Paddle Steamer Kingswear Castle

The UK's only coal fired paddle steamer

Paddle Steamer Kingswear Castle

The UK's only coal fired paddle steamer

The Kingswear Castle was built in 1924 and as an historic ship she has been lovingly restored to her former glory, she has flush decks and wheelchair friendly gangways but her toilets are below decks and are not DDA compliant.

IMPORTANT NOTE : KC does not operate on all services. If booking using the links below please understand that the trip is not guaranteed to be on the paddlesteamer. In 2024, KC will operate from June to September only (dates to be confirmed). Please call on the day of travel to check which vessel is operating the service.

The historic paddle steamer Kingswear Castle is the last remaining coal-fired paddle steamer in operation in the UK today and is running on her home waters of the River Dart once more.

She was built in 1924 at Philip & Son of Dartmouth and plied her trade between Totnes and Dartmouth until 1965 (her engines are even older, dating back to 1904, eight years before the sinking of the Titanic). In her heyday when this impressive ship was the life blood of the river Dart, she could carry almost 500 passengers.

She runs c.1hr Dartmouth River Cruises and is part of the Steam train & Cruise trip too.

Steam & Cruise map

Starts from Dartmouth - View location

History

The "KC"  is a member of Britain's historic fleet and is officially listed as being of pre-eminent national importance and is the last remaining coal-fired paddle steamer in operation in the UK today. She is running on her home waters of the River Dart once more since her return in 2012 from Chatham, Kent. She was built in 1924 at Philip & Son of Dartmouth and plied her trade between Totnes and Dartmouth until 1965 (her engines are even older, dating back to 1904, eight years before the sinking of the Titanic). In her heyday when this impressive ship was the life blood of the river Dart, she could carry almost 500 passengers.

Along with the "Cardiff Castle" and "Dart Explorer" vessels, she operates on the Dartmouth River Cruise trip - a circular cruise from Dartmouth sailing the lower part of the River Dart viewing the castles at the estuary, Britannia Royal Naval College and towards Agatha Christie's Greenway Estate and Dittisham. A beautiful cruise on this glorious vessel - a gracious old lady of the Dart!

The paddle steamer Kingswear Castle is the last remaining coal-fired paddle steamer in operation in the UK today. She was built in 1924 at Philip & Son of Dartmouth and plied her trade between Totnes and Dartmouth until 1965 (her engines are even older, dating back to 1904, eight years before the sinking of the Titanic). In her heyday when this impressive ship was the life blood of the river Dart, she could carry almost 500 passengers.

The first passenger steam boat service was introduced on the Clyde in 1812 and it wasn't until 1836 that the South Hams greeted its first estuary passenger steamer. Prior to this, goods were transported via pack horse or carters wagon. The arrival of the railways in the mid 1800's challenged their survival and at that point they became more reliant on the tourism trade.

The steam railway has had a long historical link with the steamers on the river Dart. Charles Seal Hayne was one of the early investors in the railway and associated steamer service. In 1859 he founded the Dartmouth Steam Packet Company Ltd which was later sold to Dart Pleasure Craft - now part of the Dartmouth Steam Railway & River Boat Company. PS Kingswear Castle was loaned to the US Navy during World War II for use as a harbour tender. She was purchased by the PSPS (Paddle Steamer Preservation Society) and left the Dart in an era when diesel engines and propellers were favoured over paddles and after a short spell operating from Cowes on the Isle of Wight, she moved to Chatham in Kent where the PSPS spent 15 years fully restoring her to her former glory and where she has been offering river trips on the Medway since 1985. In 2013, she returned to the home waters of the river Dart after an absence of 47 years.

The centuries old river trade in cargo and passengers, facilitating development of the wool trade in Ashburton, Buckfastleigh and Totnes, shifted to steam power during the mid 19th century using small paddle steamers. These steamers paused at the mouth of Bow Creek and off the villages of Dittisham, Stoke Gabriel and Duncannon to collect and land passengers and goods from open boats and from 1861 called at Greenway Quay to connect with the newly -completed railway at Churston. In 1922 a long pier was constructed at Dittisham to allow steamers to call at all states of the tide. By the late 1920s the all-year-round service had given way to summer-only tourist sailings. The three most modern paddle steamers continued through to the 1960s when they were replaced by screw powered vessels of the type that operate today.

Of the last three, the Totnes Castle sank whilst being towed to Plymouth, the Compton Castle became a floating restaurant at Kingsbridge and was then moved to Truro (where her hull survives to this day) leaving the Kingswear Castle to be saved by the Paddle Steamer Preservation Society.

Access Information

Disabled customers are most welcome on board but for safe access a small degree of mobility is needed by everyone. The Kingswear Castle was built in 1924 and as an historic ship she has been lovingly restored to her former glory, she has flush decks and wheelchair friendly gangways but her toilets are below decks and are not DDA compliant. If you are concerned please call us on 01803 555872.

​Due to the jetty and vessel design, people who use wheelchairs must be able to walk, (assisted if necessary), for just a few steps for access at boarding gates, since crews are not permitted to lift occupied wheel chairs.  Each disabled person should be accompanied by a person who is able to help if there is an emergency on board.

We regret that motorised wheelchairs and scooters are not normally permitted on board, due to their weight and bulk, which may obstruct the safe movement of passengers. The total number of wheelchairs permitted on board is at the discretion of the Master of the vessel and will vary depending upon the weather and the vessel's location.

We operate a mix of historic and more up to date vessels, therefore access to toilets may involve negotiating steps.   Please contact us in advance of your trip for further information.

Awards

The paddle steamer Kingswear Castle won Gold for the Best Visitor Attraction Award at the 2014 Herald Express English Riviera and South Devon Tourism and Hospitality Awards (October 2014).

PS Kingswear Castle was been given yet another accolade as the Institution of Mechanical Engineers presented the vessel with an Engineering Heritage Award. The splendid plaque will be displayed on board and was presented to Jeremy Gold of the Paddle Steamer Preservation Society by John Wood, Past President of IMechE in front of members of the PSPS, staff and crew of Dartmouth Steam Railway & River Boat Company and other invited and distinguished guests. Now in its 30th year, the Institution’s Engineering Heritage Awards are given to recognise and celebrate Britain’s industrial heritage and the paddle steamer Kingswear Castle was chosen as being Britain’s last operational coal fired paddle steamer and previous winners of these awards include Concorde 101, Tower Bridge and the Jaguar E-type.

The vessel is a member of Britain's historic fleet and is officially listed as being of pre-eminent national importance.

Stats

Shipbuilder
Philip & Son, Dartmouth, 1924. Riveted steel hull

Engine builder
Cox & Co, Falmouth, 1904

Engine type
Two-cylinder compound reciprocating steam

Boiler
Scotch return tube type 8ft dia (2.43m) x 8ft length single furnace, coal fired, working pressure 120 lb/sq in (approx 8 bar). The present boiler was built by Wellman Robey Ltd and installed in March 1963

Coal capacity
4 tons

Overall length
113ft 8in (34.7m). Length between perpendiculars 108ft (33m)

Beam
17ft 6in (5.3m)

Hull overall
28ft (8.5m)

Paddle wheels
10ft (3m) dia, fixed wooden paddles

Service speed
8 knots (15km/h)

Passengers
Class 5 certificate 235, Class 6 100

Reviews

  • Sunny days - The river cruise was a delight, such a fun and knowledgeable crew member giving the commentary, really is a must if visiting the area.
  • Great little railway - You’re given allocated seats with your family bubble and it's all very secure. The carriages have had Perspex screens installed. All staff were friendly and helpful. We got some lovely pictures from the train.
  • Great family fun - It was brilliant with our 2yo - she was so excited to see the trains and the view along the journey was beautiful. The commentary on the boat was well delivered. Would highly recommend!

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