Thursday 23rd May was the second day of the 1935 season for he General Steam Navigation Company’s paddle steamer Royal Eagle for which she was scheduled for a departure from Tower Pier at 9.20am calling at Greenwich, North Woolwich, Southend and Margate bound for Ramsgate where she was due to arrive at 2.55pm. There was then a very tight turn around with a scheduled departure time of 3pm for the voyage back to London where she was due to arrive at 8.45pm.
Royal Eagle’s two consorts Crested Eagle and Golden Eagle were set to join her in service on Whit Saturday 8th June with Crested Eagle offering day trips away from Tower Pier at 9am to Clacton back at 9.15pm; Golden Eagle being rostered for an 8am departure (8.40am on Saturdays and Sundays) from Tower Pier for Margate with a return at 9.30pm (8.45pm on Saturdays and Sundays) and Royal Eagle continuing on her same roster from Tower Pier to Ramsgate.
Each paddle steamer was marketed with their own slogan with the Crested Eagle dubbed the “Greyhound of the River”, the Royal Eagle as “London’s Own Luxury Liner” and the Golden Eagle as “The Happy Ship”.
Although both Royal Eagle and Golden Eagle were running essentially the same trip from Tower Pier they were targeting entirely different market segments with the former going for the better off and well to do who could afford Royal Eagle’s much higher fares. For example Royal Eagle’s return fare London to Margate was 8/- during the week which was double the 4/- return fare for the same trip on the same day on the Golden Eagle. At weekends all the fares shot up on the principle of supply and demand with a Sunday sailing to Ramsgate on Royal Eagle costing 11/- where you could have got to Margate on Golden Eagle for just 5/- on Saturdays and 8/- on Sundays. Just like the low cost airlines today the General Steam Navigation Co in 1935 understood the principles of marketing segmentation and pricing policy in order to maximise their take in revenue.
The Eagle Steamer handbook of 1932 explains the differences:
The slogan we have adopted may cause people to wonder what difference can be made between ships going on afternoon cruises to sea. We lay claim that once you are aboard the “Golden Eagle”, there is not a dull moment. Sports and games start immediately on leaving the pier, the kiddies find real fun and enjoyment in the balloon-blowing competitions, skipping, musical chairs, tug of war and streamer throwing. Even the grown-ups cannot be kept out; they become young once again, and want to blow balloons and enter into the fun with all the keenness of the youngsters. Soon all are one great big happy family; hence our slogan, “The Happy Ship”.
So there you have it. If you had wanted to take a trip down the London River in 1935 you would have had a choice. On the one hand think of all that lovely balloon blowing, skipping and streamer throwing to be enjoyed on the Golden Eagle. On the other, if you had preferred a gentle G & T whilst tucking into a fine dining experience on “London’s Luxury Liner” and, if you could have afforded the higher fare, then you could have gone for that.
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 23rd May 2021.