:: CLASSIC TRANSATLANTICS (II) ::
Classic ocean liners
RMS Queen MaryThe RMS Queen Mary, launched in September 1934 in the Scottish shipyards John Brown and Company, was the flagship of the Cunard Line (known as Cunard-White Star when the ship entered service) from May 1936 to October 1946. She operated primarily in the North Atlantic Ocean from 1936 to 1967. The RMS Queen Mary along with the RMS Queen Elizabeth were part of a two-ship weekly express service between Southampton, Cherbourg and New York. These two ships were the British response to the large ocean liners ordered by German and French companies in the years around 1930.
In August 1936 the RMS Queen Mary captured the Blue Riband, but lost it the following year in favor of the French superliner SS Normandie. But the RMS Queen Mary would regain the title in 1938, retaining it until 1952, when it was conquered by the new American superliner SS United States. With the outbreak of the Second World War, the RMS Queen Mary was converted into a troop transport to subsequently carry Allied soldiers for the duration of the war. Her running mate RMS Queen Elizabeth served the same purpose as well.
The RMS Queen Mary and the RMS Queen Elizabeth dominated the Trans-Atlantic passenger transportation market until the dawn of the air lines in the late 1950s. By the mid 1960s these ships were getting old and, even if they were still among the most popular Trans-Atlantic liners, they were becoming unprofitable. After several years of decreased profits for the Cunard Line, the RMS Queen Mary was officially retired from service in 1967. The ship left Southampton for the last time the 31st October 1967 and sailed to Long Beach (California), where she would remain permanently moored.
The fate of the ship would be to serve as a tourist attraction featuring restaurants, a museum and a hotel. Consequently much of the machinery was removed, including all the boilers, two of the four steam turbines and three of the four propellers. Nowadays the RMS Queen Mary is included on the National Register of Historic Places and the Historic Hotels of America.
The RMS Queen Mary has a length of 310.72 meters, a beam of 36.14 meters, a draught of 12.04 meters and a gross register tonnage of 81235 tonnes, with a displacement of 81961 tonnes, close to that of a modern aircraft carrier, and with her twelve decks she reaches a height of 55.2 meters. Capacity for passengers was 2139 (776 in first class, 784 in tourist class and 579 in third class) and the crew was 1101. The propulsion plant comprised 24 boilers Yarrow and four steam turbines Parsons actuating on four shafts, for a combined output of 160000 shaft horsepower and a service speed of 28.5 knots, a driving power comparable to that of modern battleships like the Bismarck and the Yamato.
In 1938 the RMS Queen Mary had conquered the Blue Riband reaching average speeds of 30.99 knots and 31.69 knots, crossing the North Atlantic westbound and eastbound, respectively. During the war the RMS Queen Mary and the RMS Queen Elizabeth had been the largest and fastest troop transports. Even carrying as many as 15000 soldiers, which represents about seven times their maximum passenger load, they were fast enough to make difficult for the German U-boats to catch them.
RMS Mauretania - RMS LusitaniaWhen the RMS Mauretania was launched in 1906, she was the largest and fastest ocean liner in the world, and became a favorite among her passengers. After capturing the Blue Riband during her inaugural voyage in 1907, she held the trophy for 22 years. The names of this ship and that of her sister RMS Lusitania were given after provinces of the ancient Roman Empire, and followed the trend in those years of using names taken from the culture of the Classical Age. Both ships started passenger service with the Cunard Line in 1907, performing the heavily traveled route Liverpool-England-New York.
Both ships were ordered as part of the competition between Cunard Line and other shipping lines, principally from Germany, for the Trans-Atlantic passenger trade. Whichever company had the fastest and most luxurious ships would have a commercial advantage. Both ships provided a regular express service between England and United States until the outbreak of the First World War. Also both ships held the Blue Riband at different times in their careers. The RMS Mauretania was generally slightly faster and held the record until 1929. The propulsion plant based on steam turbines was fundamental for the retention of the speed record during 22 years. The utilization of turbines in ships of this size was revolutionary in that time (these ships were being constructed at the same time than the HMS Dreadnought, first battleship propelled by turbines).
The 7th May 1915, as Germany waged submarine warfare against Britain, the RMS Lusitania was sighted and torpedoed by a German U-boat 11 miles off the Old Head of Kinsale (Ireland), resulting sunk after 18 minutes and claiming this shipwreck the lives of 1198 persons of the 1959 onboard. This unnecessary catastrophe turned the public opinion in many countries against Germany, contributing to the entry of United States into the war, and was exploited - hypocritically - in military recruiting campaigns as an iconic symbol of why the war was being fought.
In 1928 the RMS Mauretania was remodeled with a new interior design and the following year her speed record was taken by the SS Bremen, a new German ocean liner which crossed the North Atlantic with an average speed of 27.83 knots. Cunard Line allowed the former ocean greyhound to have one final attempt to recapture the trophy. She was relieved from service and her propulsion plant was upgraded, with the coal boilers being replaced by oil-burning ones, but this would not suffice. The SS Bremen simply represented a new generation of more powerful and technologically advanced ocean liners.
Even if after the refit the RMS Mauretania was more potent that ever, with her output increased to 90000 horsepower, and managed to break all of her former speed records, Cunard Line withdrew her from service following a final crossing from New York to Southampton in September 1934. The elegant ship would not have a chance and would be scrapped the following year, which was protested by many of her loyal passengers.
The RMS Lusitania had a length of 240.8 meters, a beam of 26.82 meters, a draught of 10.2 meters and a tonnage of 37938 gross tonnes. In the central part she had seven decks and a total of fifteen bulwarks and 175 watertight compartments. There was accommodation for 2335 passengers (560 in first class, 475 in second class and 1300 in third class) and the crew was 812. The propulsion plant comprised 25 boilers Scotch and four steam turbines Parson actuating on four propellers, for a total output of 70000 shaft horsepower and a top speed of 27.4 knots.
In 1938 a new RMS Mauretania was launched. This was the largest ship built in England at that time and also the first new vessel delivered to the combined Cunard White Star Line. She had a length of 235 meters, a beam of 27 meters and a tonnage of 35738 gross tonnes. The second RMS Mauretania was not designed to be an exceptionally fast ship; her propulsion plant, which comprised two sets of steam turbines Parsons actuating on two propellers, delivered only 42000 shaft horsepower for a service speed of 23 knots. As originally built, she had capacity for 1360 passengers and a crew of 802. As ocean liners were made increasingly more comfortable, the number of passengers was proportionally reduced over time.
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