The Models

SS Aeolus

Maritime Innovation In Miniature

SS Aeolus

This is a model of the SS Aeolus.

It is widely considered to be one of the world’s finest ship models. She is named after Aeolus, son of Hippotesthe keeper of the winds in the odyssey.

She was a Swedish steam passenger ship of 893 tons, built in 1884 in Gothenburg for the South Sweden Steam Ship company, one of the largest Swedish shipping companies of its time.

They operated a wide variety of ships carrying freight and passengers around the world but primarily operated in the Baltic and North Sea.

The Aeolus and her sister ship Zephyr were was commissioned in 1884 for the line’s new Stockholm–Malmö–Oslo Kristiania (- the old name for Oslo in Norway) route.  But she also sailed to Copenhagen in Denmark, Lubeck in Germany, Riga in Latvia, and various Finnish ports.

She was successful because she was fast enough to be able to compete with the railways and had ample passenger comforts.

The man we must be thankful for, for this perfect piece of maritime history is Frans Oscar Carlsson it took him at least 30,000 hours to build: Working eight hours a day for thirteen years. Every tiny detail is correctly rendered to a scale of 1:40.

It has a working miniature engine that can propel the ship at 3 knots; working winches, helm and rudder. The door handles work; there are keys in the doors that lock; There is a working steam whistle. Large parts of the interior – that are invisible – are nonetheless recreated perfectly, complete with upholstered seats in the saloon and a ship’s clock less than a cm in diameter.

Most remarkably of all, Carlson sailed on the ship for many years, and worked as her helmsman in the 1890s and subsequently as coxswain (pronounce koksn). He started building the model in his free time when he was working on board.

No-one knew the ship better than Frans. His recreation is meticulous – it is exact.

This Model is the very epitome of a labour of love, made from aluminium and brass and polished till it gleams – though the ship was originally painted black and repainted white in the 1920s.

The star on her funnel marks her out clearly as belonging to the South Sweden Steam Ship company.

Originally she was fitted with a compound steam engine with double propellers but in 1910 this was replaced by triple Doxford engines with just a single propeller.

She was built a good ten years after the pioneering of the triple expansion steam engine; this was a period in which the engineering of marine steam engines was reaching its peak.

They were fast, and they were reliable.

At 59,5 meters long she could take around 100 passengers in 21 first and class second cabins. and also breakbulkcargo such as sewing machines, bicycles, agricultural machinery and cookers.

For all of the advances in steam technology at the turn of the 20th century, ships like this were still dangerous.

They were fast – far faster than any large vessel had been before – and that made operating them particularly dangerous in coastal waters – and also in certain conditions – such as fog.

Her shiny exterior in some way disguises the reality of her being a steamship – a large portion of her internal space would have been taken up by the noisy and hot steam machinery, and also by bunkers for her coal.

Nonetheless her accommodation was made as comfortable as possible. A glass skylight throws light down into the first class saloon which was luxurious for its time with an elaborate wood-panelled interior,  paintings and electrical lighting.

For a country with so much sea such as Sweden coastal passenger ships like this bound together local communities - and therefore a nation – as never before.

Ships like this made the Baltic world go round.

Coastal steamships were also important as a means of educating the world about maritime technology – this is because the mighty ships of the great passenger liner companies like Cunard or White Star line operated over vast distances and only from major ports.

For all of their famed popularity, it’s important to remember that only a relatively small portion of the world’s population would ever see a great ship, let alone actually travel on one.

Small coasters like this filled that gap. They were more accessible – they were cheaper, and, operating close to shore they were more visible.

The first world war interrupted the Aeolus’ happy life sailing a regular route up and down the Baltic and like so many ships in this period she was requisitioned for service – she transported prisoners of war and wounded soldiers from the eastern front via Sweden to Germany.

On 9 April 1926 Aeolus was severely damaged by fire at Stockholm. She survived that and was finally broken up in 1956.

Meanwhile the world had changed dramatically from the period in which she had been built.

Coastal passenger traffic in Sweden was unable to compete with railway transport and was generally unsustainable after World war two.

After the second world war there was no room anymore for magnificent ships like this.

But thanks to the model-making genius and dedication of Frans Oscar Carlsson we can still tell her story today.