Flagship of our fleet, Paddle Steamer Waverley is the last seagoing passenger-carrying paddle steamer in the world.
Built in 1946, she sailed from Craigendoran on the Firth of Clyde to Arrochar on Loch Long until 1973. Bought by the Paddle Steamer Preservation Society, she has been restored to her 1947 appearance and now operates passenger excursions around the British coast.
Since 2003 Waverley has been listed in the National Historic Fleet by National Historic Ships UK as “a vessel of pre-eminent national importance.”
Waverley is the 16th Clydebuilt vessel to be named after Scottish novelist and poet Sir Walter Scott’s (1771-1832) first novel published in 1814. She was ordered by the London and North Eastern Railway (LNER) to replace an earlier Waverley. This earlier paddle steamer, built in 1899 by A & J Inglis of Glasgow, served in the both World Wars as a minesweeper before being sunk by aircraft on 29th May 1940 during the evacuation of troops from Dunkirk. The present day 693 tonne Waverley was also built by Inglis at the same Pointhouse yard, her keel being laid on the 27th December 1945 and launched on 2nd October 1946 by Lady Matthews, the wife of the Chairman of the LNER. Waverley entered service on the 16th June 1947, working the LNER’s Firth of Clyde steamer route from Craigendoran Pier, near Helensburgh, up Loch Long to Arrochar. In her first year in service she wore that company’s red, white and black funnel colours.
The 1948 nationalisation of Britain’s railways brought their Scottish steamers into the Caledonian Steam Packet Company (CSP), a subsidiary of the Railway Executive, and the funnels were repainted yellow with a black top. In 1965 a Scottish red lion rampant was fixed to each side of both funnels. Waverley’s hull was painted monastral blue until 1970.
After a revival of fortunes in the 1950s, the 1960s saw a gradual change in holiday habits that led to a decline in passenger numbers and the closure of many of the small piers. Since 1969 and the formation of the Scottish Transport Group, the CSP had been gradually merging with the West Highland shipping and ferry company David MacBrayne Ltd. In 1973 the company became Caledonian MacBrayne Ltd (CalMac).
Sale and Restoration
CalMac withdrew Waverley after the 1973 season as she was too costly to operate and needed significant expenditure. By then the Paddle Steamer Preservation Society had been set up as a registered UK charity, and had bought the near-derelict small River Dart paddler Kingswear Castle. CalMac, keen to ensure that the ship was preserved, sold Waverley to the PSPS for the token sum of £1.
A public appeal was launched to secure funding for the return of the Waverley to service and the fund-raising operation was successful. Waverley underwent a £7m two-phase Heritage Rebuild in 2000 and 2003 at the shipyard of George Prior Engineering in Great Yarmouth, funded principally by the Heritage Lottery Fund. The substantial work included two new boilers, improvements to meet modern safety standards and to returning the ship to her original 1947 livery. An archive of over 600 photographs taken during both phases of the rebuild may be viewed from the menu .
In 2009 the ship was affiliated with Royal Navy Type 45 destroyer HMS Defender, having hosted the official dignitary party at Defender’s launch on the River Clyde.
In August 2011 the ship was awarded the Institution of Mechanical Engineers 65th Engineering Heritage Award. The plaque is displayed on the ship by the engine room.
Waverley is powered by a three-crank diagonal triple-expansion marine steam engine built by Rankin & Blackmore, Engineers, Eagle Foundry, Greenock, Scotland. It is rated at 2,100 IHP and achieved a trial speed of 18.37 knots (34.02 km/h; 21.14 mph) at 57.8 rpm. Passengers can watch these engines from passageways on either side of the engine room.
The main crank is solidly attached to both paddle wheels so they cannot turn independently of each other. The Waverley therefore has a much larger turning circle than modern ships several times her size.
Waverley makes passenger excursions from various British ports and indeed has circumnavigated the coast of the United Kingdom. She sails between May and October each year, primarily operating from Glasgow and the Firth of Clyde but also the Bristol Channel, the Solent and the Thames.
She also undertakes private charters and has provided a period setting for television documentaries and movies such as Guy Ritchie’s 2011 film “Sherlock Holmes: A Game of Shadows.”
Waverley is operated on behalf of the Society by Waverley Excursions Limited.