CPR - RMS Empress of Ireland 1906 to 1914

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With Reuben Goossens

Maritime Historian, Cruise‘n’Ship Reviewer & Author

Please Note: All ssMaritime and other related maritime/cruise sites are 100% non-commercial and privately owned. Be assured that I am NOT associated with any shipping or cruise companies or any travel/cruise agencies or any other organisations! Although the author has been in the passenger shipping industry since 1960, although is now retired but having completed over 690 Classic Liners and Cargo-Passengers Ships features I trust these will continue to provide classic ship enthusiasts the information the are seeking, but above all a great deal of pleasure!

 

Page One – History Page 1906 to 1913

There will be Two Pages and this first page will cover her first seven years, which includes her planning, construction as well as that of her one month younger sister the Empress of Britain.

Whilst Page Two, will cover her final four months and twenty eight days and her final two hours and twelve minutes when she had slipped under the water of the St. Lawrence River. We hear so much about the Titanic, but so many simply do not realise that more passengers died during this great tragedy, than on the Titanic, for sadly, the loss of the Empress his very much the forgotten disaster! I am well aware that she was not coined the unsinkable ship, which the Titanic never was, and the White Star Line never ever made such a statement, but was a media beat up! It was just that she the second of a trio of identical ships built had that great tragedy whilst on her maiden voyage, and due to company stupidity, she did not have sufficient lifeboats and she was forced to remain to stay at high speeds in dangerous water where Ice had been reported!

On the other hand the Empress of Ireland was one of the safest ships built in her day having been given the highest Lloyds safety classification possible, but she went down because of a wayward collier crashed into the liner’s starboard side! But there will be so much more on Page Two.

Introduction to Two Fine CPR Liners:

The 1906 built RMS Empress of Ireland was without a doubt a stately looking two funnelled ship that was a well-appointed ocean liner built for the Canadian Pacific Railway Line (CPR). She, together with her with her identical sister the Empress of Britain, which was built at the very same time and she departed a month earlier on her maiden voyage from Liverpool to Quebec. This is the story of this beautiful ship, the Empress of Ireland from her construction to her those final tragic 14 Minutes that took her to the bottom of the St Lawrence River after a wayward Collier crashed into her.

However, the Empress of Britain that was built in Yard 442, and launched on November 11, 1905 and departed on her maiden voyage on May 2 1906, sailed on and had a good long life. In 1924 during a refit she was converted to oil-firing, she then operated the Canada to Antwerp service until 1929 she was sadly finally laid up and was sold to “Stavanger Ship breaking Co.,” on June 17, 1930.

The RMS Empress of Britain departed Liverpool for Quebec on May 5, 1906

In 1924 she was converted to oil-firing and renamed TSS Montroyal

RMS Empress of Ireland:

It had become quite obvious to Canadian Pacific Railways (CPR) that the completion was ever increasing against their aging Empress liners.

The Empress of Ireland was designed by Francis Elgar and she was ordered in 1904 to be built by Fairfield Shipbuilding & Engineering Co., at Govan in Glasgow, Scotland. The 14,191 GRT (Gross Registered Ton) ship was contracted at a fixed price of £375,000 and she was to be delivered to CPR 18 months from the date the contract was signed.

An excellent starboard line drawing of the two stately looking - ‘Empress of Britain’ & ‘Ireland

Please Note: A larger size can be viewed by clicking on the above image

Thank you Dr. David Edelstein, Canada for providing same!

She and her sister were the biggest ships that Fairfield Shipbuilding had ever built up to that time and they were constructed to such a high standard up to Class Star 100A1 at Lloyd’s. What this really meant is that the ships had not just ben approved after completion but they would have been scrutinised and endorsed by the Lloyd’s surveyors at every single stage that is from the drawing-board to her sea trials. This Best Replica Watches was without a doubt the highest seal of approval that the world’s most prestigious maritime surveyors could bestow on a pair of new builds!

The ship built in Yard number 443 was officially named by Mrs. Alexander Gracie “Empress of Ireland” and was duly launched by her on January 27, 1906. Once in the water she was towed to her fit-out berth and once the ship was completed she underwent her sea trials with great success as she managed a good 20.8 knots and she was then delivered on June 5, 1906.

As the Empress of Ireland was about to depart for her maiden voyage from Liverpool to Quebec Canada on June 29, she proved to be an inspiring and an imposing sight, for she stood high as a four-story building above the waterline. Many were amazed to learn that she was as long as two football fields and almost 66 wide much like today’s four-lane highway.

The Empress of Ireland at first sight was a handsome ship, built so typically in the style of grand ships of her time, but she and her sister broke the mould and did away with the third dummy funnel and thus having a more streamlined look. Her beautiful traditional straight Stem combined with her sweeping counter Stern were wonderful, this and her two tall raking buff funnels and high raking masts to match.

The Empress of Ireland was a monument to Edwardian splendour. The First Class accommodations included a fine Library stocked countless books, a Café, a Music Room, and a Smoking Room. The Dining Room featured fine leather upholstery, handmade woodwork, beautifully sculpted ceilings, cut-glass fixtures, and an atrium that rose up two levels to the Music Room.

The two Empresses were 570ft. long and 65.72ft and had quadruple expansion steam engines geared to twin screws giving them a service speed of 18 knots with a maximum of over 20 knots. She accommodated 310 First-Class passengers, 468 Second-Class, 494 Third-Class and 270 Steerage with a crew of 373.

Departure day

 

A company colourised postcard of the RMS Empress of Ireland from her early days

This fine ship departed England for her first Trans-Atlantic voyage to Canada and sailed at a good speed up to 20 knots, Ulysse Nardin Replica thus she made the journey from Liverpool to Quebec on a regular basis in 6 days. Only four days of the voyage was in the open waters of the North Atlantic and CPR made a great fuss about this in their promotional material and advertising! For two days would be spent sailing along the peaceful waters of the St. Lawrence River to Quebec, being a great scenic waterway! It was well known that the North Atlantic had a formidable reputation and could be rough at any time of the year. But, it soon became apparent that the Empresses became known as being solid and steady ships having a reputation for great comfort and having excellent safety features thus their popularity increased and CPR sales sky-rocked!

An item of advertising promoting that the Empresses were “LESS THAN FOUR DAYS AT SEA”

First Class passengers were accommodated amidships on the Upper and Promenade Decks, where they would be close to fresh air and light. Second Class passengers were berthed aft on Main and Upper Decks. Whereas Third Class was located low in the ship from the Bridge heading forward to the fo’c’sle, surrounded, if not intermingled by crew quarters. Other crew, including stewards and engine staff had their cabins far aft deep down in the ship. However the ships officers by contrast enjoyed the good life way up with the very best of locations up in the Deck house up on Boat Deck, according to tradition, thus close to the Bridge. The Captains Cabin and dayroom was connected the Bridge for convenience, and that he would always be within a few steps from his command day and night!

A true elegant and Classic Looking Trans-Atlantic Liner

She is seen with her freshly painted black funnel tops

 

Empress of Ireland Photo Album

First Class passengers were accommodated amidships on the Upper and Promenade Decks, where they would be close to fresh air and light. Second Class passengers were berthed aft on Main and Upper Decks. Whereas Third Class was located low in the ship from the Bridge heading forward to the fo’c’sle, being partially surrounded if not next to the crew quarters. Other crew, including stewards and engine staff had their cabins far aft deep down in the ship. However the ships officers by contrast enjoyed the good life way up with the very best of locations up in the Deck house up on Boat Deck, according to tradition, thus close to the Bridge. The Captains Cabin and dayroom was connected the Bridge for convenience, and that he would always be within a few steps from his command day and night!

For entertainment there was a five piece string Orchestra that played daily for both First and Second Class passengers in the Dining Room and the Lounge. Children had their own playroom and a sandpit and also a separate Dining Room. The Third Class Dining Room was large and quite well appointed, whilst Steerage dined on simple long wooden tables mostly without tablecloths, except for special nights and they sat on long hard wooden benches in and area that seemed to be nothing more that an open space between their large dormitories and the crew quarters. Steerage obviously had the worst of the accommodations.

Third Class passengers did not expect to be provided with any entertainment but they did receive more than adequate food and suitable berthing that would be appropriate to their meagre recourses. Yet it was those passengers who desired as well as the migrants who in fact became huge money makers for all the major shipping companies in due course, for without them most would have gone broke very quickly!

I am pleased that I have some reasonable photographs of First Class, three for Second, but just one and a Menu for Third. Should more come available I will place hem online of cours.

First Class

 

Baggage is being sorted to be delivered to Suites and cabins on Promenade Deck

 

The Main Entrance Hall, Lobby and grand stairwell

First Class accommodations included a fine Library, which stocked 650 volumes there was also an elegant Italian café, the Music Room, and a Smoking Room. The Dining Room was rather Grandiose and it featured leather upholstery, handmade woodwork, sculpted ceilings, cut-glass fixtures, and an Atrium that rose up two levels to the Music Room. Each level features the most beautiful wrought iron balustrades topped with highly polished timber.

 

Above & below: The Magnificent Dining Room that is three level, high and topped with a grand glass dome

Below we can see the cosy bench style seating along the sides on the dining room with the extra large portholes

 

 

This is direct from the dining room a magnificent “Minton Fonterey Pattern” plate from the ship

A single set was given to a passenger on the 95th.voyage, being two voyages before the disaster

 

The Main Lounge

 

Gentlemen having an afternoon chat I the Smoking Room

 

This is an excellent photo of the very popular Italian Café, frequented day and after dinner as per this photo

 

Reading and writing Room

 

Another interior view

 

A Deluxe Suite; this is its sitting room, where there is also the Main Bedroom as well as maid’s cabin

 

A comfortable single bed cabin with a sofa

 

A game of Cricket is plated on Promenade Deck, I wonder how many cricket balls went into the sea?

 

Second Class

 

A very comfortable and a most pleasant Dining Room

 

Passengers relaxing on their aft located Promenade Deck

 

Shuffleboard was always a popular game at sea

 

A two berth cabin, which is comfortable and well equipped

I am sorry, but this was the best image I was able to locate

 

Third Class

 

The Main Lounge is as you can see is far forward in the bow section

 

The Third Class Dining Room had long tables and fixed timber chairs, but above exposed

steel was to be seen, but the venue was far from being unpleasant

 

Here is a Breakfast Menu for the morning of April 25, 1910

 

The Galley and the Bridge

 

This is the First Class Pantry that leads into the main Galley

 

The Captain and his Officers seen on the starboard Bridge wing using their sextants

 

The Bridge with a helmsman and a duty Officer at hand whilst at sea

All the officers and the Captain ere accommodated close by

 

An excellent model of the Empress of Ireland they have other models available

In Conclusion of Part One:

As the years passed it had become obvious that the two new CPR Empresses had become the Hallmarks of Canadian Pacific Shipping system on both sides of the Atlantic, for they were two of the larger liners in operation between Quebec and Liverpool! The offered excellent accommodations in both First and Second Classes and Third/Steerage offered the basics for those who travelled on an economy or as migrant to Canada from Europe and Britain.

But sadly the memory of the Empress of Ireland will be one more remembered because of what occurred after she departed late afternoon on Thursday 28 May, 1914 and then just a little over an hour past midnight a wayward collier the SS Storstad crashed into her starboard mid section into the aft Boiler room and she sank rapidly. Yet she was one of the safest ships ever built, with sufficient lifeboats for every soul onboard, but she went down within 14 minutes!

Page Two contains the full Story entitled: “Empress of Ireland - Her Last Voyage”

Specifications RMS Empress of Ireland:

Builder:       Fairfield Shipbuilding & Engineering Co., at Govan, Scotland

Yard:       442.

Launched on:       January 27, 1906.

Maiden Voyage:       June 29.

Tonnage:       14,191 GRT, 8,028 NRT (Net Registered Tons).

Length:       570ft - 170m.

Beam:       65.72ft - 19.995m.

Draught:       40ft - 12m.

Propulsion:       Two × Quadruple Expansion Steam Engines.

.       by the builders 19,000 IHP.

Screws:       Two.

Speed:       18 knots, max 20.7 knots.

Passengers:       1,542; 310 First-Class, 468 Second-Class, 494 Third-Class and 270 Steerage.

Crew:       373, later increased to over 500.

 

A beautiful photograph of the RMS Empress of Ireland departing Liverpool around 1912

 

Go to Page Two “Empress of Ireland - Her Final Voyage”

 

“Blue Water Liners sailing to the distant shores.
I watched them come, I watched them go and I watched them die.”

 

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