Built in 1914 Kingswear Castle’s sister Compton Castle ran up and down the Dart until 1962. For some years after that she was a static tea-shop at Kingsbridge during which time she turned her engine occasionally. She then was towed to Truro on the River Fal to open in a similar role plus an ancillary operation as a flower shop. By that time her engine had been removed and bought by the theme park at Blackgang Chine on the Isle of Wight and was displayed in working condition until a couple of years ago as part of their excellent steam engine gallery.
Recent developments at Blackgang Chine and future plans there did not include this steam section so all the machinery was put up for auction and I am delighted to be able to report that the Paddle Steamer Kingswear Castle Trust bought Compton Castle’s engine and associated pumps.
In the picture above, taken at Blackgang Chine, you can see Compton Castle’s engine finally lifted out onto the back of a lorry and Rob Kingswell making off on the left to the bigger truck which took the engine and all its associated bits and bobs down to Kingswear. Getting it out from the display at Blackgang Chine however was easier said than done as it entailed removing some roofing and using a 100 ton crane for the lift as building work since the engine was lifted in meant meant that a crane could not get very close and therefore one with a very long jib was needed. Using such a large crane with such a long jib meant that work had to be done preparing the ground on which the crane was to sit, making a special roadway for it with matting over the top to spread the load. There were also only inches to spare on all sides lifting the engine out but it all worked just fine with tip top coordination between the crane driver in his remote cabin some distance from the building, his man on the radio next to the engine and Rob Kingswell from Kingswell Haulage controlling everything expertly on the ground.
We are all very grateful to PSKC trustee Richard Martin, a former director with Babcock, for his help and advice in the early planning stages and most particularly to Rob Kingswell for preparing the final plan of campaign and executing what was a really challenging job with his team so superbly.
The lorry set of from the Isle of Wight in the late afternoon of Thursday 3rd March crossing the Solent on Red Funnel’s ferry from Cowes to Southampton and, after a rest break at Exeter for the driver, arrived at Kingswear early the following morning. In the picture above you can see the lorry between the roofs of the buildings with the Dart Railway’s crane and trucks waiting for the lift at the level crossing on the left. As the crane could get right up to the trucks here the railway’s own crane was of sufficient size to lift the 8 ton engine.
The engine arrived at Kingswear station around lunchtime on Friday 4th March to be greased up and covered over before being taken off for storage. The plan of campaign is that it will be displayed in a special glass container at the station for the time being although it would be nice to see it back in a paddle steamer working.
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.