Over the Waves: Empress of Scotland

Happy Tuesday all! Sorry for the delay in posting. Continuing on with our theme from last week, I decided to go with another lesser known ocean liner from my favourite era. Back in the day, Canadian Pacific not only had a railway, but had ocean liners that left from both coasts. At one point, Canada had transportation that covered over half of the world, being able to get from Liverpool to Singapore without changing the shipping line. One of their ships was the elegant Empress of Scotland, coming into the fleet in 1921. Leading up to that however, she had a long career.

Ship Stats

  • Nationality: German/American/British/Canadian
  • Length: 206.5 metres
  • Beam: 23.5 metres
  • Weight: 24,581 tonnes
  • Capacity: 1,895 passengers
  • Speed: 17.5 knots
  • Year: 1906

SS Kaiserin Auguste Victoria, later the RMS Empress of Scotland

Originally built for the Hamburg-Amerika line, the Empress of Scotland was supposed to be named the Europa, sister ship to the Amerika. At the last minute, with the Empress of Germnay intended to christen the vessel, it was decided to name the ship after her instead, so her name was changed to the SS Kaiserin Auguste Victoria. Under the German flag, the Kaiserin Auguste Victoria came to be known for class and comfort rather than speed. She and her sister Amerika had beautiful and elegant fittings which set them a class apart when it came to traveling. The Kaiserin Auguste Victoria was also one of the first vessels to introduce รก la carte dining - giving passengers the option to eat outside of the dining rooms already covered by their passage fee.

Like many other passenger liners of her era, the Kaiserin Auguste Victoria was fitted into a troopship during the First World War, just in case the need arose. She never ended up leaving Germany during the war, but at the end of the conflict she found herself given over to the United States and turned into a repatriation vessel, now the USSKaiserin Auguste Victoria. After her repatriation duties were finished in 1920, she was chartered out, this time to the Cunard Line in the UK.

Under her charter, she sailed from Liverpool to New York City, filling a gap in Cunard's schedule. This only lasted for a year, however, and in 1921 she was sold for one last time, her new owners the Canadian Pacific Railway Company. She was renamed the Empress of Scotland, joining the ranks of the Empress of Japan, Empress of India, and Empress of Britain, and she was put into the shipyard for an overhaul. She was turned into an oil-burning vessel, changing over from coal, and another 500 tonnes were added to her overall. Her cabins were increased in size which increased her comfort, while decreasing her overall capacity. She then sailed Southampton to New York, the Mediterranean, and Southampton-Cherbourg-Quebec City. In 1927, in an effort to keep up with the changing travel environment, she added a "tourist class" to her bookings. This didn't help her acquire more passengers though, and with the introduction of newer vessels she started costing CP money. In May 1931 she was sold for scrap and made her last trip, sailing to Blyth, England to be broken up.

The RMS Empress of Scotland on fire at the scrapyard.

While moored alongside in the scrapyard, she was open to the public and her fittings were auctioned off. One morning, however, her crew woke to a fire blazing in her stern. Despite the arrival of emergency crews, the flames gutted the whole ship. Out of options and unable to pull her out into the river, they scuttled her at the dock and waited for the fire to go out.

When it was finally safe, they cut up the superstructure and re-floated the hull. She was pulled into a slip so that the scrapping could be completed, where (because of her weakened state from the fire) she promptly collapsed, split in half, and sank. She was finally raised and completely scrapped in October 1931.

Have a great week everyone!

Images this week from here and here.