Online Catalogue last updated 10th of December 2016
Not much more than half a century ago, excursion paddle steamers were still a common sight plying the lakes, lochs, rivers and coastal resorts of Britain.
Most people were sufficiently familiar with them to have at least a basic understanding of how they worked! Children of all ages marvelled at the polished brass on the engines — often visible through glass panels — and the crew members working away below.
By the 1950s, with the increase in motoring holidays, the popularity of the excursion steamer trip was already waning, and by the 1960s few were making any money. And then suddenly, just like steam trains, they had almost all gone — victims of the growing popularity of the motor car, cheap flights and more sophisticated holiday expectations — and we had barely noticed.
There are currently seven of them left, and at the time of writing two of those are still sailing. They are the 1947-built Waverley and the Dartmouth-built excursion steamer Kingswear Castle which has recently returned to work on the River Dart after many years sailing on the Medway.
Many of the finest Edwardian excursion steamers were featured in the millions of postcards produced for the tourist market. A number of those cards — beautifully tinted and printed at a very high quality — form the basis of many of the illustrations in this book.
The finest often came from print works in Saxony, Bavaria and Belgium in the years before the First World War.
This book does not set out to be a comprehensive history of the paddle steamer. Rather it offers a series of snapshots of the fascinating story and enduring charm of paddlers over the last two hundred years, profusely illustrated by nostalgic historic images and the author’s own superb photography.
It also offers a look at those few precious survivors of the age of the excursion steamer, the ferry and the paddle tug, and the efforts of those whose passion is to keep them alive and steaming.
John Hannavy is a writer, photographer, photographic historian and incurable steam enthusiast. Until retirement he was Professor in Photography and Photographic History at the University of Bolton.
hardback, 210x148mm, Published September 2014.
Code No. 016866, 144 pages, ISBN 9780857100924, $30.00