PS Waverley, Greater Glasgow

Paddle steamer No.1330 had her keel laid in the yard of A & J Inglis of Glasgow on the 27th December 1945 and was named and launched as 'Waverley' by Lady Matthews, into the river Clyde, on 2nd October 1946. Built for the London and North Eastern Railway (LNER) for their services out of Craigendoran, she replaced a previous Waverley, which was lost to enemy action transporting British troops from the beaches of Dunkirk in May 1940.

Weighing 693 tonnes, PS Waverley is 239ft (72.4m) long, with a beam of 30ft (9m), and a draught of 6.5ft (1.9m). When she was launched PS Waverley was licensed to carry 1350 passengers. Powered by a triple expansion diagonal steam engine supplied by a double-ended coal fired boiler, she was capable of some 18.5 knots.

Her maiden voyage was on the 16th June 1947 but her career with LNER was to be short, as in 1948 under government nationalisation she was transferred to the ownership of the British Transport Commission. PS Waverley's ownership again changed in 1951 when she was transferred to The Caledonian Steam Packet Company (CSPC) and her penultimate change of ownership came in 1971 when the CSPC was merged with David MacBrayne, to form Caledonian MacBrayne. Running mainly excursions along with some ferry work on the upper Clyde PS Waverley's services were to increase in the 1960s and 1970s as her ageing sisters were retired. PS Waverleys career was soon however to follow, due to the advent of greater car ownership and the 'package holiday', and at the end of 1973, she was finally considered by her owners to be commercially un-viable as maintenance costs and more frequent breakdowns finally forced her to be laid up.

The paddle steamer preservation society (PSPS), which had been set up some years earlier to try and promote the Clyde steamer trade, had always had a close relationship with Caledonian MacBrayne and was now fully aware of the Waverley's unique status as the world's last operational ocean going paddle steamer. It was agreed the PSPS would purchase PS Waverley for the sum of £1 and would attempt to preserve her for future generations. Most onlookers expected her to be re-fitted as a static display but the PSPS had other ideas and on the 22nd May 1975 PS Waverley under took her first voyage for the newly formed Waverley Steam Navigation Company.

In May 1977 PS Waverley was to leave the Clyde for the first time in her career as it became clear that to make running the ship a viable business, she would need to run excursions much further afield. In 1977 PS Waverley spent some time in the Irish sea and in 1978 toured along the south coast from Lands End to the River Thames, excursions that she still frequently runs to this day. Recently PS Waverley has undergone a complete £4,000,000 re-fit with the help of a lottery grant to ensure that she continues well into the 21st century.

To cruise on this lovely ship is a memorable experience and we last caught up with Waverley on an evening cruise to London pool. The floodlit Tower Bridge being raised to let her pass and the Thames fire boats spraying their waterjets in salute was one of those evenings that you will always remember. Sailing with her sisters the MV Balmoral and the river paddler, Kingswear Castle, has also helped to regenerate some of our threatened seaside piers and has rekindled an interest in a part of our heritage that was once so common. Long may this trend continue.


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