I had my first encounter with ice cream whilst on the paddle steamer “ Kingswear Castle” when she was sailing on the River Dart in the early 1950’s. For me the memory of the steamer trip is very dim being 3 or 4 years old at the time. Apparently I didn’t like ice cream, much to the surprise of my parents. As far as I can remember the coldness of it shocked me, and a few more years passed before I eventually found the courage to sink my teeth into an ice cream cone.
At the time of writing this in 2009, the only surviving British padddle steamers are:-
The Kingswear Castle. Preserved and operating from Chatham. http://www.pskc.freeserve.co.uk/, http://www.heritagesteamers.co.uk/kingswearcastle-title-new.htm
The Waverley. Preserved by the PSPS and run by the Waverley Navigation Co. Operating from Scotland during the summer, and other parts of the UK during the spring and autumn. http://www.pswaverley.org.uk/ , http://www.waverleyexcursions.co.uk/
The Maid of the Loch:- Under restoration at Balloch, Loch Lomond, Scotland. http://www.maidoftheloch.com/
The “Medway Queen”. Under restoration at Kingsnorth, Hoo. http://www.medwayqueen.co.uk/
PS.” Ryde”. Slowly rotting away. Situated at Binfield Corner, Isle Of Wight. UK. http://www.psryde.co.uk/ryde/index.php, http://paddlesteamers.awardspace.com/Ryde.htm, http://www.bfenthusiasts.com/forums/showthread.php?p=83712
PS. Wingfield Castle (ex Humber ferry). http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/PS_Wingfield_Castle, http://www.theheritagetrail.co.uk/maritime/ps%20wingfield%20castle.htm
PS. Tattershall Castle (ex Humber ferry). http://www.theheritagetrail.co.uk/maritime/ps%20tattershall%20castle.htm,
PS. Lincoln Castle (ex Humber ferry). http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/PS_Lincoln_Castle, now scrapped (2010). :-(
There are however paddle steamers surviving in other parts of the world. The oldest surviving steamer is to be found in Norway, the PS. Skibladner built in 1856 and still running each summer. The second oldest is the PS. Hjejlen built in 1861 situated in Silkeborg, Denmark. Apparently there is a little bit of controversy between the Danes and Norwegians as to which steamer is technically the oldest, as PS Skibladner has been lengthened, altered and re-engined twice since it was built. Whereas PS Hjejlen is pretty well in its original state, with its original engine. Throughout the rest of Europe there are paddle steamers still running in:- Germany, Switzerland, Austria, the Czech Republic, The Netherlands, and Italy.
Paddle steamers in those days were still quite common. Living in Bristol, UK, in the 1950’s it was natural for my parents to take trips on the P & A Campbell steamers plying the waters of the Bristol Channel. Summer holidays on the south coast of the UK also meant a boat trip, and luckily, for a number of years, these were taken on paddle steamers. My parents and I would board the steamer, and they would find a sheltered place to sit on deck, where they would have a good view of the coastline. Did their son sit there quietly and well behaved, enjoying the landscape ? NO !!!
Waverly leaving Ilfracombe harbour at 4:38 pm on 17th October 2003.
It was a beautiful sunny day, but very windy, thus Waverly was forced to leave Ilfracombe earlier than planned, and the 2pm trip along the North Devon coast had been cancelled, due to the weather and tide conditions.
I think I was well behaved, although I do seem to remember some occasions when maybe I didn’t quite measure up to their expectations (like the day when I managed to slide down the muddy banks of the River Avon at Seamills, and arrived home covered from head to toe with mud, and stinking terribly). Anyway, when we took these steamer trips, I did not sit still on the upper deck idly watching the landscape, oh no, as soon as my parents had positioned themselves, I would make for the stairway leading to the lower deck, to my goal... that magical place found amidships on the lower deck, known as the engineroom ! And there I would stand for most of the trip, watching the huge (to a small boy) cranks revolving, the connecting rods shooting back and forth, and all the other numerous rods and pieces of metal, each moving at its own individual pace and direction doing its own particular job to keep the ship on the move. It was a fascinating sight !
It wasn’t only the sight of the engines pounding away, that kept me mesmerised, it was the sound as well. There would be the rumbling of the crankshaft, a hiss of escaping steam from a cylinder gland at each revolution of the engine, a clonk from a bearing, a sigh from the condensing equipment, and a clank from a connecting rod all combining to create a rhythmic symphony ! There was also the heat that eminated from the hot machinery, that enveloped ones body, no way would I go up on deck and sit and watch cliffs and sea speed past, and be buffeted by the wind, no!.... because down in this wonderful place, in the heart of the ship, it was warm, dry and perfumed with the wonderful smell of warm lubricating oil.
The only surviving British padddle steamers are:-
The Kingswear Castle. Preserved and operating from Chatham. http://www.pswaverley.org.uk/ (follow link to Kingswear Castle).
The Waverley. Preserved by the PSPS and run by the Waverley Navigation Co. Operating from Scotland during the summer, and other parts of the UK during the spring and autumn. http://www.pswaverley.org.uk/
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