An inconspicuous, but very fine little model, this Dinky Toys 51f Furness Withy ‘Queen of Bermuda’. With its length of 99 mm it is the smallest model in the no. 51 Famous Liners series, introduced mid-1934, thus belonging to the earliest models to be marketed as ‘Meccano Dinky Toys’, rather than ‘Modelled Miniatures’. Despite its tiny appearance it is a very detailed casting indeed, taken the small 1:1800 scale into consideration. Comparing various examples the painting detailing sometimes seems to show slight differences. The hull always has a pleasant light shade of grey, and the masts always have the regular mid-brown touches of paint.
However, the funnels and their close surroundings may differ every now and then. The standard colours of Furness, Withy and Co. were red with black top and two surrounding black bands in those days. The lower band was thicker and reached down to the deck it rested on. I’m always amazed how this extremely fine detailing was applied by hand. The entire surrounding base area was painted black as well. This is independent of the presence of a brown accentuated front top deck house, which it sometimes has or not. If not entirely painted brown, the front of the bridge got a thin flash of brown paint as far as I can observe from examples. The life boats are always picked out by an individual precision touch of dark brown paint. This reflects the early period, in which the real ones had a contrasting dark colour indeed. It is such a pity that only few Dinky models survived in an acceptable condition. Fatigue is so disastrous for these detailed, intricate castings, even if they never have been played with.
Nowadays ships like this one have been forgotten for a long time already. Blue Riband winners like the two largest models in the series, the Italian Rex and German Europa (post-war the French Liberté), enjoyed longer lasting fame. But in its days the Queen of Bermuda was a very luxurious ship, doing mainly the 600 mile New York – Bermuda cruise service in the pre-war years. The well-to-do holidaymakers (many honeymooners included) could afford some luxury. Both the spacious cabins and the moderate size of the ship, defined by the moderate size of the ports it visited, resulted in a quite limited number of passengers. Her sister ship was the Monarch of Bermuda, 22,500 gross tons. The ‘Queen’ was very slightly larger, 22,575 tons and 579 or 580 ft (I found different statements) = 192,5 m or 190 m long, producing a scale of 99 : 192500 = 1:1944,44 etc. or 1:1917, 54 etc, anyway smaller than the official scale category.
For more information of Furness Withy and the real vessel I refer to a nice nutshell history on the internet and wikipedia: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Furness_Withy, http://www.oceanliner.org/miller.htm
There is a picture of the ship on the Mersey (off Pier Head, showing nicely the pre-war harbour front with the Liver building, the Cunard building and the Port of Liverpool building from left to right). The photo was probably taken from the Birkenhead side ventilation tower of the Mersey Tunnel, which was opened in 1934. So every now and then the ship made transatlantic voyages and visited Liverpool. Moreover, being completed in 1933, this may well have contributed to the the choice of the Meccano decision makers for this the ship to be included in their new Famous Liners series, compare the view on the first no. 51 box label (showing the White Star Britannic however).
During WW2 she had been an armed merchant cruiser and later a troop transport. Subsequently she resumed sailings for Furness Bermuda Line in 1949. Finally, the ship underwent a considerable metamorphosis in 1961/62, being completely stripped of her majestic three funnel charm, one funnel remaining. She was sold for scrap in 1966.