The First Class Passenger Radio Telephone Room and Starboard Writing Room

Map of RT roomCurrent Layout
1947-1967 arrangement of rooms, and today's layout

The Radio Telephone Room was created in the postwar refit of the Queen Mary -- out of the port-side promenade deck writing room. In the pre-war period (1936-1939) there were a pair of open writing rooms for first class, (then called cabin class), adjacent to the second funnel uptake along the corridors leading to the main lounge. The rooms are opposite each other on the plan above.

Port Writing Room 1936
Port Side writing room before conversion into Radio-Telephone Room

Stbd Writing Room Post war
Starboard writing room (post war decor).

In the refit, both rooms were partially enclosed with etched glass panels defining the rooms at the ceiling level. The starboard writing room retained its original function, but the port-side writing room was enclosed and converted to a passenger radio telephone room. The etched glass panels that were added over the starboard writing room depict the various modes of writing through the ages and those added over the port side writing room (the one that was converted into the Radio Telephone Room) depict the various modes of communications used through the age. The Queen Mary's building job number "534" is incorporated into the design of one of the glass panels over the Radio Telephone Room.

Both sets of glass panels in both rooms survive in situ today, however the starboard writing room was gutted and converted into a ladies room in the Long Beach conversion.


Two of the panels left outside the ex-Radio Telephone room today. The left panel shows the word "Radio", and the right the figures "186,000", the speed of light (and Radio waves) in miles per second.


One of the starboard writing room panels shows the word "Scribere" - which means "to write" in Latin.

The wooden paneled walls in both areas were covered with the two-tone gray leather used in the Main Hall refit after the Second World War.

RT Room Corridor
The corridor next to the room today, looking aft

RT Room from inside
The glass paneling, seen from inside the shop.

The radio telephone room was available to first class passengers only to make ship-to-shore telephone calls and send telegrams.

History of Use

1936 - 1939 The room was used as a writing room in the pre-war period.

1940 - 1947 Ship converted for troop-carrying use.

1947 - 1967 In the postwar refit, this room was converted into a radio telephone room for first class passengers as described above. It retained this function until the Queen Mary came to Long Beach in 1967.

1968 - to present day

In the Long Beach conversion, the outboard wall was demolished and this room was expanded onto the sheltered promenade deck. It was assigned use as a retail shop. In the 1980s, a toy and hobby shop was installed here. Currently a tourist shop specializing in sea shell souvenirs is the lessee, the shop being called "The Shell Castle".

Potential for future restoration and re-use - William Cwiklo examines the possibilities.

Possible future layout

A possible future configuration of this area

Three of the walls and the ceiling are original to this room. While the paneling has been damaged by casual use and abuse, (i.e. tacking up merchandise and displays on an ad hoc basis), the core of the room remains. The cabinets for forms and the vacuum tube mechanism for telegrams (and payments?) remain in the aft-end wall.

Is a functional restoration possible?

Yes. Restoration of the room to its post-war configuration would be a straightforward task.

This next picture shows the interior of the shop today. The time-zone clocks even are still on the wall from the days when this room was a communications center.
Shell Castle

How might the room be used, other than as a display? Could it generate revenue, apart from being an exhibit shown as part of the attraction?

I believe it could. The use of the restored sit down telephone booths, (along with the removal of the red English telephone booths from Sun Deck) would force visitors, (but not hotel guests), to use this original room for "ship to shore" calls. A premium might be charged for the privilege. While this might appear to be an inconvenience, it would actually enhance the visitor's experience of being on an ocean liner of the 1930s. Telegrams, e-mail and faxes, on Queen Mary masthead, might also be sent out from here by visitors - at a premium price.

Would this functional restoration and re-utilization earn as much revenue for the operation?

I believe it could. And there is plenty of room available in the semi-closed village for the standard tourist shops that have occupied this space since the conversion.

The lack of differentiation between the shops on the ship and in the village (underlined by the fact that they swap places regularly) is one reason why both retail areas never seem to be jointly successful. Moreover, the obliteration of most original passenger amenities aboard the ship for standard, and frankly "tourist trap" retail venues, undermines the uniqueness of the Queen Mary, that the tourists paid to see.

Should a visitor who has just paid ten to twenty dollars simply to board the Queen Mary be satisfied at encountering a sea shells souvenir shop, a soft drink/ fruit and nuts shop, a penny press machine, a tee shirt shop, and a glass shop, (exactly like one at Knott's Berry Farm's free entry area) in the minor public rooms on the upper decks of the ship?

They can see most of this sort of thing for free on the main drag of every beach town on the West Coast.

Add to this the fact that virtually all of the principal public rooms (First Class Smoking Room, Long Gallery, Second Class Smoking Room, First Class Main lounge) have been stripped of their furnishings and are routinely locked, dark and reserved for catering - with the exception of the stripped main lounge.

Exactly what are tourists paying to see? Where is the value for dollar for the tourist?

Appropriate functional restoration with intelligent retail seamlessly blended in could enrich the visitor's experience and justify a higher admission charge. The experience would be unique.

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