The "Big U" in her glory days on the North Atlantic.
The "Big U" today, rusting away in Philadelphia.
(Yes, I am aware that this
is not train-related, but I have a strong interest in ocean liners
and I want to see the S.S.
United States preserved.
The record for preserving liners is dismal)
On July 3, 1952
the S.S. United States pulled out of her dock in New York
and headed for Southampton on her maiden voyage. At 990 feet long,
102 feet wide, and with a gross registered tonnage of 53,290,
the United States was the largest ocean liner ever built
in the United States. The ship was built at a cost of $78 million,
with the U.S. government picking up most of the tab. Her engines
could generate up to 242,000 horsepower, making the "Big
U" the fastest ocean liner ever built. The ship easily captured
the transatlantic speed record on her maiden voyage with a crossing
from America to Europe in 3 days, 10 hours, and 40 minutes at
an average speed of 35.59 knots. (The maximum speed was estimated
to be in the range of 45 knots!) The United States quickly
became one of the most popular ships in north Atlantic service.
Famous people, including movie stars and politicians, graced her
decks on a regular basis. She was widely considered to be an engineering
marvel, the most technologically advanced liner of her day. Wood
was not used in her construction, instead advanced materials made
her virtually fireproof. A double hull and extensive watertight
compartments, along with the fireproof materials, made the United
States the safest passenger vessel ever built. Unfortunately,
after a short active career of 17 years, the Big U was abruptly
withdrawn from service in November of 1969. Competition from airlines,
labor difficulties, and politics brought her steaming days to
an end. She has not sailed under her own power ever since.
Since 1969, the
Big U has changed owners several times and has been the subject
of many revival plans. Conversion to a cruise ship, naval hospital
ship, or floating museum were just a few of the proposals offered.
The ship was narrowly saved from scrapping in 1992 by a group
that planned to rebuild her as a cruise ship in Turkey, but this
plan failed as well. The ship is currently tied up in Philadelphia.
In 1999 the United States was placed on the National Register
of Historic Places.
The Big U was recently
purchased (4-14-03) by Norwegian Cruise Line. They plan to refit
and return the ship to service!
S.S. United States
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