Ruahine III in Clydebank, Scotland

Tuesday, 21 April 2020

The fantastic photograph below, from my collection, was taken at the John Brown Shipyard, Clydebank, Scotland, c.1949. Thank you to Herb Ford, author of Pitcairn Island as a Port of Call for the following information:

This would have been Ruahine III (both I and II were built at a different yard – Wm. Denny & Bros, Dumbarton) and she was launched on December 11, 1950, so the photo would most likely have been taken in 1949, given the degree of completeness shown; can’t get closer to an exact date for you than that. 
Ruahine III made her maiden voyage from London to Wellington on May 22, 1951, after having been handed over to the New Zealand Shipping Company (which was then actually the New Zealand Shipping and Federal Steam Navigation Company) on May 3, 1951.
In 1968, after having been transferred to Federal ownership in 1967, she was sold to C. Y. Tung’s Orient Overseas Line, Hong Kong.  She was renamed Oriental Rio.  In 1969 she left Hong Kong on the Round the World Service. 
This great ship arrived at Kaohsiung for scrapping on December 31, 1973.







External link: The story of the Clyde Bank Shipyard

Two superb locomotive photographs

Thursday, 16 April 2020


The two photographs on this post are from two different countries, with rather different style steam locomotives, but with two proud crews posing in a similar way beside their machines.

In the first photograph, from the United States, this old Cabinet photograph shows the crew of the Pennsylvania Railroad's locomotive number 3117, circa 1920.


The photograph is 6 inches by 8 inches in size, and mounted on a large 8 inch by 11 inch card suitable for framing. It would seem strange to witness this kind of photograph being taken today beside a modern railway engine, but this quote, from the book Northwestern Pacific Railroad by Fred Codoni (Arcadia Publishing, ISBN 978-0738531212) explains the story behind my photographs rather well:

"… at a time when crews posing beside their iron steeds was not considered loafing. That was also an age when engineers and firemen were regularly assigned to one engine, and the men and "their" locomotives became very close."

I have found another copy of the American photograph online – click here – so I would imagine copies were made available to the crew.

My second photograph, from the UK's London Brighton and South Coast Railway (LB&SCR) was taken in Brighton in 1909 according to a hand written date on the back of this real photo postcard.


I was particularly taken with this Brighton photograph when I noticed that, with typical British humour, one of the crew is holding his oil can so that it would empty into the pocket of the unsuspecting man next to him!




Close look at an iceberg in 1915

Saturday, 11 April 2020

This remarkable photograph of an iceberg in the South Pacific Ocean was taken from the New Zealand Shipping Company's S.S. Remuera in July 1915. Considering that most passengers would have had vivid memories of the tragic sinking of the Titanic, which took place just three years earlier, it is rather surprising, and perhaps even foolhardy, that the Remuera steamed so close to this iceberg.


The above image has been scanned from a glass lantern slide, which could be projected using a 'Magic Lantern' projector. Magic Lanterns were the forerunners of 35mm slide projectors, and were in use from as early as the 17th century, up until the mid-20th century.



Icebergs were also very popular subjects for many of the real photo postcards that were sold to passengers making the journey to New Zealand from the UK. I have one such card, which was also photographed from the Remuera, in December 1913, less than two years after the Titanic disaster.

Several iceberg photo postcards are illustrated in my 2018 printed book, X8 - early New Zealand Shipping Company postcards and their photographers, which is available to purchase from this website: www.printerspie.co.uk/Books/Printed-Books/X8/X8.html

You can read more about the New Zealand Shipping Company on my other website: New Zealand Shipping Company records for genealogy

Fred Ransom's Spicy Paddle Steamer

Wednesday, 8 April 2020

I was very lucky to find this photograph for sale on eBay in 2017. I have a saved search for my surname, Ransom. On several occasions I have almost deleted the search because I seem to get mostly newspaper photographs involving kidnap victims through the ages. Fortunately, the vendor put my surname into the item's main heading as well as the description, and the item looked as if it might be interesting.

I discovered that my first cousin, three times removed, Frederick John Ransom, was born in April, 1841. Frederick's cousin, 19 years his junior, was my great grandfather, Horace Ransom. In partnership with J. F. D'Oyly, Frederick was associated with at least two Paddle Steamers. Their first was named Spicy, which, as the newspaper advertisement (complete with a small illustration of Spicy) from the Dorset County Chronicle and Somersetshire Gazette of 27th June, 1867, indicated, made regular crossings from Poole to Cherbourg and back.

Spicy had been built in Bristol in 1864 where this photograph was taken. Fortunately, someone has written, in pencil, on the back of the real photo postcard, the names "D'Oyly & Ransom", and also "Spicy", or I might never have found the image.



In 1869, the Paddle Steamer Eclair was purchased by the two men, and was regularly advertised in newspapers with her sister ship Spicy. Both steamers are mentioned in this advertisement from The Bideford Weekly Gazette, dated 20th December, 1870.

In 1875, Frederick married Harriet Ann Hart, the daughter of Henry Hart, a ship owner and agent from Bristol (whose name appears in the newspaper advertisements).

That some of these early steamers were quite comfortable to travel on is evidenced by the letter from a correspondent signing himself "D.A." in the Ilfracombe Chronicle of 1st June, 1872. He described with enthusiasm a voyage which he had made a few days previously on the new steamer Eclair, and said that they did the journey from Cumberland Basin, Bristol, to Ilfracombe, in four and three-quarter hours, including calls at Portishead and Clevedon, and that the catering was excellent, the menu for breakfast comprising Grilled chops in addition to bacon and eggs and other items.

This quote is taken from the website www.tour-devon.com which sadly appears to have been deleted but can still be found here on the Internet Archive's Wayback Machine. 

It is always exciting to get a glimpse into the life of a distant ancestor, but in this case my time travelling feels incomplete. I have a yearning to find out more about Frederick, and would love to journey on one of his steamers and enjoy those bacon and eggs!
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