Maps, Ships and Architecture

Passenger Vessels


Written and Edited by F. Carrington Weems II
Models Owned by F. Carrington Weems II
Click on a photo for full enlargement



The “Mauretania” was built by Messrs. Swan, Hunter and Wignam Richardson, Limited at Wallsend-on-Tyme. She was engineered by the Wallsend Slipway and Engineering Company, Limited, also at Wallsend-on-Tyme. She was launched at 4:15 p.m. on September 20, 1906. 16,000 wood pilings 13” x 13” – 35’ long were driven on 4 foot centers just to support the weight of the ship as she was launched. It took 22 coal trains carrying 20 cars each with each car carrying ten tons of coal to fuel the liner for one trip from Liverpool to New York (6,600 tons of coal). She and her sister ship, the “Lusitania” weighed 32,000 tons, 320 times larger than Columbus’ “Santa Maria”.

Cunard did not have the money to build the “Mauretania” and the “Lusitania” and on July 30, 1903 both Houses of Parliament agreed to loan Cunard £2,600,000 ($12,636,000) for 20 years at 2¾% to build these two express steamers of unprecedented size and speed. In return, Cunard agreed to remain under British control, be staffed by British officers, and manned by a crew three-quarters of whom would be British subjects. In wartime, it was agreed that the two ships could be converted into auxiliary cruisers and the government stipulated that each ship be capable of maintaining an average ocean speed of 24½ knots in moderate weather. This had never been done before and would require 68,000 horsepower, a 79% increase over the most powerful marine engines known at the time, mostly on German ships. Though experimental at the time, steam turbine engines had to be developed for use in the “Mauretania” since reciprocating engines had reached their maximum usefulness, considering the ratio of the weight to horsepower.

Official postcard of RMS Mauretania (1) by Odin Rosenving


Various proposals were considered, but, her final dimensions were 790’ overall by 87’ 10” width, with a molded depth of 60’ 6”. She had nine decks, six of these being passenger decks. She had a double hull with extensive watertight compartments most of which could be controlled from the bridge. There were 4 million rivets used in her construction which weighed 103 tons. Her rudder alone weighed 63½ tons. She had four red stacks with black bands around her tops.

The “Mauretania” achieved the “Blue Ribband”, the Atlantic Speed Record in 1908 with a run of 2,889 miles in 4 days, 20 hours, and 15 minutes, for an average speed of 24.86 knots. It was then the fastest and largest liner afloat. In 1911, she averaged 27.0 knots (31.12 mph) for a full day run, and although in June she was surpassed by the “Olympic” in size (85’), she maintained her speed record as the fastest ship, until the 16th of July, 1929. A total of 22 years. She lost the “Blue Ribband” to the new German ship “Brenig”. In August 1929, she made a run from Eddystone to Cherbourg, a distance of 106 miles at an average speed of 29.7 knots (34.184 mph), her last record. In the early 30’s, times were hard for Cunard, and the Great “Mauretania” made her last Trans-Atlantic voyage, number 318. On April 2, 1935, rust-stained and dirty, this historic “Queen of the Sea”, for 29 years, was sold for scrap.

 In 1936, F.D.R. wrote of the “Mauretania” in his essay entitled “The Queen with a Fighting Heart”:

“In 1907, when she was born, the Mauretania was the largest thing ever put together by man. For twenty-two years, she remained the fastest liner he has ever produced. When she had long ceased to be the largest ship – when after a gallant struggle in her old, age, she no longer was the fastest Atlantic liner…she remained the World’s most famous steamship.”

Free You Tube Video Reference of RMS Mauretania:
Photo montage with Enya music.
Original Footage of the vessel set to the song “When My Ship Comes In
Original Footage from Mauretania’s Last Voyage
RMS Mauretania’s Horn




The “Olympic” was launched on October 20, 1920, and was greeted by the Press as the “World’s Wonder Ship”.  Her tragic sister ship the “Titanic” was produced one year later.  Both liners weighed 46,000 tons.  A third sister ship the “Brittanic” was launched in 1914.  She weighed 48,000 tons.

The Olympic had a fully equipped gym, complete with a resident instructor. The gym awaited those passengers who felt the necessity of joining the emerging keep-fit mania of Edwardian times, much as we emphasize exercise and diet today.  She had electric horses, bicycles, rowing machines, vibrators, full-size squash courts, and the first ocean going swimming pool.  Another sea going first was her Turkish bath and sauna complete with resident masseuse.



For the first class passengers, the Olympic was indeed elegant, combing such styles as the now expected “Louis-seize”, “Quatorze”, “Quinze”, “Empire”, Italian Renaissance”, “English Jacobean”, “Queen Anne”, “Georgian”, and even two “Adam” fireplaces.  She had the largest dining room afloat, with a dull red but practical Linoleum floor.  Carpeting for diners would first appear on the Titanic.  The main first class stairway was elegantly paneled and had carvings at the mid-landing that symbolized “Honor and Glory” crowning a large clock.  These elaborate furnishings were evidence of luxury and comfort rather than setting yet even faster speed records.  Her ride was smooth and level compared to the 22 year “Blue Ribband” title holder “The Mauretania”, sometimes known as a “Rattler”.

The Olympic and Titanic were 882.5 feet long, 92 feet wide, and had space for 2,584 passengers in three classes.  They had watertight bulkheads with electrically operated watertight doors that could be closed locally or from the bridge.  After extensive testing on smaller vessels, both ships were fitted with triple screws.  The outboard propellers were driven by reciprocating engines, while the central propeller was driven by a steam turbine.  Both ships were equipped with 29 boilers.  The designed speed was 21 knots.

On May 31, 1911, the Olympic was delivered to its new owners and the hull of the Titanic was launched.  J. Pierpoint Morgan and J. Bruce Ismay, managing director of White Star Line were present with a large contingent of officials from the International Mercantile Marine Company, a shipping conglomerate organized by Morgan to virtually control North Atlantic shipping.  It must have been awesome to see the World’s largest and most luxurious liners side by side on that momentous day.



On June 14, 1911, the Olympic set out on her maiden voyage with Captain Edward J. Smith at the Helm.  She arrived in New York on June 21.The passengers were most pleased about the spaciousness of the magnificent new liner and the smooth, near noiseless path it cut across the ocean.

Thomas Andrews, managing director of Harland & Wolf of Belfast which designed and built the Olympic and Titanic along with Lord W. J. Pirrie (the genius behind Harland & Wolf) were proud to have created these spectacular new state of the art liners.  Thomas Andrews later died in the tragic sinking of the Titanic.

The Olympic spent the winter of 1912-1913 being fitted out with double sides and the extension of her watertight bulkheads from the bottom of the top of the vessel.  This was to increase passenger confidence and safety after the dreadful loss on Sunday, April 14, 1912, at 11:40 pm, of her sister ship the Titanic.

In 1916, the Olympic was painted in dazzle patterns and fitted with 6” guns.  When the U.S. entered World War I, she was used almost exclusively to ferry the “Dough Boys” across the Atlantic and acquired the name “The Old Reliable”.  She had carried more than 188,000 troops and civilian passengers, covering more than 184,000 miles by the end of World War I.



On August 12, 1919, the Olympic arrived back at Harland & Wolf for extensive refitting.  In six months, she was virtually a new ship with more luxury furnishings in first-class, and a change from coal to oil fired boilers.  For ten years, she continued her Atlantic crossings, an excellent sea going vessel, reliable as a freight train, and averaging 23 knots on her passages.  During the next five years there were many changes in the shipping industry due to the great depression and her duty became spotty, some cruising, some crossings, and one fairly serious mishap.  On May 15, 1934, with Captain J.W. Binks on the bridge, in extremely dense fog, she unavoidably cut the Nantucket light ship in half, which sunk immediately causing the loss of seven crewmen aboard the Nantucket.

The Olympic made her last trans-Atlantic voyage on March 27, 1935.  On April 12, she was retired from service.  She was berthed along side Cunard’s Mauretania, both awaiting their doom.  On October 11, 1935, she sailed and arrived on the “Tyne”, she was then moved from “Jarrow” to the “Ward Inverkeithing” yard for final scrapping.  Her furnishings, paneling and smaller accessories had been auctioned and installed in area hotels where some remain to this day.  Thus an end to this famous trio of ships…the Titanic, Olympic, and Brittanic, and the dream of J. Bruce Ismay who died on October 17, 1937.  These “White Star” giants will be remembered, always.

Free You Tube Video Reference of RMS Olympic:
Photo montage
Original Footage from RMS Olympic’s Last Voyage
More Videos
The Grand Staircase
RMS Olympic’s Horn




The “Big U” was America’s greatest maritime accomplishment of all time, and yet today, she languishes away in a lonely berth, only a shadow of her former magnificent presence, and limitless capabilities.  Her future in uncertain.  We Texans could save her by brining her to San Jacinto, restore her, and preserve her alongside the battleship “Texas” for all of the world to see and remember.


The S.S. United States was born in the mind of an American naval architect named William Francis Gibbs.  As early as 1908, this incredible genius dreamed of creating a 1,000 foot, super fast, 30 knot passenger liner.  In 1914, he began the design.  In 1916, he water tested the first model of his dream ship.  Later, in July 1945, other naval architects put the finishing touches on his design and produced a set of working drawings.  John R. Kane said of Gibbs’ design formula, “It is, in simple terms, to combine the maximum driving power you can achieve with the lightest displacement compatible with the work the ship must do, and with the longest, finest, and cleanest lines that will serve to make a good wholesome seakeeping ship.”  Gibbs employed the sound design applications so successfully evident in America’s beautiful wooden clippers of the mid and late 1800’s.



This gorgeous liner steamed out of New York Harbor in July of 1952 on her maiden voyage displaying her massive red, white and blue stacks and her graceful length of 990 feet, 110 feet longer than the “Titanic”.  She is 101 feet wide, has more than 13 deck levels, 19 elevators, and a comprehensive inspection that requires no less than seven miles of walking.  Her crew numbered 1,000, and she carried 2,000 passengers and weighed 2,700 tons.  On her previous sea trials, the measured power output of her complement of state-of-the-art turbines was 241,785 shaft horsepower. She arrived and crossed the finish line near Bishop Rock on July 7, 1952, breaking all previous records with the world crowning the “S.S. United States” with the “Blue Ribband”, holder of the Atlantic Crossing speed record.  On arrival at a hero’s welcome, Commodore Harry Manning, Senior Captain of the “United States” lines, stunned the British with the remark, “We were only cruising the ‘United States on this record breaking run.”  The “Big U” has bested the 1938 record of the “Queen Mary” by ten hours and two minutes, traveling at two thirds of top speed.  She established a new westbound record on her return trip and on the round trip of 5,850 miles she averaged 35.05 knots.  Her top speed was a military secret then.  It was probably 45 knots.  In all, she crossed the Atlantic 800 times.  More than 1,000,000 passengers enjoyed the comfort, safety and speed of the incredible “S.S. United States”.



Overtaken by the jet-age, and pushed aside by harsh economies, only the creative spirit that first created the “S.S. United States” can save her – the American Spirit, the Texan “Can-Do” Spirit.  I am going to try.

If you would like to help me, please donate to the S.S. United States Conservancy.  You can also visit here to personally select which part of the ship you wish to help restore.

Free You Tube Video Reference of S.S. United States:
Photo Montage and  Legend of the S.S. United States Video
Original Footage from S.S. United States’ Maiden Voyage
A Call to Arms and The Big U
SS United States Docks October 11, 1955 (includes horn)
Other news clips on S.S. United States at ABC World News Tonight and CBS Sunday News.




Robert Fulton is credited with having developed the first practical steamboat in 1807 with the launching of the North River Steamboat of Clermont.  Steamboating grew into a giant industry in 19th century North America, because rivers offered the only practical way to carry people and goods around the interior of the continent.


The expansion of the United States in the 19th century was expedited by the fleets of steamboats operating on the Mississippi River and its many tributaries.  The shoal wat, winding channels and strong currents of these waterways demanded specialized vessels with shallow draft, high maneuverability and powerful steam engines.  The resulting craft looked like floating hotels, but they were well-adapted to the conditions under which they navigated.  The lightly-built western boats had a very short life span, and many were lost due to collisions with floating trees or boiler explosions.

Mississippi River Paddlewheel Steamer
Length: 122 feet
Beam: 26 ft.

Launched in 1866, the Rob’t E. Lee represents the zenith of the western river steamboating era.  In 1870, she made a record passage of three days, 18 hours and 14 minutes over the 1,218-mile distance between New Orleans and St. Louis, handily beating the rival steamer Natchez.  After a successful career of ten years, the Rob’t E. Lee’s worn-out hull was dismantled in 1876.





The New World was a paddle steamboat whose arch rival was the Francis Skiddy.  The Skiddy was larger than the New World, being 322’ long and the fastest of the New York – Albany and Troy Steamboats.

A Brief History

Robert Fulton is credited with having developed the first practical steamboat in 1807 with the launching of the Clermont.  Fulton did not invent the steamboat.  He combined the most successful elements of engine and hull design available at that time from inventions of other men who preceded him.  Robert R. Livingston became Fulton’s partner, and it was these two men who dominated the steamboat business on the Hudson River, which became known as the “Cradle of Steamboating” in America, the scene of the youth and young manhood of that vessel.



Steamboating grew rapidly into a giant industry, leapfrogging states, providing fast transportation for Lake Champlain, the Ohio River, the Great Lakes, Long Island Sound, the Chesapeake region, and the New England coast.  In 1824, the Fulton-Livingston monopoly on the Hudson River was repealed, and this great river became a federal waterway by Constitutional definition.  By 1930, paddlewheel steamboats had grown to huge dimensions, especially on the Hudson.  Albany and Troy became the northern terminals, and New York City and smaller towns in New Jersey became the hub on the lower end of the river.  At first, these same river steamboats were used for coastwise service.  There was an appalling loss of newly commissioned vessels.  Strandings on the ragged, rocky coastlines, collisions, fires, and, of course, the heaving sea of the North Atlantic soon proved that vessels designed for river service could not survive at sea, except in near perfect weather conditions.  Trial and error design of new hulls and new machinery ultimately produced the Downeast Steamboat and, thereafter, river steamboats were no longer used for plying the routes for exposed coastwise service from New York to Boston, and farther north to Maine and Nova Scotia.

Steamboating was nearly a half-century old before it found its way to rivers of the far west, which was accelerated when gold was discovered in California.  First, the sailing ships brought goods and supplies to San Francisco.  Not long after, steamboats with hastily bulwarked forward sections and enlarged fuel bunkers set out for the great land of promise, around the Horn, up the barren coast of South America, with a crew eager to work free in return for transportation to the land of gold.  The Wilson G. Hunt, a Coney Island excursioner made it to Sacramento.  The famous Senator, with her untraditional black hull was pulled off the Portland-Bangor service in 1850 and steamed around the Horn to California.  Her draft of more than 12’ kept her from service in the Sacramento River, so she joined the fleet of the California Steam Navigation Company in coastwise service.

The New World’s Flight to a New Land

A similar flight to California was the intention of the first mate of the New World, an ocean going side paddle wheeler.  However, he neglected to inform his captain and the ship’s owners.  He had, in fact, decided to steal the ship and head west.  With a hastily assembled crew who only suspected what was happening, he steamed south and brought her around to California without major event.  The first mate’s plan was to work her hard in western coastwise service, a very lucrative business, salt away enough money, and eventually pay her owners the fair market value of this fine steamboat, the New World.  He accomplished this is less than two years and actually got good title to the ship.  The owners were amazed at the accomplishment, and he was exonerated for his original thievery, and even praised.  The New World remained in service for 12 additional years.  The new owner put three more ships in service and became a wealthy Californian with a variety of other businesses.

The Vessel

She was built in New York in 1848, 1,312 tons, and 200 feet in length.

The Model

It is built to a scale of 1/8” = 1’ and is 24 inches long.  She is built of bass wood and dark mahogany.

The Model Maker

William E. Hitchcock, who also built the America, shown in the collection, built this model of the New World.





Vashon was built for the Vashon Navigation Company which was then engaged in fierce competition with the Tacoma and Burton Navigation Company for the freight and passenger business on the steamboat routes in the Tacoma and Vashon Island areas of Puget Sound. Vashon was the first steamboat constructed by the Martinolich Shipbuilding Company, which in 1904, under the company’s founder, John Martinolich, a Croatian immigrant, had set up a shipyard on Vashon Island at the small settlement of Dockton.

Miniature Model of a Day Excursion Boat
Excellent Scratch Built



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