Great Western

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With the Sirius, the first paddle steamer to compete to establish a regular mail and passenger route across the North Atlantic. Unlike the Sirius, she was specially designed for the task by Isambard Kingdom Brunel; and on her maiden voyage she arrived at New York on 23 April 1838, fifteen days out from Bristol, having made an average speed of 8 knots. Although she started three days before the Sirius she arrived at New York only four hours after her. Built of wood, she was 72 metres (236 ft) long and of 1,321 tons burthen. Half her interior space was taken up by her four boilers and the two-cylinder Maudslay side lever engine which drove her paddle wheels. On this trip 24 first-class passengers paid a fare of 35 guineas each, but she later carried up to 148 passengers. The most important aspect of her passage was that she still had 40 tons of coal remaining in her bunkers when she reached New York, proving that the old problem of carrying sufficient fuel for long voyages was easily solved with proper ship design. She was broken up in 1856, one of her last tasks being to transport troops to the Crimean War (1854–6).

Subjects: Maritime History.

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