The blog of Maritime Photographer, Researcher and Author Chris Jones
I thought it might be of interest to your readers that it has been announced that last remaining coal-fired paddle steamer in operation in the UK today, built in 1924 at Philip & Son of Dartmouth, is to return home after an absence of 47 years.In her heyday the impressive ship was the life blood of the river Dart, carrying almost 500 passengers between Totnes and Dartmouth until 1965 when she was purchased by the PSPS (Paddle Steamer Preservation Society) and left the Dart in an era when diesel engines and propellers were favoured over paddles. Her own engines date back to 1904, eight years before the sinking of the Titanic passengers. The grand old lady of the Dart will began her return journey this week after being at Chatham in Kent where the PSPS took 15 years to restore her to her former glory and she has been offering river trips on the Medway for 27 years. She will arrive home towed by a seagoing tug, and subject to her periodic winter refit will operate pleasure trips once again to Totnes and back from Easter.Announcement of the Kingswear Castle’s return was made in Bath by Dartmouth Steam Railway and Riverboat Company General Manager Andrew Pooley during the Paddle Steamer Preservation Society (PSPS) annual meeting. He announced that a 15 year agreement had been signed with the paddle steamer owners PSPS to allow the move and operation within the river initially as part of the Paignton, Kingswear, Totnes, Round Robin pleasure trips.Mr Pooley said; “I am delighted that she has caused such excitement over her return, it has been a hard secret to keep to ourselves of late – we are all very excited too. It has taken nearly three years negotiations with the trustees to bring this about and time to persuade the trustees that we have within our organisation the marine expertise and steam engineering skills to look after this historic vessel in perpetuity. There can be very few organisations in the country with our expertise – this is why we have had agreement to bring Kingswear Castle back to her home port so that she can once again carry passengers up and down the waters that she was built for.”The first passenger steam boat service was introduced on the Clyde in 1812 and it wasn’t until 1836 that the South Hams greeted its first estuary passenger steamer. Prior to this, goods were transported via pack horse or carters wagon. The arrival of the railways in the mid 1800’s challenged their survival and at that point they became more reliant on the tourism trade.The steam railway has had a long historical link with the steamers on the river Dart. Charles Seal Hayne was one of the early investors in the railway and associated steamer service. In 1859 he founded the Dartmouth Steam Packet Company Ltd which was later sold to Dart Pleasure Craft, now part of the Dartmouth Steam Railway & River Boat Company.Andrew Pooley added; “We are delighted that visitors will be able to enjoy a nostalgic cruise along the lower reaches of the river Dart where the sounds and smells will transport them back in time to an era when these ships were the life blood of the community. A tour booking will start and end in Dartmouth, passing Bayards Cove, Warfleet Creek, both Dartmouth & Kingswear Castles, Britannia Royal Naval College, Noss boat yard, the quaint village of Dittisham and the Greenway Estate, former home of the late Dame Agatha Christie. It’s also going to be the most wonderful addition to our Round Robin offering.”For more information see http://www.dartmouthrailriver.co.uk/blog/ or look at http://www.dartmouthrailriver.co.uk/days-out/paddle-steamer-kingswear-castleThe Paddle Steamer will also be available for private hire and special event picnic cruises.
Hi Bracken,I am planning to be at the vessels first day sailing on the Dart, hopefully get some good images of the historic day. I'll probably hire/borrow a boat to be on the water . . . RegardsChris
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