RMS Persia

Persia was a British passenger liner operated by the Cunard Line that won the Blue Riband in 1856 for the fastest westbound transatlantic voyage.[1] She was the first Atlantic record breaker constructed of iron and was the largest ship in the world at the time of her launch.[1][2][3] However, the inefficiencies of paddle wheel propulsion rendered Persia obsolete and she was taken out of service in 1868 after only twelve years. Attempts to convert Persia to sail were unsuccessful and the former pride of the British merchant marine was scrapped in 1872.[4]

Rms persia.jpg
Cunard's Persia of 1856
Civil Ensign of the United KingdomUnited Kingdom
OwnerCunard Line
RouteAtlantic crossing.
BuilderRobert Napier and Sons, Glasgow
Launched25 July 1855
Maiden voyage26 January 1856
FateTaken out of service 1868, scrapped 1872
General characteristics
Tonnage3300 grt
Length398 ft (121 m)
Beam45 ft (14 m)
Installed power1 × 2-cylinder side-lever steam engine with 100 inch bore and 10 ft stroke
Sail plan2 masts

Development and designEdit

As a result of competition from the Collins Line, Cunard ordered the Arabia in 1852 to retake the Atlantic records. Arabia crammed more powerful engines into a smaller ship than the Collins speedsters, and touched 15 knots on trials. However, she proved too powerful for her wooden construction and was unable to win the records. Cunard realized that in the future, new construction must include an iron hull.[4]

For Persia, Robert Napier and Sons of Glasgow designed an iron ship that was 16% larger than the wooden Collins liners and 50% larger than Cunard's Arabia.[4] Her two-cylinder side-lever engine produced 3,600 horsepower (2,700 kW) and consumed 145 long tons (147 t) of coal per day. Persia's launch in July 1855 was a national event and she touched 17 knots (31 km/h) on her trials, although her normal service speed was limited to 13 knots (24 km/h) because of her high fuel consumption. She carried 250 first class and 50 second class passengers.

Service historyEdit

On her maiden voyage in 1856, Persia struck an iceberg, but was saved by her clipper bow and the stoutness of her construction.[5] In April, she took the Atlantic speed records in both directions with an eastbound voyage of 9 days, 10 hours, 22 minutes (13.46 knots (24.93 km/h)) and a westbound voyage of 9 days, 16 hours, 16 minutes (13.11 knots (24.28 km/h)). She held both records until 1863 when Cunard commissioned the Scotia, the last paddle wheel Atlantic record holder.[1] Scotia was originally intended to be Persia's sister, but was delayed when the Collins Line collapsed.[5] When Scotia was finally built, she was a larger edition of Persia with an extra deck and power.[4]

In 1861, during the Trent incident, Persia and several other liners were chartered to rush troops to Canada. She was the only ship to reach Quebec before ice closed the St. Lawrence River.[5] The next year, Cunard commissioned the SS China, its first mail liner with screw propulsion. She proved substantially more profitable than Cunard's mail paddle steamers and the firm quickly ordered two additional screw mail ships to retire the last wooden paddle steamers on the New York express route.[4]

Persia remained paired with Scotia on the New York route until 1867 when Cunard commissioned the Russia, the first screw Cunarder that could match Scotia's speed. Because of her fuel consumption, Persia was not a good fit for the other Cunard services and was laid up in 1868. Her engines were removed and she was sold to MacArthur and Wilson of Glasgow for conversion to sail. However, the conversion didn't take place and Persia was sold for scrap in 1872.[5]


  1. ^ a b c Othfors, Daniel. "Persia 1856 - 1872". thegreatoceanliners.com. Retrieved 17 October 2009. By 1855, the new liner was nearing completion. She was launched and christened Persia a few months before she set out on her maiden voyage from Liverpool to New York on January 26, 1856. Three months later she had captured the Blue Riband of the Atlantic for Cunard. As Persia was the largest vessel in the world at the time, Cunard had now totally surpassed the Collins Line. ... As late as 1863, the Persia lost the Blue Riband in both directions to her sister – the last paddle steamer Scotia.
  2. ^ "S/S Persia, Cunard Line". norwayheritage.com. Retrieved 17 October 2009. This leviathan vessel, the largest steam-ship afloat in the world - far exceeding in length, strength, tonnage, and steam-power the Great Britain...
  3. ^ "Cunard History at a Glance" (PDF). Cunard Line & Redpoint Marketing PR. Retrieved 17 October 2009. 1856 — The famous Persia is built, the company’s first iron-hulled transatlantic vessel. The largest ship in the world at the time, she was 390 feet long and 3,330 gross registered tons.
  4. ^ a b c d e Gibbs, C. R. 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.
  5. ^ a b c d Kludas, Arnold (1999). Record breakers of the North Atlantic, Blue Riband Liners 1838-1953. London: Chatham.

External linksEdit

Preceded by
Holder of the Blue Riband (Westbound record)
1856 - 1863
Succeeded by
Preceded by
Blue Riband (Eastbound record)
1856 - 1863