I initially planned to partecipate with an all-new entry, but I do not think I'll ever be able to complete in time the medium-sized liner I was working on (here is a link of it
). It may appear quite advanced, but there is truly too much still to be done to make it.
So, I reverted to a more cheap approach by presenting, again, the liners from my Koko Kaiun Yuso Kaisha thread. The two sisters of the Chiyoko Maru class, tweaked with the new standard window colour:
By the end of the first decade of the century, the western megalomania for luxurios and large passenger ships had managed to spread -through foreign advisors and designers- right into the top floor of Koko Kaiun Yuso Kaisha. Despite not subject to any race for either opulence or service speed like British and German companies, KoKaYu heads decided that obtaining monopoly was an equally valid motivation to build one or more liners that would have been far larger than anything they had built domestically to date. The route between Koko and Japan had regularly the travel demand to support such ambitious project. And more so, KoKaYu was the only company between Koko and Japan that could afford such a project, so that they did not even had to worry about competition.
As the first step of this plan, the Inahara family, owners of KoKaYu, financed a large expansion of the Yamatogawa Shipyards which started in 1909. First two adiacent drydocks were modified into a massive single 300m bay. Then construction for an enormous slipway of similar dimensions began. Design for a class of two began shortly after, still with the help of foreign advisors given the scope of the project.
Chiyoko Maru was the first of the two envisioned ships. She was laid down in February 1911, not in the slipway as planned -whose construction had falled behind schedule- but inside the 300m drydock. An oddity (the only time the drydock was actually used for construction) that appened under the direct request of KoKaYu to avoid excessive delays in construction. This way the company planned to make the most of the general interest the White Star Line giants were making on the other side of the globe. Chiyoko Maru was launched -actually floated, by filling the drydock- with great fanfare on August 17th 1913. The event captured the attention of quite some western reporters as well, and with reason. At the time of her launch there were only four ships afloat larger then her: Olympic, Aquitania, Imperator and Vaterland. The imposing four-stacker was 266,6m long overall, had a beam of 28,6 and a draft of 10,6 for a tonnage of 44.418 GRT. Over twice as much as the second largest ship KoKaYu had at that point. She was powered by twenty-seven double-end boilers arranged in seven boiler rooms. Those powered 4 four-cylinder triple-expansion reciprocating engines driving four shafts, each fitted with four-bladed propellers. All for a maximum service speed of 23,3 knots. Aesthetically, like many liners of that period, the fourth funnel was a partial dummy, venting boiler fumes only on the front half, the rest acted like a large ventilator shaft for the engine room. Passenger arrangements, cabins, amenities and finishes had almost nothing to be desired compared the western liners, testament to the dedication of the designers to study Europen ships and make treasure of the foreign input given by the various advisors. Overall, Chiyoko maru could have carried a total of 2.303 passengers: 695 in first class, 549 in second class and 1059 in third. Plus a standard crew of 939 for a total of 3.242 persons on board at full capacity. Initially, the ships was to be fitted with twenty-six lifeboats capably of carrying 1.820 people. Obviously, after the tragic sinking of the RMS Titanic while the ship was still under construction, this number was swiftly increased to fifty-six and 3.920 people.
Chiyoko Maru departed Toumachi harbor for her maiden voyage on June 15th 1914 and served the Koko-Japan route for a little over than a month before WWI broke out. The liner was initially kept in harbor for safety, but resumed service as soon as the German fleet threat in the Pacific had been dealt with. In the postwar years the liner continued to serve the Koko-Japan route, now joined by ther sister, also seeing an increased popularity within western travelers through the whole 20's. So much that before the 1929 Wall Street crash the two sisters were often shifted to the Toumachi-Honolulu-San Francisco service during winter months, when travel demand between Japan and Koko usually waned. The ship recieved an extensive and torough refit in 1934, with her boilers converted to burn oil and passenger space revamped and rearranged. After the works capacity changed to 702 first class passengers, 604 second class and 863 third class. Plus a crew of 1.020.
Like any other Kokoan passenger ship, Chiyoko Maru was requisitioned by Koko no Kaigun at the start of the Pacific War in 1941. She was converted into a troopship and painted all gray. Three 140mm guns -discarded from the Yagumo class battleship during their last refit- were fitted on board: two on the forecastle and one at the ster. Six triple 25mm anti-air machine guns were added as well, plus searchlights RDF equipments, extra lifeboats and four landing crafts. Her standard capacity was 6.400 troops plus 700 crew.
Given her size she almost immediately become a prime target for any American or Allied sbmarine in the Pacific Ocean. Yet, Kokoan armed forces were unexpectedly succesful in keeping the ship out of danger, plus they had their share of luck in the process: on September 22 1944 the submarine USS Archerfish had the ship in its sights mere days after sinking the Battlship Yashima. This time the torpedoes missed. Ironically, Chiyoko Maru could survive the enemy but not the countrymen of who built her. After the start fo Koko uprisings in late 1945 the ship was in Loyalist hands. On December 11th of the same year the ship had been berthed in Kumoi to load supplies and reinforcement troops to streghten positions around Toumachi. Before the troops could finish boarding the ship caught fire and, despite all efforts, burned fiercely for two days before capsizing in the harbor with over 3.000 loyalists still on board. The actual cause of the fire remained a mistery until ten more months, when the war was over. The fire had been deliberately started by a rebel sabouter, whic had also went down with the ship. Chiyoko Maru's wreck was salvaged and scrapped after the war as it posed a navigational hazard in Koumoi's harbor.
Yamada Maru, Chiyoko's larger sister, started construction in the now finished slipway in June 1913. Compared to her sister she had been considerably lengthened, but her more widely spaced funnels widely concealed the fact. She measured 274,7m from bow to stern, had a beam of 28,8m and a draft of 10,6. Her tonnage was 46.459 GRT. Internally, she maintained the twenty-seven double-end boilers and 4 four-cylinder triple-expansion reciprocating engines driving 4 four-bladed propellers. Both boilers and engines were slightly larger for more generated power, wich helped to maintain a maximum service speed of 23,1 knots, slightly inferior to that of Chiyoko Maru in spite of increased size. When it came to passengers, Yamada Maru presented itself as even more luxurious than her sister, with larger public rooms and more laborated furniture. Because of it, she could actually carry less passengers despite beign larger: fitting were for 704 in first class, 556 in second class and 1.024 in third class, plus a crew of 953 for a total capacity of 3.237 people. Despite a slighly lowered overall capcity, the number of libeboats was increased to 60.
At first the maiden voyage was scheduled for late 1915 or early 1916 at worst. Ultimately, Yamada Maru's construction slowed during WWI, so that the ship was not launched before late april 1916 and entered service only on May 17th 1917. Just like her sister Yamada Maru continued to serve the Koko-Japan route for the whole 20's, often switching to the Toumachi-Honolulu-San Francisco service during winter months. Like her sister she was refitted as well in 1934. Her boilers converted to burn oil and passenger space revamped and rearranged. Her capacity and crew was the same as Chiyoko Maru from that point on, but she still retained larger public rooms than her sister.
When the Pacific War broke out in December 1941 Yamada Maru's history took a completely different route than that of her sister, as it was decided to convert her into an hospital ship. Yamada Maru was completely painted white with the exception of part of the funnel tops and the standard green line on the sides of the hull. Large red crosses were painted on the hull -three on each side- and on all four funnels. Plus, two more solid crosses were manufactured and fitted, one forward below the bridge, one aft above the quarterdeck, for maximum identification. The ship also used to fly two small white pennants with red crosses on her masts. Internally 3.300 beds and several operating rooms were installed. The common areas of the upper decks were transformed into rooms for the wounded. Forward first class cabins were used to house doctors. The first class dining room and first class reception room were transformed into operating rooms. Other than the 3.300 patients the ship could have carried 500 medical personnel and a crew of 700. Twelve more lifeboats were also embarked (six 70-seaters and six 65-seaters), enought to carry over 5.000 people.
Yamada Maru status as an hospital ship saved her for the grim end of her sister and that of many other Kokoan passenger ships. She survived the war in Hoshiguma harbor and then served as a repatriation vessel before beign requisitioned by the US Government to charter war brides to the States. Initially she was intended to be assigned to the United States Lines as a war reparation, but after an inspection of the vessel the company decided to not take over the vessel. KoKaYu initially considered the idea of bringing back the ship into service, but after a further inspection this plan was abandoned as well. Yamada maru was showing all the signs of her age and had been worn out by the war. The poor state of the 30-year-old liner made it too expensive to be brought up to the new safety standards. Yamada Maru was left docked at a secondary pier of Toumachi harbor for more than a year, rusting away slowly. Finally, almost on the sly, she was towed to the breakers and scrapped in 1949. The second to last of the four stackers to go, outlived only by the Aquitania.
A recap of the specifications for simplicity:
-Length, overall: 266,6 m
-Length, waterline: 260,2 m
-Beam: 28,6 m
-Draft: 10,6 m
-Machinery: 27 double-end boilers, 4 four-cylinder triple-expansion reciprocating engines driving four shafts. 60.000 shp
-Service speed: 23,3 knots
-Maximum speed: 25 knots
-Passenger capacity: 2.303 (695 first class, 549 second, 1.059 third) - 2.169 (702 first, 604 second, 863 third) after 1934 refit)
-Crew: 939 - 1.020 after 1934 refit
-lifeboats: 56 (capacity 3.920 people)
-Length, overall: 274,7 m
-Length, waterline: 268,3 m
-Beam: 28,8 m
-Draft: 10,6 m
-Machinery: 27 double-end boilers, 4 four-cylinder triple-expansion reciprocating engines driving four shafts. 63.000 shp
-Service speed: 23,1 knots
-Maximum speed: 25 knots
-Passenger capacity: 2.284 (704 first class, 556 second, 1.024 third) - 2.169 (702 first, 604 second, 863 third) after 1934 refit
-Crew: 953 - 1.020 after 1934 refit
-Lifeboats: 60 (capacity 4.200 people)