‘Empresses Of France’

1702-16 CP Funnel 1702-16 CP FlagThis is not an article about the ruling French consorts of Empress Eugenie, Empress Josephine or Empress Marie Louise, instead it is about two great Canadian Pacific ‘ladies’ and liners named Empress of France. They spanned a period of fifty years of maritime history from September 1911, when Allan Line of Glasgow ordered two liners from yards on the Clyde. They were completed as Alsatian by the Beardmore yard at Dalmuir, renamed Empress of France in April 1919, and Calgarian from the Fairfield yard at Govan. The second Empress of France was completed as Duchess of Bedford, one of four ‘Duchess’ sisters, in 1928 by the John Brown yard at Clydebank. She was renamed Empress of France (2) in 1947 and later arrived at the Newport yard of John Cashmore in the final days of December 1960 for scrapping, her demolition taking several months.

Alsatian/Empress Of France (1)

Yard number 509 was laid down at the Dalmuir yard of William Beardmore (1856-1936) in the Spring of 1912, and was launched on 22nd March 1913 as Alsatian for the Allan Line services from Glasgow to Canada. She was of 18,481 grt on dimensions of 571.4 feet overall length, moulded beam of 72.2 feet, depth of 41.7 feet, and draft of 28.6 feet, and was notable as being the first Transatlantic passenger liner to be given a cruiser stern. She had accommodation for 1,745 passengers (263 First Class, 534 Second Class, 948 Third Class) with a crew of 500. The passengers carried in each class varied considerably during her career.

The First Class public rooms were mostly on Promenade Deck with a well decorated Drawing Room, Observation Lounge, Main Lounge, Smoking Room, Writing Room and Long Gallery. Bridge Deck had a Library, Lounge, Card Room and Smoke Room, while Boat Deck had a Verandah Cafe, Upper Smoke Room and Gymnasium. The Smoking Room was decorated in French walnut wood, and had a mantelpiece similar to that in the King’s Room of Hampton Court Palace. The Dining Room was on the Shelter Deck and was in the ‘Georgian’ style and occupied the full width of the ship with tables of 190 persons. There was a large dome in the centre of the room with a gallery all around and above the room, and a balcony at one end for the ship’s orchestra.

The first Empress of France was built as Allan Line’s Alsatian.
The first Empress of France was built as Allan Line’s Alsatian.

Alsatian had three complete steel decks in her hull, with a Shelter Deck, Bridge Deck, Promenade Deck and Boat Deck above, a total of seven decks. The fo’c’stle and bridge structure extended for 460 feet, and after dry docking at Govan, she sailed on three days of trials on 16th December 1913, during which she achieved twenty knots or one more knot than her service speed. Four steam turbines used steam from two boiler rooms and were constructed by the shipbuilder to deliver 21,400 shaft horsepower to her quadruple propellers.

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