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British Turret Deck Steamer, “Clan Alpine”

British Turret Deck Steamer, “Clan Alpine”, 1899
Builder’s Model, scale 1:48
Great Britain
wood, metal, silver and gold plated metal fittings
model: 74.0 x 238.0 x 33.0 cm
The Thomson Collection © Art Gallery of Ontario

The Thomson Collection of Ship Models Audio Tour

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Download: 2:15 min / 884 KB MP3


Simon Stephens: The style of builders’ models, they really developed from the mid-19th century onwards. And these generally are what we call full hull models. They show the whole hull of the ship and all the deck details, masts, and spars. And they were made, really, by the shipbuilders themselves, either for themselves or for the ship owners.

And they were basically a glorified advertising tool. During the 19th century, there were these various international fairs around the world, in America, Europe, and the UK, where they would all get together and advertise their wares, you know: “We build these ships. Come and place an order. We operate these ships to India, Australia, North America. Come and sign up to our service.” And they would use these ship models to attract the public, and other commercially minded people, to their stand at the shows.

This is a very good example of a builder’s style model, where a lot of the deck fittings, the anchors, cables, winches, engine room cowlings, etc., have been made in a base metal and then plated in gold or silver.

Obviously, these fittings would not be this color in real life.

I think the obvious feature of this model is the shape of the hull. This is what is called a turret ship. It basically describes the shape of the hull, if you look at it in cross section. It’s square with a much narrower upper deck.

The turret deck design was the reduced square footage on the upper deck, which then reduced the levies on the cargo carried below deck.

Only about 200 were built at the time, right the way through into the early 20th century.

You’ll notice also with this model that the cargo hatches have been shown open.

In most cases, these models would have had the enclosed hatches whereas they are obviously very keen to promote this type of design of cargo ship, which only appeared in the late 19th century.

This is a time when steam was gradually encroaching upon sail. This is the transition from sail to steam. So there was this tremendous battle going on with the sailing craft owners as well as the steam ship owners. With the improvement of steam engines, cargo ships were able to go further, on less fuel, and carry more cargo.

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