Posts tagged: calais
Most of the ships coming under the category on this blog of ‘the pioneer car ferries’ date back to the 1960s. Although this is 30+ years after the appearance of the first proper international car ferries, in the form of ships like the Kronprinsessan Ingrid (1936) or the first Peter Wessel (1937), it is perhaps fair to say that it was in this decade that the car ferry truly flowered. It became not only visually recognisable to its modern form, albeit much smaller, but its usage also broadened massively; the sheer volume of car ferries constructed around the world in this decade are testament to changing times – to the car ownership boom and to the ability to take and desire to have international motoring holidays.
From a British perspective, we have seen this in previous entries relating to the Norwind/Norwave, Viking I & II, Munster and Free Enterprise. The latter ship was an interesting example of an independent operator getting the formula right and it has often been noted that the ‘railway’ ships against which she competed were old fashioned. This is true only to a degree – the British railway ships, until the later years of the decade, certainly fit this description. The ships of SNCF, the French railways, were slightly different. Certainly, a vessel like the beautiful CÃ´te d’Azur of 1951 was very much a classic passenger steamer, but the fleet also included the distinctively modern, Danish-built, train ferry Saint-Germain and, dating back to three years before the Free Enterprise, the car ferry CompiÃ¨gne.
The CompiÃ¨gne was a radically different ship to anything else sailing around the British Isles upon her introduction. It is almost difficult to believe she entered service the year before British Railway’s much more traditional-looking Maid of Kent of 1959, although actually the ships bear some comparison – broadly similar in dimensions, capacities, service speed and intended operations they were remarkably different solutions to a similar design brief. The Maid of Kent was in many ways an enlarged, beautified version of the Lord Warden of 1952, whilst the CompiÃ¨gne instead owed more in appearance to the Saint Germain of the same year. The French ship looked – and in many respects was – a much more advanced vessel than the Maid of Kent, whose steam turbine propulsion in particular dated her and whose more classic lines were perhaps a concession to criticism of the slightly ungainly aspects of the Lord Warden.
The Rouen-built CompiÃ¨gne introduced a number of firsts to Cross Channel traffic, many of them technical advances which would be replicated in ships throughout the following decade. Controllable pitch propellers circumvented the traditional means of ship control via the engine room telegraph and meant the vessel could be manoeuvred directly from the bridge whilst she also had a pair of bow thrusters which bringing the ship alongside and moving off the berth. The vessel was also all welded in construction, rather than riveted.
One area where the ship was not significantly different to the Maid of Kent was in the arrangement of the vehicle deck, being a stern-only loader with a central casing, fixed mezzanines forward and space in the after part of the garage for the carriage of a limited number of high sided vehicles.
When the ship entered service in June 1958, she was deployed on the Calais-Dover route. In those days, British Railways operated their car ferries on the Dover-Boulogne crossing and the French ship was therefore placed into direct competition on the Calais run with Townsend Car Ferries whose converted frigate Halladale was nearing the end of her operational life and would be replaced with the Free Enterprise in 1962.
After 1970, the CompiÃ¨gne was seen more frequently at Boulogne and she remained in service on the Channel for well over twenty years overall. Sold to Strintzis in 1981, she operated on a number of Adriatic and then Aegean services before becoming a pilgrim ship in the Red Sea. Abandoned for many years in Alexandria, she amazingly survives to this day in poor condition as the Al Ameerah.
Ron Fisher has some splendid images of trains at the station, as well as at Boulogne, in the 1960s to the ’80s. Meanwhile Mike Irlam’s site has an almost Behrend-style narrative of a typical journey on the Golden Arrow in its heyday.
Over on youtube, there is a superb two part-British Transport Films production celebrating the post war Golden Arrow:
Great times, and the sight today of the post-war Gare Maritime building still standing, but used as little more than a rest point with lavatories and vending machines for truckers and motorists waiting to board the modern cross-channel ferries is really quite heartbreaking, even for those of us for whom hours at the station represented SNCF strikes, delayed trains and missed connections.
“Something new in ferryboats”, with a “queer method of mounting the propellers” (the new Lymington, 1938) The pay off line of “so chalk another one up to Britain for one more development in transport” was more than dubious given the Voith Schneider technology being employed was most definitely German.
Firstly, the Heidi, formerly the Caledonia of Cal Mac and before that the first car ferry that Sten Allan Olsson ordered for Stena Line, the Stena Baltica. Operating for Traghetti Pozzuoli until 2004 she ultimately sank at her lay up berth in Naples. Pumped dry, she was towed to Aliaga in Turkey for breaking in 2006. Fakta om Fartyg has some images of her in her sunken state, whilst Navi e Armatori’s pictures were taken by Selim San at the beach in Turkey:
The Carisbrooke Castle of 1959 was scrapped in 2007 having spent the last 33 years in a 48 year career in Italian coastal waters, latterly as the Giglio Espresso II running from La Maddalena to Palau on Sardinia. This image shows her on the beach in Aliaga, with fellow former British veteran the Neptunia (ex-Darnia) alongside.
I have often wondered about this series of ships, built at Union Navale de Levante in Valencia between 1972 and 1984, none of which seem to have had really successful post-Spanish careers. Of the sextuplets, two have now been scrapped, one is in Southeast Asia, and the other three in limbo. The one vessel actually believed to be in service is the Oriental Princess (ex-Canguro Cabo San Jorge and Ciudad de Palma) but she seems to be in rather poor condition in Vietnamese waters (pictures here and here). The Ciudad de Sevilla has reportedly sailed to Port Said under the name Sevilla whilst the Mary the Queen (ex-Ciudad de Valencia and the final of the series) had apparently been sold to Filipino interests to replace the former Steam Packet ship of the same name, but remains in Tarragona with the sale possibly having fallen through.
All this however relates to the demise of Geocities, “the Facebook of yesterday“. Geocities gave free access to web publishing for millions in its time, and many of the websites so created were crude, forgettable and aesthetically criminal. But it was also a step on the ladder, and, despite everything, from the hours trying futilely to load the Page Builder software to the horrors of page after page being lost when that same program decided not to save properly, I’ll miss it.