New Masts for a Maid

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

New Masts for a Maid

After period of over a quarter of a century the statically-preserved paddle steamer Maid of the Loch has had her original profile restored with the addition of two new masts. As built in 1953 the ship had two full masts as was typical on the latter paddle steamers sailing on the nearby Firth of Clyde.

In the 1970s deterioration of the vessel’s wooden mainmast (the aft mast) necessitated its removal on grounds of safety. For the remainder of her sailing days, up to her withdrawal from service in 1981, the loch paddler sailed with only her foremast. After her last sailing the ship suffered many years of dereliction and vandalism but from 1995 a gradual restoration has taken place under the direction of the Loch Lomond Steamship Company, a registered Scottish charity. As with the mainmast the ship’s foremast had deteriorated and it had to be removed. For several years the Maid of the Loch has lain mastless at her berth by Balloch pier at the south end of Loch Lomond.

In 2007 the LLSC approached the Paddle Steamer Preservation Society, a UK national charity, for a grant to restore the ship’s original profile. Instead of fitting new wooden masts it was decided too follow the example of the restored paddle steamers of the Vierwaldstattersee (the Lake of Lucerne) in Switzerland. Therefore, two aluminium masts of suitable colour and size were ordered and fitted to the ship by a long reach 80 ton mobile crane on 9th July 2008 . The improvement in the ship’s appearance was immediately apparent as seen in the pictures below. (Click on picture for higher resolution view)

PS Maid of the Loch at Balloch in January 2003 with no masts
(Picture: Stuart Cameron)

PS Maid of the Loch at Balloch in 2008 with two new masts
(Picture: Helen Strachan)

Maid of the Loch currently operates as a static restaurant and heritage visitor centre. However, the Loch Lomond Steamship Company has plans to restore the vessel to operational service. Her original Compound expansion reciprocating steam engine is in good condition but her original Scotch boiler was removed several years ago so new boiler will be required before she can sail again. Some other modifications will also be required to comply with modern safety regulations.

In 2007 a major hindrance to the paddler’s return to service was removed when the the steam-powered patent slip at Balloch, which is required to enable the ship to be taken out of the water for inspections and repairs, was restored to operational condition, thanks to a major grant from the National Heritage Lottery Fund.

Maid of the Loch was built by A & J Inglis at their Pointhouse shipyard in Glasgow in 1953. As the ship was too large to access Loch Lomond via the River Leven the parts were dispatched by rail to Balloch and reassembled on the patent slipway adjacent to Balloch pier. The Balloch Patent Slip is believed to be the only remaining steam-operated ship repair slipway in Europe. The following video shows the restored steam engine that hauls the vessels out of the Loch.

The following YouTube video is a computer simulation of how the Maid of the Loch would look if restored to operation on the Loch

and this video is a simulation of the ship’s steam engine, which was constructed by the firm of Rankin & Blackmore at their Eagle Foundry in Greenock:

Stuart Cameron