The SS Californian and Dundee: Scotland's Forgotten Leviathan (Paper)

Harland Duzen

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On the 29th September 1900, the Caledon Shipbuilding and Engineering Company Ltd would receive an order from the Leyland Line to construct a new ship that would be the largest ever built in Dundee. This ship would become the SS Californian.

In what initially began as a small sentence in a script and Identifying un-named photos of the Californian boilers on Dundee City Archives, a month of mad-typing and research later has led to this; two mini papers, the first explaining the construction and outfitting of the Californian (which turns out was quite chaotic) and the second being an Appendix giving a brief timeline of her career.

Special thanks to Julian Atkins, Inger Sheil, My family and everyone here at Encyclopedia Titanica for helping to write this as without it, this might have never been made.

May this mini-paper give everyone a new perspective on the Californian and provides a few new facts that might be useful in figuring out what happened in April 1912.

_______________
Technical Note: I hope the links work (and aren't too big).

 

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Julian Atkins

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Sep 23, 2017
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Hi Harland,

What an amazing piece of research!

I have just finished my first reading of the whole paper and appendix.

Various people have moaned that nothing new can be learned about The Californian over 100 years on, but you have showed this is not the case, and also provided a most readable and accessible paper that shows the 'moaners' that there is still a lot more still to be discovered and researched.

I found it all fascinating, and compelling.

I do hope that the moderators will be able to give your paper and appendix the prominence and credit it deserves.

Did you find a reference to The Caledonian in Grace's Guide? I have a subscription to same but could not find anything.

You very correctly and astutely mentioned in a footnote (24) Captain Fry and his subsequent involvement in 1912.

In your paper p.18 there is mention of Mr Roper, who also played a part in 1912, being the Managing Director of Leyland Line and based in Liverpool, and whom Captain Lord had a meeting with after Captain Fry had told Captain Lord "Mr Roper says he can't give you another ship". At the subsequent meeting in Liverpool immediately after the Captain Fry meeting, Captain Lord was ushered into Roper's office, and Captain Lord was told he must resign by Roper, at the insistence of the Board of Directors in London, and with whose decision Roper did not agree with, according to Captain Lord's account.

[Harrison 'Titanic Myth' p.124/5 and based on the 1961 taped recorded interviews between Harrison and Captain Lord]

Anyway, very well done and congratulations!

Cheers,

Julian
 

Harland Duzen

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Thank you Julian!

Also what kind of reference for the Caledonian are you looking for? I didn't use Grace Guide, but I can look up any mention of her in The British Newspaper Archive if you want?
 

Jim Currie

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Apr 16, 2008
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On the 29th September 1900, the Caledon Shipbuilding and Engineering Company Ltd would receive an order from the Leyland Line to construct a new ship that would be the largest ever built in Dundee. This ship would become the SS Californian.

In what initially began as a small sentence in a script and Identifying un-named photos of the Californian boilers on Dundee City Archives, a month of mad-typing and research later has led to this; two mini papers, the first explaining the construction and outfitting of the Californian (which turns out was quite chaotic) and the second being an Appendix giving a brief timeline of her career.

Special thanks to Julian Atkins, Inger Sheil, My family and everyone here at Encyclopedia Titanica for helping to write this as without it, this might have never been made.

May this mini-paper give everyone a new perspective on the Californian and provides a few new facts that might be useful in figuring out what happened in April 1912.

_______________
Technical Note: I hope the links work (and aren't too big).
Great stuff! Harland. Read it cover to cover. I have already spotted a very useful fact which I will refer to shortly. Well done! once more.
 

Harland Duzen

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Thank you again Julian, it was definitely a group effort. Much like how it takes thousands of people to build a single ship, it equally takes thousands of people to research a ship (which this website proves)! :D
 
Nov 14, 2005
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Harland, in your research have you ever run across any pictures of the interior of the Californian? I did a few searches but didn't find anything. Was wondering what the passenger spaces looked liked.
 

Harland Duzen

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I'm afraid apart from descriptions in all the Dundee Newspapers, I didn't find any photographs of the Californian's interior (or any other Leyland Line ship).

The only photos I seen (online) of the interior of a Leyland Line ship are of the SS Winifredian built by Harland and Wolff in 1899 which I presume would have looked similar.

National Museums NI (Type "Leyland" in the search bar).

Hope the above is useful.
 
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Harland Duzen

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Harland, in your research have you ever run across any pictures of the interior of the Californian? I did a few searches but didn't find anything. Was wondering what the passenger spaces looked liked.
Steven, just to give a mini update on your question, with an educated guess, Californian's 1st class cabins (dubbed staterooms) would have looked similar to this photo below (albeit probably more basic since it was 1902 and in Leyland Line-esq style).

All Californian's passenger cabins had the same layout as below.

e71dc030-f8e2-4e42-ac4c-6bc22cd8473d.jpg

Photo of Olympic / Titanic 2nd Class Berth.

Again hope this is useful.
 
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Nov 14, 2005
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Thanks again. Gives me a better idea of what the spaces were like. I figured they comfortable but not very large as due to the size of the ship. I figured most would have spent their time in the lounges/bar or on deck when the weather was good. I've noticed in my travels that european hotel rooms generaly are smaller than US ones so the european travellers probably were fine with the spaces.
 
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Rob Lawes

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Recently I've been looking at the Leyland line and wondering about the layout and design of the Californian. Having looked at a list of ships built for the line I was wondering if she had any sisters. It would seem unusual for a shipping line to build one ship in isolation.

Having looked at the build list for the Leyland line it does appear the Californian was built as one off unlike other ships in the Leyland fleet. From the mid 1890's it appears that almost all Leyland line ships were built in pairs (or more).

In 1900 around the time the order for Californian was submitted, the Leyland line merged with, and took over the routes and ships of the West India and Pacific line. This saw a significant increase in Leyland line shipping into the Gulf of Mexico and New Orleans.

The first passage in Harlands article talks about Californian having been built for the Leyland lines Eastern trade which makes me believe that she was built for Leyland Mediterranean service. After Leylands merger with WI and P however, the Med service was dropped and all of the ships involved were transferred to the Ellerman Line. This took place in 1902 just as the Californian was coming in to service.

What I did discover is that Leyland also ordered two other 6000 ton 12kt ships around this time from R and W Hawthorn, Leslie and Co on the Tyne. The two ships, Colonian (1901) and Kingstonian (1902) have a striking resemblance to Californian and broadly match in size, dimensions and Gross tonnage with the only exception that the two Tyne built ships have space for 350 steerage class passengers as well as 60 1st class.

Could these two ships be half sisters of the Californian??

Kingstonian

IMG_20190130_230901.jpg


Californian

300px-Californian.jpg
 
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Harland Duzen

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It is feasible they were related in some capacity as the Californian and Colonian according to news reports did work in tandem on the Portland-Marine service for some years. However most Leyland Line ships were built under a similar design (all accommodation amidship with masts / derricks both forward and aft).

Leyland Line contribution Londonderry Sentinel February 25 1902 Page 7 copy.png

(Above): Londonderry Sentinel, February 25th 1902, Page 7

Also if your interested in deckplans, You can buy a digital copy / general plan of the deckplans from Dundee City Archives.
 
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Mark Baber

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As it turned out, White Star completely took over the Dominion Line's Boston service and the ships that were used on it. Haverford eventually (1921) became a White Star; Merion never did. Both were used on the American Line's Liverpool-Philadelphia service.
 

Rob Lawes

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Also if your interested in deckplans, You can buy a digital copy / general plan of them from Dundee City Archives.
It was more about confirmation of the location of the wireless cabin. I wondered if Leyland placed orders for more than one ship of the same design with another dockyard as it is reasonably unusual for ships to be ordered in isolation however in the case of Californian it does seem that she was ordered as a one off. I'd definitely speculate the initial design, funding and intended role changed between 1899 and 1902.
 
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