Spring 1979

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

Spring 1979

Kingswear Castle report – The steam test was a valuable exercise in ensuring the boiler piping, feed systems, and boiler mountings were all correctly assembled. Having the inspector’s OK was a relief, and the whole programme was a wonderful morale booster. Highlights:

  • Friday 1st September: Fire lit at 16.20, first pressure steam raising since May 1969.
  • Saturday 2nd September: 10.15 About 5psi steam; 16.00 Mumford pump working after extensive valve setting; 16.55 Much whistle blowing; 17.25 Safety valves lifted at 117 psi, but one not re-seating properly. Fire drawn to work on safety valve.
  • Monday 4th September: 10 psi at 09.15. Inspector arrived 11.30, blowing off again about mid-day, boiler passed inspection and celebration burning of boiler suit! Putting the cart before the horse in view of so much heavy structural repair to do? Seemingly, but if the propulsion isn’t to rights the ship won’t move far.

Historic afternoon at Lamlash – September 2nd, about 400 were aboard Waverley at Stobcross Quay for the PSPS (Scottish Branch) charter. The numbers were swollen by 200 at Greenock, 70 at Kilcreggan, before Largs and Millport where numbers increased sufficiently to come close to the limit of 842. On reaching Brodick, a number of passengers took time ashore while Waverley cruised round to anchor off Lamlash Old Pier. A motor boat undertook round trips to land about 48 passengers who returned to Brodick by bus. The route was extended to include the circumnavigation of Holy Isle before returning to Brodick, ready for the 16.45 departure.

Countess sails into Hogmanay blizzard – It was in blizzard conditions that MV Countess of Kempock (1936) departed from Gourock Pier on 30th December for what must rank as the Scottish Branch’s most unusual charter ever. As the Countess entered Loch Goil the strains of William Tennent’s Old Tyme Steamer Band could be heard wafting along the decks – the intrepid violinist playing with woolly gloves. Every passenger received a free piece of Christmas cake and a “hauf” of whisky and the bar provided warmth, which the ageing central heating system did not! Eventually the trusty vessel berthed at Carrick Castle in another snowfall where the staff of both the hotel and shop were equally bemused at the sight of the Countess at their little pier in mid-winter, packed with “nutters”.

London Belle siren sounds again – When the famous Thames paddle steamer went to the breakers after the 1928 season a number of bits and pieces were bought by a collector in Lewisham, and now form part of the PSPS Collection. The siren had an outing recently to Leicester for display at an exhibition. Before the event a local enthusiast mounted it on a recently restored steam roller. Members laid out a small PSPS stand, with the model of London Belle as the centerpiece. At the crucial moment during a brief talk to visitors on the history of the vessel the siren blew, and its magnificent sound was heard some distance away.

President’s Day – 3rd October was believed to be the first time the PSPS has exhibited at a professional engineering institution event. The 1978 President’s Day held at the Institute of Marine Engineers’ London HQ was a whole day event devoted to displays by builders and suppliers of marine engines and propulsion systems. In addition there were fine displays of marine history and early marine engineering literature. The centerpieces of our stand were the Eltridge brothers’ model paddle steamers Queen Victoria and Royal Sovereign, backed up by Kingswear Castle’s whistle and builder’s plate, postcards and PSPS photographic displays. All was expertly set up by the institute’s staff. The President’s address was most interesting, and slides depicted the evolution of screw and paddle engines very well.

The Society’s stand at the President’s Day on 3rd Oct 1978.

Medway Queen – Sir, I note with great regret that Medway Queen has been sunk in our own waters. I feel that PSPS who had a hand in saving the ship has let us all down.

The Chairman Replies: We have every sympathy with the correspondent’s views, but PSPS has no control over Medway Queen, which has always been in private ownership. Very substantial expenditure would be required for preservation even in static form, let alone operationally.