By Kingswear Castle to Totnes

Supporting the preservation and operation of paddle steamers Waverley and Kingswear Castle

By Kingswear Castle to Totnes

On Monday 9 July 2018, PS Kingswear Castle was scheduled to make one of her relatively rare return trips between Dartmouth and Totnes. The trip takes 75 minutes in each direction. To me, the most exciting way of getting to Dartmouth is by steam train from Paignton.

When we arrived at Queens Park Station, the crew were preparing Lydham Manor for her day’s work. One of the train sets usually includes the former Devon Belle Observation Car. However, it is better to travel in this on the return journey, otherwise you are likely to have to wait for two or three ferries at Kingswear.

The line is steeply graded in both directions so the engines always have to work hard. On arrival at Kingswear you walk forward to the end of the platform and down the covered way to the pontoon pier where the passenger ferry calls to take you across the River Dart to Dartmouth. Just downstream is the Lower Ferry which mainly carries cars and light vehicles.

Having boarded the Dartmouth Princess, we made the short crossing with the skipper picking his way through moored and moving vessels. We got our first good view of the KC, in company with Dart Explorer, alongside Dartmouth Town Jetty.

Soon we were steaming away with a good load of passengers for the non-stop passage upriver to the market town of Totnes, the lowest bridging point.

The captain took us a short distance downstream before making his turn. Note the Devon county flag flying at the jack staff.

Having turned, we steamed past Kingswear with the former Dagenham ferry, Kingswear Princess, at the ferry berth.

Soon we left the twin towns behind and the trees were coming down to the water’s edge.

The commentator always mentions passing vessel’s in the DSRRB fleet, such as Cardiff Castle making her way from Totnes to Dartmouth. It is often said that she was built in 1964 as KC’s replacement.

Talking of replacements, our KC was built in 1924 in place of the 1904 ship of the same name. Amazingly these are her remains which have rested at Fleet Mill since the 1920s. The bow and stern have the same lines as her successor.

Approaching our journey’s end at Totnes Steamer Quay. Passengers have the options of returning on KC after 30 minutes, spending some time in the town and returning on another ship later or continuing their Round Robin trip by open top bus to Paignton.

The paddler is swiftly tied up at the steps to exchange passengers. Nearby there is a kiosk selling ice cream and sandwiches.

There is also a large car park and the bus stop for Paignton. Here is one of the open toppers waiting for her next trip.

The river is too narrow at Totnes to turn in a conventional manner. Today the tide was still rising and the captain elected to use the current to lift the stern off the quay, with a bow line still in place.

This operation takes a few minutes, a good time to look round the steamer.

Here is the main engine, which was first used in the original Kingswear Castle we saw earlier.

Halfway through the turn we were broadside across the river.

The highly polished builders plate proclaims the ship’s local origin.

The steel enclosures around the engine form a focal point where most passengers spend a few minutes watching its apparently effortless motion.

All too soon we were back in the bustling Dartmouth Harbour. Note the ferry carefully navigating through other traffic.

Christie Belle, the Greenway Ferry, loads at the Town Jetty. One of the Dart’s attractions is Greenway House, high above the eastern bank, which was Agatha Christie’s home for many years and is now a National Trust property.

Town Jetty can be a pretty busy place with up to three excursion ships plus the Kingswear ferry calling there. Dart Explorer, on a harbour cruise, is manoeuvring to come alongside between KC and the Dart Venturer, preparing to depart for Torquay.

Meanwhile, KC loads for her next trip which is a harbour cruise.

Here she is heading for the river mouth where she will turn between Dartmouth Castle on the west bank and the real Kingswear Castle on the eastern shore.

Later she passed the Town Jetty heading upstream to complete her trip.

For us, it was the Dartmouth Princess back to Kingswear Station …

… where Lydham Manor arrived to take us home to Paignton.

We travelled back in the Observation Car, catching a glimpse of the Higher Ferry on the way. It had been a lovely day and I cannot recommend this trip too highly.