1865 - 1895
the increasing rate of emigrants in the later half of the 19th
century, many shipping companies were born. The British Cunard Line had
been established since the 1840s, and now several American companies
also came to life. Magnificent liners such as Cunard’s pioneer Britannia
ruled the waves. One of the most respected ship engineers – and every other
kind of engineer as well for that matter – was the Briton Isambard Kingdom
Brunel. He created ships well ahead of their time with marvels such as
Great Western and Great Britain. The most spectacular of
his ocean liners was the enormous recordbreaker Great Eastern who
emerged in 1860. She outmatched the second largest ship six-fold in size
and the ship’s space and luxury were beyond measuring for the time.
the shipping companies that came to life after 1850 was the French Compagnie
Générale Transatlantique who started business in 1861. The
company’s first vessel, the Lousiane went out on her maiden voyage
in 1862, on what was C.G.T.’s first Atlantic crossing. This started the
Compagnie Générale Transtalantique’s glorious history that
would last into the end of the 20th century.
Éugenie as originally built. (Drawing by Duncan Haws)
had been built in Greenock, Scotland and after some years C.G.T. – or the
French Line – felt it was time to start to build their own ocean liners
in their own country. In 1862 the French Line ordered a new vessel called
Atlantique from the Chantiers de l’Atlantique shipyard in Penhoët,
St. Nazaire. The French still trusted their British shipbuilding companions,
and the project was under the supervision of John Scott & Co., Glasgow.
The Atlantique’s keel was laid on October 15 that year. About eighteen
months later the ship was ready for her launching, but under a different
name. It had been changed to Impératrice Éugenie and
this French marvel with the title of being the first French trans-Atlantic
liner to be built in France had cost an astonishing two million francs
to construct, and that was the hull only. That was more than double the
price of a British ship of the period, but the French Line had aimed on
safety and the Impératrice Éugenie was equipped with
thick one-inch hull plates.
was a period when liners powered by engines and other ships were being
converted from the conventional paddle wheel to the more efficient propeller.
However, the Impératrice Éugenie was powered by engines
geared to two giant paddle wheels. Each of the two had a diameter of nearly
forty feet and together they were able to push the ship to a service speed
of 11 knots. On February 16, 1865, the engines proved worthy when they
served the Impératrice Éugenie on her maiden voyage
between St. Nazaire and Vera Cruz in Mexico.
though the Great Eastern was the largest ship in the world with
nearly 19,000 gross tons, the Impératrice Éugenie
was not a small ship. At 3,400 gross tons she was actually quite large
for her time and on May 5, 1866 she carried the largest load of passengers
and cargo ever with 900 passengers, 500 tons of cargo and Fcs five million
in specie. Four years later, the Impératrice Éugenie
had been renamed back to her original Atlantique.
had two sisters altogether, all put in service later in 1865. They were
the France and the Nouveau Monde. In 1873, the Atlantique
and her sisters went to Maudsley & Leslie in order to be lengthened
to 400 feet. After the job was completed, the ships were sent to London
for re-engining by Maudlsey, Sons & Field. When the ships came back
into service, without the paddle wheels, on January 16, 1874 they had had
their tonnage increased to 4,600 each, and a third mast had been added
to the two previous. For the second time the Atlantique was renamed,
this time to Amerique. Now she would for the first time enter the
route to New York
|The paddle steamer Impératrice
Éugenie at sea.
in 1874, the most odd mystery occurred when the Amerique was abandoned
in a gale 100 miles off Brest, France on April 14. The ship started to
take on water much faster that the pumps could handle and all 83 passengers
and 152 crew were hurriedly transferred to other ships who left the scene
quickly and went to disembark the passengers in Plymouth. Everyone thought
they had seen the last of what they considered a doomed liner. But not
long afterwards two British ships were astonished to find the Amerique
abandoned and drifting not far from her last reported position. It was
seen to that she was pumped out on the spot and then she was sent – only
slightly listing to starboard – to Le Havre for reparation work. The French
Line was very surprised when they found out about this on April 19. The
Amerique resumed service within a month.
of that the Amerique seemed to be a lucky ship because of this incident,
she was not immune to further damages. On January 7, 1877 she went ashore
on the coast of New Jersey at Seabright. Because of financial problems
the ship was not attended for in four months, but finally on August 11,
she was back in service. On September 22, 1886 the Amerique was
transferred to the Havana service. Six years later, the Amerique
was once again re-engined, this time to very modern triple expansion engines
by the C.G.T. yard at Penhoët. This alteration increased her service
speed to 12 knots. The end of the Amerique came in 1895. She was
bound for Havana on January 28, just outside Savanilla, Colombia when she
was wrecked. The ship was considered too badly damaged and too old to put
back into service and she was subsequently scrapped.
Éugenie/Amerique - Specifications:
||364 feet (111.2 m),
400 feet (122.2 m) after 1873 refit.
||44 feet (13.4 m)
||3,400 gross tons, 4,585
gross tons after 1873 refit.
||Two cylinder simple expansion
engines powering two paddle wheels. These were replaced with a single propeller in 1873.
Re-engined with triple expansion engines during 1892 refit.
||Approximately 900 people