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South Eastern and Chatham Railway  (1899-1923)
Established in 1889 as a joint operating operation for two railway companies which had competed directly for business between London, Kent and the channel ports :
- South Eastern Railway
- London, Chatham & Dover Railway
In 1923, the two companies, which had remained legally independent, were amalagmated into the newly establised Southern Railway and their steamer fleets providing services to Boulogne, Calais and Ostend were amalgamated and much of their older older tonnage disposed of. Their paddle steamers had all been disposed of by the end of the 1911 season

The accolade of the last paddle steamer built for cross-channel services goes to Mabel Grace (above), ordered by the South Eastern Railway and put into service in 1899. Her regular route was from Folkestone to Boulogne in France.  Photo in public domain

South Eastern Railway Fleet

Boulogne (1878-1903, sold)
Folkestone (1878-1903)
Albert Victor (1880-1899)
Louise Dagmar (1880-1899)
Mary Beatrice (1882-1900)
Duchess of York (1895-1904)
Princess of Wales (1898-1910, sold)

Mabel Grace (1899-1909)

London, Chatham & Dover Railway Fleet

In the 1870s, The LC&D  experimented with innovative paddle steamer designs in an attempt to reduce passenger sea-sickness, but without success

Samphire (1861-1899)

Petrel (1862-1899)
Foam (1862-1901)
Wave (1863-1899)
Breeze (1863-1899)
France (1864-1899)
Prince (1864-1899)
Castalia (1874) was a catamaran with two "half-hulls" with two central paddle wheels  between the hulls each powered by a separate engine
Bessemer (1875-1879) was double-ended and had four side paddle wheels and a pivoting central hull section
Calais-Douvres (1877-1886) was double-ended twin-hulled with one central paddle wheel between the two sections
Invicta (1882-1899)
Victoria (1886-1904)
Empress (1887-1906)
Calais-Douvres (1889-1900, sold)
Dover (1896-1911)
Calais (1896-1911, sold)
Lord Warden (1896-1911)

There were no new-build paddle steamers for the South Eastern & Chatham joint operation

Mabel Grace entered service once the joint venture had been established and was the last paddle steamer built for channel service. In the first decade of the 20th century, turbines were successfully applied to passenger vessels and this form of engineering was adopted for subsequent vessels which were propelled by screws. The success of the speedy and economical turbine steamers brought about a rapid demise for the paddle steamers in the fleet.

Mabel Grace

Built by Laird Brothers, Birkenhead (Yard no. 634)
Length : 300 ft, 1315 GRT
Engines : Compound three cylinders : 55, 77.5 and 77.5 in x 72 in : 848 NHP
Launched 28/2/1899


Chatham Steamers - The Paddle Steamers of the London, Chatham and Dover Railway
By John Hendy
Published by Ferry Publications in 2020
ISBN  978-1-5272-9869-9
Comprehensive history by well-known ferry historian John Hendy

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