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P.S. Caledonia

Above: Caledonia on 5th August 1967. Photo by kind courtesy of David Perry

Launched on February 1st, 1934 by Wm Denny & Bros Ltd at Dumbarton, Scotland

Engines : Triple Expansion diagonal : 20, 30.5 and 50 in x 60 in

Dimensions : 223 ft 6 in x 30 ft 1 in

624 Gross Registered Tons

Built for Caledonian Steam Packet Company Ltd
Featured concealed paddle-boxes and linked observation decks above fore and aft deck shelters
Served as a minesweeper named HMS Goatfell during the Second World War
Served on a wide variety of routes, primarily ferry sailings, but also cruising out of Ayr.
Converted to oil-burning for the 1955 season. Radar fitted in 1959.
Replaced PS Jeanie Deans at the Craigendoran station in 1965 and undertook more cruise work
Sold for scrapping after the 1969 season, but Arnott, Young, having renamed her "Old Caledonia" looked for another buyer as an alternative to scrapping her
Resold to the brewing company Bass-Charrington.Greenock under tow on 2nd January 1972

Retaining the name "Old Caledonia", she served as a floating pub moored on the Embankment, central London, arriving on 23rd April 1972
Badly damaged by fire on 27th April 1980
Found not to be worth repair and scrapped. Engines preserved at the Hollycombe Steam Fair Park at Iron Hill, Liphook, Hampshire

Caledonia's appearance in 1934 along with her near-sister Mercury caused considerable interest and, amongst paddler purists, considerable dismay on acount of her unusual, but thoroughly modern appearance. Whilst the LNER's new Jeanie Deans of 1931 looked not dissimilar to existing paddlers, Caledonia featured a large elliptical funnel, deck shelters fore and aft connected to provide an extensive promenade deck, and most revolutionary, paddleboxes, which when seen broadside on from a distance, appeared to conceal her true propulsion method.

It had been 31 years since the last Caledonian paddler had entered service, and although they had not added any turbine steamers to their first such vessel (Duchess of Argyll of 1906) until 1930, continued adherence to paddle propulsion was mystifying, especially when it appeared that every effort had been made to make the vessels look like turbine steamers.

Caledonia was not designed for the long hauls to Campbeltown and Inveraray - railway connections to Dunoon and Rothesay would be the staple, and sufficient deck space for the carriage of barrows and small cargoes would be needed. As it happened, the early 1950s saw car ferries introduced to provide an increasingly necessary service on the main routes across the Firth. Paddlers were increasingly relegated to relief duties, but this remained a vital role due to the poor capacity and turnaround times of the car ferries in peak periods.

Her excellent covered accommodation, plus a reasonable turn of speed (over 17 knots on trial and 14 knots in service), made her an ideal cruise ship and even in pre-war days she was employed cruising to Arran via the Kyles. The car ferry revolution meant that Caledonia was posted to Ayr in 1954 as excursion steamer for this popular holiday resort, which also entailed periodic relief sailings from Ardrossan to Arran. In 1965 she moved up-Firth to Craigendoran, to replace the withdrawn Jeanie Deans, cruising round Bute out of the former LNER stronghold for a further 5 years until the disastrous economics of Clyde cruising signalled the end.

Caledonia as HMS Goatfell.jpg
Above : Caledonia as HMS Goatfell - a minsweeper during World War II in which she was to witness the demise of her sister ship Mercury under her tow off Ireland.
(Royal Navy official photograph)

Caledonia on the Clyde in photos

Above :  A magnificent study of Caledonia in 1967 by kind courtesy of Jake Dale from his collection

Above : Caledonia at Rothesay in 1967 - courtesy of the Jake Dale collection

Above : Caledonia passing through the Kyles of Bute near Tighnabruaich on 3rd September 1968. Photo by kind courtesy of Willie Oswald

Above : Caledonia in 1969 - courtesy of the Jake Dale collection

Click on links below for more photos

Caledonia in the mid 1950s by Jimmy Reid (courtesy of Ronnie McLeod)

Caledonia in a view taken by David Owler, by kind courtesy of Glenda Owler

A packed Caledonia enables passengers to see the warships up-close off the Tail o' the Bank during the Royal Naval Review of 1965 

Seen off the Cowal coast from the deck of Waverley in 1968

Caledonia at Fairlie and Brodick in 1969 

Caledonia as she appeared in her final years. Photo taken at Rothesay by Alexander Bain and supplied by kind courtesy of Donald Bain

Caledonia in a magnificent study by Kenny Whyte

Caledonia at Campbeltown in the late 1960s by Kenny Whyte

Caledonia Nigel Lawrence.jpg

Not long to go ................... Caledonia on 3rd September in her final season, 1969, in a photo kindly supplied by Nigel Lawrence
At the beginning of October, Caledonia made a few runs to Tarbet with the mails, a service which the CSP took over from MacBraynes on October 1st. These were the last runs she made for the CSP before being sold for scrapping - whilst local enthusiasts and, to be fair, her new owners deserately sought a buyer who would find a new use for the old ship.

Goodbye Caledonia.jpg
Brodick 1969 : The webmaster, having disembarked from PS Caledonia, watches the paddler steam out of Brodick Bay after what looked to be and turned out to be the last trip aboard as the favourite paddler was withdrawn at the end of the season.
Caledonia at Lamonts K Whyte.jpg
Old Caledonia went to Lamont's yard at Port Glasgow for refit after she was saved from the scrapyard. Photo by kind courtesy of Kenny Whyte

Caledonia in London


Above : Photos taken in 1973 and 1974 by Gordon Stewart : Click on photo to expand

Caledonia 1977 K Hoggett.jpg

Above: Caledonia in 1977 : Photo by kind courtesy of Kevin Hoggett

For more of Caledonia in preservation :

Click here to have a detailed look around the decks of Caledonia whilst berthed in London : Photos by kind courtesy of Robert McLuckie

Click here to see photos of Caledonia on fire on 27th April 1980 by Chris Howell on
(external link)

Only the engines remain .......

caledonia engine.jpg

Caledonia's engines were saved and exhibited at the Hollycombe Steam Collection at Liphook, Hampshire
Photo by kind courtesy of Robert McLuckie

See more of Caledonia's engine

Caledonia was an impressively revolutionary-styled ship when new 

PS Caledonia and her very near-sister Mercury caused eyebrows to be raised when they appeared on the Clyde in 1934. Perhaps it was a bit of a surprise that the Caledonian Steam Packet Company (CSP), who had in recent years introduced a couple of highly successful turbine steamers and had not had built a paddle steamer for 30 years, placed such vessels on their upper-Clyde ferry services. The CSP had always been near the forefront of technological innovation, but their choice of ship type was extremely conservative bearing in mind that elsewhere in Europe, motor ships were now the vessels of choice. The CSP clearly did not trust motor power for their purpose - and perhaps they were right. Such ships were not tried and tested, although the David MacBrayne in the western isles had already begun the experiment which was to totally change their policy in that part of Scotland. Nevertheless, the CSP did order the most up-to-date paddle steam engines available - triple-expansion, three crank machinery which had hardly featured at all on the Clyde until their competitor the LNER railway had them fitted to their new flier, Jeanie Deans of 1931.

Caledonia and Mercury's biggest immediate impact was, however, in their modern styling. Considerable time had elapsed since the last Clyde paddle steamers had been built and new styles of architectural design were in vogue. The streamlined fore-saloon on the promenade deck reflected the most up-to-date ideas, but the paddle boxes, enclosed in vent-less sponsons created the most surprise - and controversy. From a distance, at least in profile, the two new ships almost appeared as if they were screw ships. To cap it all, one large elliptical funnel gave a much more modern appearance than the tall thin funnels of earlier ships, including even the Jeanie Deans as first built.Were the CSP deliberately trying to hide the fact as well as possible that their new ships were in reality just old-fashioned ships in new clothes? Probably not, but irrespective of motives, the new paddlers brought a style - and quality of accommodation - to the fleet that far outstripped the older vessels. With spacious lounges on the promenade deck fore and aft, both with accessible observation decks above, each linked by alleyways above the open space on the promeade deck amidships she had considerably more space, both inside and out than her paddle predecessors.

With the notable exceptions of three large paddlers built to replace losses in World War II and the ultra-conservative choice to build the Maid of the Loch for Loch Lomond from 1953, the 1930s saw the last new paddle steamers built for the ferry and excursion trade in the U.K. Caledonia was the template for that very final phase of paddle steamer development and in design terms perhaps remained the most "modern" of them all. Unlike Mercury, which was lost during World War II less than seven years after her launch, Caledonia survived until the end of the 1969 season and saw further employment as a pub and restaurant ship moored in central London until so badly damaged by fire in 1980 that she was removed and scrapped. Her engines were recovered and are held in a museum collection.

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