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Turning Turbo-Electric

‘We have a steamer now under construction…she is to be turbo-electric driven, which, according to our engineer adviser, Mr Clarke, will give more economical results than internal combustion and a complete absence of vibration.' The Rt. Hon Lord Inchcape, 14th December 1927

As Inchcape was at pains to point out, turning to electric ‘was not an experiment.’ The technology was tried and tested and already in use in 51 ships afloat. As ever, P&O was conservative in its approach to innovation, leaving experimentation to others and only catching up when economy demanded.

The move from coal to oil directly preceded the further advance to turbo engines. New mail steamers commissioned after 1919 were fitted with oil burning engines or, where possible, adapted.

Whilst there was little difference in the cost of the two fuels, oil dispensed with the need for lengthy coaling operations in port and stokers on board. In 1923 the Chairman praised the Company’s engineers for adapting to the new technology and the Cunard Company for allowing them to see, at first hand, the workings of the oil engines on the Majestic and Olympic.

Turbine-driven electric motors promised an even smoother passage and a reduction in fuel consumption. Appropriately, they were first employed on the Company’s latest and grandest vessel, Viceroy of India.

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In all respects Viceroy was in a class of her own. Built at Alexander Stephen & Sons shipyard on the Clyde (which was owned for a time by P&O), she was to be the most luxurious and technologically advanced passenger ship in the fleet - a sign of more positive times to come.

Viceroy provided accommodation for 415 first class and 258 second class passengers and followed on from the advances of the 'R' Class with larger portholes, en suite bathrooms and cabins of different configurations to suit every passenger need.

The ships decoration was entrusted to Inchcape’s youngest daughter, the Hon Elsie Mackay. Opulent public rooms were concocted in a riot of contrasting, historicist styles including the Scottish Baronial style of Glenapp, the family seat, and a splash of Pompei for P&O’s first indoor swimming pool. Eagerly anticipated and promoted, Viceroy was launched on the 15th September 1929 by Lady Irwin, wife of the then Viceroy of India. After a maiden voyage to Bombay (her intended route) Viceroy embarked upon a number of seasonal cruises.