RMS Campania Construction and Launch - Part I

The page covers the following topics on the Construction and Launch of the Cunard Campania: Introduction, Plating, Keel Plate, Bulkheads, Decks, Stern Framing, Rudder


(NOTE. -- The Lucania, the sister ship, is in all respects identical with the Campania.)

The contract for building was signed by the Fairfield Shipbuilding and Engineering Co., Limited, Glasgow, in August, 1891, and the preliminaries necessary before the actual work of construction was commenced, at once engaged the attention of the chiefs of the various departments.

On account of the extreme length of the ship, it was necessary to rearrange the building berths. It was arranged to build this one on the western berths, adjoining the entrance to the Company's dock. It was laid down at an angle approximating more to the line of the river into which it was to be launched, than would otherwise have been possible. The necessity for this will be recognised when we state that the length of the vessel was greater than the breadth of the Clyde

While these at this point. preliminaries were being carried out, the important question arose as to the general scantling of the Steamer.

The Strenght of the Plating

STRENGTH WAS THE FIRST, and we might say, the most important, point to be considered. It was finally decided that the minimum length of plates used in the shell of the ship, should be 25 feet, and the breadth 6 feet. Each plate thus weighed over two tons. The bulk of the plates used are all of this size, but in many cases, notably below the machinery, the width was increased to nearly 8 feet. The thickness varied from M to I inch. The frames used were of the channel bar section, and the beams of the ordinary Butterley bulb section.

The Keel Plate

The Keel Plate was laid on September 22nd, 1891, and the time occupied was remarkably short. The keel is not of the bar external form, which is now being discarded in most large ships but is entirely internal. It is built of plates 4 feet 6 inches deep, extending right fore and aft, and having on the upper and lower edges at their side very strong angles. The keel plate was formed of a broad plate 54 inches by 1 inch, with a doubling plate about inch thick on the inside.

These plates are connected to the bottom of the vertical internal keel plate, and together they form the main centre line girder of the ship. Under the engines the girder is increased, not only in strength, but in depth, to about 8 feet, and forms the base of the engine seating. A reference to the engraving of the bow framing will show this centre-line girder of the ship.

The keel was set on a grade of 7/16 th ins. to 1 foot, and before it was completely laid, the work of constructing the double bottom was proceeded with, the first double bottom frame being erected about three weeks after the first keel plate was placed in position. The whole of the riveting within the range of this double bottom framing was done by hydraulic machinery.

Ribs and Bow Framing

Ribs and Bow Framing

The double bottom having been sufficiently far advanced to admit of the upper frames being erected, this work was started, and here one recognises the time-honoured ribs for the shipbuilder has been accused of taking his model from nature, the keel being the vertebrae, or spine, with its iron or steel ribs and skin; but the " Campania" has, so to speak, five spines, which we have described as longtitudinal girders; the ribs or frames are of channel section, placed 3o ins. apart, and extend in one length from the double bottom to the upper deck stringer plate, and to the poop and forecastle stringers at the ends of the ship.

The maximum length of channel bar used was about 5o feet, in one continuous length. These channel frames were strengthened at intervals by solid web frames, and next the machinery spaces were increased in number. Upon each alternate channel frame were fastened the Butterley bulb beams carrying the deck platforms. These beams are of the largest section that has yet been rolled for the purpose.

December 30, 1891

This work of erecting the frames or ribs, and the fitting of the deck-beams in place, was completed by December 30, 1891. The plating of the ship is arranged on the overlap system from the keel strake up to the underside of the main deck sheer strake. The butts of the upper and main sheer strakes and the strake between are connected by double butt strakes inside and outside.

The Bulkheads on the Campania

The important matter of Bulkheads had very full consideration in working out the design. About this time the report of the Bulkhead Committee had been published, and so far as practicable, their suggestions were carried out. The sub-division is by thwartship bulkheads only, and of these there are 18.

Centre bulkheads have not been adopted except in the engine room, as they would have interfered seriously with the arrangement of the boilers, and would have given no compensatory advantage, for in the case of a ship divided by a centre-line bulkhead, the flooding of a large compartment, say on the port side, as the result of an accident, would give the ship a heavy list, which is in itself a danger, and would probably necessitate the filling of a corresponding compartment on the starboard side, so that the immersion of the ship would not be less than with a filled compartment the full width of the ship.

The Fairfield Company have made the maximum length of the compartments amidships 65 feet, while at the ends, especially forward, where the risk of collision is greatest, the distance between the bulkheads is considerably reduced.

The sub-division of the vessel, in fact, is carried out to such an extent, that any two, and in many cases even three compartments might be flooded with water, and the steamer remain in a perfectly safe condition.

Safe Condition of All Vitals of the Ship

All the " vitals " of the ship -- machinery, boilers, auxiliary appliances, & C. -- are in duplicate, so that the flooding of one or two compartments cannot well completely disable the propelling, lighting, or navigating, or indeed any of the important machinery in the vessel. All the openings in the bulkheads are fitted with watertight doors.

As the " Campania " is classed as an armed cruiser for service when required by the British Admiralty, it has been built to comply with their conditions as to strength, buoyancy under disastrous conditions, and coal protection. It has, therefore, watertight coal bunkers, at the side of and over the top of boiler compartments, forming a protection against modern quick-firing guns.


The decks were all first laid with steel plating, and was commenced early in May, 1892, and by this time also, the superstructure of the ship was commenced.

A special feature has been introduced in the construction of the shade deck, whereby the roofs of the public rooms have been raised two feet or three feet above the ordinary level in a slight curve, forming what may be termed omnibus roofs. By this means a height of something like 12 feet is obtained in the public rooms, which enhances the appearance, and improves the ventilation of these apartments.

On the shade deck there is a deckhouse for the accommodation of the navigating officers, who are all located in the immediate vicinity of the main bridge, and at call in cases of emergency. The bridge, which is carried on strong T-iron frames, extends the full width of the ship, and is about 6o feet above the water-line.

The weather decks are finished in teak, the others in yellow pine, 4 inches wide. These narrow planks give the decks a beautiful appearance.

The Stern Framing

About the end of June the Stern Framing, one of the most important parts of the structure was in process of erection, the frame is of cast steel. In arranging the propeller brackets it was decided to have a small aperture, thus bringing the propellers as near as possible to the centre line of the ship. The stern tubes are contained within the bossing, leaving them accessible for inspection at all times, while the ship is at sea or in harbour. The lining of the propeller shafts was supplied by Messrs. John Broadfoot & Sons, Glasgow, and part of the forging by Messrs. William Beardmore & Co., Parkhead Forge, Glasgow.

The Rudder of the Campania

The Rudder is of the ordinary centre fin plate pattern, with specially designed arms on either side, and strengthened so that it can be thrown hard over when the vessel is going at full speed. As the rudder had to be entirely under water, it became necessary to have the plate of exceptional size, which could not be got in this country, but was obtained from Messrs. Krupp, of Essen, Germany. It measured 22 feet by 11 feet 6 inches by 1 1/4 inches thick. The steering gear is also entirely under water, the better to conform to Admiralty requirements.

Return to Top of Page

Ocean Travel Brochures
GG Archives

Steamship Line Brochures

Allan Line

American Line

Anchor-Donaldson Line

Anchor Line

Baltic America Line

Baltimore Mail Line

Blue Funnel Line

Canadian Pacific - CPOS

CGT French Line

Cunard Line

Cunard White Star

Dollar Steamship Line

Dominion Line

Hamburg America Line

Hamburg America Line & North German Lloyd

Italian Line

Lamport & Holt Line

NGI Genoa - The Italian Line

North German Lloyd

Norwegian America Line

Orient-Royal Mail Line

Red Star Line


Scandinavian-American Line

United States Lines

White Star Line


Updates and Social Media