Were Normandie alive today


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Were "Normandie" alive today, much like "France", would we endeavor to preserve her? I think she was arguably the most beautiful ocean liner ever constructed. "France" reflects her in small degrees, yet nobody wants "France", nor is there a movement to preserve her. What of our beloved "Normandie"?
 
Hey, I want France/(Norway)! ;-)

I'm not sure how big of a movement there is to preserve it, but I did see a website dedicated to this.

I dunno. If Normandie were around today, I'm sure there'd be a number interested in its preservation. Hard to say how many...
 
> "France" reflects her in small degrees, yet nobody wants "France", nor is there a movement to preserve her.

That is because 'good taste' contains a grandfather clause, which states that as soon as a cutting edge design falls out of fashion it will be a good 60 years before it is appreciated again. And, unfortunately for the Norway ex France, the bulk of people alive today are old enough to have lived somewhere in the 1957-'80 time frame and associate the high style furnishings and artwork of the original France with items one would find in basement rec rooms, thrift shops and hit and run motels on the bad side of town, or found on the sidewalk on monthly "large trash collection" day. Even in her day, the France's interiors received mixed reviews, and with the exception of the former first class dining room, what was not removed during conversion is still fairly hideous. Boarded her in 1996 and was amused to hear one of the onboard VIPS describe her (off the record) as being "like a Holiday Inn- but not a good one. Like one you find by the airport."

>What of our beloved "Normandie"?

Benefitted from her early death and lackluster career while alive. Unlike the Queens Mary and Elizabeth, and the Nieuw Amsterdam she did not age in public, nor did she go through the purgatory of being outmoded and considered tacky as she would have been had she survived. Were she suddenly to appear intact, the reality could not live up to the expectations of fans. And because she spent more time NOT sailing in 1935-'39 than she did at sea, and carried so few passengers, she'll always have that mystique better patronized liners never attained.
 

Tom Lear

Member
An interesting "what if....." scenario.

Assuming (presuming?) the same Gallic pride that led to the France's being constructed, it is not difficult to imagine that money going instead to the Normandie's upkeep and refitting. No doubt some effort would have been made to retake the Blue Riband from Cunard (further refinements to the engines? new propellers?), although it would have been very, very difficult to compete with the United States. (And would the France still have been built?)

There is also the outside possibility, given the hordes of newly-rich American middle class traveling to Europe in the 1950s, that the Normandie finally might have been able to turn a miniscule profit, assuming French PR efforts could match those of the British.

Once again, presuming on the same French intransigence in the rise of the jet age that kept the France sailing until 1974, the Normandie, having been refitted and partially rebuilt sometime in the 1960s, could have been kept sailing until the early 70s. The French Line would have been more obstinate than Cunard in seeing the writing on the wall, and the dirigismiste/deGaullist way of doing things would have kept tax moneys flowing to the French Line.

But it becomes too nebulous after that. Either being laid up, too expensive and antiquated to operate but too much French vanity invested to send to the breakers, which would mean a deterioration like what has befallen the United States. Or the remote possibility of being saved as a museum someplace.
 
Had she survived the war, I agree, there would have been post-war refit, likely with two funnels, or worse, redesigned three funnels. Her interiors would never have been the same as prior to the war. "Liberte" would have replaced the "Paris" or might not have been taken from the Germans. I'm betting the "Ile de France" would have gone to the breakers earlier or been pressed into Mediterranean service. Eventually, "Normandie" would have either been retired as hopelessly out of date, or a financial loss, and simply become a museum or Toyotas. "France" would never have been constructed. I think "France" deserves a note of recognition however, as the most distinctive of the post-war ships, and at the least, in the tradition of "Normandie"; certainly not as a worthy successor.
 
Sentiment comes into play, before the realization of how much money would be needed to preserve a ship as large as a liner. We liner lovers, want to try to save these beautiful lady's of the sea, but the cost would be enormous!
 
>Her interiors would never have been the same as prior to the war

For the most part, I think the public rooms would have been much the same as they were before the war. The artwork was removed quickly, but carefully, in 1941-'42 and had there not been a fire it would have more logical, in the shortage plagued post war environment, to restore the rooms rather than rebuild them from scratch. Many of the best pieces were recycled into the Liberte and Ile de France, which leads me to believe that CGT would have been willing do a large scale restoration had the ship survived.

It would have been interesting to see if the postwar Normandie could have overcome the various factors which kept her passenger loads low during her first four years.
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I think post-war retrofitting would have been opulent and made her the showpiece she was before. The investment in her plant, her hull, her overall design, would have simply required the investment. What killed her was the fact she was a gutted hull at the close of the war. She would have been an empty container needing to be filled. All her machinery would have required intricate replacement. The only man with the knowledge and vision to do the job was Vladimir Yorkevich, and he couldn't get anyone to listen to him. William Francis Gibbs had his heart squarely placed on building his supership, and wanted nothing to do with the "Normandie". Incidently, I understand that great amounts of her cut away super structure and above decks machinery wound up as landfill on Rickers Island, in the East River. I have stood by where she sank and wondered if pieces of her still rest on the floor of the Hudson.
 
>I have stood by where she sank and wondered if pieces of her still rest on the floor of the Hudson.

If so, they are minute. However, one could write a fairly interesting article about all of the Normandie fragments still visible in Manhattan.
 
>>It would have been interesting to see if the postwar Normandie could have overcome the various factors which kept her passenger loads low during her first four years.<<

I wonder about that as well. How was the trans-Atlantic passenger trade doing in this timeframe?
 

Tom Lear

Member
If I can remember off the top of my head correctly (very, very big "if"), 1958 was the busiest year ever for transatlantic shipping. Then the bubble burst. But the 1950s, as a whole, seem to have been a very lucrative time.
 
Mmmmmmm...I was thinking more in the lines of the 1945 to 1950 timeframe. With large portions of Europe recovering from the war, I don't know that there would be a lot to appeal to somebody going on Holiday, and a forth large liner might have been seen as excess tonnage. (Queen Mary, Queen Elizabeth and Aquataina were still available.) That would have made things a bit tough *if* this is the case.

I'm just wondering if it was.
 

Tom Lear

Member
If I remember correctly, a lot of liners were tied up in the two to three years after the war ended, repatriating troops, sending refugees abroad and then in the yard being converted from wartime service back to commercial guise. The Liberte wasn't ready for commercial service until 1950, and the battleship Jean Bart also wasn't completed until the late 1940s. I think the Normandie would have also had to wait a fair stretch before sailing again commercially - but this is all academic (I suddenly realize).
 
There was an intriguing letter for sale on eBay a while back, written aboard Normandie on CGT paper in either 1935 or 1936 in which the writer had highlighted the phrase "I really hate this ship." She also advised the reader to avoid Normandie and mentioned that the incessant vibration had finally caused her to vomit. I lost to a higher bidder and so did not get to read her detailed account beyond what was shown on eBay.

I think that had Normandie survived, she would have been lucrative during the "seller's market" of the early 1950s, and then, like the Queens, become a big money loser when newer ships with a better standard of accomodation, and jet travel became options. Normandie's fatal flaw prewar (other than the vibration, the depression and the threat of impending war keeping tourists away from continental Europe) was that, as fabulous as her deluxe accomodations were, her 'bread and butter' cabins were inferior and, compared to the Queens, there were too few of them. Third class, in particular, was a warren. Postwar, after 1950, an 'all first class' liner could have succeeded for a while in a way not possible 1935-'39 but, my guess is that by 1960 she would have been in deep trouble competing with the superior new Italian Line vessels and the United States.
 
>>but this is all academic (I suddenly realize).<<

True. Some idiot thinks it's a good idea to use a cutting torch in the vacinity of piles of Kapok life preservers and *POOF* Exit one beautiful liner stage right, enter an academic discussion on the "might have beens" stage left. What Jim posted about the vibration doesn't suprise me in the least. This was a high speed vessel and they didn't have computers to help design screws that would minimize the monsterous cavitation. Down in the spaces where the lower classes slept, it must have been an absolute horror.
 
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