The Story of the Liner, by G. Gibbard Jackson,1931, The Sheldon Press [ebook]


Hard back book, 8”x 5”, pp. 208. Coloured frontispiece shipping line flags and funnels. Diagram showing comparison of hull sizes 1840 to date of publication and 48 B&W half tone illustrations, including artist’s impression of the “new Cunarder” under construction on the Clyde. If there is a fault in this book, it is the arrangement of the illustrations, which are not in any kind of chronological order. There are two extremely useful tables showing the growth in the size of passenger liners from 1940, and the record breaking crossings over the same period.


Gibbard Jackson was a popular writer on transport and Naval subjects for the general reader in the 1920s and 1930s. I was impressed by his grasp of the history of trans- Atlantic steam navigation in that he devotes two or three paragraphs to the paddle steamer “COLUMBUS”, whose history has been almost universally ignored until lately.


Powered by Thomas Howard´s mercury vapouriser boilers she was intended to be the first steamer across the Atlantic. What Jackson did not say was how close “COLUMBUS” came to success, had she not been undone by the complexities of her technology. “COLUMBUS” was already at Falmouth, en route to Liverpool, while “GREAT WESTERN” was still running trials in the Thames, before leaving for Bristol. History might have been very different.


While the “Ocean Greyhounds” of Britain, France, Germany and the USA, vying for the “Blue Ribbon” of the Atlantic (the notional “prize” for the fastest Atlantic crossing) feature prominently, other liners in less glamourous trades are also mentioned. Improvements in propulsion machinery are clearly explained and supported by a good choice of illustrations. There have been many books published on this topic since 1931 but “The Story of the Liner” is better than most in its coverage of development up to 1930. If you are interested in steamship development, please see “Records of the Early British Steamships, Capt. N.W. Kennedy, TF 1933, and, for the conversion of liners to oil burning “Wallsend Slipway and Engineering Co. Ltd.”, which we also have on offer.



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