In 1889, the Canadian Pacific Railway signed a ten year transpacific
mail contract with the British government. That contract called for
Canadian Pacific to deliver mail from Halifax to Vancouver by rail, and
then to Japan and China by ship, reaching Hong Kong in 684 hours from
April to November and 732 hours the rest of the year. In exchange,
Canadian Pacific would receive a £60,000 per year subsidy, £15,000 of
that amount to be paid by the Canadian government. In addition, the
Admiralty was granted the right to hire the ships employed on the route
at any time and to have troops carried at cost. Fulfillment of the
contract required three ships, built to the Admiralty's specifications
for armed merchant cruisers, capable of 16 knots for regular service,
and 17.5 knots in emergencies. Canadian Pacific ordered three ships --
Empress of India (I),
Empress of Japan (I)
Empress of China (I)
to meet the mail contract requirements. All three were built by Naval
Construction & Armament Co. of Barrow.
The first of the three, Empress of India, was launched in August 1890,
and made her maiden voyage from Liverpool to Vancouver (via the Suez
Canal and Hong Kong) on 8 February 1891, arriving in British Columbia on
28 April. In May she began her regular transpacific service from
Vancouver to Hong Kong, with calls at Yokohama, Kobe, Nagasaki and
A new mail contract in 1908 required that the Vancouver-Yokohama portion
of the trip be completed in 10 1/2 days. To accommodate this
requirement, some second class berths were converted into extra coal
bunkers, and the ship's funnels were heightened to provide better draft
to the furnaces.
Empress of India remained in Canadian Pacific service until 1914, when
she was sold to the Maharajah of Gwalior, who converted her, at his own
expense, into an Indian Army hospital ship. She was commissioned, and
given the name Loyalty in January 1915.
At the war's end, Loyalty was sold to the Scindia Steam Navigation Co.
and instituted that line's Bombay-Marseilles service in March 1919. She
made her final trip on that route in October 1920 and was then laid up
at Bombay. She was broken up, also at Bombay, in 1923.
Sister ships: Empress of Japan (I);
Empress of China (I).