S.S.United States!

The "Big U" in her glory days on the North Atlantic. (1952-1969)

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 Unfortunately, after a short active career of 17 years, the Big U was abruptly withdrawn from service in November of 1969.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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