06 December 2011

Viking model at Forum Marinum, 13 August 2011


IMO 5380302
Built 1924, William Denny & Bros Ltd. Dumbarton, Scotland, United Kingdom
Tonnage 1 761 GRT
Length 99,05 m
Width 12,44 m
Draugth 3,80 m
900 passengers
85 cars and three trucks
4 William Denny & Bros steam turbines, combined 3 935 horsepower
Speed 18 knots

In honour of the Finnish independence day today I decided it might be prudent to post something slightly different from the usual. "But what is this British-built Viking you're talking about?" you might ask. The Viking, originally Southern Railways' English Channel ferry Dinard was the first car-passenger ferry to sail between Southern Finland and Sweden. It was this little second-hand ferry that started the ferry phenomenon that eventually resulted in the giant cruise ship -like giants that sail between Finland and Sweden today.

The Dinard was built for Southern Railway in 1924, originally as a pure passenger steamer. She was placed on the Southampton-St. Malo service. During World War II she sailed as a hospital ship for the Royal Navy. After the war she was redelivered to her owners and converted to carry cars - but these had to be lifted on and off the ship with a crane. Following the nationalisation of Britain's railroads in 1948 her owners became the British Transport Commission. In 1952 the Dinard was fitted with a stern gate and hence became a proper car ferry. In 1958 she was withdrawn from regular service.

At the time the Dinard was withdrawn, the Finnish sea captain Gunnar Eklund was looking for a ro-ro ferry to use on services between Finland and Sweden. At the time the routes were a virtual monopoly of long-established players operating a joint service, and these companies had little interest in the new-fangled invention of the car ferry. Eklund saw a market opening and with the help of his friend and former crewmate Henning Rundberg acquired the Dinard for £ 30 000 (a third of what the owners were originally asking).

Eklund and Rundbergs' company was named Rederi Ab Vikinglinjen and the ship Viking. She recieved a blue hull and funnel symbols with a stylified viking ship on them, and in June 1959 entered service on the Korppoo-Mariehamn-Gräddö -route. For the 1960 season the Swedish port was changed to Kapellskär and for the 1962 season the Finnish mainland port to Parainen. In 1963 Eklund had a falling out with Rundberg and the majority of shereholders in Vikinglinjen. Resultingly Eklund left to form a competing ferry operator, Rederi Ab Ålandfärjan.

Three years later the rival companies reconciled and - together with Rederi AB Slite - formed a joint marketing company Viking Line. To avoid confusion Rederi Ab Vikinglinjen was now restyled as Rederi Ab Solstad. Now the Viking was repainted with a red hull that became the joint company's trademark, but her funnels (like those of all early Viking Line steamers) were painted light yellow, not red/white. In 1967 the Finnish mainland port of the Viking (and other Viking Line ships) changed again, with the route now becoming the "definite" Naantali-Mariehamn-Kapellskär.

In 1970 the Viking was replaced by the new purpose-built Viking 1 and laid up at Mariehamn. In 1973 she was scrapped at Katajanokka, Helsinki, not far from the present-day Viking Line terminal.

The photograph below shows a model of the Viking on display at the Forum Marinum maritime museum in Turku, Finland on 13 August 2011. It was displayed as a part of the exhibition Our Road is The Sea, produced in collaboration with the Åland maritime museum. The exhibition has since ended and the model returned to the Åland maritime museum. Please note that the model is somewhat inaccurate, particularly regarding the parts below the waterline.

Click on the image to see it in larger size.

Obviously the model is a tiny thing, but so was the original ship, at least when compared to the large cruiseferries of today. Yet at the time the small Viking was a brave step for her owners.

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