The Four Funnel Liners

In my opinion, very few ships were as beautiful as the 4 funnel liners, they epitomised speed, power and grace and at the time when they were in service would more often than not be the pride of their respective shipping lines. Like most people my age I was never privileged to see a real four funnel liner at sea except in photographs, but, the movie Titanic would offer me a glimpse of an age gone by and of an era never likely to return.
Special thanks must go to Michael of Maritimequest for permission to link to his pages on each individual ship.

This page is my tribute to these 14 ships and I hope it will go some small way towards documenting these magnificent vessels.

Norddeutscher Lloyd.

Kaiser Wilhelm Der Grosse

The first 4 funnel liner: Kaiser Wilhelm Der Grosse, was built for Norddeutscher Lloyd (NDL) by the Vulkan Yard of Stettin. Her keel was laid in 1896 with the ship being launched on 3 May 1897. Overall length was 648 ft with a beam of 66 ft and GRT of 14,349. Propulsion was provided by 4 cylinder triple expansion engines driving 2 propellers, She was in service until the outbreak of WW1 when she was requisitioned by the German navy and outfitted as an armed merchant cruiser, a task she performed until the 26th of August 1914 when she was scuttled in an engagement with HMS Highflyer off the Ouro River in West Africa. Maritimequest page on the Kaiser Wilhelm Der Grosse

Kaiser Wilhelm Der Grosse

Kronprinz Wilhelm

Kronprinz Wilhelm was the 2nd four funneler, built for Norddeutscher Lloyd (NDL) by the Vulkan Yard of Stettin was commissioned in 1901 and was a slight improvement over her sister. Overall length being 663 ft with a beam of 66 ft and GRT of 14,349. When war broke out she was also turned into an AMC. She was very successful in this role, only surrendering in April 1915 after an 8 month cruise. Interned in the USA, she was taken into service as a troopship under the name USS Von Steuben when America entered the war. In 1920 she was laid up and her career finally came to an end in 1923 when she was scrapped after being deemed too battered for further service. Maritimequest page on the Kronprinz Wilhelm

1/1250 Kronprinz Wilhelm (Mercator CM426)

Kaiser Wilhelm II

The third of the NDL ships: Kaiser Wilhelm II, was launched on August 12, 1902 at the Vulkan yards. Her overall length being 706 ft with a  beam of 72 ft and GRT of 19,361. She too was interned in the USA until America declared war on Germany. She was converted to a troop carrier as USS Agamemnon and served successfully in this role until taken out of service in 1920 and laid up. She was sold for scrap in 1940.  Maritimequest page on the Kaiser Wilhelm II

Kaiser Wilhelm II (Mercator 1/1250 scale)

Kronprinzessin Cecilie

The last of NDL’s 4 funnel ships: The Kronprinzessin Cecilie,  was launched on 1 December 1907. Her GRT of 19,503 made her the biggest of the 4 ships and she was very similar to the Kaiser Wilhelm II. When war broke out she was sent back to the United States where she first called at Bar Harbor in Maine, disguised as the Olympic. She would be interned in the USA until that country entered the war. Converted to a troopship, she was renamed USS Mount Vernon, her career finally ending in 1940 when she was sold for scrap. Maritimequest page on the Kronprinzessin Cecilie

Kronprinzessin Cecilie (CM 135)

Hamburg America Line.


Launched on 10 January 1900, the Deutschland was the second 4 funneler built. She was 686 ft long overall with a beam of 67 ft. Her GRT being 16,502. She was in service till withdrawn in 1910 after which she was rebuilt as a luxury cruise ship and renamed Victoria Luise. She would spend the war laid up in Hamburg, finally re-entering service in 1921 as the Hansa. She was taken out of service in 1925. Maritimequest page on the Deutschland

Deutschland (CM 1/1250 scale)

The Cunard Line.

RMS Lusitania

The keel of the Lusitania was laid on February 1905 and she was launched on 7 June 1906 at the yards of John Browns of Clydebank. The ship would have a GRT of 31,550 and a length of 762 ft and beam of 88 ft. Her career was cut short by a torpedo on 7 May 1915 while en route for Liverpool. Maritimequest page on the Lusitania

RMS Lusitania (Atlas Editions 1/1200)

RMS Mauretania

The Mauretania was launched on 20 September 1906 at the yards of Swan Hunter and Wigham Richardson on Tyneside. She was 31,938 Gross tons, 762 ft long with a beam of 88 ft. She would become the fastest of the 3 Cunarders and holder of the Blue Riband until 1929. When war broke out she was laid up until taken into service as a troopship and then hospital ship. She survived the war and went back into Transatlantic service after an extensive refit. In the early 1930’s she was sent cruising but the writing was on the wall and on 1 July 1935 she sailed on her last voyage to the breakers. Maritimequest page on the Mauretania

Mauretania (Albatros 1/1250 scale)

RMS Aquitania

Launched from John Browns of Clydebank on 21 April 1913, the Aquitania was designed with a GRT of 45,647 and a length of 869 ft. She would only be in service for a short time before being taken into war service as an AMC commencing on 8 August 1914. This did not last long and she was soon to commence a new career firstly as a troopship and then a hospital ship. in 1919 she was sent for a refurbishment, finally re-entering service in July of 1920. The Aquitania remained in service up till World War 2 during which she was used as a troopship once again. After the war she continued in Government service until 1948. Her final voyage commenced from Halifax on 24 November 1949 . She would take 22 months to scrap, the final piece being removed in November 1951. She was the only 4 funnel liner to serve in both world wars, and was the longest lived with 4 funnels. Maritimequest page on the Aquitania

Aquitania (Triang Minic 1/1200 scale)

The White Star Line

RMS Olympic

The Olympic was the first of 3 sister ships all built at the Harland and Wolff yards in Belfast for the White Star Line. The first 2 ships were 882ft long with a beam of 92 feet. The Olympic was launched on 20 October 1911 and with a GRT of 45,300 tons would be the largest liner until surpassed by the Titanic. Her career would span World War 1 where she served as a trooper and a hospital ship and would end in April 1935 when she was taken out of service and sent to be broken up. Maritimequest page on the Olympic

RMS Olympic (CM-144)

RMS Titanic

The Titanic is the most famous of the 4 funnel liners, fame which she would gain as a result of sinking on her maiden voyage. 882ft long with a beam of 92 feet, she was 46,329 gross tons and launched on 31 May 1911. On April 14 1912 she struck an iceberg en route for New York and sank with the loss of over 1500 lives. She was rediscovered in 1985 and has been visited on numerous occasions to be explored, exploited and expounded upon. Maritimequest page on the Titanic

Titanic (Atlas Editions 1/1200)

RMS Britannic

The Britannic was launched on 26 February 1914 after being delayed for modifications following the Titanic disaster. She would never make a commercial sailing and was requisitioned by the Admiralty for war service carrying troops and then as a hospital ship. On November 21 1915 she struck a mine and sank in the Kea Channel in the Aegean. She was 903 feet long with a beam of 94 feet. Her GRT of 48,158 made her the largest of the trio. (1 year) Maritimequest page on the Britannic

Compagnie Générale Transatlantique

SS France

The France was launched on 20 September 1910 from the Chantiers De Penhoet yards in Saint Nazaire, France; and commissioned in April 1912, arriving in New York 2 weeks after the Titanic disaster. She was 713 ft long with a beam of 75 feet. She was 23,666 Gross tons and could carry 2026 passengers in 3 classes. During World War 1 she served as a troopship and a hospital ship and in 1919 she was returned to service. She was laid up in late 1932 and 1934 sold for scrap. Maritimequest page on the France

The Union-Castle Line

RMS Arundel Castle

The Arundel Castle was built at the Harland and Wolff yards in Belfast, she was launched on 11 September 1919, the first of the pair to enter service, sailing on her maiden voyage on 22 April 1921. The advent of faster liners on the Cape run necessitated modernisation of the pair and in 1937 the Arundel was sent back to her builders where she was re-engined and modernised. She re-entered service in late 1937. World War 2 were saw both ships being sent trooping. The Arundel survived the war and was taken back into service on the Cape run until she was withdrawn in 1958. She sailed on her voyage to the breakers on 30 December 1958. She was the last of the four funnel liners in service. (39 years) Maritimequest page on the Arundel Castle

Arundel Castle (Albatros AL-55)

RMS Windsor Castle

The Windsor Castle was built by John Brown of Clydebank and launched on 9 March 1921. Both ships were outdated before they even came into service. She would enter service in 1922 and was virtually identical to her sister.
Sent for modernisation, like her sister she emerged with 2 funnels and new engines. Pressed into service during World War 2 she was sunk on 24 March 1943 following an air attack off Algiers. She was 18,967 gross tons and 661 feet long with a beam of 72 feet. (22 years) Maritimequest page on the Windsor Castle

Windsor Castle (Albatros ALK-117)

  • The Arundel Castle was the last of the 4 funnel ships in service even though she had lost 2 funnels in 1937.
  • The Aquitania was the last passenger ship with 4 funnels in service and was the only one to survive both world wars.
  • 4 of the 4 funnel liners were lost due to enemy action. (Kaiser Wilhelm Der Grosse, Lusitania, Britannic, Windsor Castle).
  • With the exception of the 2 Union-Castle ships, all were built for service on the North Atlantic.
  • The Kaiser Wilhelm II and Kronprinzessin Cecilie were laid up for 20 years.
  • The Aquitania was the biggest of the 4 funnel liners.
  • The Arundel Castle was in service the longest
  • The Mauretania was the fastest.
  • 3 Of the 14 ships would eventually loose 2 of their funnels. (Deutschland, Windsor and Arundel).
  • Both the Deutschland and Mauretania would be painted white and sent cruising.
  • The wrecks of the Lusitania, Britannic and Titanic have all been photographed.
  • The Olympic was one of the first passenger liners to sink a submarine.
  • The France was tentatively called La Picardie and is sometimes referred to as La France.
  • It is rumoured that the Britannic was originally to have been called Gigantic.
  • The Windsor Castle was the last 4 funnel liner built.
  • The last funnels on the White Star trio were dummies.
  • The Kronprinzessin Cecilie was the only one of the 4 NDL ships to cross the Atlantic and Pacific oceans.
  • The Kaiser Wilhelm II sank twice in her career.
  • The Kronprinz Wilhelm was at sea for 251 continuous days, steamed more than 37 000 miles and sank 58,201 tons of shipping during her foray as an AMC.

DRW ©  2005-2022. Recreated 07/12/2014. Images of 1/1250 models added and missing image replaced 03/07/2019. Moved to Musings 14/02/2021 , added Kronprinzessin Cecilie to group and replaced missing Arundel postcard