PS Ryde (Queen), Isle of Wight

Commissioned by the Southern Railway Company, and constructed at the yards of William Denny & Brothers of Dumbarton in 1937 the PS Ryde, together with the PS Sandown, were the first Southern Railway Paddle Steamers to be fitted with triple expansion diagonal reciprocating steam engines. Built to a length of 223ft (68m), with a beam of 52ft (16m), the PS Ryde weighed some 566 gross tonnes.

Built to replace the Duchess of Norfolk on the Portsmouth to Ryde ferry service, the PS Ryde was finished to a high standard. PS Ryde had an observation lounge on her promenade deck, and on the main deck a large saloon, a tea room, a ladies room, a smoking room, and a restaurant. A two-class ship, 'saloon class' and 'third class', PS Ryde operated an all-year-round service prior to the outbreak of the Second World War.

Becoming part of the British Rail fleet, when the railways were nationalised in 1948, PS Ryde continued to offer the same service until the more modern motor vessels eventually replaced her. PS Ryde then operated as a relief vessel, still offering summer excursions, and survived until 1969. By that time she had become the last Paddle Steamer working on the Solent.

PS Ryde spent a week on charter at Tower Pier on the River Thames in London during September 1969 , offering short river cruises. After that she was moved to a mud berth at the Binfield Marina on the Isle of Wight. Renamed 'Ryde Queen' she was initially used as the Marina clubhouse, and more recently as a discotheque. Damaged by fire in 1977, PS Ryde was repaired but several changes of ownership have meant that attempts to properly restore her have faltered. She now remains at the Marina in a dilapidated condition, completely at the mercy of vandals and souvenir hunters. Both paddle boxes have since suffered considerable damage, and her future is looking increasingly bleak.


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