SS City of Brussels

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Coordinates: 53°33′50″N 3°32′31″W / 53.564°N 3.542°W / 53.564; -3.542

Career (UK) Civil Ensign of the United Kingdom
Name: City of Brussels
Owner: Inman Line
Route: Atlantic crossing.
Builder: Tod and Macgregor, Partick, Glasgow
Launched: August 11, 1869
Fate: Lost January 7, 1883 after collision in the Mersey
General characteristics
Type: Steamship
Tonnage: 3100 tons
Length: 390 feet (120 m)
Beam: 40 feet (12 m)
Sail plan: 3 masts

City of Brussels was a British passenger liner that set the record for the fastest Atlantic eastbound voyage in 1869, becoming the first record breaker driven by a screw. Built by Tod and Macgregor, she served the Inman Line until 1883 when she sank with the loss of ten people after a collision while entering the Mersey.[1]

Development and design

In 1866, Inman commissioned City of Paris, which was the equal of the best steamers in the Cunard express mail fleet. The next year, responsibility for mail contracts was transferred from the Admirality to the Post Office and opened for bid. Inman was awarded one of the three weekly New York mail services and the fortnightly route to Halifax, Nova Scotia formerly held by Cunard.[2] These contracts enabled Inman to continuing building its own fleet of express liners.[1]

City of Brussels was designed as the partner for City of Paris, and as built carried 200 first class and 600 steerage. She had a ratio of length to beams of 9.5:1, making her almost the first "long boat". Another innovation was her steam steering gear, which was the first installed on a liner after the Great Eastern.[1]

Service history

In her first year of service, City of Brussels took the eastbound record with a New York - Queenstown passage of 7 days, 20 hours, 33 minutes (14.74 knots).[3] However, in 1870 she demonstrated the problem with single screw liners of this power when she lost her propeller and returned to Queenstown by sail.[1]

Three years after she was commissioned, City of Brussels returned to the ship yard for an extra deck and other modifications to bring her into line with the innovative ships built for the new White Star Line. She emerged with a revised tonnage of 3750. In 1876, she was re-engined with compounds that reduced her coal consumption from 110 tons per day to 65 tons. At this time she received a second funnel. However, these modifications did not resolve the problem with her shaft. On April 23, 1877 her shaft broke, and she again returned to port under sail after being posted as overdue.[1]

On January 7, 1883, City of Brussels found herself in heavy fog entering the Mersey after dropping off passengers at Queenstown on her return from New York. Her captain ordered the ship to stop until the weather cleared. The Kirby Hall, a new cargo ship being delivered with a minimum crew, proceeded without heeding the danger, and struck City of Brussels, almost cutting her in two. City of Brussels sank within 20 minutes with a loss of ten.[1]

In 1984, the wreck of the City of Brussels was found by Wirral Sub-Aqua Club at 24 metres of water, just off the Mersey Bar. The bell from the wreck was brought up that day, although its whereabouts are presently unknown.[4]

Preceded by
Atlantic Eastbound Record
1869 - 1873
Succeeded by


  1. 1.0 1.1 1.2 1.3 1.4 1.5 Gibbs, C. R. Vernon (1957). Passenger Liners of the Western Ocean: A Record of Atlantic Steam and Motor Passenger Vessels from 1838 to the Present Day. John De Graff. 
  2. Bacon, Edwin M. (1911). Manual of Ship Subsidies. 
  3. Kludas, Arnold (1999). Record breakers of the North Atlantic, Blue Riband Liners 1838-1953. London: Chatham. 
  4. "UK Diving". Retrieved 2009-09-30. 

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