musings while allatsea

Musings of a curious individual

Tag: RMS

A last farewell

This post is one that I have dreaded for quite some time, and the time has finally come to make it. However, there is much more to it than a mere farewell, because it is really the culmination of many parts. It really starts way back in the in 1992 when I first saw the newly built RMS St Helena in Cape Town from the Canberra. Both of these vessels are legends, but at the moment we are more interested in the RMS. and this was the first photograph that I took of her. 

Because her prices were in £ she was very expensive to sail on, and a short cruise was not easy to get because she ploughed a long furrow between Cape Town, St Helena, Ascension Island and finally the UK. She was amongst the last passenger ships doing a dedicated line voyage and was also amongst the few ships left that flew the Royal Mail pennant. 

RMS at St Helena. Image courtesy of Sabrina Harper

By some weird piece of luck I heard about spaces being available on board her for the voyage to Tristan da Cunha  that was happening in  1993, and I took a chance and booked passage. It was not cheap by any means and I am thankful for my travel agent who helped me with my booking and the associated flights to and from Cape Town.

Naturally sailing day was a long drag away. I was stuck in a dead end job with a company I loathed, and was only too glad to get away from them for awhile. Around about the same time I picked up issues with my health and ended up having to lug a stash of pills on board with me. There was no way in hell I would be stopped by aches and pains. The report of my voyage exists on allatsea so I am not going to repeat it, suffice to say I enjoyed it thoroughly; Tristan was a fascinating destination, but the ship was so much better. She is really a hybrid passenger and cargo ship and of course does not have the glitz and glamour of the modern cruise ships, if anything she really came from a much nicer era of travel. Her crew were composed of a mixture of “Saints” and ex Union-Castle staff and of course that meant that I was experiencing just a tiny piece of the legacy of the glorious  Union-Castle mail ships. 

I was very fortunate to get that opportunity of a voyage and I kept an eye on her as much as was possible in the intervening years. At some point she stopped calling in the UK, and she was managed by Andrew Weir Shipping as opposed to Curnow Shipping. Work was started on an airport at St Helena and that was really the death knell of my favourite ship, although it was still a number of years away. 

A number of years have passed, the airport was ready to open and it was announced that the RMS would make one final voyage to the UK, arriving in June 2016. At first I thought “Who do I know that can get me pics?” And then I decided I would get them myself and set out for London  on the 7th of June to see the RMS for the last time.   I have told that story before and you can read about it on the blogpost.

The airport was not without its problems though and the RMS was granted a reprieve for another year and a half. 

A year and a half has passed, and sadly the RMS has sailed from Cape Town on her last voyage. The moment that all of her many fans dreaded has finally arrived. 

What of her future? she is came into service in 1990 so is already over 27 years old and is already in the zone where a replacement should have been on the table. She has always had engine issues, and recently had to return to drydock for repairs in Simonstown. The odds of her finding a reputable buyer is really very small, and the odds of her becoming a static hotel in St Helena is even smaller. Unless a buyer can be found she will make one last voyage to the beach, and that will be incredibly sad. However, rather she gets broken up than stuck in some backwater and left to rot.  I am a realist, and preserving ships in a very costly business, even one as small as her. 

I remember many years ago a print advert for Union-Castle that showed the inside of a jet aircraft and a view from the window. It more or less said: “From (date unknown) this is the view you will see when you go to England (or South Africa).” That is now also true of those who wish to visit St Helena Island. 

She will be sadly missed, there will never be another like her. 

The end of the era has come.

Glenn Kasner took photo’s of that last sailing and these images are copyright to him. I am using them with permission.

Sadly she had somewhat of a poor send off, but thanks to the tug for showing some respect.  And while Cape Town hardly budged from their torpor the same could not be said about her send off at St Helena. These images were kindly sent to me by Sabrina Harper and are used with permission.

**Update 2018**

10/02/2018. The RMS sailed from St Helena for the last time. The ship, which has supplied the island since coming into service so long ago was expected to reach Cape Town on the 15th of February (Since revised to 17 Feb) where they will disembark the last passengers who sailed on the ship. Thereafter she will go into lay up or alternatively head off to her next destination, whether it is the beaches of Alang or a new career. The Master was unable to reveal what the final destination of the vessel will be as he would only find out while en route for Cape Town. Once I know more I will post it here too. 

Farewell RMS, fair weather for your final journeys. Thank you for the experience of real sea travel the way it used to be.

**Update 17/04/2018**

It was announced that the RMS has been sold to Tahiti Shipping, a subsidiary of MNG Maritime, bought the ship for an undisclosed amount. Under the name MNG Tahiti she is to be based in the Gulf of Oman, and used as a floating armoury, packed with automatic weapons, bullet-proof jackets and night vision goggles, all stored for maritime security operatives who keep vessels secure from piracy attacks. At this point there has been no announcement as to when she will sail from Cape Town for the last time. 

DRW © 2018. Created 25/01/2018. Cape Town sailing images are by Glen Kasner © 2018 and last 3 by Sabrina Harper and are used with permission, updated 15/02/2018, additional images added  18/04/2018

Updated: 18/04/2018 — 18:44

Building the RMS

*Click here for the 20/05/2017 update*

I have always wanted a model of the RMS St Helena, but they always evaded me because there are not too many available in the first place.  The easiest way to get one is realistically to scratch build one and see what that turns out like. There are however, a few problems with that scenario. The first being: where do I get plans from?

A line drawing of the ship is easy to find, I have quite a few on my computer as it is.

I have been lugging around lots of images of the ship since she first entered service, and amongst my stuff is the A&P Appledore publicity handout above. That will serve as the basis of my project. 

Problem number 2 is that while I do have accommodation plans of her, I do not have a top view of her, so there things are going to be somewhat icky.

Interestingly enough 2 1/1250 waterline models do exist, and I have been “in the market” as they say. However, they are very scarce and probably way out of my budget range. My usual supplier, Tim at Convoy Models managed to lay his hands on one, and this is what it looks like. It was created by Oceanic and I have a sneaky suspicion that this was a concept that never reached fruition, probably because the RMS is not one of those well known glamorous Cunarders that everybody swoons over (or should I say used to swoon over?). She is a working ship and is really a hybrid between cargo ship and cruise ship.

**Update 12/2017**

I have since managed to acquire one of those models myself and it is a very poor casting with the port side superstructure needing a lot of attention. I have since commenced work on the ship and have managed to fill some of the holes in the superstructure and hull and it looks as if I will be be completing this model, at least to a point where it is recognisable as being the RMS. 

Continuing with the original post…

The RMS in London in June 2016 on what was supposed to be her final trip.

The ship is 105 metres long, and according to my handy scale converting tool, a 1/1250 model should be about 84 mm long, with a beam of 19,2 mm (15 metres). The problem is… how do I scale the drawing down to that size? I first printed out the image and then tried a few things but kept on hitting a brick wall. Eventually I decided to shrink the image down to the size I needed on a scanner. Some rough calculating and trial and error led me to reduce the size of the drawing by 34% which left me with a image roughly 86 mm long.   

Now, what will I use to build it with? I have some balsa wood hanging around from when I modified my display cases and I managed to create a block of balsa longer than 85mm and 15mm wide. Theoretically, if I then attach my reduced scale image to the block, then mark the specific sizes onto the top of the block I will have something that theoretically should look like the RMS! I used the term “theoretically” because there is no guarantee that it will work, or that I will ever finish the project. 

The really irritating thing is that back in South Africa I have a proper plan of the ship which I got from one of the officers on board her in 1993 when I sailed on her. It never occurred to me to bring the plans back with me in April, but then I had too many other things on my mind at the time.  

So, where do I sit now? I am cutting out the image and affixing it to my balsa block and will then see how viable it is to build the superstructure as a separate entity and affix it to the hull once I have created the hull. It is early days yet, and I only really work on this sort of thing over a weekend. 

So, this is part one of my ongoing project to build an RMS. I have not scratch built anything in ages, so may just give up at any juncture, it really depends on what I can do with the limited tools that I do have at my disposal. Ideally I would have preferred a harder wood for the hull, but Balsa should work, at least for the MKI. 

After finishing this post I worked a bit more on the ship and after basic the results look something like this:

At this point I am convinced that shedding the accommodation block may be a good idea. It may be better to build it separately than to try hack what is there already. The Balsa wood is easy to work with but it splinters easily and it is going to be difficult to smooth out the vertical sides. I may try get some Jelutong or Basswood and start from the bottom again. But, I will see, it is early days yet. I do however need to get wood filler, some plasticard and a sealant/varnish so that I can seal the Balsa. I will think about it.

A few days later…

Today is the 20th and between when I first posted and now a number of things happened.

Firstly I sent the balsa model to the breakers. It was just not working out. I did some homework and was not able to source Jelutong or what is known as “basswood”, if it was available the sizes were way out of what I was looking for. However, the remnants from my display cases did provide me with a length of wood which is a millimetre thinner than what I needed. However, I will not tell if you won’t. I marked up the sizes and used my handy saw to cut out a rough shape. This morning I was sanding like crazy and the end result is as follows…

However, when creating the bow I hit a snag that I will have to work around. The ship has a decided “knuckle” as well as a very raked bow. I was not able to recreate that effect so may end up having to revert to some judicious use of a filler and I will have to sleep on that problem. The one option I do have is to to slice off the deck and create a new piece and glue it in place. You can see the knuckle in the image below.

 

Her accommodation looks like this    ——————-> 

The red area on “B” Deck is a recessed area on her superstructure that is the entrance to her insides, and where the weather deck access is and the gangway is stowed. I am not quite sure how to deal with that yet.

“C” Deck does not have to be created as it is below the weather deck level. and apart from the recess I do not have to do much work on it either.

“A” deck is more or less where my superstructure is at now, however, I may need to add a section to increase the height of A deck. The biggest problem that I do have is the height of each deck. I suspect they are roughly 2,5 metres high, allowing for about 7 foot ceilings with the remaining void being used for pipes and cables. 

The Prom deck and upwards are the major bits of accommodation that I have to build. Above the prom deck is where I am having to refer to memory. There are two deck levels above it, and the first level is slightly shorter than the prom deck but is the same width as it (after looking at pics I am not quite so sure of that anymore). This is the level where the lifeboats are, and their davits terminate at prom deck level. The pool is also on the prom deck and there is a recessed cargo hatch on that deck. 

Above that deck is the navigating bridge and chartroom and I think the radio room is there too. The funnel is partly on top of that deck, and it houses the mast too. 

Navigating bridge

Funnel and mast

The ship has had a few structural modifications to her accommodation, but I am really going for the look of the ship as she was when I sailed on her. Incidentally, her hull colour is “Oxford blue”. I have not really considered the weather deck, I need to fabricate 2 cranes as well as hatches and deck machinery, and that will not be easy.

On Sunday I did some exploration work with balsa and technically this is what it may look like.

What have I discovered?

The deck above the Prom is possibly a bit too short, but given that there is a pool there and cargo hatch it may be right. I need to bear in mind that aft mooring deck is not properly done yet either. That will cut down on available deck space.  The deck around the  bridge area can be walked around, so it needs to be smaller than the deck below it. The funnel shape needs careful consideration because it is kind of distinctive. Then there are bridge wings to add, and of course the angled side to the superstructure ends. There is a ladder in that area so I may have to experiment more in that area. Balsa ain’t gonna work!  Davits! I need davits!

Yesterday I was looking at my Leda Model which is 1/1250 as well, and she does present me with interesting comparison and references for cranes, lifeboats and superstructure. 

Leda was 133 metres long which is a bit longer than the RMS so it isn’t too hard to make a comparison. However, against the Leda my RMS is out of scale. 

So this is where we are now. If you hear any woodworking noises you at least will know that they come from me.

27/05/2017.

Where are we now? I managed to get some 2mm plastic and have been reworking the superstructure block. The plastic works quite easily and can hold a sharp edge and doesn’t splinter. However, I still have to find an adhesive that will attach it to the wood hull.

The funnel started out as a rough shape and may not be the final shape I want so it may be redone. However, I still need to make changes to the superstructure decks. I have deliberately created the block wider than it should be so that I can file everything square once it is mounted because the RMS does not have a lot of curves. I have also cut away the gangway points in the hull. With hindsight though I really need to file that open deck area down by at least 2 mm more and raise bulwarks on that deck to maintain the deck height and sheer line. Naturally I have no idea what I can use to do this (it always happens). Scrap plastic anybody? 

27/05/2017 much later that afternoon.

I attacked my ship with a file and dropped the well deck level considerably, certainly lower than it was and after much work was rewarded with this…

I also measured her up against my 34% image and she is very close to the image in proportions. I am seeing progress at last, but tomorrow is another day.

It is now tomorrow. I added in some bulwarks and redid the 2nd layer off the superstructure block after getting an image from somebody that cleared up the area for me. The one mistake I cannot rectify is the bow shape and after adding in the bulwarks it made the bow even steeper. The only real way to solve the bow problem is to reshape it from scratch and that will impact on the length of the ship. I have decided to stick with what I have and to complete the ship anyway. I have come far enough with it and do not feel like building another hull. Once day I will create another, but not this week/month. I added in a sheet of plastic under the bridge and trimmed it to support bridge wings that I have made out of small pieces of wood. I may change that to proper bridge wings if I can figure out how. Thin brass would be nice. 

I also painted the hull in a rough coat of blue and white and assembled the ship as it is. The funnel is still the temporary one.

And here she is. I think she is starting to look like the RMS! I need to add the screens around the pool area which will extend the accommodation block and fill that empty deck area, and consider how I will create hatches for the well deck and foredeck. And at some point I need to glue the superstructure blocks together and file them smooth. But that will not happen in this blogpost. Anything done after today will end up in next months posts. 

 

*Click here for the 18/06/2017 update*

When last we left the ship she was in a state of…

At that point I had changed the superstructure and was contemplating the well deck bulwarks. In the back of my mind was the feeling that I needed to change them so I ended up ripping them out and replacing them with aluminium ones cut from a beer tin. If only I had thought of that originally I would have saved myself considerable work (and £2.99 for a sheet of brass). The superstructure has been rough painted and filed more or less level with the hull section. I scrapped the original bridge wing scheme too because I was going to make them out of brass, but that idea has also changed and I may see whether it is easy to make them out of aluminium so that I can have a proper bridge wing effect. There is also a section of steel that merges the slope of the superstructure with the bridge wing. I need to see how that comes together too. 

 As at 19.21 today she looks something like this…

I have made the crane mounting post and added in the well deck hatch and started to see what arrangement I could make for her two cranes. This is not how the new cranes will look. I have made proper ones now but they still have glue drying so haven’t been mounted yet. I am also on the lookout for paint for her decks. They use a light blue on her steel decking so I am either going to have to mix or buy a tinlet. At any rate I am not going anywhere until I have the bulwarks fixed. The bend angle that I used created a empty space between the bulwark and the deck so that needs to be fixed too.  I still have not created her funnel either, probably because I hate working with wood. 

What have I learnt so far?

The well deck may be too high or the deck between it and the fo’c’stle may be too low. I am unable to achieve the slight upward slope of the bulwarks because there is this size issue between the gangway area and the well deck. I do not know how to solve this yet. Actually looking at some of my pics, she has two housings on either side of the deck where the cranes are mounted. I may be able to use that to create my sloping bulwarks. I must investigate that. 

My wooden crane sucked. I do have a length of styrene and it has worked well enough that I have a set of cranes that may work well. 

The aft deck screen around the pool needs to be put in motion, as must the davits. I have the perfect material for the davits and should be able to churn out 4 sets without too much of a headache. But, I have to make lifeboats which means the headache is back. The length of styrene may work for the boats. I must experiment a bit.

I need to start straightening my sheer lines once have the bulwarks sorted and I need to experiment with bridge wings, ah what fun! 

In the meantime, some more views of the real ship. I see on my pics her fo’c’stle was Oxford blue too, that should make my work easier. 

So. That is where we are now. During the week I hope to do more work on her and then will post progress when I am done next weekend. 

10/06/2017. 

When last you we saw the RMS she was looking more RMS-like all the time. However…

This afternoon I attacked her with a saw.

After ripping off her superstructure I cut away a third of the deck and filed it flat. The deck used to end where the patch of blue now is. I then headed off to Cheltenham and came back with basswood and a few more interesting goodies and rebuilt that deck.  Because of the size of the wood I ended up having to use two pieces instead of one. The result looks something like this….

I then refabricated bulwarks and added them in, masked the hull and painted the white area in. (No pics as the paint is wet). On Friday I made the funnel that you can see above, it needs to be flatter at the top though, not sloping backwards. I also added my new crane unit just for show. The issue there is that the one boom stretches from the crane and rests on a cradle affixed to the superstructure front. My one boom is consequently longer than the other.  

I have made one major decision though. This model is far from anywhere near perfect, in fact it is a hodge podge of wood and plastic and really quite poor. However, I have learnt a lot by building it, and I will complete it so that it looks much better than it does now, and then I will consider building another with the knowledge I have gained building this service pack 1. When I started I did not have the one image I have now (which I cannot show because it belongs to somebody else), That image showed me a lot of detail that I could not get off my existing images. Ideally I need the plans but it looks like my brother is trying hard not to be seen. I did ask him to go look for them but I guess he never found them or never looked. Anyway, building will stop this week as I have the landlord popping in to check that I haven’t wrecked the place so my ship and associated goodies are being hidden away till next week. 

11/06/2017.

I have made a lot of progress this afternoon. One thing about the weather, it makes you stay indoors and work on your ships! The aft pool area is more or less completely built although it may change, I have done some preliminary work on painting decks and am experimenting with davits. The issue with them is glue. The super glue is useless and the other all purpose glue is also useless. I may need to add a notch in the decks for the davit to rest on. Thinking about it still. Funnel is glued down and two hatches have been added although crane assy is still not stuck down. She is looking much better, not perfect, but better.

Still to do:

Build 4 lifeboats and 8 davits, mount them. 

Bridge wings. Still need those.

Crane on starboard deck aft

Repaint

Think about gangway

Black topping to funnel and logo… I have no idea how to do that logo on such a small scale. Print it out and shrink it down I guess. √  Sorted! Shrunk a logo to 9% printed, cut out and mounted it. Voila!

Bridge front needs to be done. It does not sit flush with the accommodation but protrudes slightly. 

Mast and associated satnav gear.

Two derricks on well deck 

Two housings on foredeck and associated machinery

Till then…

It is the 18th of June and the RMS is almost done… although “done” has not quite been explained. 

I have added the aft crane, 4 lifeboats, a “mast”, forespike, foredeck housings and am really at a point where I need to touch up paint and finish this puppy off finally.

Those lifeboats were a major pain. The conventional davits that I made proved almost impossible to mount. There was just nothing apart from 2 points where they were glued to keep them in place., never mind to mount a lifeboat on. The davits are a mess. How the heck they make them in this scale (and smaller) is beyond me. That was a major stumbling block as far as I am concerned. The bow shape is wrong, the bulwarks are just exacerbating the problem. Talking of bulwarks… did I mention that I managed to get them on? the small square hole in the hull is where the gangway sits, currently the hole is too short, but trying to enlarge it may be dangerous. The mast is OK, but not quite what I was trying to achieve. The derricks in the well deck are OK, although their booms are pieces of wire and proved to be hell to get to sit in the correct position. The aft crane looks more like a 6 inch gun. I need to change that. I also should have stayed with the yellow I had on the funnel. The yellow I have now is icky. 

Paintwork is an abomination. Because I made so many changes the paint ended up lumpy and short of sanding it all off will always look lumpy. I jumped the gun when it came to painting her and am now saddled with what I have. There isn’t much I can do at this point, although having completed the ship I am tempted to try sand her hull and accommodation down to bare wood and then repaint. I have not decided. I am very tempted to try change the bow shape though, but having almost finished the ship I am now loathe to break it again. 

Portholes and windows? I am thinking about them. 2 Options: either make them out of trimline or create a stencil and paint them in. The former works but the trimline tends to come off. Painting is a pain. I need to experiment. I tried using the trimline option on the bridge front but it ended up skew and the white parts disassociated themselves with the experiment. 

Now that I look at her, she actually looks kind of like the RMS after all.

A new iteration?

Things have changed a lot since I started this project. I have better images and I have a set of deckplans (thanks Glynn), I also have better wood, tools and know more about how the ship comes together so a new version should be an improvement (almost anything would be an improvement). However, my eyesight and sausage fingers are just not allowing me to work to such small scale (old age they call it), and I need to sort out the glue issue, this stuff I am using now is a major source of irritation. And of course the thought of those damn lifeboats and davits leaves me frazzled. I would build a scaled up version but the problem with that is… railings. I rest my case.

This post is the last of the construction posts. Next time you see it I will be completing the ship

Thanks for watching this space, soon there will be a new space to watch.

© DRW 2017-2018. Created 04/06/2017. Updated 18/06/2017. Posts combined 30/01/2018

Updated: 16/02/2018 — 19:40

All that is left.

Southampton likes to boast of its connection to the ill fated Titanic, and there is evidence all around the city, some hearkening back to 1912, and some created to cash in on the interest around the ship. I have dealt with the memorials and graves already at my webpage. This blogpost is more about the odds and ends that are neither. 
 
Just up the road from me is….
 
and it is very close to…..
This is a newish area, and it could be that it is land cleared after the war. The railway line that runs into the docks is just behind this area, and it comes out alongside berth 43 and runs up to QEII Terminal which would have been the Test Quays in 1912. The boat train probably travelled along this railway line to pull up alongside ships berthed at 42, 43 and 44, I suspect there must be a branch out to where the Ocean Terminal is today (Berth 46 and 47)
 
Carpathia Court is also very close to the harbour, but again it is on a newish development. 
  
And on the subject of the Carpathia, Captain Arthur Rostron used to have a house up in West End, and there is a close named after him. 
 
His house also has a plaque in his honour. 
 
It is not all about plaques and street names though, some of the buildings that are mentioned in various books about the Titanic still exist. “The Grapes” is a local pub that was frequented by members of the crew, it isn’t too far from dock gate 4, although it doesn’t face the harbour. However, the city did look very different then compared to now, and it must have still been quite a run (while full of beer) to the berth to catch your ship. 

 
Dominating the skyline very close to here is South Western House. In 1912 this hotel was where many of the richer passengers took up lodging before boarding the ship. It also bordered on what was then the Terminal Station (now called Genting Club), so could have been a very noisy and smokey place in 1912. Today it is high priced apartments. 
 
Interestingly enough, Union-Castle Line had their offices just across the street from this building. It is also a short 2 block walk to the headquarters of the former White Star Line in Canute Street. 
 
Very close to The Grapes is the White Star Tavern, although in 1912 it was known as the Alliance Hotel, which was used by some of the passengers before they embarked on the ship. It is interesting that it is now named after the defunct shipping line that owned the Titanic.

Not too far from this area is a new housing development, and it too has been branded with the Titanic. A very nice mural adorns the one wall of the flats, sadly, a guy with a strange hat also adorns the parking lot…
hula 004
 

To make matters worse, close to St Michael’s Church is “The Titanic”, a pub named after the ship.
arcadia 079

The QE2 Mile has a number of plaques referring to historical events set into the pavement, two of them relate to the Titanic.
solent 015
Close to the SeaCity museum is the Millvina Dean Memorial Garden. Millvina was the youngest Titanic survivor, as well as the last living one. She passed away on 31 May 2009

The biggest piece of “Titanica” in the city is the SeaCity Museum with its overly large Titanic display that dominates any other reference to the maritime history of the city. And if you like that sort of thing then so be it. For me the most meaningful part of the city and the long lost liner is the berth that she sailed from in the Eastern Docks.
 
It is hard to visualise this spot 100 years ago, the ships then looked very differently from what they do today, and they did not have the ability to berth and unberth without the aid of tugs. There would also be a pall of smoke over the docks from all the coal burning ships and trains. The view below is looking into the Ocean Dock area, and the orange bollards mark where the Titanic was alongside.
 

 

I am sure there are other references in Southampton, so I will probably add them in as I find them. The city back then was very different to what it is now, yet there are elements of it from 1912 that still survive, especially amongst the older buildings, and of course the old city walls. The big change probably came as a result of the Blitz, when portions of the city were destroyed by bombing.

Unfortunately Southampton is more renown as being the place where the Titanic sailed from as opposed to the premier port where North Atlantic liners sailed from, or where the Union-Castle mailships used to sail from. 
 
© DRW 2013-2018. Images recreated 09/04/2016
Updated: 29/12/2017 — 07:22
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