Ever since I moved to a flat next to the river, my summer evenings have been enlivened by the sight of a rather pretty boat chugging past the flat at night, with a distinctive paddle-steamer sound and decoratively lit for ornamental purposes instead of flashing garishly as the party boats are wont to do.

This is the PS Waverly, the last seagoing passenger carrying paddle steamer in the world.

PS Waverley passing the flat

She was built in 1946 as a replacement for an earlier PS Waverley of 1899 that took part in the WWII war effort as a minesweeper and was sunk in 1940 while helping with the evacuation of troops from Dunkirk.

Curiously, although built to sail on a Firth of Clyde steamer route, the boat was owned by the London and North Eastern Railway, so there is a direct link with London — albeit a long distance one — in her heritage.

Each summer, the ship runs tour excursions around the UK – including a few weeks up and down the Thames.

Sadly, it turns out that this summer may have been the last time it graces the Thames with its streamlined form, as the charity that owns it is in financial trouble.

According to their official statement “We need to be able to fund the ships’ annual refits that are required to enable them to sail next year, and we do not have the money to do this.”

So they are having a fund raising – to secure the £350,000 they need to refit the ship.

To be blunt, they might do better if their website wasn’t quite so erm, yeugh – but if you are inclined to help preserve a piece of UK steam heritage, then here is the place to visit.

PS Waverley returning to London

I’ve not taken a trip on the boat myself — and kept meaning to — so your donations might save my chance of a holiday sometime in the future! However, Caroline took a trip last year.

Rather cunningly, and not unlike a number of boats on the Thames, she has a totally pointless tall mast on the boat – which just coincidentally happens to be too tall to fit under Tower Bridge, and thus forces the bridge to open every time she passes through.

Which is nice for the tourists on board, if less so for motorists wanting to use the road above.

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6 Comments

  1. Rebecca

    I’m all for preserving history, but this one seems kinda…odd. Looks out of place on the Thames, the mast as you point out isn’t even functional…I don’t know, I’ve seen it paddling past and wondered…

  2. David

    I have, in the past, taken several trips on the Waverley and it was a lovely experience. Sadly the whole thing appears to have turned into a ‘booze cruise’ mentality and the last time I heard of someone taking a trip they said it was awful and full of inebriated louts.

  3. I have a bit of a soft spot for the Waverley myself, partly because I was asked a question about her on Mastermind (the LNER was my specialist subject). I wonder if the ship’s owners have sought help from either the National Railway Museum or from Glasgow City Council (who have a very good transport museum).

  4. The Waverley is a more common sight on the Clyde, and going ‘doon the watter’ a good old Glasgow summer tradition. (Which of course means hiding from the rain below deck).
    It would be a shame to see her consigned to the history books, especially since I’ve still not had a chance to go for a sail on the Thames.

  5. Let’s hope she is able to be saved and revamped back to the way she was supposed to be. Not a party boat, but a relaxing trip on one of the oldest vessels the UK has to offer.
    Sophie Hobson, deputy editor, LondonlovesBusiness

  6. JulieB

    Three times I tried to go onboard the Waverley; the first time I was unable to make the trip due to work commitments, the second time it was cancelled for me by the local tour company/organiser and the third time I thought I was actually going to ‘live the dream’ only the company sent along MV Balmoral instead as Waverley was having a refit. Unsurprisingly I was not a happy bunny, I mean these things are scheduled – they don’t decide to have a refit overnight. The operator must have known Waverley wouldn’t be sailing as I joyfully handed over my money. Unsurprisingly I’ve given it a miss since…

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