October 22, 2009

A Magic Visit with a Ship Historian

A painting of the AUREOL in the Bay of Biscay by Don Stoltenberg hangs over her second class bar surrounded by paneling and unique lighting of the era. 2009.

We arrived early as we always seem to, and had stopped a moment for breakfast before descending on poor Peter Knego. We easily found his home far out of town in the rolling hills of Reganland. The only outward giveaway that there might be something different within the doors of this house was a wonderful 1950’s rail by the front door.

Two doors carefully mounted in the dining room hide wondrous art. Leaning in the front are two hunt paintings by Archibald Forbes from the EMPRESS OF BRITAIN’s Club Room. A single door with Peter.

Then there he was. Taller, leaner, just as I imagined him, and I couldn’t hug him because of my awful cold. He was just back from a two ship odyssey, his blog of these trips is here, and he hadn’t quite recovered from the time lag. Despite our colds and his lag, we met in the middle wonderfully.

Charming tables and chairs from a variety of eras mix well in the 21’st century.

His eagerness was contagious. His knowledge inspiring. He rattled off facts and information far faster than my virus clogged brain could remember, yet all that mattered in the end was his enthusiasm and our interest.

A truly well done, small painting among a few forgotten in the officer’s quarters when all the other art was removed from the ship.

What creates a ship historian? Passion of course, and the ability to nurture this passion. Peter’s early enthusiasms were stirred by ocean liner ephemera, and it was only later he discovered that there was more to ocean liners than ashtrays and tiny ship models. Now, not only does his interest in liners encompass ephemera, but he salvages and brings home as much of the actual ships as he can.

RMS IVERNIA’s starboard bridge telegraph. He allowed me to move the lever which left me with a smile of childish delight.

We reveled in the restored furnishings, we followed his every word tho retention was tough stuff with our colds. We sipped coffee and excellent cookies while he talked about the designers, artists, and artisans that worked on these ocean liners. We glanced at his acres of paper ephemera now filed in cabinets lining the two car garage. We looked at bottoms of chairs, tables, and ottomans….one chair still had the lanyard to attach it to the floor in rough seas. We ogled the IVERNIA’s bowed glass fronted library cases that actually arrived intact from Alang. We so enjoyed the bar, now in his living room, that arrived in a container as a “surprise.”

Two dressers and two of FRANCONIA’s ottomans sit below a stunning etched mirror that arrived intact. The ottoman has original upholstery fabric.

Central to all in his home, surrounding the masses of beauty and art that he has salvaged off these ships as they were broken up in Alang, is the IVERNIA’s stair rail. (You can see in situ pictures of it here half way down this page.) IVERNIA was built in 1955 for Cunard. She was rebuilt as Cunard's cruise ship FRANCONIA in 1963 and was sold to the Soviets in 1971 becoming the FEDOR SHALYAPIN. She was beached in 2004 as the SALONA an almost intact museum of early Cunard style.

The IVERNIA’s stair rail surrounded by other ship memorabilia.

When we visited the garage, it was with great amazement we saw still more rail packed in its original shipping burlap. Seeing the railings in the condition they came off the ship was a shock and made us realize the great amount of work that Peter puts in on every piece he restores.

A treasure trove of ephemera.

More of IVERNIA’s stair tower railing.

Still later, as we visited his storage units, I appreciated his efforts at salvage even more. Stools here, ottoman’s there, chairs of regal style, comfort, color, and variety everywhere. Glass and silver, paintings, brass and nickel silver work in every corner or detail. Rolls of plans a decorative layer. Each piece is just waiting for the right buyer or the right museum all saved by this very special Ocean Liner historian. It was a very special visit.

Chair seats and ships names. You save what you can.


  1. It never fails to amaze me what turns different people on to collecting. Nice paintings though, and the post was excellent.

  2. Thank you Alice. And Peter's praise for this entry on Facebook was eloquent.

  3. Wow, I had no idea. Thats amazing the ship stuff he collects, and the uses he has given them.


What a delight to get a note from you. Thanks for leaving one.


Peter in front of a wall sculpture. We were invited up to Peter Knego’s home to see the latest installation.   Abstract flat ...