By W. JOHN.
Fig. 1 - CITY OF ROME.
The author said that he hoped to bring before the meeting impartially certain facts which might be of interest, and which, when recorded in the pages of the "Transactions," might be found of some use as data for future reference. In dealing with passenger steamers, he would do so principally from a shipbuilder's point of view; but the moment he commenced to think over Atlantic passenger ships as a shipbuilder, he was met by the question whether the present tendency toward divorcing the passenger and cargo trade from each other is likely to continue or not. If the answer is yes, then it seems to become an important question, for the present at least, how to build, on moderately small dimensions, the fastest, safest, and most economical passenger steamer, using all the most modern improvements to make her commodious and luxurious, and an easy sea boat into the bargain. If cargo is still to be carried in the passenger ships of the future, a moderate speed only will be aimed at in the immediate future, and every effort will be devoted to economy of fuel, comfort, and safety, with a fair carrying capacity.
This latter policy is one which may possibly prevail at least for a time, as it has powerful supporters in Liverpool; but he could not help thinking that very high speeds - higher than we have yet attained - must eventually gain the day. He also thought that they were on the eve of important movements, which will indicate what the next step in the passenger trade is to be; for it must be remembered, among other things, that none of our present English transatlantic liners, even the latest, have yet been fitted with the latest modern improvements for economy of fuel or quick combustion, such as triple expansion engines or forced draught. They must, therefore, be at some disadvantage, other things being equal, compared with the ships of the future possessing them. The Great Eastern steaming up Milford Haven about twenty-five years ago between two lines of the channel fleet of old - two and three decked wooden line-of-battle ships - the whole fleet saluting with yards manned, was a sight to be remembered.
More than this, that ship, with all her mournful career, has been a useful lesson and a useful warning to all naval architects who seriously study their profession - a lesson of what can be done in the safe construction of huge floating structures, and a warning that the highest flights of constructive genius may prove abortive if not strictly subordinated to the practical conditions and commercial requirements of the times. The Sirius and Great Western crossed the Atlantic in 1838, and in 1840 the first ship of the since celebrated Cunard Company made her first voyage. This was the Britannia, which, with her sister ships, the Arcadia, Caledonia, and Columbia, kept up the mail service regularly at a speed of about 8½ knots an hour. The Britannia was 207 ft. in length between perpendiculars, and 34 ft. 4 in. extreme breadth, 22 ft. 6 in. depth of hold, 423 horse power - nominal - and 1,153 tons burden, built of wood, and propelled by paddles. In 1860 the Collins Line started in opposition to the Cunard, and, after a series of disasters, collapsed in 1858. This was three years after the Persia, the first Cunarder built of iron, had been completed. In 1850, also, the Inman Line was started with the City of Glasgow, of 1,600 tons builders' measurement, and 350 horse power.
She was built of iron, and was the first screw steamer sent across the Atlantic from Liverpool with passengers, and was the pioneer of the great emigrant trade which Mr. Inman, above all others, did so much to develop and make cheap and comfortable for the emigrants themselves, as well as profitable to his company. That the builders of the celebrated old Great Britain, in 1843, and Mr. Inman, in 1850, should have pronounced so decisively in favor of the screw propeller in preference to the paddle for ocean steaming is a proof of their true practical judgment, which time and practical experience have made abundantly clear. While the Cunard Company went on developing its fleet from the early wood paddle steamer Britannia of 1,130 tons in 1840 to the iron paddle steamers Persia, etc., in 1858, the iron screw steamer China of 1862, to the still more important screw steamers Bothnia and Scythia, vessels of 4,335 tons, in 1874, the Inman and other lines were as rapidly developing in speed and size, if not in numbers.
The year 1874 is memorable, for it saw the White Star steamers Britannic and Germanic put into the water, as well as the Inman steamer City of Berlin and the two before mentioned Cunard steamers, Bothnia and Scythia. By the addition of these two ships to their fleet the White Star Line, although started only in 1870, reached a front rank position in the New York passenger trade. The author gave in separate tables the logs of several of these ships, some from published documents and some kindly furnished by the owners. The Great Western had crossed the Atlantic from Bristol to New York in 15 days as early as 1838. The first Cunard steamer, the Britannic, was about the same speed, from 8¼ to 8½ knots an hour. The average duration of the Cunard voyages in the year 1856 was 12.67 days from Liverpool to New York, and 11.03 days from New York to Liverpool. The Bothnia, in 1874, reduced the passage to about nine days. The White Star Britannic, in 1876, averaged 7 days 18 hours 26 minutes outward from Queenstown to New York, and 9 days 6 hours 44 minutes homeward, and has averaged for the last ten years 8 days 9 hours 36 minutes outward, and 8 days 1 hour 48 minutes homeward.
The City of Berlin, of the Inman Line, also built in 1874, 8 days 10 hours 56 minutes, and homeward 8 days 2 hours 37 minutes; and for the nine years from 1875 to 1883 inclusive, averaged outward 8 days 19 hours 56 seconds, and inward 8 days 8 hours 34 seconds; or, putting it into rounder figures, the Britannic had reduced the average passage between the two points to 8¼ days, and the City of Berlin to 8½ days. From the year 1874 on to 1879 no further advance was made in Atlantic steaming, but in that year the Arizona was added to the Guion Line, and it soon became evident that another important stride had been made in the Atlantic passenger trade, which would lead to most important results. The results, as we all know, have been sufficiently startling. The Guion Line, which had started in 1866 with the Manhattan, had now the fastest passenger ship on the Atlantic. In spite of burning some fifty per cent. more coal than the Britannic, the ship was an obvious commercial success. The spirited policy which brought her into existence was appreciated by the public, and the other lines had to move forward.