: The Internet's leading database of Paddle Steamers past and present

Firth of Forth
Prior to the opening of the Forth Road Bridge in the 1960s, car ferries crossed the Forth estuary, between North and South Queensferry. Latterly, these were operated by Wm. Denny & Bros, of Dumbarton shipbuilding fame. Excursion services were operated, with the Galloway Saloon Steam Packet Co, which eventually became controlled by the North British Railway.
The excursion steamers era effrectively ended in 1914 when the Forth was declared a controlled area for military purposes at the outbreak of World One

Galloway Saloon Steam Packet Co
Grangemouth & Forth Towing Co
Redcliffe Shipping Co
William Denny & Bros

FIRTH OF FORTH EXCURSION STEAMERS : Notes kindly added by Gillon Ferguson

Before 1914 the excursion trade was dominated by theGalloway Saloon steam Packet Company Despite having a variety of owners the management was almost always in thehands of a member of the Galloway family which gave continuity.  In 1891 the majority of shares was obtained by the North British Steam Packet Company acting for the NBR, by 1901 all the shares were in their hands and later a NBR director became chairman so that the company became to all intents and purposes a subsidiary of the NBR. In most seasons an extensive programme was provided both to the outer Firth and upriver a far as Stirling.  After the Caledonian railway bridge at Alloa was opened in 1884 upriver steamers had to have telescopic funnels. The “Bread and butter “ sailing was however the ferry service from the Edinburgh piers to Aberdour but after the Forth Bridge was  built this became triangular to serve Queensferry.

PS Lord Aberdour (1866-1900) built in 1866 by Aitken & Mansell, Glasgow /J Aitken & Co : 142 feet long  - Single oscillating  engines - 130 GRT

The first purely excursion steamer on the Firth and the first with  deck saloons. One funnel aft of paddleboxes.  Fitted with telescopic funnel and hinged masts  to pass under Alloa Bridge in 1884
Broken up at Granton 1900

PS Lord Elgin ( 1876-1881)  built in 1876 by Richardson Duck & Co / T Richardson &Son :  160 feet x 20 feet : Compound Diagonal engines - 203 GRT

Destined to become the best known of all the ships built for the company
Single funnel forward of the paddles with raised quarterdeck.
Her machinery was advanced for the time   
Sold 1881 to Bournemouth Swanage & Poole S P Co and in 1909 to the Southampton & Isle of Wight RMSP Co  who converted her into a flush decked cargo steamer 
When finally withdrawn in 1955 she was by a long margin the last cargo paddle steamer in the British Isles
The reviewer remembers his astonishment at seeing a flush –decked  paddle steamer at Southampton in 1948

PS Lord Mar  built in 1876

Sister ship to Lord Elgin. Ssold almost immediately to Brazil

Lord Morton (1883-1918) built in 1883 by S & H Morton, Leith  : 169 feet (later extended to 181 feet x 21 feet : Single diagonal Engines  -   186, increasing to 220 GRT

Twin funnels ahead of the paddle boxes.  Narrow saloons fore and aft. Said initially to be down by the head but this was cured by lengthening by Hawthorn`s at  Leith in 1900
Sold to the Admiralty 1918 but blown up in the White Sea to avoid capture -  Nonetheless an  amazing voyage for a small 35year old paddle steamer built for inshore summer service

PS Stirling Castle (I) (1884-1898)  built in 1884 by S & H Morton, Leith - 160 feet x20 feet : Single diagonal engine -  160 GRT

A smaller version of Lord Morton.   Given telescopic funnels . Sold to Constantinople in 1898

PS Edinburgh Castle  (1886-1918 ) built in 1886 by J Scott, Kinghorn : 160 feet x 20 feet ;   Single diagonal engine  : 158 GRT

Single telescopic funnel.   Full width after saloon.  Reboilered in 1897 and later fitted with normal funnel
1918 sold to the Admiralty and eventually blown up in White Sea with Lord Morton

PS Tantallon Castle (I) (1887-1898 ) built in  1887 by S & H Morton, Leith  : 190 , `later 202 feet x21 feet : Single diagonal engine : 240, later 257 GRT

Flagship of the fleet.  Full width saloons .  “Down by the head “ and was lengthened  at Leith in 1895
Sold to Constantinople in 1898

PS Wemyss Castle (ex Gareloch) (1891-1906 )  built in 1872  by H Murray & Co/ J Rowan  :  180 feet x 18 feet : Single oscillating engine : 172 GRT

Built for North British Steam Packet Co's Clyde services. Transferred after NB gained control
Raised quarter deck without deck saloons but faster than the other ships
Scrapped 1906 

PS Tantallon Castle (II) (1899-1901) built in 1899 J Scott, Kinghorn : 210 feet `x25 feet : Compound diagonal engine : 333 GRT

Largest steamer to date.  Full deck saloons and two funnels forward of paddles Said to be tender and down at the head and did not remain long with fleet
Sold to Sussex and then to Bristol channe as Westonia. In 1911 she entered  the fleet of P & A Campbell as Tintern and was reboilered with one funnel
Sold to Portugal 1913

PS Stirling Castle (II) ( 1899-1907) built in  1899 by J Scott Kinghorn  : 174 feet x 24 feet :  Compound diagonal disconnecting engines  : 271 GRT

A smaller edition of  Tantallon Castle with a single telescopic funnel
Sold to Southampton Company in 1907 and sunk on war service1916

T S S Roslin Castle (1906-8) : Screw steamer

PS Redgauntlet (1909 -1917) built in 1895 by Barclay Curle & Co, 215 feet x 22 feet : Single diagonal engine : 277 GRT

Former North British Railway Clyde steamer transferred to the Galloway comapny. Faster than other steamers  and was successful but hull had to be strengthened for service on the Forth
Sold to the Admiralty in 1917 and later to Algeria

PS Duchess of Buccleugh  built in 1915 by A & J Inglis, Pointhouse, Glasgow  : 225 feet x 288 feet : Compound diagonal engines : 450 GRT

Taken over by Admiralty whilst on the stocks.  Scrapped 1923


Railway and other steamers  byDuckworth and Langmuir :   Shipping Histories 1948
Steamers of the Forth by  Ian Brodie  : David and Charles 1976
Steamers of the Forth  by Ian Brodie  Vol 1 – Ferry crossings and river sailings :  Vol 2 – Firth services and excursions :   Stenlake Publishing

Return to:
Historical Database