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Canadian Pacific Railway

More Empresses

Empress of Russia and sister ship Empress of Asia first sailed in 1913. Both were 590 foot long, 17,000 ton ships powered by coal-fired boilers operating at 190 pounds psi pressure feeding direct-drive turbines compounding the steam and designed for 20 knots. Built with accommodations for 200 first-class and 100 second-class passengers along with 888 steerage immigrants, they required a crew of 475 officers and men.

The Empress of Russia set a record on her maiden voyage averaging 19.5 knots for the 4,200 mile crossing of the Pacific in 9 days and 5 hours, bettering by 29 hours the record of the Empress of Japan. Arriving on June 7, 1913 with 1,065 passengers and 3,854 tons of cargo including 1,523 bales of raw silk, and 14,845 chests of tea. The Empress of Asia soon followed arriving on August 31st with a cargo that included $3,000,000 of silk. This was an extremely perishable cargo and one that was handled with the greatest of speed on land using special Silk Trains which were highly secretive due to the incredibly high value of their cargo. They were given right over all other trains, including passenger trains, even the Limiteds.

Silk train hauled by a Pacific type passenger locomotive races eastward across Canada.

Rebuilt 1919-20 for 374 first-class passengers as well as 2nd and 3rd class accommodations while steerage was greatly reduced due to changing times. They both entered service in 1913 and with interruptions during World War I for military use, continued to cross the Pacific until World War II intervened when they again served as troop ships. Neither ship returned to CPR service, the Empress of Asia being lost in February 1942 to enemy (Japanese) action and the Empress of Russia remaining as a transport ship until 1945 and then being scrapped after a shipyards fire during refit.

Empress of Asia First-class lounge 48 feet by 36 feet and 14 feet high.

Empress of Canada the first ship to carry this name.

After the end of the Great War traffic increased more than 200 % on the Pacific route necessitating addition of a new ship. The first Empress of Canada ordered in 1919 was more than 650 feet long and designed at 21, 500 tons displacement with accommodations for 488 first-class passengers in ever improving conditions along with 106 second and 238 third class passengers also 926 in steerage totalling 1,758 plus a crew of 552 Officers and crew. It was oil-fired with provision to convert to coal; its turbine engines developing 24,000 shaft horsepower. It could steam 14,000 miles without refueling. Finally it made its maiden voyage from England on May 5, 1922 following strikes, shortages of materials and greatly increased costs which precluded a sister ship being built. The following year she set a record like Empresses before her when she left Hong Kong on May 3, 1923 with more than 1,000 passengers and 3,000 tons of cargo including 500 tons of tea and twenty-five carloads of raw silk, having crossed the Pacific in 8 days, 10 hours and 23 minutes at an average speed of 20.6 knots over a distance of 4179 nautical miles, breaking all previous records between Yokohama and Vancouver.

She was returned to her builder and re-engined with single-reduction geared turbines, super heaters were added to her boilers and diesel engines installed to run the auxiliaries. It first sailed again in August of 1929.

She continued in Pacific service making 199 crossings for the CPR until the last left on September 2, 1939 for Vancouver after which it was requisitioned on November 29, 1939 for troop carrying. She continued in this duty until sunk by an enemy (Italian) submarine just before midnight on March 13th. 1943 off the coast of Africa. There was heavy loss of life amongst the 1,346 passengers, (392 including 44 crew), ironically there were 500 Italian prisoners of war onboard.

First-class smoking room on the Promenade deck.

First-class dining room situated amidships on the Upper deck to avoid noise and vibration.

The first Empress of Australia began life as the 590 foot 21,500 ton German-built ship Tirpitz in 1914. Handed over as war reparation by the defeated German government it first was used for troops, then by Cunard until it was bought by Canadian Pacific on July 29, 1921 and named as the third Empress of China. It was soon converted to oil, refitted and renamed as the Empress of Australia first sailing on June 2, 1922. The ship's original poor performance including very high fuel consumption continued until finally in 1926 it was sent to England for new boilers and single-reduction turbine engines along with diesel auxiliary engines. It did not return to the Pacific rather, it went into Atlantic service including winter cruises to the Mediterranean and out of New York to the West Indies. This was the ship that carried the King and Queen on their famous 1939 Royal Tour of Canada that began in May. It was not long over when World War II began in early September and the Empress of Australia began troop carrying soon afterwards. It would never return to CPR service, following the War it continued to carry troops until finally ending this on April 30, 1952 and being scrapped right afterwards.

Empress of Japan after record-breaking trip, August 22, 1930. Vancouver Maritime Museum

The second Empress of Japan was ordered in June 1928 as a 26,000 ton 666 foot long ship. It accommodated 399 first-class, 164 second-class and 100 third-class passengers along with 510 steerage immigrants. This required a crew of almost 600. She made her first voyage on June 14, 1930 crossing the North Atlantic from Liverpool to Quebec City at an average speed of 21 knots burning 154 tons of fuel a day for propulsion, which was considered to be very good. She then returned to England, this time Southampton from where she left for Hong Kong via the Suez Canal. Here it entered Pacific Ocean service and with the similarly speedy re-engined Empress of Canada operated via Honolulu, some 1500 additional miles per trip yet, maintained a seven-day schedule, a day faster than its rivals out of San Francisco, a much shorter distance. Enroute to Japan in September 1939 when war was declared the ship quickly left Shanghai for Honolulu and Canada where it entered troop service. Japan attacked Pearl Harbor on December 7, 1941 finally bringing the United States into a war it had resisted joining. Eventually, someone at Canadian Pacific woke up and on October 16, 1942 her name was changed to become the second Empress of Scotland.

First-class dining room could seat 270 passengers.

For years she safely carried on the gruelling task of troop carrying avoiding all but one minor enemy attack, and continuing after the war ended in 1945 until May 1948 carrying troops and others. In November 1948 she underwent a lengthy refit before returning to CPR service on May 1, 1950. Now the Empress of Scotland could accommodate 458 first class and 205 tourist class passengers, down from 1115.

Other ships and the end of Pacific service

Atlantic service


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