The General Steam Navigation Company’s paddle steamer Royal Eagle was scheduled to make her first trip of the 1935 season on Wednesday 22nd May with 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:
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.
All this choice of fares during the main season was still to come. On Wednesday 22nd May 1935 if you had wanted a trip you would have had to take the Royal Eagle and fork out for her higher fares.