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Historical Database
River Dart
Devon is a picturesque county with the spectacular Dartmoor, now a National Park, dominating much of the county. The River Dart flows off the moor and, between Totnes and reaching the sea at Dartmouth, it is navigable, passing through some attractive countryside eminently suited to excursion cruises and, in the early days, providing a fast and efficient link between the local riverside communities.

Small paddle steamers had been employed in the area since the early years of steam navigation and the trade came to be dominated by the Dartmouth Steam Packet Co, established in 1859 and later reconstituted as the River Dart Steamboat Company. A classic design of small river paddler was evolved, the final version being PS Kingswear Castle, which served until 1965. This vessel was bought by the Paddle Steamer Preservation Society in an ambitious first attempt at preservation on their own account. After many years of slow restoration based on the River Medway followed by operation at her new home, she was later sent on long-term charter to the current operators of excursion vessels on the River Dart where she is now in regular service.

A short cross-river ferry service was operated from the railhead at Kingswear across to Dartmouth, owned by the railway company (Great Western) but operated for a short time by the Dartmouth Steam Packet Company before the railway once again ran it directly until 1948. The ferry service is once again interated into the excursion vessel operation at Dartmouth which itself is part of a heritage steam railway operation using the original route between Paignton and Kingswear.

Dartmouth (1872-1880) built in 1859

Newcomin (18xx-1880)
Louisa (1866-1870)
built in 1856

Guide (1869-1877) Tug

Berry Castle (1880-1917)
Dartmouth Castle (1885-1907)
Totnes Castle (1894-1912)
Kingswear Castle (1904-1923)
Dartmouth Castle (1907-1939)
Compton Castle (1914-1963)
Totnes Castle (1923-1963)

Returned to service on the River Dart after a 15-year charter agreement with the ship's preservationist owners in 2013

Kingswear Castle (1924-1965 and 2013 to date)

Above : PS Kingswear Castle (1904-1923) lost her engines to her successor of the same name but, most unusually, was not scrapped. In a scene more reminiscent of the Danube running through eastern Europe or some Russian river systems, the hulk has been left to deteriorate - gradually. This photo taken at Fleet Mill Quay is from 2005 and was taken and kindly supplied by Phil Barnes.

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Historical Database