Not the Reef Knot (8) A Visit to the Queen Mary

In 1993 Rudi Van Dijk travelled to the USA to see the Queen Mary. Judging by the slides he brought back it must have been an amazing visit, in-spite of the shop doing the processing damaging a number of the slides. The report below was written by Rudi at the time and any opinions in it are his. Unfortunately Rudi has passed on and the slides that he took no longer exist. I was only able to get one duplicate from him and that was an image across from the ship. Other than that one any images associated with this article are from my own collection or from the Wikipedia page about the hotel.

Almost 30 years have passed since this report was written and the situation with the ship has become a precarious one as changes are made and the ship deteriorates. Maintenance is an ongoing thing with any vessel and in many ways the Queen was always in some sort of trouble due to deferred maintenance. There are a lot of rumours about her condition and as I write this in 2022 I cannot say what the situation is like at this point. It is best to visit the ship or the website to see for yourself. The Queen Mary Heritage Foundation website has a wealth of information about the ship and is worth the visit too. At the time of writing the Hotel Queen Mary is closed

A Visit to the Queen Mary

It was after resuming my hobby as a ship enthusiast in 1990, that I discovered that the greatest of all ocean liners was still around. Regretfully very far away from us, moored in the City of Long Beach, California, USA. That is about 20 000 km of flying and expensive irrespective of how you do it. I opened a special savings account and started saving R200 pm for the purpose of visiting the great ship. In 1992-93 there were some disturbing developments as to her future. Walt Disney Enterprises were not renewing their lease on her, and she was going up for sale. There were rumours of her being scrapped, and one company even wanted to tow her back to England. Fortunately Long Beach City signed a 5 year lease and the ship was re=opened to the public.

Commercial postcard from 1980’s

In August 1993, I noticed an advertisement by Logan’s Travel for a return trip to LA at under R5000, including 2 days in Rio, 3 days in hotel accommodation in LA and 7 days car hire. I made the bookings and added 4 days on the Queen Mary to it. The airline was Varig, and I cannot fault their service. I departed from Jan Smuts at 2 am on the morning of 27 September to San Paulo and Rio. The plane got to Rio at 8 in the morning and after booking in at the hotel I went sightseeing. Rio was a great disappointment, it was crowded, dirty, poor, and almost nobody speaks English. They have the weirdest currency called Cruzeiro which is worth almost nothing. The same night at 10 we left for LA via San Paulo and Lima in Peru. After a long flight we arrived at LA airport at 9 in the morning. The airport is about as big as Johannesburg. I picked up my car from Hertz and drove to the Hacienda with the steering wheel on the left, driving on the right, Help!!!

After checking in I got a map and headed straight to Long Beach, the home of the Queen Mary.

Hotel Queen Mary, Long Beach: Image by Mike Fernwood

My first impression was: BIG! Very Very Big! This ship makes the QE2 look medium. The ships exterior is in pristine condition, the only thing that spoils it externally is the hotel entrance building and the ten gangways running into her. I went inside to confirm my reservation and took a quick look around. Then I went to see all the LA attractions, Disney World, Hollywood, Universal Studios, Sunset strip, Venice Beach and more over the next few days.

On the 1st of October I booked in at the ship. My cabin was on A Deck forward on the starboard side. The cabin was original save for the television and had two portholes. I unpacked and lie down on the bed to take a break and was wondering if I was on a ship or a building due to the lack of engine vibrations. When I heard that glorious booming sound of the ships horns. My hair stood on end and I rushed to reception to find out when the horns were recommissioned, only to find out that they had never stopped working and are sounded every 3 hours. The passageway from my cabin running to the stern was so long, that even by lying on my stomach I could not see the end of it. The whole ship interior is covered in the more beautiful woodwork and one can only look in awe at the craftsmanship that must have gone into it. Over the next days I went on every guided and unguided tour possible and must say that all the areas including the aft engine room, open to the public, are a very good condition. The (illegible) is slightly defaced by some stupid little shops and stalls in various places, but at least the Americans have preserved her largely intact. I nearly got arrested for climbing over a fence and getting onto the breakwater for my bow shot slides, but it was worth it. The stern is so fenced off that I had to go on a harbour cruise to see the stern. By taking a bus to the marina opposite the ship one can get a beautiful view of the starboard side which is great for photography especially at night. There are various souvenir shops aboard, which sell great stuff as well as trinkety junk, but strangely enough no Queen Mary models kits. These were found at a hobby shop in Garden Grove L.A.

Night shot taken by Rudi

As much as I had enjoyed myself on the Queen I knew that there was at least 60% that I had not seen and could not persuade anybody to show it all to me. Then on my last night aboard while having dinner in the starboard restaurant I struck gold. The group of people at the next table were having a conversation and I quickly identified them as ship enthusiasts. I introduced and joined them. As it happened they were the committee of the Queen Mary Foundation. I explained my pitiful plight to them and they immediately offered their help. That wonderful night I was taken on a complete tour of all the previous unseen parts by Dianne Rush, the president of the foundation. This is a person worth meeting, friendly, pretty and a total Queen Mary disciple. I was in heaven. But what a shock. Forward of the aft engine room there is nothing until you reach the bow. All the boilers, condensers, and generators are gone. The machinery was not removed with care either, just cut away and torn out, and I felt anger and sorrow inside of me. But still, it was quite an experience standing in those enormous caverns, big enough to house most new cruise liners filled with people with the same passion at my side. That was something I shall never forget.

The Queen Mary is back in good hands and safe for the next four years. The Queen Mary Foundation is fighting for her permanent preservation and I shall do what I can to help them. If you are more than an armchair ship enthusiast, join them and help preserve the last remaining liner of that glorious era of the superliner. It costs $30 a year, and that works out to a measly R1.95 a week which is less that I spend on cigarettes a day.

RMS Queen Mary docked in Long Beach 15/02/2010. Image by Sergey Yarmolyuk

The Queen Mary is not in perfect condition, and one can criticise the Americans for that, but at least they had the foresight to preserve her. Although the British built her they have never preserved one liner or battleship. So I say all the best to the American and keep up the good work. The Queen is dead! Long live the Queen!

Rudi Van Dijk.
January 1994.

DRW 2022. Created 08/05/2022. Article originally written by Rudi Van Dijk. Wikipedia Images attributed as follows: 

Hotel_Queen_Mary,_Long_Beach.jpgMike Fernwood from Santa Cruz, California, United States derivative work: Altair78 (talk), Hotel Queen Mary, Long Beach 01, resized, adj gamma, CC BY-SA 2.0

Sergey YarmolyukRMS Queen Mary 20100215CC BY-SA 3.0

Posted in Cruiseships, Heritage, Hobbies and Interests, Personal, Retrospective, Ships, United Kingdom | Tagged , , , , , , | Comments Off on Not the Reef Knot (8) A Visit to the Queen Mary

Loco Motion

Yesterday while rooting for images I found some that rang many bells in my head. The events surrounding the closure of SANRASM (South African National Railways and Steam Museum) in Ranfontein have long faded into history. The remnants scattered around the country, or made into razor blades, the site where it all happened is probably now unrecognisable. Amongst the items that were saved were 4 small steam engines that belonged to Escom. The Eskom of today bears no resemblance to the Escom of the pre 1994 days, and most of these engines were probably on pension long before Eskom became a dirty word in South Africa. I will not dwell on the events at Eskom post 1994 though. It is beyond the scope of what we do here.

Google Earth image from 2009. (“Sanrasm other site” = “North Site”. “SANRASM museum” = “South Site”)

I was fortunate enough to watch them load those precious engines onto low loaders and take them away, and their subsequent disposal is unknown, although I did see an article that hinted that not much had happened with them, unfortunately the article was behind a paywall so I never did find out what it ws about. At the time of the moves I was asked to not publish the images, but over 10 years has passed so I think it is time that they see the light of day. 

The most “famous” of the four was “Kitty”, probably one of the oldest steam engines to last in service in South Africa. She was in a poor condition when she was moved on 20 December 2010, along with he other fleetmate “Hunslet”.   The first pair were stored in the open in what was known as “South Site”. They had been vandalised over the years, and were victims of the “grass is too long” style of management.  

“Kitty” was a Kitson 4-6-0 tank locomotive No.2269 and was built in 1879 for the Natal Government Railways by Kitson and Co, Leeds. She was bought by Victoria Falls and Transvaal Power Company in 1913 and was in service hauling coal between Modrea Station and the Brakpan Power Station until moved to Rosherville Power Station in 1920.  In 1979 she completed a century of service and was proclaimed a National Monument in 1983.  She was moved to SANRASM in 1993 but was removed from the site in December 2010. She was finally plinthed at Eskom Rotek Industries in 2016.  

13 June 2009

Loaded and ready to go

Lets get outa this disaster

“Hunslet”  was a 2-6-0ST Hunslet saddle tank loco No.790, built in 1902 to a Table Bay Harbour Board design. The Victoria Falls and Transvaal Power Company bought Hunslet in 1912, and she too was put to work hauling coal hoppers from Modrea station to Brakpan power station. From 1922 she worked at the Vereeniging power station until it closed down in 1967, when she was transferred to Rosherville for overhaul.  She served in a number of places between then and when she was retired, eventually joining her fleetmate “Kitty” at SANRASM. She too was uplifted in December 2010. Her current situation is not known.  

01 May 2009

“La-Moye” was 2-4-0T tank locomotive built in 1907 by Andrew Barclay & Co Ltd, of Kilmarnock, Scotland for the Jersey Island Railways as their No 5 and was named “La Moye”. The Victoria Falls and Transvaal Power Company bought her  from the Jersey Island Railways in 1928 and she was shipped to South Africa in September 1928. She was  the last survivor of the Jersey Railway. She served in a number of power stations  between 1928 and 1993 when she was retired. She ended up locked in a shed at SANRASM until returned to Eskom on 3 February 2011. Her current whereabouts are not known. 

What is left of the shed where La Moye and Henschel were stored.

La Moye locked in the shed

03 February 2011

“Henschel” was a 1950 2-6-2T tank loco built by Henschel & Sohn as a one off for Vierfontein Power Station. She served at Vierfontein as well as Komati Power Station and later at Hendrina power station until early 19995  when she joined her sisters at SANRASM. For some unknown reason she was kept locked away in a shed at the “North Site” along with her fleetmate “La-Moye”.  She was returned to Eskom on 3 February 2011. Her current whereabouts are not known. 

03 February 2011

Unfortunately I never saw Henschel leaving so have no pics of her heading out of there.  Kudo’s to these guys.

And finally: there was one other ex-Escom loco present and I did not see her moved or loaded and although I believe she was moved in March 2011.

Avonside was built in 1927 by Avonside Engine Company, for Union Steel Corporation (USCO). She was bought 1932 by Victoria Falls and Transvaal Power Company for Witbank power station.  When the power station closed down in 1970 she was taken to Rosherville and served there for  a number of years before being overhauled and sent to  Grootvlei Power Station to haul coal from 1980-1982 and later Camden Power Station and worked there until 1984 before being stored and retired in 1989. She was sent to SANRASM in 1990.  Stored in the open at North Site she managed to survive a fire that destroyed most of the site.  Her position on the site made it very difficult to remove her and she was a lonely survivor.  

07 January 2011

This all happened over 10 years ago, and sadly the Escom locos were a very contentious subject at the time. They were a unique group of machines that served our power stations and have all but slipped into history. Sadly they were not as well looked after as George And Elizabeth, two plinthed locomotives that were operated by Johannesburg Electricity Department (now City Power Johannesburg). Both were in use at what was then Orlando Power Station until they were replaced. They may be read about on the applicable blogpost.

DRW 2022. Created 30/04/2022

Posted in Collections and Museums, Heritage, Heritage Rail, Hobbies and Interests, Personal, Photo Essay, Retrospective, South Africa, Transportation | Tagged , , , , , , , , | Comments Off on Loco Motion