The Story of the Paddle Steamer Kingswear Castle Restoration 1973 to 1983
December 2nd 1972 was a momentous day in the history of Paddle Steamer Preservation Society – the decision was made to go for an all out effort to preserve Kingswear Castle.
The Paddle Steamer Kingswear Castle is owned by the Paddle Steamer Kingswear Castle Trust on behalf of the Paddle Steamer Preservation Society. There is a similar arrangement with the Paddle Steamer Waverley. KC is now back on the Dart under the enthusiastic supervision of the Dartmouth Steam Railway and River Boat Company.
The story of KC’s return to the Dart can be traced back to her purchase by the PSPS in 1965. Billed as Britain’s Most Successful Steamship Preservation Society, PSPS was formed in 1959 by Professor Alan Robinson with the objective of preserving the experience of sailing aboard paddle steamers.
KC’s size made her a possible practical proposition for what was in 1965 quite a small Society consisting mainly of enthusiasts. At a time when the preservation movement was at an embryonic stage and a few steam railways had just started operations on a very limited scale, the thought of an amateur group owning a steamship was considered by some to be foolhardy. But by the 1960s the steamer excursion trade throughout the country was in deep financial trouble, as a result of changing holiday patterns and the increased ownership of cars, combined with higher operating costs and the problems of ageing ships. One steamer after another was withdrawn, as operators tried to cut their losses and get out of steamships while they could. The River Dart Steamboat Company was no exception and KC was offered to PSPS on very generous terms.
About this Project
This site is a not-for-profit project to record the initial period, 1973 to 1983, of the restoration of the paddle steamer Kingswear Castle. This succeeded in bringing the ship, discarded in 1965, to full working order. It paved the way for return to revenue earning service and access to funds that enabled maintenance, improvements and major replacements such as boiler, decking and hull plating. Records of these later events can be found on Kingswear Castle Trust website here.
The early work recorded here was carried out by volunteer members of the Paddle Steamer Preservation Society. Unlike the 21st century, there were no mobile phones, and no digital photography or social media in the 1970s. Communications were carried out by home telephone calls and mail. Reports and comments were published in the PSPS journal “Paddle Wheels”. These, together with the log books and personal recollections have been used in an attempt to bring to life material that exists in the archives and make it more accessible. It is intended to bring back some of the atmosphere surrounding the ten years that it eventually took to complete the work.
Photographs have been sourced from Paddle Wheels, the PSPS Collection, and individual collections. In some cases it has not been possible to trace the source and in other cases not possible to trace the owner. Additional information regarding photographs is welcome and changes to the site will be made as necessary.
Many people contributed to this restoration on a voluntary basis, and it is not possible to name them all. Some of them appear in the story and part of the objective of this site is to acknowledge the contribution of all.