Returning to service, Potsdam settled into her service on the North Atlantic. In the following years she was joined by her two sisters; Rijndam in October 1901 and Noordam in May the year after. As ships of the same basic design, they were in most aspects
A picture showing the Potsdam’s distinctively tall funnel, and with neutrality markings on her side. very similar to the Potsdam, but their Harland & Wolff-built machinery proved better than the German-built one of their older sister. Thus, Potsdam became the only one of the class to sport the extremely tall funnel, although the funnels on the two sisters were slightly taller than in the original design.
So, known by many as ‘Funneldam’, Potsdam continued her service with the Holland-America Line. The shipping industry continued to prosper, but in 1912 an event took place that shocked the world. White Star Line’s brand new Titanic – the largest and most luxurious liner in the world at the time – collided with an iceberg on her maiden voyage and sank with a loss of more than 1,500 souls. At this point, the steamship design had come to such a stage that such an accident had been unthinkable. But the fact that Titanic indeed had foundered, and perhaps most importantly that she had not carried enough lifeboats to accommodate all her passengers, made all shipowners rethink their safety procedures. HAL was no exception. The Potsdam was given two extra pairs of lifeboats, fitted aft on a deckhouse.
And at this time, a menacing dark cloud was looming on the horizon. As the political situation in Europe grew more and more tense, the danger of a great conflict became a very real fact. And so, in the summer of 1914, the shots in Sarajevo triggered what was to become World War I.
As a nation, the Netherlands kept a neutral position, but submarine warfare in the Atlantic endangered the line’s vessels. To protect them as much as it was possible, the Holland-America ships were painted with neutrality markings – the ship’s name and home port in large letters – on their sides. But the war resulted in a serious decline in passenger numbers, and the Potsdam was subsequently laid up at Rotterdam for sale.
But, as it were, there was another company that had a great interest in the laid-up Potsdam. In Sweden, the Broström Group was realising the dream of a Swedish transatlantic shipping line. Originally the plan had been to build two 18,000-ton ships to start operations, but it was soon realised that this idea had to be revised. So instead, the newly-formed Swedish American Line (SAL) purchased the Potsdam in September of 1915, and renamed her Stockholm.
The Swedish American Line was in many ways a result of the great emigration. The idea was to provide a route from Sweden to America without any unnecessary detours, as well as giving the emigrants a chance to sail on a Swedish ship with a Swedish crew.
A postcard of the Stockholm, at the time of her arrival to SAL the largest ship in the Swedish merchant fleet. With the Stockholm, the new service could soon begin. But first, the ship had to be brought up to contemporary Swedish standards, mainly in the Third Class areas.
When finished, the Stockholm was ready to inaugurate SAL’s sailings. But before she set out on her second maiden voyage, a gala dinner was held on board to celebrate the birth of the new company. This attracted a great deal of attention in the press, and had Sweden’s Prime Minister Hjalmar Hammarskjöld as guest of honour. Then, finally, on December 11th 1915, Stockholm sailed out from Göteborg bound for New York. It was a joyous occasion, but there were a few reminders about the fact that war was raging in Europe. For one thing, the ship was painted with neutrality markings. And during the crossing, she had to call at Kirkwall to undergo an inspection for contraband.
Thanks to Sweden’s neutrality, the new company soon prospered despite the fact that they had only one ship in their fleet. But the service had to be postponed after two years, when unrestricted submarine warfare was introduced on the North Atlantic. Neutrality markings were no longer protection from lurking U-boats, and so the Stockholm was laid up at Göteborg in May 1917.
But when the bloody conflict finally came to an end in 1918, SAL could recommence their sailings. After a little more than a year in lay-up, Stockholm resumed her service in June. But despite that the war was over, there was much work to be done before everything would be back to normal. Soldiers from many nations had been brought in to fight the war in Europe, and now those who had survived were to be shipped home again. So, in 1919 the Stockholm was chartered to the United States for troop repatriation.
Shortly afterwards, the Stockholm was returned to the Swedish American Line, still as their only vessel. But this came to an end in February of 1920, when the Virginian was bought from the Canadian Pacific Railway Company and renamed Drottningholm. At last, the Stockholm had a fleet mate. SAL’s intention to improve their fleet was also reflected when in 1922 the Stockholm was sent
The popular First Class Music Salon on board the Stockholm. to the yards of Götaverken in Göteborg for conversion into oil-firing. This refit greatly enhanced the performance of her engines, and therefore the funnel was reduced in length by some seven feet, or two metres.
At this time, after only two years of service, the Drottningholm was also in need of a refit. Through her career, her machinery had not been working quite satisfactory, and SAL had now decided to do something about it. However, the absence of Drottningholm resulted in a gap that had to be filled somehow. As fate would have it, this gave the Stockholm a chance to get reacquainted with her Holland-America Line ancestry, when her sister Noordam was chartered to SAL in 1923 and temporarily renamed Kungsholm.