We are pleased to report that the engine and some related machinery from PS Compton Castle have been acquired by our associated charity Paddle Steamer Kingswear Castle Trust Limited (the KC Trust).
Compton Castle was one of the series of paddle steamers built to an evolving design for the River Dart Steamboat Co. and its predecessors from the Berry Castle of 1880 to our present Kingswear Castle of 1924.
Compton Castle was built in 1914 by Cox and Co. of Falmouth. Her two cylinder compound diagonal engine is almost identical to that which Cox and Co. built for the 1904 Kingswear Castle and which was later transferred to the 1924 ship. Compton Castle had an operational life of 48 years, being withdrawn after the 1962 season. She subsequently saw service as a café at Kingsbridge, followed by an abortive project at Looe to restore her to service. In 1982 she was sold to Truro where the machinery was removed and the hull was used by various owners – with many changes to her superstructure – as a café and a florist shop. The hull remains at Truro, currently out of use.
Compton Castle’s engine was acquired by a commercial museum at Blackgang Chine on the Isle of Wight and placed on display along with other examples of steam and other historic industrial machinery. The engine, which was installed in a new building before its roof was completed, was shown as a working exhibit turned by an electric motor.
Over the years the Blackgang museum has evolved into more of a leisure park, and they have now decided to focus on this side of the business. At the end of their 2014 season they therefore placed all their industrial machinery for auction on the internet.
When the proposed sale was announced, PSPS and the KC Trust decided that it would be desirable to acquire the Compton Castle machinery, with a range of possible uses in mind. Preliminary discussion with our friends at the Dartmouth Steam Railway and River Boat Company (the Dart company – operators of PS Kingswear Castle) confirmed that they would be willing to exhibit or store the engine on our behalf. John Megoran and Richard Martin (trustees of the KC Trust), together with an expert in the moving of large machinery, visited Blackgang and concluded that it would be practicable to remove and transport the machinery from the site at an acceptable cost.
The internet auction ran from 27th October until 3rd November. Following our successful bid detailed discussions have now commenced with the Dart company, and discussions will soon take place with the Blackgang museum about the best way to remove the machinery from the site.
The acquisition and the costs of removal and transport from the site at Blackgang Chine are being jointly funded by PSPS and the KC Trust.