Ships 2

City of Glasgow

Ships 3

City of Glasgow

First Propeller-Driven Liner City of Glasgow

By James Donahue

The City of Glasgow was not a large ship and it only survived four years before disappearing forever somewhere in the middle of the Atlantic with 480 passengers and crew. But she went down in history for several reasons.

The 227-foot-long iron hulled steamer in 1850 was said to have been the first propeller-driven liner built for trans-Atlantic service, thus replacing the old paddle-wheeled steamships of that day. She was built by Tod & Macgregor of Partick, Glasgow, and became the first steamship to sail from Glasgow to New York when it made its maiden voyage.

After four successful crossing the City of Glasgow was sold to the Liverpool, Philadelphia and New York Steamship Company, which later became the famed Inman Line. This line was operating small sailing ships at the time, so this was the company’s first recorded steamship. It carried 44 first class and 85 second class passengers and had space for 1,200 tons of cargo in her hold.

The ship’s iron hull proved that steamships could operate profitably without government subsidy. Its iron hull reduced the repair costs constantly incurred by wooden-hulled steamships.

Typical of early steamships of the period, the City of Glasgow also was equipped with three masts so could be operated under sail in the event of an engine breakdown at sea. While not as large, many of the ideas used in the design were copied from Isambard Brunel’s pioneering Great Britain, built in 1845.

The City of Glasgow was in immediate competition with Cunard’s Asia, the fastest liner on the North Atlantic in 1850. While its two lever-beam engines of 350 horsepower moved the iron ship along at a modest 9.5 knots, and it took over 14 days to cross, the vessel’s coal consumption was only 20 tons per day. The Asia swallowed 76 tons a day when it raced its way to New York. Thus the City of Glasgow needed less room for coal storage, and had more room for cargo. All of this explained why the ship operated at a profit.

In 1852 the company refitted the City of Glasgow to accommodate an additional 400 third class passengers below deck, thus trading cargo space to enter the immigrant trade. This is why the ship was carrying an estimated 480 souls when it left Liverpool on New Year’s Day, 1854, on its final voyage. It was never heard of again.

It was reported that a portion of the bow of a ship with the name City of Glasgow washed ashore near Campbeltown in October, 1854. Since the hull was made of iron, the story probably is not true.