Great Eastern (1858); Passenger vessel; Liner

Scale: 1:44. A contemporary full hull model of the `Great Eastern’ (1858) a transatlantic passenger ship. Model is decked, fully rigged and complete with a working steam engine internally. The model has been built with three removable sections of decking to allow access to the working engine. The rigging, which is largely a modern replacement, has restricted the removal of the decking and as such, a full inspection of the engine, which is thought to be contemporary, has been limited. The paddle wheels on either side of the hull rotate on a crankshaft, which has been disconnected from the main engine.

Originally designed by Isambard Kingdom Brunel as a passenger ship, the ‘Great Eastern’ was built at John Scott Russell’s yard on the Thames at Millwall, and after many technical difficulties, was finally launched 31 January 1858. Measuring 692 feet in length by 83 feet in the beam and a tonnage of 18,915, it was the largest ship in the world and would not be surpassed in length until 1899 by the SS ‘Oceanic’.

Although this ship was considered as groundbreaking in many ways, an iron doubled-bottomed hull driven by sail, screw and paddles, it was a commercial failure as a passenger ship. After being laid up in 1864, it was sold for $25,000 to a cable laying company based at Greenwich, London, and converted as a cable layer.

It was this part of its career that was the most successful as from 1865 to 1872 that its laid four telegraph cables across the Atlantic as well as others linking Bombay to Aden. For the next 12 years the ‘Great Eastern’ was laid up and eventually hired for advertising the Lewis’s department store in Liverpool. From there it undertook several rather unsuccessful trips to Dublin and the Clyde after which it was broken up, a process that took 200 men nearly two years to complete by 1890.

There are two other models in the collection of this ship, a diorama showing the building of her (SLR0904) and another full hull model showing her as a cable layer (SLR2146).

Object Details

ID: SLR0901
Collection: Ship models
Type: Full hull model; Rigged model
Display location: Not on display
Creator: Unknown
Vessels: Great Eastern (1858)
Date made: circa 1858
Credit: National Maritime Museum, Greenwich, London
Measurements: Overall model: 535 mm x 1525 mm x 13 kg
Parts: Great Eastern (1858); Passenger vessel; Liner

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