The arrival in New York
Harbor of the gigantic ocean liner SS Normandie in 1935
inaugurated a new era in transatlantic travel. Normandie
was the first large ship to be built according to the
1929 Convention for Safety of Life at Sea. She was
designed so the forward end of the promenade deck served
as a breakwater, permitting her to maintain a high speed
even in rough weather.
The Normandie would eventually break new ground on many
levels, she was to be the fastest, the sleekest, and the
most artfully decorated. But her first distinction would
be as the premier ship to exceed 1,000 feet in length.
When construction was completed, Normandie was the
longest and largest ship afloat—measuring 1,028 feet in
length with an initial tonnage of 79,280.
When the ship was launched on October 29, 1932, all
of France, and indeed the world, was following
the event. The largest object ever set in
motion by man at the time, Normandie was the center of
attention. The world's largest bottle of Champainge was
used to christen the ship. With dignitaries and VIPs in
attendance including Albert Lebrun, President of France.
Her designer Vladimir Yourkevitch had approached the
Cunard Line Limited with proposed designs for their hull
number 534, soon to be the renowned 'Queen Mary', but
was rejected as the plans represented too radical a
break from tradition for the British shipping company.
The French Line adopted Yourkevitch's designs and
commissioned the new hull, designated "T6", to be built
at France's premier shipyard, the Penhoët shipbuilders
at St. Nazair. The new ship would draw talent from the
finest designers, architects, and artisans of France.
Yourkevitch's designs would allow the ship to match the
great speed of Britain's 'Queen Mary' with one-fifth
less horsepower and substantial fuel savings, and allow
the Normandie to be the first French Liner ever to be in
competition for the cherished 'Blue Ribbon'.
Normandie claimed the Blue Ribband from the Italian
Liner Rex on her maiden crossing in May 1935. Keen on
keeping the title “longest, largest, and fastest” ship
in the world, it did not escape her owner’s attention
that the British had announced the tonnage of their new
super-liner Queen Mary that was nearing completion at
81,235. So during the winter refit in 1935, a deckhouse
was added to her aft deck increasing her final tonnage
to 83,423, allowing her to maintain title the world’s
Normandie is a floating monument of Art Deco. She also
boasted a large movie theater, a huge open dining hall,
and a free and open deck space not cluttered with
ventilation ducts. She was famous for her food as well.
With flair his staff of waiters and chefs made dining
aboard him a once in a lifetime experience. Meals were
served around the clock. The ship was a floating temple
of cafe society.
Normandie's life turned for the worse at the outbreak of
World War II. She was in mid-ocean when her captain
received words that the German liner Bremen was
following behind. It was feared that the Bremen was
armed and would open fire on the Normandie, or she was
guiding U-Boats. Normandie's captain ordered her windows
blacked out and she continued to New York in the zig-zag
pattern to evade U-Boats. That was her last voyage.
The U.S. Navy seized Normandie on December 7, 1941.
Stripped of her luxurious trappings and plush
furnishings which had once been the sea-going refuge for
the great and near-great, Normandie was renamed U.S.S.
Lafayette. In the following two months, nearly all of
Normandie's great artwork was removed and placed into
On February 9, 1942, during the continuing conversion
work, a fire broke out aboard the ship and the future of
the magnificent Normandie would be smothered in
suffocating cloud of smoke.
Charles T. Collins, an 18
year old USN ironworker gave an account of the incident:
"I was working on a chain gang. We had chains around
some pillars and eased them down when they were cut
through. Two men were operating an acetylene torch.
About 30 or 40 men were working in the room, and there
were bales and bales of mattresses. A spark hit one of
the bales, and the fire began..."
This model of the SS
hull construction (very important), weighing less than
(A solid hull of this model would be over 60 lbs
which feels like a heavy toy rather than an art
piece and requires 2 people as well as a fortified
table to accommodate.)
- Hollow superstructure is comprised of many
individual thin pieces of wood glued together, not
several solid pieces of wood stacking on top one
- Windows are cutouts (not black decals), thanks to
the hollow structures.
computer-printed paper deck.
- >95% of parts are wood and metal.
62" long x 17"
tall x 8.5" wide
S & H is $220
Add light feature:
(Cord can be unplugged from base
for displaying without light.
Adjustable brightness level)
For a 39" long
Normandie model, please click