Servia - Cunard liner at Liverpool
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At the time of her launching the Servia was the largest of all ships afloat except the Great
Eastern. She was designed and built by Messrs. James and Georne Thomson, at Clyde Bank, near Glasgow.
The Servia was built with four decks and a promenade deck. The promenade, which was reserved for the passengers, was large and spacious. The steam steering gear and house, captain's room and flying bridge was situated on the fore part of the promenade deck. On the upper deck forward was the forecastle, with accommodation for the crew, and lavatories and bath rooms for steerage passengers, while aft were the light-towers for signalling the Admiralty lights, with the look-out bridge on the top. Near to the amidships house were the captain's and officers' sleeping cabins.
Next to the engine skylight was the smoking-room, which could be entered from the deck or from the cabins below. It was unusually large for a smoking-room, being 30 feet long by 22 feet wide. Near the after-deck house was the ladies' drawing-room, to which access could be obtained either from the music-room or from the deck. Abaft of this, and in the upper end of the upper deck, was the music-room, which was 50 feet by 22 feet in dimensions, and which was fitted up with polished wood-panelling. Immediately abaft of the music-room was the grand staircase, which lead to the main saloon and the cabins below on the main and lower decks. The Servia was the first Cunard liner to be lighted electrically.
For the convenience of the passengers there were four different entrances from the upper deck of the ship to the cabins. At the foot of the stair leading to the saloon, and also in the cabins, the panelling was of polished Hungarian ash and maple wood. The saloon was 74 feet long by 49 feet wide, with sitting accommodation for 350 persons, while the clear height under the beams was 8 feet 6 inches. The sides were all in fancy woods, with beautifully polished inlaid panels. All the upholstery of the saloon was of morocco leather. Right forward of the after deck were the pantries, baths, lavatories, and staterooms. The total number of staterooms was 188, and the vessel originally had accommodation for about 450 first-class and 600 steerage passengers, besides a crew of about 200 officers and men. For two thirds of its entire length the lower deck was fitted up with first-class staterooms.
The ship was divided into several watertight bulkheads, and she was built according to the Admiralty requirements for war purposes with 10 gun mountings for service as an armed merchant cruiser. A special feature was the arrangement of the watertight doors in the engine and boiler spaces. Another great improvement to the security was that the doors could be shut from the upper deck by using a connecting rod. The usual arrangements on other merchant ships required the doors to be screwed down, and this process took up a considerable time in case of accident. There were in all twelve boats, and these were equipped as life-boats, and had Hill and Clark's patent improved boat-lowering apparatus.
The machinery consisted of two three cylinder compound surface condensing engines, each with a high pressure cylinder 72 inches diameter and two low pressure cylinders each 100 inches diameter, with a common stroke of 78 inches. There were in all seven boilers, six of which were double and one single ended, and all were made of steel, with corrugated furnaces. Steam was supplied at 9° lb. per sq. in. pressure. The total number of furnaces was thirty-nine, constructed with Fox's corrugated flues. On trial the engines indicated 10,300 horse-power, and the vessel attained a speed of 17.8 knots.
The Servia was the first merchant steamer to be built entirely of Siemens mild steel. The keel of the ship consisted of five thicknesses, making a total thickness of 6¾ inces, and in order to secure thoroughly reliable workmanship, the riveting was done by Tweddell's hydraulic riveter. All the frames and beams of the ship were riveted by this process. The upper deck was of steel, covered with yellow pine, the main deck is of steel with a teak covering, and the lower deck was of steel with a covering of teak above the engine and boiler spaces. All the deck-houses and deck fittings, which were liable to be carried away in a heavy sea, were made of iron and steel, and were riveted to the steel decks underneath.
The Servia was built with a double bottom, the lower portions of the ship being framed on the cellular system, combined with a flat central through-plate keel (on the longitudinal bracket system). Her cargo capacity was equal to 6500 tons, with 1800 tons of coal and 1000 tons of water ballast. She was equipped with three masts, bark rigged, and the Cunard Company had adhered to their special rig, believing it to be more ship-shape than the practice of fitting up masts according to the length of the ship, allowing a good spread of canvas to assist in propelling the vessel. The anchor davits were 8 inches, and the cable chain pipe 22 inches in diameter. The weight of the propeller shaft was 26½ tons, and the propeller, boss, and blades, which were made of Vicars steel, 38 tons.
Servia, Cunard Line steamship - advertising card: Cunar Line - Royal Mail Steamers, Liverpool to New York and Boston
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[The Illustrated London News April 16, 1881][Morgenbladet 1881-1901][The New York Times 1881-1902][Lloyd's Register of British and Foreign Shipping][Merchant Fleets in profile vol 2, Duncan Haws 1979]