Four funnel liner

From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia
Jump to: navigation, search
6 March 1912: Titanic (right) with her sister Olympic
RMS Olympic and RMS Lusitania (background)

A four funnel liner, four funnelled liner or four stacker is an ocean liner with four funnels. The SS Great Eastern, launched on 31 January 1858 (a full 40 years ahead of any comparable ships), was the only ocean liner to sport five funnels. As one funnel was later removed,[1] the Great Eastern, by default, became the first ocean liner to have four funnels. However, after the Great Eastern became a four funnel ship she never carried passengers so really should not be considered the first four funnel liner. The SS Kaiser Wilhelm der Grosse, launched on 4 May 1897, was properly the first ocean liner to have four funnels and was one of the first of the golden era of ocean liners that became prominent in the early- to mid-20th century.[2] The most famous[citation needed] four funnel liners are the RMS Titanic, which sank after striking an iceberg on her maiden voyage on 14 April 1912, and the RMS Lusitania, which was torpedoed on 7 May 1915 during the First World War.

In all, fifteen four funnel liners were built (five were built and owned by Germany, nine by the UK, and one by France): the Great Eastern in 1858 and the remaining fourteen between 1897 and 1922. Four of these were sunk during the World Wars, and apart from the Titanic, the remainder were scrapped.[3] RMS Mauretania was the fastest of all four funnelled liners. The last four funnelled liner ever built was the RMS Windsor Castle but two funnels were removed making RMS Aquitania the last four funnel liner in service and the only one to survive service during both World Wars.


Poster advertising Norddeutscher Lloyd's four express sisters.

The primary purpose of funnels on steamships were to allow smoke, heat and excess steam to escape from the boiler rooms. As liners became larger, more boilers were used. The number of funnels became symbolic of speed and safety,[2] so shipping companies sometimes added false funnels (like the one sported by the Olympic-class ocean liner) to give an impression of power.[4]

The trend of competing shipping lines building four funnel liners encompassed a very short time span ranging from the SS Kaiser Wilhelm der Grosse in 1897 to the SS Windsor Castle in 1922. As for the number of funnels in some cases the reason for sporting four was a matter of necessity in other cases it was more symbolic. The Cunard Line record holders Lusitania and Mauretania were both laid out with four boiler rooms with one funnel to each room, other slower ships such as the Olympic, Titanic and Britannic only had three operational funnels. However sporting four funnels represented power, safety and prestige, in keeping with the style and fashion of the early 20th century the White Star Line opted to fit the three Olympic-class ships with 'dummy' fourth funnels in order to rival the two Cunard ships. The ideology of four funnels representing size and power rapidly diminished soon after the First World War, later larger flagships including the SS Imperator, SS Normandie and the RMS Queen Mary all sported three funnels to conserve deck space, later still as shipbuilding became more efficient the RMS Queen Elizabeth, RMS Mauretania and the SS America reduced this further down to two funnels, today's modern cruise ships are mostly built with only a single funnel and many military vessels no longer sport them at all.

List of four funnel liners[edit]

Picture Liner[a] Owner Launched Fate
Aquitania 06.jpg AquitaniaRMS Aquitania[3] Cunard Line 1913, April 21 scrapped 1950
SS Arundel Castle.jpg Arundel CastleRMS Arundel Castle[b][3] Union-Castle Line 1919, September 11 scrapped 1959
RMS Britannic (crop).jpg BritannicRMS Britannic[d][3] White Star Line 1914, February 26 sunk 21 November 1916
SS Deutschland (1900).jpg DeutschlandSS Deutschland[b][3] Hamburg-Amerika Line 1900, January 10 scrapped 1925
France 1912.jpg franceSS France[3] Compagnie Générale Transatlantique 1910, September 10 scrapped 1935
Kaiser wilhelm 2.jpg Kaiser Wilhelm IISS Kaiser Wilhelm II[f][3] North German Lloyd Line 1902, August 12 scrapped 1940
Kaiser wilhelm der grosse 01.jpg Kaiser Wilhem der GrosseSS Kaiser Wilhelm der Grosse[f][3] North German Lloyd Line 1897, May 4 sunk 26 August 1914; wreck dismantled on site in 1952
KronprinzWilhelmPostcard.jpg Kronprinz WilhelmSS Kronprinz Wilhelm[f][3] North German Lloyd Line 1901, March 30 scrapped 1923
Kronprinzessin Cecilie at Bar Harbor, Maine with black funnel tops.jpg Kronprinzessin CecileSS Kronprinzessin Cecilie[f][3] North German Lloyd Line 1906, December 1 scrapped 1940
Lusitania 1907.jpg LusitaniaRMS Lusitania[3] Cunard Line 1906, June 7 sunk 7 May 1915
RMS Mauretania.jpg MauretaniaRMS Mauretania[3] Cunard Line 1906, September 20 scrapped 1935
Olympic sea trials.jpg OlympicRMS Olympic[d][3] White Star Line 1910, October 20 scrapped 1935–37
RMS Titanic 3.jpg TitanicRMS Titanic[d][3] White Star Line 1911, May 31 sunk 15 April 1912
SS Windsor Castle.jpg Windsor CastleSS Windsor Castle[b][3] Union-Castle Line 1921, March 9 sunk 23 March 1943


[a] SS denotes Steamship, RMS denotes Royal Mail Ship, HMHS denotes His/Her Majesty's Hospital Ship

[b] Originally constructed with four funnels, two were removed during later modernisation.[3]

[d] The aft funnel on each of the White Star Olympic-class liners were dummies.[5]

[e] Originally constructed with five funnels, her No. 4 funnel was later removed after she was sold for cable laying[1]

[f] The group Kaiser-class[2] four funnel liners owned by North German Lloyd Lines were called the Four Flyers.[6]

Proposed four-funnel liners[edit]

In the late 1920s the world's main shipping lines were Britain's Cunard Line and White Star Line and France's Compagnie Générale Transatlantique. Each of these three were operating ageing vessels and required new larger and more modern 1000 ft long superliners to remain competitive. CGT began construction of the SS Normandie while Cunard placed an order for the RMS Queen Mary. White Star, placed an order to their shipbuilders Harland and Wolff for the Oceanic, a successor to the line's inaugural 1870 liner, the RMS Oceanic. The exact intended design of the Oceanic III is unknown, although company concept renderings show it to be a three-funnelled 1000-foot liner. However, early plans from Harland and Wolff's archives show a design drawn in 1927 for a four funnelled liner almost identical to the Olympic-class design except sporting a more modern cruiser stern.[7]

With the onset of the great depression the shipping lines were crippled. The completion of Cunard's Queen Mary was delayed for four years and in order to raise the funds to complete her the British government gave Cunard a loan on the condition that Cunard merge with White Star into a single British shipping line. Upon the merger into the Cunard-White Star Line the Oceanic, with only her keel laid, was abandoned. Had this 1927 design been realised she would have been the White Star Line's crowning achievement, a fourth Olympic-class liner over 1000 ft long and the last ocean liner to date to sport four funnels.[8]

Possible Future Four-funnel Liners[edit]

The Australian billionaire Clive Palmer is planning to make Titanic II, a replica of the RMS Titanic.[9] If this goproject was to go ahead as planned even though construction of the ship had not started by 2017 it would be a "four stacker" like the original. However, at least two of the funnels are planned to house observation decks and not serve any engineering function.

See also[edit]


  1. ^ a b "History of the Atlantic Cable & Submarine Telegraphy - Great Eastern". Retrieved 2011-07-05. 
  2. ^ a b c Ljungström, Henrik. "Kaiser Wilhelm der Grosse". The Great Ocean Liners. Retrieved 2008-09-08. 
  3. ^ a b c d e f g h i j k l m n o p Pocock, Michael. "The Four Funnel Liners". Retrieved 2008-09-08. 
  4. ^ Daniel (2007-05-21). "Titanic Station: Titanic's Funnels, or Smokestacks". Retrieved 2011-07-05. 
  5. ^ The 4 funnel liners. "The 4 funnel liners". Archived from the original on 2011-09-27. Retrieved 2011-07-05. 
  6. ^ Ljungström, Henrik. "Kronprinzessin Cecilie". The Great Ocean Liners. Retrieved 2008-09-08. [dead link]
  7. ^ Harland and Wolff 1927 four funnel liner plans
  8. ^ Edwards, Richard. "White Star line's proposed MV Oceanic III of 1928". Retrieved 2010-01-14. 
  9. ^ Calligeros, Marissa (30 April 2012). "Clive Palmer plans to build Titanic II". Sydney Morning Herald.