Ritsons’ Branch Line: The Nautilus Steam Shipping Co Ltd Of Sunderland

This book provides a fascinating insight into the lost history of one of the medium-sized companies that flourished in the heyday of British steam shipping but failed to survive the twin challenges of war and economic depression in the first half of the 20th century. The Ritson family of Sunderland entered ship owning in the 1820s, gradually building up a small fleet through the middle years of the century. In 1881, they entered steam when they formed the “Nautilus Steam Shipping Co Ltd” and adopted the Branch nomenclature with which they were to be associated for the next 50 years. In common with most early steam concerns, Nautilus started in European before moving to more distant waters, and by the end of the century Branch ships were trading worldwide. The company then moved into the liner trade by taking over the “Gulf Line” service to the east coast of South America, and by the First World War was exclusively devoted to this challenging and often dangerous business. Branch ships were heavily involved in the Great War and suffered heavy losses, the first to a surface raider in 1914 and the last in a heroic action as a Q-ship in 1918. Post was renewal placed a heavy financial burden on Nautilus and the company struggled to make a profit thereafter. Bankruptcy finally ended Nautilus’s 50-year history in 1931, although some of it’s well maintained fleet sailed on into the 1950s under other colours. This Quarto sized softback book has 104 pages with 67 illustrations.

Authors: Malcolm Cooper
ISBN: 0-905617-99-1
Publication Date: September 2002
Member’s price: £4+p&p (£1.99 UK, £4.90 EU & Rest of the World)
Non-member’s price: £6+p&p (£1.99 UK, £4.90 EU & Rest of the World)

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