work may come from a museum.

Porterfield also hopes his ship stands as an example to others to go for their dreams and tap into their God-given talents regardless of training or formal education.

“I just want to show my work, what I can do, what I’m capable of as far as creativity,” he said. “If you have a talent or something you’re really good at, I don’t believe it should be swept under the rug. I believe it should be brought out, especially if you enjoy it. I believe sky’s the limit.”

For now, Porterfield will continue washing dishes and serving food at Waltonwood while making improvements to his creation during breaks or before and after shifts.

He hopes one day to attend college and pursue a career in line with model building.

Porterfield currently is working on a 12-foot model of the USS Missouri, but this time he is starting in his garage.