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Old 05-22-2020, 10:41 AM
Mark Finn is offline
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Passenger ship terminal buildings....


During the heyday of trans-Atlantic ocean crossings, many shipping lines had their own piers in New York.

With the exception of the Chelsea Piers (which gradually became obsolete when they couldn't hold the new, longer liners) - the terminal buildings appear to be no more than boring brick structures. Did none of the lines want to build imposing structures to rival Grand Central to welcome departing and arriving passengers?

But unlike railways - the ship terminals had to include massive baggage services (think of the trunks people were taking to Europe), be able to process 1000 to 2000 passengers, as well as immigration and Customs (were the latter all handled at the terminal with the exception of those who had to be processed at Ellis Island?).

What sort of layout would these buildings had? Not necessarily separate levels for arrivals/departures, since usually a ship didn't arrive and depart the same day - although there might have been two (e.g.) Cunard ships in port at the same time and same pier. Any kind of lounges - especially for first-class passengers? How about in other ports? Europe, Asia, West coast US?

(I remember seeing family off on a ship - and we were allowed on board, and able to explore the ship, until the whistle blew - signalling an imminent departure, and that the gangway would be lifted soon.)
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Old 05-22-2020, 11:22 AM
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I presume a ship would be available for boarding for a day or longer, and passengers would have a cabin, not just a chair; so no reason to linger in the terminal the way there was with trains. Come on in, check the tickets, up the gangplank with you...
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Old 05-22-2020, 11:35 AM
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At least according to the Ellis Island tour, if you were in First Class or Second Class, you waited on the ship in your stateroom and immigration officers came onboard to process you. Only Third Class (aka steerage) passengers went through Ellis Island. So I'm guessing maybe it worked the same way after Ellis Island closed -- First Class passengers got to be processed onboard the ship, and only the lower class passengers had to spend time in the terminal, thus no reason to make the terminal fancy.
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Old 05-22-2020, 04:49 PM
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There were probably lots of functional constraints that stopped them being able to design elegant and expansive buildings in the way that airport passenger terminals became opportunities for great architecture and design.

The Overseas Passenger Terminal at Sydney was interesting architecturally in its way, but after immigration by boat declined was chopped up into a much smaller building that served cruise ships adequately, so customs and immigration controls took up a lot of operational space.
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Old 05-22-2020, 06:10 PM
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Ocean Terminal, Southampton Docks, sadly long gone now, was an art deco building designed and built in the 1950s specifically for the transatlantic liners. It incorporated a rail terminus so that passengers could catch a train directly from London to their liner.

https://www.flickr.com/photos/36844288@N00/15628545949
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Old 05-22-2020, 06:57 PM
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Port districts are historically cheap and ratty, and mostly not the kind of place you would want to put an expensive building. Expensive buildings go further up hill, or, in many historical river ports, have been wiped out by storms or floods.

My city, Melbourne, never had the Gilded Age or the Roaring Twenties, but I would say that, within the available constraints, they did their best to make Station Pier attractive.

Sydney.Australia has a deep water harbor, and did land reclamation in order to have a Terminal on land, with deep onshore water. They were quite pleased with their steel and concrete terminal when it was built.

Melbourne has a bay, with what used to be a river swamp. There weren't big imposing buildings built on the reclaimed swamp land: even now it's expensive to do so. We have a pier, with a rather light-weight structure on it. Like most such piers, it was a mixed-use terminal, so when you're looking at it, you're seeing both a passenger terminal and an industrial rail yard. Like any/most passenger terminals at the time, the passenger level was above the freight level, but I remember it having the cheap feel of an airport: they tried to make it look nice, but fundamentally it was a cheap light-weight building.

Ocean buildings are exposed to the weather and to the seawater, and generally don't last very long. And ocean transport underwent a couple of revolutions between 1850 and 1950. I read about old docks and piers, and they've been abandoned, destroyed, or rebuilt. In Melbourne there were Gold Rush buildings built further up the river, at the old port, (upstream of the swampland and on the high side of the river), but the port moved farther and farther down river and out to sea as the ships got bigger.
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Old 05-26-2020, 07:33 AM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Melbourne View Post
Port districts are historically cheap and ratty, and mostly not the kind of place you would want to put an expensive building. Expensive buildings go further up hill, or, in many historical river ports, have been wiped out by storms or floods.
More specifically, New York was I believe the busiest port in the Americas during the the "liner heyday" period. So the entire waterfront from the east river round to well up the Hudson side was an all-day every-day heaving packed mass of labouring stevedores, carts, cranes, cars, trains, piles of goods and coal, loitering day labourers, hawkers, mobsters, urchins, beggars, crew bosses, etc etc etc.

That meant that not only were the surroundings kind of down-market for the fancy types, but any real estate used for nice showing-off buildings wasn't being used for grimy money-earning buildings. And at least in those days it wasn't really practical to stack these different kinds of waterfront buildings on top of each other.

I love these kind of articles https://www.6sqft.com/peeling-away-t...-banana-docks/ which not only give you a view of how things used to work in the allegedly good old days but also give you insights into how the slippery banana peel became such a staple of the cartoons and B&W slapstick movies.
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Old 05-26-2020, 10:08 AM
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If I remember it correctly, the movie Titanic -which was in many was a stickler for historic accuracy - showed the first class driving their cars 9or taxis) right up to the gangplank, so I assume no loitering in a terminal building was necessary for them.

Which brings up the other question - what was the arrangement for luggage? I assume third class would have everything in one suitcase which went with them to their tny cabin. Did first class keep all their luggage, or were there huge trunks that go put in cargo, and maybe one or two trunks went to the cabin for the necessities of the week at sea? What about second class?

The upper class passengers arriving probably went direct to taxi (or limo) and let the grunts take care of unloading and forwarding their luggage tot he destination. So, no standing around in a terminal waiting for your luggage to come off the carousel - it was all done by workers if you were rich, and you already had your luggage with you if you were poor. I'm also guessing that the people who went on from ship to train went immediately to the train station...or spent the night in a hotel before carrying on; not like airports today where people get off one airplane and walk to the next one departing within an hour or two of arrival.
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Old 05-26-2020, 05:48 PM
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As far as luggage goes, the porters would take care of it. Even today, when you board a cruise ship, you hand over everything except hand luggage to the porters. It appears in your cabin sometime later. When you disembark, you put your cases in the passageway outside the cabin before you go to bed. When you leave the ship, you will find them lined up ashore in the baggage hall.

Back in the day, an upper-class passenger could hand their luggage over to the porters at Waterloo Station. Cases and trunks would be labelled "Wanted" or "Not wanted" on voyage and it would not be seen until it arrived in the cabin or at the destination quayside. A lady travelling first-class from Southampton to New York would have a lot of luggage. She would need at least five evening dresses, plus suitable attire for other times of the day. Gentlemen had it easier as one or two dinner suits would probably suffice, together with day clothes.

Last edited by bob++; 05-26-2020 at 05:49 PM.
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Old 05-27-2020, 06:16 AM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by slaphead View Post
I love these kind of articles https://www.6sqft.com/peeling-away-t...-banana-docks/ which not only give you a view of how things used to work in the allegedly good old days but also give you insights into how the slippery banana peel became such a staple of the cartoons and B&W slapstick movies.
It talks, for some reason, about unloading bushels of bananas, but the picture clearly shows the men each carrying a bunch of bananas. A lot of people who've only seen bananas in hands from boxes won't ever have seen a banana bunch in real life.

Fails to mention the other fun fact: the Big Mike actually had a banana peel that was slippery.
  #11  
Old 05-27-2020, 10:54 AM
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George Vanderbilt and his wife had a close call when they changed their plans to travel on the Titanic to take an earlier ship. Their luggage and one of their servants wasn't so lucky. From Wikipedia:
Quote:
In 1912, George and Edith booked passage on the Titanic, but changed their plans at the last minute, instead sailing on her sister ship, the Olympic. The Olympic left port before Titanic and the Vanderbilts arrived in New York before the sinking. Edith, in a letter to her friend, Emily Ford Skeel (sister of Paul Leicester Ford), explained: "For no reason whatsoever we decided to sail on the Olympic and had only 18 hours to get ready in. We were homesick, and simply felt we must get home, and changed our ship, as I say, at the Eleventh hour!" However, a servant to the Vanderbilts, Frederick Wheeler, perished aboard Titanic in second class as, due to the close timing of their switch, the Vanderbilts were forced to leave most of their luggage aboard Titanic and Wheeler retained his ticket to travel with it.
This indicates that for the very well off luggage wasn't something you just dropped off with porters when you boarded, but took some advanced planning to get onto the ship. I get the feeling the Vanderbilts didn't travel light...
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