If you don't know what this is, you've never lived or been visiting long enough in Los Angeles or you don't know anything about the grand ocean liners of the North Atlantic. The RMS Queen Mary is one of the world's most famous ocean liners. Built for the Cunard-White Star Line by John Brown & Co. in Clydebank, Scotland in 1932-1934. She had her maiden voyage in May 1936. She was the first ship built for either the Cunard (Traditionally, their ships ended in "-ia") or the White Star (Their's ended in "-ic") Line that did not carry the traditional endings. She was built as part of a 2 ship service across the Atlantic between New York City, and Southampton and is noted for her foredeck...a tribute to past liners.

The Queen Mary was the pride of the British merchant marine and during the few years before the war broke out, held a friendly rivalry for the Blue Riband between the French Line's Normandie. Her interiors were done with great care, and in the dining room, there is a beautifully drawn map and when she was in service, one could watch the Queen Mary's progress across the North Atlantic as a bright glass piece as well as that of the Queen Elizabeth.

When World War II broke out, she sat idle for 2-3 years before being stripped bare and becoming a troopship for the United States Navy during that time, her sister ship the Queen Elizabeth made her secret maiden voyage across the Atlantic. Her nickname in the war was the "Grey Ghost" for she was painted in the drab gray, that warships are, but also because she was never every fired upon by any enemy vessel. However, there was once bizzare incident in which she accidentally sliced in half her own escort, the HMS Curacao. In September of 1946, she was decommissioned from war service.

In first decade or so of the post-war years where the best for the the sister ships. But as the 1960s saw the rise of faster more efficient planes, the useage of ships quickly fell. In September 1964, the Queen Mary made her last voyage...to Long Beach. Earlier she had been purchased by the oil rich city as a floating resort of sorts. So she remains to this day. Her sister ship was to have a similar fate on the east coast, but alas, it failed, and in the 1970s she was bought out by C.Y. Tung as a floating university, but on a party celebrating her near-renovation...a kitchen caught fire and she capsized. A tragic end for one of the world's last great ocean liners.


Queen Mary, Queen Consort of George V

Born in 1867, Her Serene Highness Princess Victoria Mary of Teck was the daughter of HRH Princess Mary Adelaide of Cambridge, first cousin of Queen Victoria, and of HSH The Duke of Teck, a member of the Royal House of Wurttemburg. She grew up in Society as a relatively minor princess in London, being both of low rank and of somewhat limited marriage prospects. She married HRH Prince George, Duke of York in 1893 after having been engaged to his older brother, HRH The Duke of Clarence and Avondale, who had died before the marriage could take place. She became Princess of Wales in 1901, Queen Consort in 1911, and Queen Dowager or Queen Mother in 1936. She died in 1953, having outlived her husband and three of her sons.

It is Queen Mary who is often credited with creating the modern monarch of handbags and ribbons. In Queen Victoria's day, the monarch's main duties were associated with the government; attending functions and charity events were not activites which Victoria relished, especially during the first 10 years of her widowhood. Queen Mary was probably the first British royal to fill her days with events, as Elizabeth II does today. Queen Mary also may be responsible for the notion that royals are stiff, cold people, since Queen Victoria and her successor, Edward VII, were both passionate people with tendencies toward outburst. (Queen Alexandra, Edward VII's consort, was a kind-hearted fashion plate who today might be described as "blonde.")

Queen Mary was the last Queen Consort to be born royal. She was also the last to be born in the 19th century.

When it was built in April 1954, the Pennsylvania Railroad's single class FD2 flatcar was the largest freightcar in the world, and although it never bore the name officially, it was known universally as the Queen Mary, after the giant ocean liner of course.

Its design capacity was a load of half a million pounds (250 tons, or 227 tonnes), and the car itself weighed slightly more than that, at 500,400 lbs. Its total loaded weight of over a million pounds was equivalent to that of the largest steam locomotives.

The intended use of such a giant freightcar was to haul heavy power generating equipment, specifically fully assembled turbo-generators for power plants. Most of the manufacturers of such heavy equipment in the United States at that time resided in the Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania area, on PRR tracks, and the railroad intended to capture such lucrative traffic.

Such generators are large as well as heavy, and to fit one inside the restricted loading gauge of the railroad, the car had to be a depressed center flatcar - a low platform (27 feet long, 8.23 metres) suspended between the front and rear trucks, 40 inches above rail level. At each end, the curving-up ends coming up from the load platform rested on the center pivot of a long span bolster which linked together two eight-wheel trucks, one pivoted at each end of the bolster. The trucks were reclaimed from the tenders of scrapped T1 class steam locomotives, and being built for the heavy load of fuel and water that a locomotive tender had to carry, were more than up to the task. Sixteen axles gave the car a tremendous load-carrying ability. The center body, pivot to pivot, was almost 74 feet (22.5 metres) long and the car overall was 124 feet (38.8 metres) long.

Only one was built, but in 1960 the car gained a dual identity, when another body was built to fit on the trucks and bolsters of the FD2. Classified FW1, this body was a well flatcar - a body with a large well, or hole, in the center. This opening was 42 feet (12.8 metres) long. Well flats were used to carry items that were narrow but tall, frequently items mounted on an axle, such as flywheels or turbines. The carbody was actually produced by United Engineering for use with one of their loads, and after they had delivered the item, the body was sold to the PRR.

It is not known what happened to the FW1 body, or whether it passed to Penn Central and thence to Conrail, but the FD2 body definitely did. In PRR service it was numbered PRR 470245, while the Penn Central gave it PC 766163 and for Conrail it was 766163 also. The car was withdrawn from service in the 1990s and donated to the Altoona Railroaders Memorial Museum in Altoona, Pennsylvania where it exists to this day.

Since then, of course, larger freightcars have been built, but none is as well known as the PRR's Queen Mary was among railfans. This may be because the Queen Mary was such a giant leap forward in comparison to previous designs, and featured in several Pennsylvania Railroad newspaper and magazine advertisements.

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