Monday 17th October was the last day of the 1949 season for Glen Usk which she spent making three round trips on the Cardiff/Penarth/Barry ferry to Weston-super-Mare.
At this stage in her career Glen Usk was generally the first out and the last to finish of all P & A Campbell’s paddle steamers. She was smaller than Bristol Queen, Cardiff Queen, Britannia and Glen Gower and therefore more economical to operate at the quieter times of the season. And whilst she was larger than Ravenswood she was flush decked so had better undercover accommodation in case the weather was not so clement than her smaller fleet mate.
In 1949 she notched up a magnificent 190 operating days, lost only one day to the weather and one to a mechanical issue and steamed 13,649 nautical miles compared with Bristol Queen (13,091 miles), Britannia (11,954 miles), Cardiff Queen (11,229 miles), Glen Gower (10,063 miles) and Ravenswood (9,205 miles).
Look in the picture above and you will see Glen Usk’s steering steam engine sited just forward of the main engine. Some paddle steamers had it in the engine room like this. Others had it positioned back aft next to the rudder. Having it in the engine room was not popular with some engineers because of the noise it made by its constant chattering as the helm was moved one way or the other. But for me sitting in the engine room was the better option as it was in an ambient environment and it was there in full view for the engineers to see and so spot any problems before they became serious. Whilst it would have been in the daily routine for the steering engines sited back aft to be checked that position was a bit remote and a tiny tad out of sight and so out of mind.
One aspect which helped P & A Campbell to enjoy a long season stretching on to the middle of October was the Cardiff to Weston ferry as this was the easiest and quickest way of travelling between Wales and Somerset in the days before the Severn Bridges were built.
It is also within the confines of the old Partially Smooth Water limits, as then defined by the Board of Trade (today called Category D Waters by the MCA), which extend from Barry Dock Pier to Steepholm thence to Brean Down. For this there are no weather restrictions on the Class IV Passenger Certificates which are valid day and night whereas the sea-going Class III are only valid when the weather is fine and the sea is settled, in summer and in daylight hours only.
After completing her trips on Monday 17th October 1949 Glen Usk than proceeded to join her consorts to lay up in the Floating Harbour at Bristol.
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 October 2020.