The Guion Line Steamship Alaska

By James Donahue

There have been several vessels that carried the name Alaska over the years. This particular vessel was built by Scottish shipbuilders in Glasgow for the Guion Line of Liverpool and was destined to be the first steamship to cross the Atlantic in less than seven days.

Launched in 1881, the Alaska was a 500-foot-long iron hulled vessel designed for both passenger and freight service on the Atlantic run between Liverpool, Queenstown and New York.

This ship crossed the Atlantic from Sandy Hook to Queenstown in six days, 18 hours and 37 minutes, thus becoming the first vessel to make the crossing in less than seven days at sea. That was very good speed for a heavy iron vessel with a single screw.

The Alaska’s profile included two funnels and four masts rigged for sail. The funnels on the Guion steamships were black with a broad red band near the top.

The Alaska was one of a fleet of 15 steamships owned and operated by the line. Many of the ships bore the names of States of the Union.

The name Guion was a common name for the steamship line. The company’s official name was the Liverpool & Great Western Steamship Company Limited. The company was founded by Guion & Co. in 1866, and that name stuck, probably because it was short and easy to remember. The line operated until 1894 when it went out of business.

The Alaska made her last voyage in April, 1894 and then was moored up in Gareloch for three years. In 1897 she was chartered to Cia Trasatlantica of Spain and renamed Magallanes. She was operated by that line for about a year before it was laid up once more in the Clyde River.

The ship was sold for scrap in 1899, but then had a brief new lease on life when it was resold and used as an accommodation ship at Borrow, England, until 1902. It was scrapped after that.

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