A Tale of Two Cities

…actually one city twice!

By TASC Member Brian Smith

City of Durban July 1969
City of Durban July 1969

In May 1968 I was appointed Second Engineer of the Ellerman Lines ‘City of Durban’, one of the so called ‘Big Four’ and spent the two following happy years sailing between the UK, South Africa and Mozambique. It was a ten week round voyage followed by three weeks or so leave and I completed eight consecutive voyages before leaving her for the very best reason of all – promotion. It was normal procedure that if you kept your nose clean and did a good job, your next move would mean a light tap on the shoulder – a chief’s job. She had to have at least two chief’s tickets on board for the passenger certificate, each of the four vessels carried 107 passengers and they were very popular and always sailed with a full complement and full cargoes too.

‘City of Durban’ (rough details)
Built 1954 Vickers Armstrongs Walker yard on the Tyne.
G.R.T. 13345.
B.H.P. 12670. Twin six Doxfords.
Speed 17.5 knots (usual total average speed for the round voyage)

Now we come to the second ‘City of Durban’ (rough details)

Built 2004 -2008 Sunderland (Fulwell)

Weight 24 lb (4 X 6v batteries and 5 lb of lead ballast included)

B.H.P ? – (2 X 6v motors)

Speed = scale speed

Building cost £650.00

It must have been in 2002 I decided I fancied building a model of the Durban, it was to be the last one before I closed the boatyard (back bedroom), as I already had five dotted around the house. The outcome of my idea depended on the success of my next move which was a visit to the Tyne & Wear


Views of Brian Smith’s brilliant model of the City of Durban on Roker Park Lake Sunderland                 (Left click on the image to increase size)

Archives at the Discovery Museum in Newcastle. There I was able to access the original shipyard drawings and chose four which I hoped to construct a half decent model with. The four copies cost me £16 and it was at that moment that I decided to keep a record of costs involved for the first time. I decided that 4ft 6ins was a good overall length to suit my wingspan and set to scaling down all the dimensions I required which took quite some time. Then early in 2003 I unfortunately lost my cleaning lady (the wife) and the project came to a halt for more than a year. I suppose I was like most people in those circumstances and was a bit of a lost soul for a time but in 2004 I started work again and for the next four years enjoyed many hours working in my ‘boatyard’ and was quite pleased with the results of my labour. It’s not a perfect job but only I know the faults and it is my favourite and I have enjoyed many hours sailing on the local park lake which is only ten minutes walk from my home.

After seven years of sailing I have only recently obtained some photographs of her afloat, they were taken by a very old friend of mine who is very much into photography and has all the gadgets. I was so amazed at the results that it made me write this wee story and also enclose some of the snaps for others to share.

Brian Smith August 2015.

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