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Other name: USS Troy
Builder: Eastern Shipbuilding Co., New London, Connecticut
Keel laid January 15, 1901; Launched April 16, 1903; maiden voyage January 23, 1905; scrapped in Germany, 1923
Hull: length 622'; beam 75' 4"; 20,718 tons; 32 watertight compartments; 9 decks
Power: twin screws; triple expansion engines with cylinders of 29", 51" and 89" diameter, stroke 57"; 2,293 n.h.p.; steam pressure 250 lbs.; 14 ½ knots
The Minnesota (II) and her sister Dakota (wrecked in March 1907) were built for the railroad entrepreneur James J. Hill of St. Paul, Minnesota. Hill's Great Northern Steamship Company formed a logical extension of his railroad empire linking Seattle with Shanghai, China. The line's two ships cost a total of $7,803,404 to build. They never made money, and the 43 voyages of the Great Northern Steamship Company's ships left it with a deficit of $2,887,982.19. The Minnesota (II) was for many years the largest merchant ship sailing under the U.S. flag and her cargo capacity was said to equal that of 100 trains of 25 cars each. Her captain, officers, and petty officers were all American, but the crew was predominantly Chinese.
The Minnesota (II) sailed from the Great Northern's Smith Cove dock delivering Midwest grains to markets in Asia and returning with Chinese silks and other Oriental goods. But she was too large for the volume of business available and was extremely uneconomical until reboilered in 1916. The Minnesota (II) made 40 round trip voyages between the U.S. West Coast and the Far East with the cost of her operation and insurance rising steadily. The final blow came with the passage of Senator La Follette's Seaman's Act in 1915, which was likely to add $140,000 to her operating costs each year.
Fortunately, because of the insatiable demand for shipping created by World War One the North Atlantic offered better opportunities. In November 1915, chartered to British interests, the Minnesota (II) sailed for Cape Horn but her boilers gave out and she had to be towed into San Francisco. The damage was blamed on a crewman hired by German consular agents in Seattle who had been exposed by British secret service agents. Repairs were estimated to take about a month, but when she arrived in San Francisco the Minnesota (II) was impounded by U.S. Marshals representing the British interests, who had been waiting for their cargo, and she spent all of 1916 under repair and awaiting settlement of legal actions against her owner. Among other improvements made at this time her promenade deck was carried forward to the mainmast and she was given additional lifeboats.
In January 1917 she was sold to the Atlantic Transport Line bought for service on the North Atlantic alongside Manchuria and Mongolia. The price was $2.6 million. (The purchase led the Atlantic Transport Line to rechristen their veteran steamer of the same name as Mahopac.) The Minnesota (II) finally reached New York in March by way of the Panama Canal. She was the second largest freighter on the Atlantic and arrived just as Germany was resuming unrestricted submarine warfare. She sailed on her first voyage to Europe unarmed but was later armed in accordance with measures authorized by the U.S. Government and given a U.S. Navy gun crew. She began her first trans-Atlantic passage late in March 1917 and was in English waters when the United States declared war on Germany in April. During the remainder of the conflict Minnesota completed seven more round-trip voyages between the U.S. and the United Kingdom.
In early 1919 the U.S. Navy chartered the Minnesota (II) for use as a troopship and renamed her Troy (ID # 1614) to avoid confusion with the U.S. battleship Minnesota. She was placed in commission in February and made three passages from France to the U.S., bringing home more than 14,000 troops. She was decommissioned in September 1919 and returned to her owners. Her name was reverted to Minnesota and although she was converted from coal to oil fuel for post-war operation her refurbishment was abandoned and she never resumed active service. She was sold for scrapping in Germany in November 1923.
Sources: The Atlantic Transport Line, 1881-1931; The Ships List; Passenger Ships of the World Past and Present, Eugene W. Smith, Massachusetts, 1977; Merchant Fleets in Profile 2; the Ships of the Cunard, American, Red Star, Inman, Leyland, Dominion, Atlantic Transport and White Star Lines, Duncan Haws, 1979; The New York Times, January 22, 1905; April 17, 1915, December 5, 1915; December 6, 1915; August 4, 1916; www.railserve.com; www.history.navy.mil ; en.wikipedia.org
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