The SS Drottningholm was an ocean liner operated by Allan Line, one of the first ships to have steam propulsion. During her several years of activity, she performed several services, including receiving a signal during the sinking of the Titanic and repatriating people in the First and Second World Wars. In 1955 it was scrapped, becoming the last ship with any connection to the wreck of the Titanic to be dismantled.
Allan Line ordered the Victorian and Virginian from Workman, Clark and Company in Belfast. But the manufacturer couldn't find enough manpower to build both ships in time, so the Virginian's order was transferred to Alexander Stephen and Sons at Linthouse on the River Clyde. The Virginian was launched on August 25, 1904, four months after the Victorian. It is noteworthy that the completion of the Victorian was delayed by performance problems with its turbines. The two brothers were completed in March 1905. When built, the Virginian had three Parsons turbines. The exhaust steam powered a pair of low-pressure turbines. The three turbines combined gave it a total output of 12,000 horsepower. The Virginian was 157.6 meters long, its beam measured 18.3 meters, and its draft was 11.6 meters. It had seats for 1,912 passengers: 426 in first class, 286 in second class and 1,000 in third class.
The world's first steam turbine merchant ship, the TS King Edward, was launched in 1901. It was a technological and commercial success, but it was just a 502 ton excursion steamship making short-haul voyages, and its costs operating conditions - and therefore passenger fares - were higher than those of its competitors with conventional reciprocating engines. However, in October 1903, Allan Line announced that it had ordered a pair of new 10,000 ton ships, that would be steam powered and would have the same three-propeller arrangement as the King Edward. And on January 28, 1904, seven months before the Victorian's launch, the government of Canada announced that it had awarded Allan Line a transatlantic mail contract. The Canadian contract required regular scheduled service with four ships. Allan Line allocated the new Victorian and Virginian, which were still under construction, and their 10,000-tonne Bavaria and Tunisian ships. The subsidy would be US$5,000 per trip to Bavaria and Tunisia, and US$10,000 per trip for each of the new ships.
The Virginian began her maiden voyage from Liverpool on April 6, 1905, two weeks after Victorian. It docked at Moville, Ireland the next day and arrived in Halifax, Nova Scotia, on the morning of April 14th. Two months later, the Virginian set a record heading west, leaving Moville at 2pm on June 9th and arriving at Cabo Race at 9pm on June 13th. This despite having to slow down due to fog. The speed at which the steam turbines ran efficiently was several times faster than the speed with which current propellers. But turbines in Victorian and Virginian, like those in King Edward, moved the propellers directly, without speed bumps. As a result, the Virginian suffered cavitation, which not only impeded propulsion but also damaged the propellers. The Virginian also tended to heel violently in rough seas. In 1912, the Virginian was equipped for wireless telegraphy, operating at wavelengths from three hundred to six hundred meters. Her call sign was MGN. When the RMS Titanic sank on April 15, 1912, Virginian was about 220 miles north of it, sailing in the opposite direction. At 23:10 (00:40 ship time), the Marconi Company radio station in Cabo Race broadcasts messages.