Built in 1924 by Philip & Son's of Dartmouth - third in a trio of sister ships, Compton Castle, Totnes Castles and Kingswear Castle - she was the last paddle steamer to be built for use on the River Dart. Kingswear Castle was operated by the River Dart Steamboat Co. and superseded another paddle steamer, built in 1904, of the same name. The hulk of the original paddler still survives on the River Dart but her engines were installed in the 'new' Kingswear Castle, and she still has them today.
The three paddle steamers spent their working lives between Dartmouth, Totnes and Kingswear. During the war years, Kingswear Castle was chartered by the American Navy as a Liberty ship in Dartmouth. The heyday of the holiday paddlers was to be short lived, and by the 1930s operators were closing routes and building no new tonnage. By the 1960s with more and more people owning cars, holiday patterns changed. Combined with increased running and maintenance costs, operators withdrew ships at an alarming rate.
Kingswear Castle was withdrawn from service in 1965 and was destined to become the first purchase of the Paddle Steamer Preservation Society (PSPS), the sale finally going through in 1967. The PSPS still operate her today. Initially, due to lack of funds for restoration, Kingswear Castle was chartered to the Ridetts on the Isle of Wight, who were successfully operating the PS Medway Queen. She set out from Dartmouth under tow in August 1967. Her condition continued to deteriorate during her time in the Isle of Wight and the PSPS seriously considered scrapping the Kingswear Castle, as funds for much-needed works were still not available.
Happily the situation was to improve, and Kingswear Castle was moved to the River Medway in the summer of 1971. For many years restoration continued to move slowly forward until finally, in the spring of 1985, she emerged with full passenger certificates for river cruises and short, sea voyages. Between 1985-2012 Kingswear Castle was based on the River Medway at Chatham Historic Dockyard in Kent, and carried many tourists on summer excursions down the Medway and, occasionally up the Thames to London Bridge.
However, the 2013 season will see a new chapter in the Kingwear Castle's history when, on the 18th December 2012, she returned to the her home river, The River Dart, for the first time in 45 years. Here she will be operated by the Dart Valley Railway Company under a new long-term charter.
We have been fortunate enough to travel on the Kingswear Castle many times, and there is really nothing quite like a gentle Sunday afternoon cruise down the river, enjoying the sun and the sea breezes. For those that have an affinity with water and steam, a trip on the Kingswear Castle is how a lazy Sunday afternoon should be spent.