1905 - 1955
the first years of the 20th century, the Glasgow-based firm
of Allan Line decided to commission two new ships for the company. Naturally
not known to them at the time, one of these vessels would live to sail
on the high seas for nearly half a century, with several different companies
and bearing a variety of names and liveries.
sisters were originally ordered from the Belfast yards of Workman, Clark
& Co., and the first of the two sisters was launched and christened
Victorian on August 25th, 1904. If all had proceeded
as planned, the second vessel would have been launched at the same yards
shortly afterwards. However, due to shortage of time and labour, the order
for the second ship was instead given to Alex Stephen & Sons, Glasgow.
On December 22nd 1904, the new ship entered the water for the
first time. She was given the name Virginian.
noteworthy feature of the new pair of ships was found in their engine rooms.
The Victorian and Virginian were the first liners on the
North Atlantic powered by steam turbines, and the first to be fitted with
triple screws. Irish scientist Charles Parsons had come up with the idea
of a turbine-driven ship in the mid-1890s, and his triumph came
in 1897, at Queen Victoria’s Diamond Jubilee Grand Naval Review. Parsons
had built a boat of his own – the Turbinia – and fitted it with
his turbine engine. The Turbinia’s speed and agility was effectively
demonstrated during the Naval Review, and the passenger shipping companies
took interest in the new type of engine. The new Allan liners were the
first to be fitted with such engines, and Cunard’s Carmania followed
later the same year. Her success would ultimately lead to the turbine powered
ocean greyhounds Lusitania and Mauretania.
6th 1905, the Virginian set out on her maiden voyage
from Liverpool to St. John, New Brunswick. After this crossing she
was transferred to the Montreal
run, for which she was intended. But at this early part of her career,
the Virginian suffered from problems caused by her revolutionary
power plant. As no one had any experience in building turbine driven passenger
ships, there had been some miscalculation during construction. The efficient
speed of the turbines was too fast for the relatively small propellers
and the ship’s hull design. Not only did this cause vibrations, but also
cavitation. Simply put, one can compare this to the skidding of a car on
a slippery surface; the propellers had a bad ‘grip’ in the water. Naturally,
this led to unnecessarily high fuel consumption. It was also soon
discovered that the new ship had a tendency to roll violently in heavy seas, a problem
that would haunt her for the remainder of her career.
|The stylish and innovative
Virginian in port.
But in spite of these problems,
the Virginian’s engines gave her enough speed to set new records
on the Canadian run when on June 16th 1905, she covered the
distance between Cape Race and Moville in four days and four hours.
with any liner, the Virginian also had her taste of poor fortune.
In September 1905, the smoke from a forest fire caused bad visibility,
and the ship went aground on Cape St. Charles, St. Lawrence. Luckily, she
was freed and came off safely.
this early incident, the Virginian lived through some more or less
uneventful years, serving the Allan Line on the Montreal route quite satisfactory.
But in 1912, on the night between April 14th and 15th,
she played a small role in the most known maritime disaster of all times.
The new White Star liner Titanic, claimed to be unsinkable, struck
an iceberg off Newfoundland and started going down by the head. The Virginian
was one of the ships who picked up her distress calls, and she immediately
set course for the stricken Titanic. However, the Virginian
was quite far away and it would take her some time before reaching the
scene of the disaster. And so, when the Cunarder Carpathia signalled
that she was only 58 miles from the Titanic, the Virginian
resumed her previous course and continued her passage.
later, in 1914, another great maritime disaster played a great role in
the life of the Virginian. In the cold and misty waters of the St.
Lawrence River, the Canadian Pacific liner Empress of Ireland was
hit by the Norwegian collier Storstad and sank in just 14 minutes,
taking with her 1,024 souls into their death. An enormous tragedy indeed,
and Canadian Pacific quickly needed another ship to fill the gap of the
lost Empress of Ireland. For this purpose, the Virginian
was chartered by Canadian Pacific to serve on their Liverpool-Montreal
run. The Virginian sailed a few voyages in this service, but was
soon interrupted by the outbreak of World
|The first class dining
room on board the Drottningholm.
of 1914, the Virginian was taken over by the British government
for use as a troop transport. She served as such for a few months, and
was then taken in for conversion into an armed merchant cruiser. When converted,
she was assigned to the 10th Cruiser Squadron along with her
sister, the Victorian.
in the midst of burning war, Canadian Pacific Railroad Co. acquired the
Allan Line and all of its holdings. The Virginian and her sister
were transferred to CPR, but remained in government service.
service continued through the conflict, and the Virginian seemed
to live through it unscathed. Yet in the dying days of the Great War, she
was torpedoed and started to go down. In order to save his command, the
Virginian’s captain managed to beach the ship on the coast of Ireland.
The damage to the ship was quite severe, and she was brought to the Princess
Dock in Glasgow for reparation work.
when the war finally came to an end, the Virginian was still laid
up. She was sent back to her builders for refurbishing in December that
year, but was soon declared surplus. Canadian Pacific had received former
German liners as compensation for wartime losses, and these ships were
much more attractive for use in the rebuilding of their fleet. The Virginian
was put up for sale, in wait of a possible buyer.
soon emerged; they were the Swedish American Line. They had started their
operations in 1915 with the former Holland-Amerika liner Potsdam,
which had been renamed Stockholm. Now they were in search of a ship
to serve as her consort, and they soon had their eyes set on the laid up
Virginian. They purchase went through on February 14th
1920, and the Virginian was renamed Drottningholm.
Drottningholm, the ship was to serve the Swedish American Line,
who mainly concentrated in earning their share on the emigration business.
Upon delivery to SAL, the Drottningholm was taken to the yards of
Götaverken in Göteborg, where she would go through a rather extensive
attention was given to the quarters in steerage, in which most emigrants
would travel. The upper class accommodations
already held quite high
standards, but were nevertheless slightly refitted to meet the company’s
requirements. In May of 1920, the Drottningholm set out on her premiere
voyage from Göteborg to New York.
sporting the beautiful livery of the Swedish American Line.
a success. Her interior decorations were well received, and included public
rooms that would soon become popular with the passengers. The promenade
deck music saloon. With its high ceiling and cosy milieu, it soon became
a natural gathering point on board the Drottningholm. Throughout
the ship, one could sense the impression of space and comfort.
company was not entirely satisfied with their new vessel. The problems
caused by the turbines still remained, and in 1922 it was decided to try
and remedy them. The Drottningholm was sent to Götaverken,
where a new set of De Laval single reduction geared turbines was installed.
The Swedish American Line was not opting for their ships to be fast, and
the new engines were less powerful than the original ones. These more efficient
turbines with their lower fuel consumption made the Drottningholm
more economical to run. Her new service speed was set at 17 knots. The rolling of
the ship could not be remedied as easily though, and this problem remained. Soon,
the ship had been nicknamed "Rollingholm" or "Rollinghome" by frequent travellers.
the Drottningholm returned to service. In addition to her new power
plant, her bridge deck had been extended aft to the main mast.
American Line had been founded so that Swedish emigrants could travel directly
from their old country to the New World on a ship with Swedish-speaking
crewmen. But the company had really been too late to earn their share of
the migration. Although the last wave of emigrants came in the 1920s,
it was soon evident that the company would have to focus on another type
of passengers. Following the First World War, the world had become a different
place. National economics flourished, and ocean travel became more than
just transportation from point A to point B.
of transporting Swedes to a new homeland, the Swedish American Line now
started carrying one-time emigrants back to Sweden for short visits. In
the opposite direction, they became a way for people in Sweden to visit
relatives in America.
was booming. The company was by now so successful that more ships were
needed to meet the large number of bookings. A temporary solution was reached
when in 1923 the company chartered the Stockholm’s sister Noordam
from the Holland-Amerika Line. She served SAL for just about a year under
the name Kungsholm. She was then returned to her owners, and SAL
instead placed an order for their first newbuild – the Gripsholm.
She was joined in 1928 by the Blohm & Voss-built Kungsholm.
These two new ships stole the thunder from the old Stockholm and
Drottningholm, which were cast out of the spotlights. Still, they
remained reliable in their services.
Gripsholm and Kungsholm were repainted white after a few years in service,
and this would soon become the traditional hallmark livery of the Swedish
American Line. To bring her more into company familiarity, the Drottningholm
was repainted white in 1937.
later, another global conflict erupted when Adolf Hitler marched into Poland
on September 1st, 1939. Sweden was
determined to stay neutral,
and Swedish merchant ships were not to be used for military purposes. But
the Drottningholm was nevertheless put to good wartime use along
with her younger fleet mate, the Gripsholm. The two ships were used
by the International Red Cross for the exchange of diplomatic personnel,
civilians and wounded prisoners of war. The Drottningholm served
from 1940 to 1946, making 30 passages and carrying some 25,000 people.
|The Homeland in
her twilight years, shortly before she was sent to the scrappers. (Photograph
courtesy of John McFarlane)
the Armistice, Drottningholm was returned to SAL. However, they
were now planning a replacement – the 12,000-ton Stockholm. When
the new ship was delivered from Götaverken in 1948, the old Drottningholm
was sold to the Home Lines, in which SAL had a share. With her new company,
the Drottningholm was renamed Brasil. She made her first
voyage, from Genoa to Rio de Janeiro, on July 27th 1948. Another
former Scandinavian-familiar ship was used as her running mate, namely
the Norwegian American Lines old Bergensfjord, which had been renamed
remained with the Home Lines and served them satisfactory. In 1951, she
was brought to Italy where she was refitted and modernised. She emerged
with a smaller gross tonnage and decreased passenger capacity. She was
transferred to the Hamburg-Southampton-Halifax-New York service, and for
this she was renamed Homeland. Although still formally owned by
the Home Lines, the ship was managed by the Hamburg-Amerika Line.
did not last long in this service, though. In 1952, she was instead put
on a Genoa-Naples-Barcelona-New York route. The ownership was transferred
to the Home Lines subsidiary Mediterranean Lines Inc.
Homeland lasted for another three years. In 1955, she was evidently
an old ship and she was then sent to the shipbreakers of Sidarma, located
at Trieste. After nearly 50 years of service, the Homeland was the
oldest ship in transatlantic service at the time of her withdrawal.
Brasil/Homeland - Specifications:
||538 feet (164.4 m)
||60 feet (18.3 m)
||10,754 gross tons
||Steam turbines turning
||18 knots, reduced to
17 knots in 1922