11th July 1948:
Emperor of India

11th July 1948:
Emperor of India
Emperor of India on trials off Weymouth 1948.

Following her post war rebuild, on Sunday 11th July 1948 Emperor of India was open to the public at Weymouth to inspect all the work which Cosens’ craftsmen had carried out to transform her and provide her with an entirely new look.

Emperor of India, Dorset Daily Echo 10th July 1948 front page.

She passed through Weymouth Town Bridge on Friday 9th July and ran trials in Weymouth Bay before mooring alongside ready to be open to the public on the Sunday.

Emperor of India, Dorset Daily Echo 10th July 1948 copy inside.

The Dorset Daily Echo reported:

Young apprentices have put in some first-class work on panelling. Altogether 50 shipwrights, joiners, machinists, polishers, apprentices and labourers have worked unceasingly, yet all the while proudly, for the past 8 months on Emperor of India. Every bit of work has been done within the firm of Cosens and Co. As soon as workmen leave the Emperor of India for the last time – and today (Saturday 10th July) the finishing touches were being applied – they will transfer their attentions to another steamer of the company’s fleet, the Consul, which they hope to have ready for service later in the summer.

As things panned out Consul was not ready later in the summer and had to wait until 1949 before she too emerged from her post War rebuild.

On Monday 12th July 1948 Emperor of India ran a trip from Weymouth for invited guests and the following day started her summer season at Bournemouth.

Emperor of India 1908 off Bournemouth Pier.

Emperor was built in 1906 as the Princess Royal, for what became Red Funnel, with an open foredeck. However she did not meet her design specifications so was sold on to Cosens.

Emperor of India with full promenade deck to the bow backing out of Bournemouth Pier.

They plated up the foredeck to give her an extended promenade deck.

Emperor of India backing out of Bournemouth Pier 22nd July 1955.

This is basically what Emperor looked like when she emerged from her post War rebuild, almost unrecognisable from her former self.

I say basically because by the time that this picture was taken in 1955 there had been some minor modifications. The previous year she had gained a crane arrangement on her funnel to take a second steaming light which had become a requirement that year. And in an attempt to reduce her weight wherever possible, as after her rebuild she sat low in the water, she had also lost the landing platforms atop her paddle boxes and her short and stumpy mizzen mast.

1955 was a very good summer with lots of sunshine and little wind, This drew out the crowds with the Swanage service from Bournemouth so popular and busy that Monarch couldn’t cope with the crowds so Emperor of India was drafted in with her larger passenger capacity to help clear the queues.

By contrast 1956 was a summer of wind and rain and loadings were not great. This was also the year of the Suez Crisis with many wondering if the country was heading towards another World War.

Sadly this rebuilt paddle steamer with high end quality fitting out lasted for only nine summer seasons. The market declined as the 1950s wore on and she became just too big for the available traffic.

1956 was Emperor’s last season after which she was scrapped in Belgium.

Kingswear Castle returned to service in 2023 after the first part of a major rebuild which is designed to set her up for the next 25 years running on the River Dart. The Paddle Steamer Kingswear Castle Trust is now fund raising for the second phase of the rebuild. You can read more about the rebuilds and how you can help if you can here.

John Megoran

John Megoran

This article was first published on 11th July 2021.