Paddle Steamer Waverley

PS Waverly by ZakPicked up a news item last night about the paddle steamer Waverley.

Returning to the river Clyde in Glasgow in her 60th year of operation, PS Waverley is the last surviving sea-going paddle steamer in the world, and it’s nice to think I can wander along there and see her in operation. And this after she was sold for £1 in 1974, having been taken out of service then due to lack of demand. The PSPS (Paddle Steamer Preservation Society) had planned to save her as a floating museum, but somewhere along the line that idea was forgotten (fortunately) and they got carried away and were able to restore her to full operation! (Pic courtesy of Zak).

One of the best views has to be seeing her pass through the Kyles of Bute, anywhere near the ferry crossing between Colintraive and Rhubodach on north end of the Isle of Bute. While you can see her close up when she docks, catching her on the Kyles mean she’s cruising under steam, and close to the land because of the narrow navigation channel, so you get the full benefit of the now unique sound of the paddles driving her through the water.

Although not sea-going, the Maid of the Loch can also be found nearby, at Balloch pier on Loch Lomond. Sharing distinctions with the Waverley, the Maid was the last paddle steamer to be built on the Clyde, or Britain, in 1953. The builder was the same as for the Waverley, A&J Inglis. You may have noticed that Loch Lomond is an inland loch, unconnected with the Clyde, which flows into the sea. Once completed and trialled, the Maid was dismantled as she had been assembled by bolting rather than riveting, and the parts transported by rail and re-assembled on the loch at Balloch pier.

Hugely successful in her heyday, like the Scottish resorts she was to suffer from the advent of cheap package holidays abroad and their guaranteed sunshine, and passenger numbers fell as fuel costs rose. It’s no secret now that her operating costs were not helped by the ‘redistribution’ of fuel and other consumables around the loch. On August 32, 1981, she made her last sailing and was laid up at Balloch pier, to be forgotten. By 1992, she was in a sorry state, having been neglected, stripped and vandalised as she lay rotting at Balloch pier, however the year marked a turning point as the various failed plans that a number of changes of ownership were about to end as Dumbarton County Council took ownership, and her restoration process began.

Today, the process is largely complete, and she serves as a floating restaurant, bar and function suite to earn a little money, however the bulk is obtained from external funding, grant and donations, while the restoration work is carried out by unpaid volunteers.

The final major phase will be the fitting of a new boiler to restore power to the currently static Maid.

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2 Responses to “Paddle Steamer Waverley”

  1. Will Rogers Says:

    just a correction note nice to see the ship mentioned on the net but please change one the year that she was purchased for £1 it was 1974 that happened not 1973 the ship was taken out of service in 73 piror to being bought in 1974 by PSPS. if you dont believe me check out the book “paddler for a pound” by Douglas McGowan.

  2. Well spotted, August 1974 is indeed the date of record, and I must have hit the wrong key, but it’s right now – appreciate the note.

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