PSPS Visit to George Prior Engineering

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

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On 29 April, about 80 members of the Paddle Steamer Preservation Society took advantage of the opportunity to visit the Waverley during the course of her rebuild at Great Yarmouth.

This was our first glimpse of the paddler between two of George Prior Engineering’s buildings.
On arrival we congregated in the new after deck shelter, where a number of drawings and photographs were on display. Engineering Director Ian McMillan welcomed us to Great Yarmouth and explained the afternoon’s proceedings. We were split into four groups to see the results of all the work going on.
I was in the fourth group, which turned out to be the first one to board the ship.
Gaining the ship via the bridge deck gave us this view southwards towards the mouth of the River Yare. Note the blue ship berthed on the west bank. This part of the ship is the least affected by the Rebuild, most of the work having to be deferred following the HLF’s decision not to provide additional funding at this stage.
You will have seen elsewhere on the web site pictures of the new starboard sponson being fitted. You may have wondered why she hadn’t turned turtle. The answer lies in these concrete weights, carefully placed on the port side of the otherwise empty boiler room.
Our next view was of the strangely skeletal engine.
These were the remains of the after deck shelter – it used to cover the whole taped off area. The stairs to the upper deck end in midair.
View into the future paddle drum.
The dining saloon with the galley beyond.
The refurbished wooden window frames set into the new steel hull plating.
The Jeanie Deans Lounge will remain largely untouched. Tony Horn’s splendid bar will see further service. The remainder of the furniture is stacked along the centreline.
The view from the engine room alleyway. Much too light and airy for Ken, I think.
Back on the promenade deck, the starboard sponson takes shape. Note the blue ship turning to leave harbour.
The old steel after deck shelter coming down to make way for the new aluminium one. The weight saving is needed to allow for the new aft double bottom beneath. This work is being wholly funded by the Society.
Having left the ship, we were guided around George Prior Engineering’s compact yard. Parts of Waverley were in most of the workshops and storage areas. The paddle wheels are in a temporary enclosure, behind a blue tarpaulin.
Ian McMillan told us he was very pleased with the condition of the wheels. They were built 10 years ago at Avonmouth. Only about £2,000 worth of work was needed to refurbish them.
View along the dock side. The port sponson was due to be fitted in the following week.
Fortunately Jim McFadzean was on duty on the Balmoral when this happened to his old ticket office and cabin.
A stack of new windows in the joiners shop.
New tables for the dining saloon being made to drawings prepared from the last remaining original example, now the officers’ table on the Balmoral.
The stripped down steering engine awaits some new parts in the fitting shop.
Nearby, the whistle gleamed.
On the road side of the site the two freshly painted paddle drum tops await their turn to be fitted. This is likely to be in the very last stages of the work.
The three big ends from Waverley’s main engine lie at the centre of a store where all the parts are being refurbished in turn. Beyond them is the refurbished rotary circulating pump. After years of salt water corrosion, this item has been restored by the insertion of a plastic lining to keep water and iron apart in future.
The top part of the prototype Y2K buoyant apparatus, newly varnished. This will feature buoyant foam instead of copper tanks to keep it afloat. It will shortly undergo a severe testing programme to demonstrate it does meet today’s stringent requirements. 11 more units will be required if it passes.
The port sponson houses on the quay side, while Waverley shows an enormous amount of boot topping. She currently sits three feet high in the water.

All words and photographs by Martin Longhurst.