In 1963 the paddle steamer Alumchine was the first paddler to be considered for purchase by the Paddle Steamer Preservation Society, four years before the Kingswear Castle was bought and more than a decade before the Waverley became a subject for preservation. At that time, Alumchine had just been withdrawn from the car and passenger ferry service in Wales between Pembroke and Neyland. Key society members visited the ship and Paddle Steam Navigation Ltd, now renamed the Paddle Steamer Kingswear Castle Trust, was set up by the PSPS in order to purchase the ship at a price of £806 subsequently reduced by her then owners, Pembroke County Council, to just £500. Sadly, the money for this, coupled with the cost of the proposed tow round to Southampton (a further £600), was finally not available and the purchase fell through with the steamer going for scrap in 1965.
Alumchine was built as the Menna in 1923 by Abdela & Mitchell for the Caernarvon Corporation service between Caernarvon and Foel on Anglesey. In 1929 she was bought by James Dredging and Transport and in 1933 she passed to a Mr Lee who, at that time, had taken over the Pembroke to Neyland ferry. In 1956 she became the reserve steamer on the route after the arrival of the brand new twin engined paddle steamer Cleddau Queen.
Alumchine was 80ft long with a beam of 17.5ft , she was powered by a compound reciprocating steam engine and had a Passenger Certificate for 216 plus a crew of 4. The fact that this small steamer was almost purchased by the PSPS raises the interesting question as to how paddle steamer preservation would have progressed in Britain if the purchase had gone ahead. She may not have been as big and powerful as the sea-going Waverley nor did she have the elegance of the Kingswear Castle but she did have a workaday charm all of her own. Who knows, if things had gone differently, perhaps the Alumchine and not the Kingswear Castle would be sailing today?
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.