Given her subsequent career trajectory it is easy to think of Waverley as having been built primarily as an excursion paddle steamer which of course to some extent she was. But she was also built as a people mover for the LNER, a railway company with railway connections on ferry services connecting different piers on the Clyde to the railway network. Indeed in her early career and until the introduction of the four low running cost Maids in 1953 she was often put to work on the ferry services on the winter timetables.
Before nationalisation of the railway network in 1948 both the LNER from their north bank terminal at Craigendoran and the LMS from their south bank terminal at Gourock ran their own ferry services to Dunoon and Rothesay with calls at piers along the way pretty independently. After nationalisation the two strongholds were slow to join up. By the winter of 1950 management was pushing that process of integration and with their eyes firmly fixed on the bottom line were determined to reduce costs. From 4th January 1950 they announced a single ship service to the following initial roster.
The one steamer was to overnight at Rothesay from where she was to set off on weekdays at 6.45am for Innellan, Dunoon, Kirn and Gourock. From there at 8am there was a run to Dunoon and back and then on to Craigendoran for 10.15am. Ten minutes later she was due away for Gourock, Kirn, Dunoon, Innellan, Wemyss Bay and on to Rothesay for 12.35pm. There was an hour an a half alongside before setting off again at 2pm for all piers back to Craigendoran for 4.40pm Then she was away ten minutes later for Gourock and another round trip to Dunoon before finally setting off from Gourock (last trip of the day) at 6.10pm for Hunters Quay, Kirn, Dunoon, Innellan and on to Rothesay for 7.25pm. So that’s basically two round trips from Rothesay to Craigendoran and two round trips from Gourock to Dunoon. How different from today where there is a roughly hourly service connecting Rothesay with Wemyss Bay throughout the day and a half hourly service between Gourock and Dunoon also throughout the day.
It was a tight roster for one ship and Talisman, which inaugurated the new service, sometimes struggled to keep to time not least because she was coming up for her annual dry-docking later in January and had a dirty bottom which didn’t help her speed.
From Friday 13th January our Waverley, took over and the time keeping improved. So if you had been around in the late winter and early spring of 1950 and had fancied a trip on a paddle steamer then you could have had one on Waverley.
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.
This article was first published on 17th March 2021.