Brian Waters has built a new model of the Consul a paddle steamer I remember very well as an ever present part of my childhood. There she was laid up in Weymouth Harbour every winter. There she was sailing past my bedroom window, which looked out on Portland Harbour, in summer. And there I was aboard her often during the season. As an example my notes for 1962 show that I travelled on her every single Sunday during that summer as well as other days during my school holidays occasionally with my parents or auntie but most often on my own. The paddle steamer bug took hold early on for me.
Many of you will know Brian Waters (pictured above). He played a major part in the restoration work aboard KC in the 1970s at Rochester and as one of the few involved at that time who had any professional maritime experience was much needed for his ever helpful, useful and expert advice. Without Brian I don’t think that it would ever have happened.
After KC got going Brian built the small paddle steamer Monarch from scratch financed entirely by himself. After he sold her he built another small sternwheeler of similar size called Bluebell. So Brian has been a little bit of a one man paddle steamer factory. When I first knew him in the mid 1980s he lived in a large house. Today he lives in an almshouse. All his money went on paddle steamers. Now over 80 he is working on a smaller scale and has produced a series of magnificent models of which the Consul is the latest.
Brian has built this model as Consul was in 1956 complete with the great deckhouse over the aft companionway down to the main deck fitted after the war and removed in 1957. In this pic you can see the captain’s cabin on the left, one of the two boiler room ventilating cowls for providing air for the furnaces, the small green painted fan engine for the induced draft up the funnel, the “Foamite” brown painted tank which contained two chemicals which when mixed would have produced a foam to put out a fire in the boiler room. The detail is all there. For example a section of the bulwark on the foredeck was painted black in the vicinity of the oil bunkering point so as not to show up any mess on the paintwork.
Built as Duke of Devonshire in 1896 for the Devon Dock Pier and Steamship services from Exmouth and Torquay along the Devon and Dorset coasts she served in the First World War in the Mediterranean. In the 1930s she was owned briefly by P & A Campbell before spending a couple of years running in Ireland based at Cork and then returning to her old routes. In 1937 she was bought by Cosens of Weymouth and renamed Consul.
During her sixty eight year operating career Consul had three rebuilds, firstly on her return from military service after the First World War, secondly when she was bought by Cosens in 1937, during which she was given a new and larger funnel, and thirdly after the Second World War. It was touch and go whether or not the latter one would happen as by that stage in her career her structure was in need of so much rebuilding but in the end the work went ahead and she came out in time for the 1949 season. After being sold by Cosens in 1962 she had two further years in service, in 1963 trying her hand on the Sussex Coast and in 1964 back at Weymouth. After that she became an accommodation ship for a sailing school at Dartmouth.
Consul was scrapped in 1968 at Southampton but her memory lives on not least in this lovely new model of her built by Brian Waters.
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 9th November 2022.