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BRISTOL CHANNEL - United Kingdom
Barry Railway Company / Barry and Bristol Channel Steamship Company
The Barry Railway company was promoted by interests in coal mining and steel in the South Wales valleys as an althernative to the existing rail service to Cardiff docks and as such, its interests were very much in transporting the commodities of its sponsors. It had no immediate interest in steamers although it vigorously promoted the docks at Barry and encouraged development in general, including the holiday resort at Barry Island. The company persuaded P and A Campbell to run steamers from a pier built alongside the dock, but later put their own fleet on the station.

Having decided to compete for the steamboat business, they set about development of a fleet capable of taking the Campbells at their own business and PS Gwalia and PS Devonia appeared in 1905. PS Westonia became the third steamer, bought second-hand, and PS Barry joined the fleet in 1907.

Competition with the Campbells was never going to be easy, especially as there was some bad blood between the two companies following disagreement over the terms of Campbell's use of Barry Pier. The Barry company was to run steamboats only until May 1910, selling their fleet to avoid mounting debts and a shareholder's revolt against a board which remained sympathetic to the venture.

Although the "Red Funnel" fleet as it became known gained a great measure of popularity, the company was dogged by legal disputes with its main competitors, the Campbells, legislation restricting their freedom to develop services and the legacy of the high cost of its three magnificent new steamers

As a railway company, parliamentary powers were required to operate steamships and the powers granted generally included provisions which limited operations to routes genuinely associated with the mother company's principal business (ie railway connections to non-accessible locations). The powers were also granted to take account of the legitimate interests of existing operators.

The Company were limited to calls on the southern bank of the Channel between Weston and Ilfracombe, with additional summer excursion destinations allowed so long as the cruises started and finished at Barry. To circumvent these restrictions, the company resorted to the ploy of registering their vessels in the names of its directors and set up an operating company, the Barry and Bristol Channel Steamship Company. The Campbells resorted to successful legal action which ensured that by July 1907, the Barry Railway Company was required to abide by the terms of the original legislation.

Services were maintained despite deteriorating financial fortunes, but as a cost saving measure, PS Gwalia was sold to the Furness Railway Company on May 7th 1910. Five days later the remaining three steamers were sold to Bristol Channel Passenger Boats Ltd. The latter company struggled to make the business pay and after two seasons, sold out to the Campbells.


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Bristol Channel