A major question about the superstructure colouring that has been nagging away at me for ages


May 12, 2009
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Hey, guys! :)

I was wondering, throughout Lusitania's lifetime, she appears to have switched her colour scheme.

Now, I'm not referring to the semi-disguised war colours she wore on her fateful final voyage, but the handful of photographs where the white of her superstructure extended down to the hull, right below the forecastle deck. I used to think that the colour scheme was done very early in her career and then had the hull painted fully black for an easier kept look... But then I realised her maiden voyage photos show the entire hull painted black.

Just wondering if anyone could shed any light on the timeline. When was the Lusitania's white superstructure colouring extended down one extra deck? And for how long?

Hope this made sense. Thanks a lot in advance! :)
 
Aug 8, 2007
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Hi Evgueni, Lusitania was initially painted with a white prow and white hull for one deck below the forecastle, and wore this color scheme during her trials. After her trials, but prior to her maiden voyage, the prow and hull was repainted entirely black. Any photos of the ship that show her with a white prow were taken prior to her maiden voyage.
 
May 12, 2009
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Interesting.... Do you know what the reasoning was behind changing the colours? As far as I can tell, they didn't fool around with varying schemes when the Mauretania was completed...
 
Aug 8, 2007
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No idea why the change was made. According to Kent Layton's book "Lusitania", it was done when the ship was drydocked in Liverpool on August 3, 1907.
 

Bill Sauder

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Dec 19, 2000
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I'm not aware of any written evidence why Lusitania's hull originally had a white stripe that was done away with after the trials.

I've always assumed that the white stripe was "the style at the time", since White Star and the French Line used this scheme and Cunard was following their lead. It was also a novelty, since Cunard was breaking with their "black only" hull tradition.

I also assume that they abandoned it when they realized how dirty the white stripe got, and because of the flair in the hull, how difficult it was to keep clean. (White Star hulls are almost vertical under their white stripe, Lusitania's hull had a serious undercut to throw water - making it VERY difficult to clean or paint.)

The main problems would have been the mooring lines: When casing off, the lines get wet falling into the water. When they are hauled up over the fairleads, they get "Squeegeed" (wrung dry) going over the knuckle, causing tobacco-colored stains.

There's also a few color-tinted post cards that show the white hull stripes (in a few configurations) were contemplated for Mauretania, but actual photos suggest the idea wasn't followed up.
 
May 12, 2009
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....But it appears the white stripe was done away with BEFORE the Lusitania was actually put into commercial use.
 
Mar 27, 2004
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Evgueni,

>>....But it appears the white stripe was done away with BEFORE the Lusitania was actually put into commercial use.<<

That is correct. The maiden voyage was in September; the white-painted sheer strake running underneath the Forecastle was removed in August. It could be that they discovered, as Bill pointed out, that the white paint was extremely high-maintenance and thus would require a lot of work to keep pristine. It could have been that they wanted to keep the Lusitania looking more like the rest of the fleet. It could have been something that they just tried, thinking it might look good, and then decided against it. Bill is right, that the exact reasons for replacing the white paint with the black -- indeed, of painting it white to begin with -- are a little murky at this remove.
 
May 12, 2009
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But I did understand the timeline correctly, right? The white stripe was there only from the launching to the trials in the summer? But for the rest of her life, the Lusitania was in regular Cunard colours? (Well, except of course her tragic career in WWI.)

I can't decide which version I like more... She looks more proportionate with the white stripe, yet the regular Cunard colours give her an aura of elegance and streamline...
 

Michael Dow

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Nov 17, 2004
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There is no problem with this. Cunard decided they didn't like the look of the ship and had it changed. In fact there is an excellent book about the design, building and career of the Lusitania which I was reading last week in Newcastle Archives, where incidentally there is the "Turbinia" filling the entrance hall of the Discovery Centre, I have a note of the book somewhere and when I finish unpacking it will let you all know. I suspect it is now out of print.
 

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