My Time On Board The SS United States.

All I have left from the trip. Our luggage tag that was on a suite case in the attic.

All I have left from the trip. Our luggage tag that was on a suite case in the attic.

Yesterdays story was fun to write, but the comments made the story for me. The comments have made many of my lame stories better I might add. One comment was made by Alex Watson regarding the ultimate classic boat restoration job. The SS United States. Wow, that triggered a flash back. Thanks Alex. Ya see I have had a relationship with the SS United States since I was 8. Thats right. I was on board, in 1967 to be exact. I was also a passenger on the SS America, 2 times and the Stockholm, before it hit the Andrea Doria. I only really recall the SS United States. It was insane, and left a massive impression. We had been living in Munich, my dad was a foreign service officer and it was time to come home. All 4 kids, dogs the whole lot. In fact I recall we left Germany and had to stop off the coast of Ireland where a small boat came out and my Dad was on board. Not sure if it was a special stop or not. I just recall thinking, Dang, my Dad must be a big shot to have a ship stop for just him. We had two rooms in first class and our dog Nina was stuck in the kennels up stairs. I did not like that at all. One had to dress up for Dinner. A man would walk the halls and play a gong thing to tell you it was meal time. man that was great. Watched Jerry Lewis movies in the movie theater. Empty movie theater I might add. Swam in the salt water pool that I sear had white caps in it. And won a couple bucks in a horse race game. We arrived in NYC and man oh man, it was huge, amazing and wonderful. There is nothing like seeing the lights of a major City for the first time in your life after a 4 day trip out on the Atlantic. NOTHING. About 13 years ago i got involved in the now merged SS United States Organization. Its now gone, but helped in preserving the ship on the national Register, and the group started the conversation about saving the ship. The go to group now a days is amazing and doing the big lifting. The SS United States Conservancy  this group is amazing and has brought continued attention to the ship in fun and exciting ways. The web site experience is clearly a work of passion. Saving the SS United States is no easy restoration, but can be done. Just this past week on Sunday morning on CBS, they did a great piece on her thanks to the Conservancy. And if you want to donate, here is the conservancys site for that. Cool stuff….

Into stats on this amazing ship, fun stuff, like it could be converted into a troop transport with in 24 hrs, It could do over 30 knots. It’s engines could be converted into generators and power NYC! This thing was a really a Cold War battleship! Google around, there is a ton of stuff. On ebay you can still find stuff from the ship.  It’s all fun and amazing stuff, amazing folks behind it all. Thanks Alex for reminding me of a great time.

27 replies
  1. Sean
    Sean says:

    My father worked for the Cunard Lines. although he passed away when I was only 10, the better part of my early childhood was surrounded with all things Steamship.

    When the Cunard Liner Caronia was retired, my Dad was on board and was presented with the ships ensign (Union Jack), the house flag (Cunard Lion)and departed with a few other “momentos” including an iconic a life saving ring.

    We had all the sales POS including, ashtrays, swizzle sticks, metal scale ship models, cruise books, brochures, stickers, baggage tags, posters etc…. I still have the flags and most of the stuff although the life ring was burned when my brothers hot tub room caught fire….

    My father was a passenger on many other ships including the SS United States . He brought me back a scale model professionally made for the United States Line of the ship and I remember great long conversations about the SS United States and her amazing speed & luxury while using the model for refrence to some great topics. I found the model the other day and she’s in about the same shape as the original (all there, but needing restoration).

    As my Dad has been gone 42 years these are some of the strongest memories I have of him…Here’s my boat.

  2. Greg Lewandowski
    Greg Lewandowski says:

    If there was ever a cause that the ACBS should get involved in, this is it. I plan on discussing this at our Chapter board meeting next month.

  3. Slats
    Slats says:

    Great story. It’s got a great history. I’d love to see it restored but not as a floating hotel and conference center. Nope. Nothing is as depressing as a landlocked boat. It was meant to roam the seas. So Carnival Cruise lines fine for last weeks f$#%-up should be to bring this baby back in service. If I was boating czar that’s what I’d do.

  4. Jack Schneiberg
    Jack Schneiberg says:

    When I was 20 years old in 1961, a buddy and I traveled from New York to France aboard the S.S. United States. I will never forget the trip. I will never forget the ship and I was fortunate to see the CBS Sunday morning piece on the efforts to save the ship this past weekend. Of course, we were in the bowels of the ship-so to speak-due to our financial situation-so I can’t speak to the hight end accomodations. Even so – I remember seeing the “Music Man” movie in the theatre, meals at a table of 8 passengers (I have a picture somewhere) and strolling around the deck wondering what life held for me. This was 36 some years before I re-discovered wooden boats. After 8 weeks traveling around Europe-with an extended stay in Paris-I was broke. My trip home took place aboard a Naval Troop Ship from Bremerhaven Germany to Brooklyn and then back to Wisconsin via Greyhound bus and the old North Shore line. The Troop ship was memorable for all the accomodations it lacked compared the United States – and for the North Atlantic Storm we skirted on our way home. 5 days over and 14 days to come back. I hope they find a way to save the ship

  5. Alex
    Alex says:

    Sean and Matt. Happy to learn I triggered some deep family memories. There’s some of that in our family too. My mom and dad met on a transatlantic crossing in the early 1950s. I guess that means without ocean liners, I wouldn’t be here.

    When I graduated from college, I travelled from NYC to Southhampton with my parents on QEII. The Atlantic was practically glass the entire way, tho there were big, gentle swells. (I remember my dad telling me in his many pre- and wartime crossings he’d never seen the ocean so sedate. Very much the opposite.) I loved the steamer chairs, plaid woolen blankets, and tea or hot consomme we’d be served on deck. Exhilarating and so relaxing at the same time. I especially remember dinner on our crossing was always black tie. Set against that black and white background were women in gorgeous dresses. As each would enter the dining room, heads would turn. What an experience. It was like living some 40s movie, but in color.

    Regrettably, there was no Kate Winslet “event” below deck in a vintage car. Tho our ship didn’t sink, so I guess that’s a decent trade off.

    See? Now your comments brought by my memories too.

    Tho QEII is a gorgeous ship, she is not legendary like SS United States. And tho she is impressive and beautiful to behold, she does not give chills the way SS United States does. Some things — buildings, paintings, writing, music compositions, etc. — rise far above, even among their great peers. They are man made wonders. SS United States is a boat that is among those gods.

  6. Sean
    Sean says:

    When it comes to the “Queens” the Queen Mary certainly holds a special place for many. I have flown over her in Long Beach, but never had the opportunity to board. She apparently is now threadbare and sitting on the financial fence as far as viability goes…. But, a special ship never-the- less.
    In my office I have a mirror removed from the Queen Elizabeth when she was being converted to a troop ship in Halifax for duty in WWII. It’s funny how you look at some of these things every dayand don’t give them a second thought

    Lastly the Queen Elizabeth II also is awaiting her fate. She’s been docked since 2008 and in december it was rumoured she had been sold for scrap. Apparently this is untrue, but how long can she survive.

    • tommy holm
      tommy holm says:

      the Queen Mary in Long Beach is in wonderful shape – relatively speaking. I have stay on her three times and look forward to my next visit. Always get the best room available. She’s a blast from the past.

      • Sean
        Sean says:

        Re: QM: I was told the carpets are fraying, the drapes sagging (some areas of the ship were closed) and her paint was looking dowdy… That’s why they had the Hallow’een/Ghost tours there.

        has she had some maintainence?

        I hope she’s being looked after…I can’t wait to stay there!

    • floyd r turbo
      floyd r turbo says:

      Knowing Paul’s penchant for mid century product design I was going to suggest this would make a great project for him and would eliminate trailering issues.

      Saw the SS U.S. in Philly last autumn having visited the waterfront to tour the USS Olympia and a WWII sub at Penns Landing with the USS New Jersey across the river and the SS U.S. a few blocks down.

      Can’t we just rotate out welfare recipients out of work and put them on a scaffold with a paint scraper, wire brush, and some primer?

    • Sean
      Sean says:

      From what I understand the SS United States was powered with engines originally destined for the Essex Class aircraft carrier “Reprisal” which construction was cancelled in 1945 at 40% completion.

      Given the designers made predominently US navy vessels and the secrecy of the hull design of the SS United States, the classified results lend to speculation that the ship was a prototype for newer aircraft carrier hulls.

  7. Alex
    Alex says:

    Here are the stats on the SS United States, including her propulsion. My favorite is the shaft horsepower #.


    SS United States at a Glance:

    Designed by William Francis Gibbs of Gibbs & Cox

    Built at Newport News Shipbuilding & Drydock Co.

    990 Feet (301.7M) in length

    101.5 Feet (30.5M) in beam

    180 Feet (54.8M) keel to funnel

    31 Feet (9.4M) draft

    53,290 gross tons

    Largest passenger liner constructed in the US

    12 decks

    Over 240,000 total shaft horsepower

    8 oil fired boilers, 4 steam turbines, geared to quadruple screw

    Over 40 knot top speed

    11,000 mile range

    31 knot cruise speed at approximately 2/3 power

    In 1952 made the fastest Atlantic crossing in 3 days, 10 hours, 40 minutes, still holds westbound record today

    Service career 1952 – 1969

    Cost $79 million

    1,972 passengers, 1,011 crewmembers

    695 staterooms

  8. Alex
    Alex says:

    More from the website www (dot) ss (dash) united (dash) states (dot) com:

    “Briefly: The U holds thousands of barrels of fuel – mostly in wing (side) and underside tanks. The fuel is pumped to each boiler room – where it is actually heated before being burned. It has to be heated even to be loaded on the ship – other wise it would be thick as honey – too thick to be pumped. The heated fuel enters boiler “burners” – effectively spray nozzles inside a giant furnace. There are 8 of these giant furnaces on the ship (four in each boiler room) – and each boiler has 8 or more burners.

    If you were a crew member in the boiler room you job would include working to get the most effective harmony of all the elements: fired burners, draft air, fuel temp and steam temperatures.

    A closed loop circulates from the boiler out to the ship turbines. Under incredible pressure, the steam is driven through turbines – just like air spinning through a jet turbine engine. Instead of thrust – the energy is transferred into the spinning turbine – which rotates on a shaft that spins up to 5,000 rpm. This shaft connects with the reduction gear, and from the reduction gear the propellor shaft is turned – at a much lower RPM.

    That’s it. Simple, really.

    What makes the SS UNITED STATES powerful is the simplicity and the incredible ability of turbines to spin – driven and driving at the same time.”

  9. Alex
    Alex says:

    If you Google “”Below” – The SS United States – A DVD promo by Robert Wogan” you will find a link to a 9 minute Youtube video tour of the boiler room on the SS United States.

    Gives me the heebie-jeebies!

    Note to Matt and Texx: The words “heebie” and “jeebie” do not pass your automated spell check. And yet Merriam-Webster seems perfectly fine with that.

  10. matt
    matt says:

    I have been down there, its dark and sad. But very very cool. I was able to spend a couple hours on her in Phili just walking around on a private tour. The paint on her is almost a half inch thick in places. She is still amazing

  11. Alex
    Alex says:

    Ok, one more comment and I’m done. If you go to this page, you will read about her construction. If you’re not already blown away by her looks, you sure will be by her design and fabrication. The Gibbs brothers were brilliant.

    The root of that link… …has tons more about the ship.

    What the hell, it’s Friday. Close your office door to hide from the boss (or employees, as the case may be). Crack open that special bottom desk drawer of yours. Pour yourself a not-so-wee dram. And dive into this boat’s story.

  12. Alex
    Alex says:

    Woah. Is it just me or are those boiler room photos (before and after lay-up) toggling back and forth. Cool. Think of the applications in WB.

  13. floyd r turbo
    floyd r turbo says:

    I think Mariner’s Museum, as I recall, has a special section dedicated to Gibb’s and the SS especially since she was built in Newport News. “no wood in the ship’s framing, accessories, decorations or interior surfaces. Fittings, including all furniture and fabrics, were custom made in glass, metal and spun glass fiber to ensure compliance with fireproofing guidelines set by the US Navy” and more interesting she’s capable of 20 knots astern.

    Refurbish her for use as a disaster recovery ship for temporary housing from New Orleans to Maine coastal disasters.

  14. Sean
    Sean says:

    Thinking about this I wonder what retail space is worth in downtown New York? And how much of it has been made available lateley?

    You park 990 ft of the SS United States set up like a modern shopping mall, with the BIG names, restaurants and wine patios and you will not only get the shopping crowd out you’ll also get their husbands as there’s a reason to go shopping.

  15. jim g
    jim g says:

    The book you want to read is The Big Ship the story of the ss untied states. It was written in the 70’s and printed by the mariners museum. It has been reprinted and amazon sells it. Walt Disney even filmed a movie on it because he was so impressed with the ship after he took a trip on it. There was also a picture on the internet somewhere from the ships sea trails showing a wake coming from the bow of the ship. She was doing 20 knots in reverse!!

    Remember the SS United States is a 100 longer and a mile higher then the Titanic

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