Four funnel liner
A four funnel liner, four funnelled liner or four stacker is an ocean liner with four funnels. The SS Great Eastern, launched on 31 January 1858 (a full 40 years ahead of any comparable ships), was the only ocean liner to sport five funnels. As one funnel was later removed,1 the Great Eastern, by default, became the first ocean liner to have four funnels. The SS Kaiser Wilhelm der Grosse, launched on 4 May 1897, was the next ocean liner to have four funnels and was one of the first of the golden era of ocean liners that become prominent in the early- to mid-20th century.2 The most famous four funnel liners are the RMS Titanic, which sank after striking an iceberg on her maiden voyage on 15 April 1912, and the RMS Lusitania, which was torpedoed on 7 May 1915 during the First World War.
In all, fifteen four funnel liners were built (five were built and owned by Germany, nine by the UK, and one by France): the Great Eastern in 1858 and the remaining fourteen between 1897 and 1922. Four of these were sunk during the World Wars, and apart from the Titanic, the remainder were scrapped.3 RMS Mauretania was the fastest of all four funnelled liners. The last four funnelled liner ever built was the SS Windsor Castle but two funnels were removed making RMS Aquitania the last four funnel liner in service; the Aquitania was the largest of all the four funnel liners and the only one to survive service during both World Wars.
The primary purpose of funnels on steamships were to allow smoke, heat and excess steam to escape from the boiler rooms. As liners became larger, more boilers were used. The number of funnels became symbolic of speed and safety,2 so shipping companies sometimes added false funnels (like the one sported by the Olympic-class) to give an impression of power.4
The trend of competing shipping lines building four funnel liners encompassed a very short time span ranging from the SS Kaiser Wilhelm der Grosse in 1897 to the SS Windsor Castle in 1922. As for the number of funnels in some cases the reason for sporting four was a matter of necessity in other cases it was more symbolic. The Cunard Line record holders Lusitania and Mauretania were both laid out with four boiler rooms with one funnel to each room, other slower ships such as the Olympic, Titanic and Britannic only had three operational funnels. However sporting four funnels represented power, safety and prestige, in keeping with the style and fashion of the early 20th century the White Star Line opted to fit the three Olympic-class ships with 'dummy' fourth funnels in order to rival the two Cunard ships. The ideology of four funnels representing size and power rapidly diminished soon after the First World War, later larger flagships including the SS Imperator, SS Normandie and the RMS Queen Mary all sported three funnels to conserve deck space, later still as shipbuilding became more efficient the RMS Queen Elizabeth, RMS Mauretania and the SS America reduced this further down to two funnels, today's modern cruise ships are all built with only a single funnel and many military vessels no longer sport them at all.
|RMS Aquitania3||Cunard Line||21 April 1913||scrapped 1950|
|RMS Arundel Castle[b]3||Union-Castle Line||11 September 1919||scrapped 1959|
|RMS Britannic[c][d]3||White Star Line||26 February 1914||sunk 21 November 1916|
|SS Deutschland3||Hamburg-Amerika Line||1900||scrapped 1925|
|SS France3||Compagnie Générale Transatlantique||1910||scrapped 1935|
|SS Great Eastern[e]1||Great Ship Company||31 January 1858||scrapped 1889–90|
|SS Kaiser Wilhelm II[f]3||North German Lloyd Line||12 August 1902||scrapped 1940|
|SS Kaiser Wilhelm der Grosse[f]3||North German Lloyd Line||4 May 1897||sunk 6 August 1914; wreck dismantled on site in 1952|
|SS Kronprinz Wilhelm[f]3||North German Lloyd Line||30 March 1901||scrapped 1923|
|SS Kronprinzessin Cecilie[f]3||North German Lloyd Line||1 December 1906||scrapped 1940|
|RMS Lusitania3||Cunard Line||7 June 1906||sunk 7 May 1915|
|RMS Mauretania3||Cunard Line||20 September 1906||scrapped 1935|
|RMS Olympic[d]3||White Star Line||20 October 1910||scrapped 1935–37|
|RMS Titanic[d]3||White Star Line||31 May 1911||sunk 15 April 1912|
|SS Windsor Castle[b]3||Union-Castle Line||9 March 1921||sunk 23 March 1943|
[b] Originally constructed with four funnels, two were removed during later modernization.3
[c] The Britannic was originally called Gigantic but she was renamed after the Titanic's tragedy.5
[d] The aft funnel on each of the White Star Olympic-class liners were dummies.6
[e] Originally constructed with five funnels, her No. 4 funnel was later removed after she was sold for cable laying1
These four sister ships were unusual in having four funnels owned by City of Dublin Steam Packet Company, the Ulster, Munster, Leinster, and Connaught were all built to have high speed and to be far ahead of anything afloat at the time. These four ships all had the same design, 1700 gross tons, 337 ft long, and had two-cylinder oscillating engines of about 750 nhp, and had four powerful paddle steamers. The last of the quartet, Connaught, was the first steamer in the world to exceed 18 knots.8
- RMS Connaught (1860)
- RMS Leinster (1860)
- RMS Munster (1860)
- RMS Ulster (1860)
In the late 1920s the worlds main shipping lines were Britain's Cunard Line and White Star Line and France's Compagnie Générale Transatlantique. Each of these three were operating ageing vessels and required new larger and more modern 1000 ft long superliners to remain competitive. CGT began construction of the SS Normandie while Cunard placed an order for the RMS Queen Mary. The weakest company of the three, White Star, placed an order to their shipbuilders Harland and Wolff for the Oceanic, a successor to the line's inaugural 1870 liner, the RMS Oceanic. The exact intended design of the Oceanic III is unknown, although company concept renderings show it to be a three-funnelled 1000-foot liner. However, plans from Harland and Wolff's archives show a design drawn in 1927 for a four funnelled liner almost identical to the Olympic-class design except sporting a more modern cruiser stern.10
With the onset of the great depression the shipping lines were crippled. The completion of Cunard's Queen Mary was delayed for four years and in order to raise the funds to complete her the British government gave Cunard a loan on the condition that Cunard merge with White Star into a single British shipping line. Upon the merger into the Cunard-White Star Line the Oceanic, with only her keel laid, was abandoned. Had this 1927 design been realized she would have been the White Star Line's crowning achievement, a fourth Olympic-class liner over 1000 ft long and the last ocean liner to date to sport four funnels.11
The Australian billionaire Clive Palmer is planning to make Titanic II, a replica of the famed RMS Titanic.12 If this goes ahead as planned it will be a "four stacker" like the original. However, at least two of the funnels will actually house observation decks and not serve any function
In the movie The Legend of 1900, the SS Virginian is a Victorian era four-funneled passenger liner.
In the American television series "The Twilight Zone", there is an episode titled "Passage on the Lady Anne"(Season 4, Episode 119, May 19th, 1963), depicting an outdated, once magnificent four-funneled ocean liner, the RMS Lady Anne.
|Wikimedia Commons has media related to Ships with 4 funnels.|
- "History of the Atlantic Cable & Submarine Telegraphy - Great Eastern". Atlantic-cable.com. Retrieved 2011-07-05.
- Ljungström, Henrik. "Kaiser Wilhelm der Grosse". The Great Ocean Liners. Retrieved 2008-09-08.
- Pocock, Michael. "The Four Funnel Liners". Retrieved 2008-09-08.
- Daniel (2007-05-21). "Titanic Station: Titanic's Funnels, or Smokestacks". Titanicstation.blogspot.com. Retrieved 2011-07-05.
- Bonner, Kit & Bonner, Carolyn (2003). Great Ship Disasters. MBI Publishing Company. p. 60. ISBN 0-7603-1336-9.
- The 4 funnel liners. "The 4 funnel liners". Allatsea.co.za. Retrieved 2011-07-05.
- Ljungström, Henrik. "Kronprinzessin Cecilie". The Great Ocean Liners. Retrieved 2008-09-08.dead link
- "City of Dublin SP Co - Postcards and Photographs". Simplonpc.co.uk. 1920-11-27. Retrieved 2011-07-05.
- "Isle of Man Steam Packet Company - Ship Postcards - Page 1: 1830-1899". Simplonpc.co.uk. Retrieved 2011-07-05.
- Harland and Wolff 1927 four funnel liner plans http://titanichistoricalsociety.net/store/index.php?main_page=product_info&cPath=76&products_id=601
- Edwards, Richard. "White Star line's proposed MV Oceanic III of 1928". Retrieved 2010-01-14.
- Calligeros, Marissa (30 April 2012). "Clive Palmer plans to build Titanic II". Sydney Morning Herald.