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Firth of Clyde, UK
North British Steam Packet Co Ltd (1866-1902)
North British Railway (1902-1923)

The North British Railway was earlier than its rivals in operating its own steamers rather than relying on private owners to provide connections at the railheads. The Railway established the North British Steam Packet Company to run services from the railhead at Helensburgh to Dunoon and Rothesay and also to Ardrishaig, in competition with the route to the West Highlands operated by David Hutcheson. Two large steamers were ordered for the 1866 season which ended in operational and financial failure. A more limited service was resumed in 1869 and a regular service was established from the north bank of the Clyde. The North British (NB) suffered several disadvantages in comparison with its south bank rivals, the CSP and GSWR, (particularly the longer rail route from Glasgow and longer sea route to the main resorts) but services from Craigendoran, which replaced Helensburgh from 1882, continued up until 1972. The North British took direct control of its steamship subsidiary in 1902 until 1923 when the NB was amalgamated with other railway lines into the London & North Eastern Railway (LNER). Railway amalgamation left the LNER steamers independent, but facing a stronger combined CSP/LMS fleet operating from Gourock on the south bank and from other Ayrshire piers.
PS Meg Merrilies (1866-1867)
PS Dandie Dinmont (1866 and 1869-1885)
PS Carham (1869-1872)
PS Gareloch (1872-1891)
PS Sheila (1882-1894, renamed Guy Mannering)
PS Meg Merrilies (1883)
PS Jeanie Deans (1884-1896)
PS Diana Vernon (1885-1901)
PS Lucy Ashton (from 1888)
PS Lady Rowena (1891-1903)
PS Lady Clare (1891-1906)
PS Redgauntlet (1895-1909)
PS Dandie Dinmont (from 1895)
PS Talisman (from 1896)
PS Kenilworth (from 1898)
PS Waverley (from 1899)
PS Marmion (from 1906)
PS Fair Maid (never sailed for the NB - lost during World War I)

Vessels transferred to the LNER : Lucy Ashton, Dandie Dinmont (1895), Talisman, Kenilworth, Waverley and Marmion

CRAIGENDORAN


Above : Right through until the late 1960s, Craigendoran pier, with its two arms was thriving. Admittedly, the former Caledonian railhead at Gourock was the centre of operations for the Clyde fleet, but "LNER" boats had always tended to sail out of their former company's base. Waverley, the LNER's last ship is seen from an approaching steamer, probably the Caley's Caledonia. Photo courtesy of Kenny Whyte


This 2015 photo by Kenny Whyte of the derelict remains of the NB/LNER railhead at Craigendoran shows how the ships had a direct route across to Dunoon and the Cowal coast, seen in the far distance in the photo. However, in the mid-distance on the left is the pier at Gourock - the railhead for the company's rivals. From this picture it is clear how the opening of the railway to Gourock conferred a significant time advantage on the Caledonian Steam Packet Company. 
Bibliography
Craigendoran Steamers
Alan Brown
Published in 1979 by Aggregate Publications, Johnstone, Renfrewshire, Scotland
A history of the NB, LNER and the Craigendoran services of the post-war Caledonian Steam Packet Company.

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