Tuesday, February 15, 2011

The Queen Mary, Long Beach

The Cunard Line's "Queen Mary" sailed the seas from 1936 through 1967, setting a few speed records for crossing the Atlantic, as well as ferrying troops during WWII (painted battleship gray). By the 1960's, her future was uncertain; but the city of Long Beach, California put in a successful bid to keep the ship and renovate it as a tourist destination.

Here's a neat photo from December 1968, showing the QM in Long Beach more than two years before she would reopen for guests. As you can see, her familiar three-funnel silhouette has been altered; the funnels were removed to facilitate the removal of the forward engine room, the boilers, both generator rooms, and the water softening plant - basically everything below "C" deck. It turned out that the funnels were mostly rusted out, and only held together by many coats of paint, so replicas had to be manufactured.

To keep the ship stable, large quantities of mud were pumped into the now-empty lower portions! Did you know that the Queen Mary was offically deemed a building and not a ship by the U.S. Coast Guard, since her propellers and machinery were removed?

This photo was taken 8 years later. Permanent gangways were built (visible to the left) so that you wouldn't have to be flung aboard via a giant slingshot. We can also see an ocean, but I forget which one. Who can keep track! See that oil tanker? It's actually a whale, able to appear as an oil tanker in order to protect itself in the wild. Nature is magical.

Too bad you nobody is standing next to this propeller, it's hard to tell how big it is; the average person's head would not have reached the bottom of the lower blades. Anyway, the QM had four of those babies. There used to be a large tank on board the ship, like a giant swimming pool, and you could look down in it to see another propeller.

I've got more Queen Mary photos to share!


TokyoMagic! said...

Would love to see more Queen Mary pics, Major! I have a similar shot of my brother and me in front of the Queen Mary, but the funnels are present. I think it was taken shortly after she arrived in Long Beach. I have a few more of us in front of a battleship or warship of some sort that docked in Long Beach and was open to the public. That may be it in the background of your first pic. I need to go look for those pics!

Connie Moreno said...

Like Tokyo, I've got some shots to share, too. Gotta scan them. But first, I need to find out if I went to the same Queen Mary because I don't remember an ocean being nearby. I remember rocks and lots of sand...and Bigfoot.

stu29573 said...

One of my fondest memories of the QM is eating a blueberry icecream sundae in the lounge. Very cool experience for a third grader! I still have my ceramic QM bank proudly sailing on my book shelf after 40 years!

JG said...

Oh, wonderful memories. We went here several times in my youth. I remember the swimming pool propellor, it gave me vertigo to look in the pool, it was so big.

The old guest rooms were actually turned into a hotel. We stayed for a night just for fun, it was crazy expensive and miserably tiny, but we could say we did it.

The tub taps had faucets to supply cold sea water, so you could have a salt water bath if cared to...of course, only available when at sea.

Interesting to hear about the mud. I hope this attraction is still prospering.

More pics, please, if you have them.


Katella Gate said...

In the second photograph, the farthest lot is for the tour guides and staff. "My" spot was three stalls down from the blue car and the other side of the aisle.

I have no idea why that lot is empty, I'm pretty sure the tour was always a 7 day a week operation by this time (1976).

By the way, we used to call that concourse the "overpass"... and it's a great example of how not to design something. It completely blocks the view of the ship.

Or at least it used to. They tore it down several years ago.

walterworld said...

My wife and I stayed on the QM in 2003; the propeller box was still in place and open.

The Observation Bar in the front of the ship was an amazing spot to have a few martini's prior to dinner!

So much history, I ran out of time expolring before it was time to leave then next morning. It is an Art Deco masterpiece!

The room was indeed small but it was surreal to stick your neck out the porthole towards Long Beach with the water 50-60 feet below...

Unfortunately, they ruined too much of the original decor in the original conversion, and restoration is prohibitively expensive.

More Queen Mary pics please Major!!

Chuck said...

I seem to remember a mannequin of a guy in a deep-water diving suit standing on the propeller in the tank to give an idea of scale. Either that or they had an employee whose job was to put on a deep-water diving suit and stand down there motionless.

Anybody else remember the Queen Mary propeller that was (and maybe still is) on display at the Disneyland Hotel?

nicole audrey said...

How was water pumped into the pool, being it was drained daily?

Major Pepperidge said...

nicole, why do you think the pool was drained daily?

Katella Gate said...

Hi Nicole, I used to be the curator on board back before the flood... The pool was drained at least once, and sometimes several times a day to keep the water fresh.

Usually they diverted some warm sea water used to cool the engines' condensers: the pipes and pumps involved were unusually large and it didn't take to long to do so.

However, sometimes this engine-warmed water wasn't available... then they would use a much smaller pump and heater. That took forever and was only used as a last resort.

Major Pepperidge said...

Katella Gate, wow, that is some great information! I never knew about those details - or I probably learned it on a tour as a kid, and it was "in one ear and out the other"! Thanks.