PS Waverley

From Academic Kids

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PS_Waverley_off_Greenock_1994.jpg
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The engine space of the PS Waverley
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PS Waverley approaching Brodick
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PS Waverley leaving Dunoon

The paddle steamer Waverley is the last survivor of the fleets of Clyde steamers, and the last sea-going paddle steamer in the world. Named after Walter Scott's first novel, this elegant steamer sails a full season of cruises every year from the Firth of Clyde, the Thames, the South Coast of England and the Bristol Channel, giving the opportunity to view some of Britain's scenery to the quiet rhythm of paddle wheels and steam engines. The distinctive sight of the two red, white and black funnels and white superstructure with paddle wheel boxes on each side adds to the scenery and is appreciated by photographers both on and off the ship.

Most passengers have a look below decks to the passageway on each side of the engine room (between bars and restaurant), lingering to watch the mesmerising movement of the triple-expansion, three-crank diagonal steam engine (made by Rankin & Blackmore, Engineers; Eagle Foundry, Greenock, Scotland) - some will spend most of the trip here. Every trip gives a reminder of the time when holidaymakers swarmed onto steamers to go doon the watter, sailing from Glasgow down the Firth of Clyde to the seaside holiday resorts and quiet west highland piers.

The PS Waverley was built on the Clyde in 1947 as a replacement for the original PS Waverley of 1899 that had taken part in the WW II war effort as a minesweeper and was sunk in 1940 while helping with the evacuation of troops from Dunkirk. The new 693 tonne steamer was launched in October 1946 at builders A & J Inglis, Glasgow, and was originally built for the LNER to sail the Firth of Clyde run from Craigendoran pier, Helensburgh, up Loch Long to Arrochar, with the funnels painted the now familiar red, white and black. In 1948 nationalisation of the railways brought the steamers under the Caledonian Steam Packet Company (CSP), and the funnels were repainted yellow with a black top. In 1968 a red lion rampant was fixed to each side of the funnels.

After a revival of pre-war fortunes in the 1950s, the 1960s saw a gradual change in holiday habits leading to a decline in passenger numbers, and the closure of many of the small piers. The CSP had been gradually merging with the west highland ferry company MacBraynes, and in 1973 the company became Caledonian MacBrayne Ltd.

The Waverley was withdrawn after the 1973 season as too costly to operate and in need of significant expenditure. By then the Paddle Steamer Preservation Society had set up as a registered UK charity, and already acquired the near-derelict small River Dart paddler, PS Kingswear Castle. Caledonian MacBrayne gladly gifted the Waverley to the PSPS for the token sum of one pound (GBP). Neither side really believed that the vessel would return to steam, but just in case, Caledonian MacBrayne stipulated that she should not sail in competition with their remaining cruise vessel, TS Queen Mary. To everyone's amazement, a massive fund raising operation was successful, and to the surprise of the PSPS they found themselves running a cruise ship operator, Waverley Excursions.

Since then the Waverley has been joined in the PSPS fleet by the Kingswear Castle and MV Balmoral, has had a series of extensive refits and a lot of restoration work, including a new boiler and improvements to meet modern safety standards. She has circumnavigated Britain and every year carries out extensive sailings around the country, which is quite something for a ship intended for a regular Firth of Clyde run.

External links

Reference

  • Clyde Pleasure Steamers - Ian McCrorie, Orr, Pollock & Co. Ltd., Greenock, ISBN 1-869850-00-9
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