PS Maid of the Loch, Loch Lomond, Scotland

Built in 1953 by A & J Inglis of Glasgow, the Maid of the Loch was shipped by rail to Balloch, on the southern tip of Loch Lomond. Here the pre-formed sections were reconstructed on a purpose built slip. At a total length of 208ft (63m) and weighing some 555 tonnes, Maid of the Loch was launched on 5th March 1953 and commenced her first scheduled commercial sailing on 25th May of the same year. Owned initially by the newly nationalised railways, Maid of the Loch was transferred to the Scottish Transport Group in 1969 and eventually to Caledonian MacBrayne in 1973.

The Maid of the Loch was the last Paddle Steamer to be built in Britain. She was often criticised over her size and weight, never quite achieving the same public affection as some of her predecessors until more recent times. Although designed to replace two older steamers, Maid of the Loch was fitted with only a two cylinder compound diagonal engine, more reminiscent of Clyde paddlers 50 years previous. This engine arrangement was considered adequate at the time, in view of the fact that she would be operating solely as a cruiser in inland waters.

Maid of the Loch's original livery was all white with a buff funnel, as opposed to the red, white and black livery she carries today, and her duties comprised of sailing to the northern head of Loch Lomond. In later years the Maid of the Loch terminated at Inversnaid, where passengers could transfer to other vessels as part of the popular three-loch excursion. Her final commercial sailing was on 31st August 1981, after which time she was laid up. A succession of owners, among them the Alloa Brewery Company, made various attempts to return Maid of the Loch to some sort of commercial service. All ventures failed, and the Maid of the Loch was left to the mercy of the elements, vandals and souvenir hunters.

In 1995 a group of local enthusiasts, supported by Dumbarton Council, set up a charitable organisation called the Loch Lomond Steamship Company. The neglected paddle steamer was transferred to their ownership, and she is now undergoing a transformation back to her former glory. As a static attraction at Balloch, Maid of the Loch has opened to the public marking the first time in many years that she has received so many visitors aboard. Now that the Maid of the Loch is again able to generate her own income, the long term intention is to restore her fully to operational status. With the dedication and determination of the team now supporting her, this looks as though it could be a real possibility. Everyone involved in returning the Maid of the Loch to active service is wished every success.

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