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SS City of Rome

City of Rome
Career (UK)
Name: City of Rome
Namesake: Rome
Owner: Inman Line (1881)
Operator: Anchor Line (1881–1900)
Port of registry: Barrow-in-Furness
Route: trans-Atlantic (1881)
Builder: Barrow Ship Building Co
Commissioned: 1881
Fate: Scrapped 1902
General characteristics
Type: ocean liner
Tonnage: 8,453 GRT
tonnage under deck 6,144
7,468 NRT
Length: 560.2 ft (170.7 m)
Beam: 52.3 ft (15.9 m)
Depth: 37.0 ft (11.3 m)
Installed power: 1,500 NHP
Propulsion: 3 × 2-cylinder compound inverted steam engines
Sail plan: 4-masted schooner
Speed: 1881: 15.75 knots (29.17 km/h)
1883: 18.25 knots (33.80 km/h)
Capacity: passengers, 1881: 520 First Class, 810 Steerage Class
passengers, 1891: 75 First Class, 250 Second Class, 1,000 Steerage Class
cargo: 2,200 tons

City of Rome was a UK ocean liner, built by Barrow Ship Building Co for Inman Line to be the largest and fastest liner on the North Atlantic route. She was a major disappointment and after only six voyages she was returned to Barrow-in-Furness. Anchor Line then managed her on various routes until 1900. She was scrapped in 1902. City of Rome was widely regarded as the most beautiful liner to ever cross the Western Ocean.[1]


  • Development and design 1
  • Service history 2
  • Automaton of the ship 3
  • References 4

Development and design

The completion of Guion Line's Arizona in 1879 forced all major trans-Atlantic companies to consider building new high-speed passenger liners. Designed by William John (who later designed the United States Navy's first battleship, USS Texas), Inman's answer was a much larger ship designed to cross the Atlantic at 18 knots (33 km/h). City of Rome carried 520 First Class passengers in quarters of especially high quality andh 810 Steerage Class. She was also one of the first liners lit entirely by electricity.[1]

The contract specified a steel hull, but Barrows convinced Inman to accept iron because of difficulties in securing sufficient supplies of the then relatively new metal. However, as a result of this and inadequate calculations when iron was substituted, City of Rome draught was too great.[1]

Twin screws were at one point contemplated but rejected.[1] Her boilers supplied steam at 90 lbf/in2 to three inverted two-cylinder compound steam engines to drive her single screw. These produced a total of 1,500 Nominal Horsepower, which was only 75% of her intended power. She was completed in June 1881.[2]

Being under-powered, too heavy and drawing too much water, City of Rome reached only 15.75 knots (29.17 km/h) on sea trial. Also her cargo capacity was only 2,200 tons, instead of the 3,800 tons specified.[1]

Service history

In August 1882 Inman rejected City of Rome after only six voyages because of her under-performance. Barrows lost the lengthy litigation that followed. Anchor Line was associated with Barrows and was contracted to manage Barrow's white elephant. After Barrows modified her machinery and reduced weight, City of Rome reached 18.25 knots (33.80 km/h) on new trials. Starting in May 1883, Anchor placed her on the LiverpoolNew York route where she proved comfortable and popular, but unprofitable because she lacked a suitable consort. Various attempts were made to overcome this, including pairing her with National Line's America in 1886, but none of these arrangements proved satisfactory.[1]

In 1891 City of Rome was withdrawn from Liverpool and moved to the Glasgow – New York route, and paired with vessels half her size. Her accommodation was revised to 75 First Class, 250 Second Class and 1,000 Steerage. In September 1898 the USA chartered her to repatriate Spanish Navy prisoners of war. In 1899 she was damaged in a collision with an iceberg. The next year she served as a troopship for the Second Boer War. After this she was sold to a German scrap firm,[1] but actually returned to transatlantic duty for a short period and ran the Glasgow – Moville – New York route in late 1900. By this time she was clearly reaching the end of her serviceable life. One such sailing took 13 days, leaving Glasgow on Thursday 27 September 1900 and reached New York on Monday 8 October 1900. En route the ship suffered two major mechanical breakdowns: the first on Sunday 30 September for 14 hours (reportedly a blown cylinder head,) and the second on Wednesday 3 October for about four hours in very heavy seas.

Automaton of the ship

An automaton of City of Rome was sold at auction in New Zealand in March 2010, where it had previously been in a collection of automata held by the late John Patrick Newman. The automaton featured in London Mechanical and Electrical Exhibition: a travelling exhibition of automata that travelled through England, Europe, Australia and New Zealand in the 1920s. It is believed the automaton was made in the 1880s as an advertising piece to illustrate the ship to potential passengers. The automaton featured the ship sailing in front of a revolving pulley-driven backdrop, with waves undulating below it, and a hot air balloon floating aloft. The automaton was in need of repair to the masts and rigging and sold at auction for NZ$7,000.[3]


  1. ^ a b c d e f g Gibbs, CR Vernon (1957). Passenger Liners of the Western Ocean: A Record of Atlantic Steam and Motor Passenger Vessels from 1838 to the Present Day. John De Graff.  
  2. ^ Lloyd's Register of British and Foreign Shipping. London:  
  3. ^ Art+Object (6 March 2010). "The Newman Collection" (.pdf). p. 28. Retrieved 17 August 2010. 
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