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South Eastern and Chatham Railway  (1899-1923)
Established in 1899 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

There followed an immediate rationalisation of the joint fleet with the withdrawal of many older paddle steamers. PS Mabel Grace currently under construction did join the fleet followed by the newly-specified screw steamer Canterbury. Shortly after their introduction, turbine steamers had proved their value elsewhere and this form of propulsion was specified for subsequent vessels. 
In 1923, the two companies, which had remained legally independent, were amalagmated into the newly established 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. A later change was to move the bridge forward of the funnel and install a small wheelhouse, but after ten years of service she was scrapped - a victim of the obsolescence brought on immediately in 1902 with the introduction of turbine steamers on cross-channel services.
Photo by Rothesay photographer J Adamson who issued numerous steamer postcards, now in the public domain. Photo taken during her speed trials on the Clyde

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
Achieved a mean spped of 20.32 knots over six runs on the measured mile on the Clyde
Scrapped in 1910
 


South Eastern Railway Fleet


Sold promptly :

Albert Victor (1880-1899) Built by Samuda Bros at Poplar. 250 ft : 814 GRT. Engines : Oscillating 72 and 72 in x 60 in. by J Penn & Sons
Louise Dagmar (1880-1899) Built by Samuda Bros at Poplar. 250 ft : 816 GRT. Engines : Oscillating 72 and 72 in x 60 in. by J Penn & Sons
Mary Beatrice (1882-1900)  Built by Samuda Bros at Poplar. 255 ft : 817 GRT. Engines : Oscillating 72 and 72 in x 60 in. by J Penn & Sons 
 
Retained :

Duchess of York (1895-1904) Built by R&H Green at Blackwall. 270 ft : 996 GRT. Engines : 3 cyl Compound Diagonal 48, 68 and 68 in x 72 in. by J Penn & Sons
Princess of Wales (1898-1910) Built by Laird Bros at Birkenhead. 270 ft : 1009 GRT. Engines : 3 cyl Compound Diagonal 47, 66 and 66 in x 72 in by builders

New build
 

Mabel Grace (1899-1909) Built by Laird Bros at Birkenhead. 300 ft : 1315 GRT. Engines : 3 cyl Compound Diagonal 55, 77 1/2 and 77 1/2 in x 72 in

Sold for further use :

Princess of Wales (1898-1910) Sold for use in Argentina as Rio Uruguay


London, Chatham & Dover Railway Fleet


Disposed of promptly :

Samphire (1861-1899) Built by Money, Wigram & Sons at Poplar. 191.7 ft : 330 GRT. Engine : Oscillating 50 and 50 in x 45 by Ravenhill & Co
Wave (1863-1899)  Built by Money, Wigram & Sons at Poplar. 190.4 ft : 340 GRT. Engine : Oscillating 50 and 50 in x 45 in by Ravenhill & Co
Breeze (1863-1899)
Built by Money, Wigram & Sons at Poplar. 201.4 ft : 340 GRT. Engine : Diagonal 50 and 50 in x 45 in by Ravenhill & Co
France (1864-1899)
Prince (1864-1899)
Invicta (1882-1899)  Built by Thames Ironworks & Shipbldg at Blackwall. 312.3 ft : 1282 GRT. Engine : Oscillating 80 in x 78 in. French flag from 1885
Calais-Douvres (1889-1900) Built by Fairfield Shipbuilding & Engg at Govan. 324.5 ft : 1065 GRT. Engines : Compound diagonal 59 and 106 in x 72 in
Foam (1862-1901)  Built by Samuda Bros at Poplar. 230.6 ft : 497 GRT. Engine Oscillating 62 and 62 in x 54 in by Salkeld.

Retained :

Victoria (1886-1904)  
Built by Fairfield Shipbuilding & Engg at Govan. 309.4 ft : 940 GRT. Engines : 58 and 104 in x 72 in
Empress (1887-1906)  
Built by Fairfield Shipbuilding & Engg at Govan. 324.5 ft : 1065 GRT. Engines : Compound diagonal 59 and 106 in x 72 in
Dover (1896-1911)  
Built by Wm Denny Bros at Dumbarton. 280 ft : 979 GRT. Engines : Triple expansion 35.5 x 52.5 x 76 in x 72 in
Calais (1896-1911)
Built by Wm Denny Bros at Dumbarton. 280 ft : 979 GRT. Engines : Triple expansion 35.5 x 52.5 x 76 in x 72 in
Lord Warden (1896-1911) Built by Wm Denny Bros at Dumbarton. 280 ft : 979 GRT. Engines : Triple expansion 35.5 x 52.5 x 76 in x 72 in

Sold for further use :

Calais-Douvres (1889-1900)   Sold for service to the Isle of Man, surviving until 1909
Calais (1896-1911)  Sold for ocean liner tendering work at Boulogne as Au Revoir surviving until 1916

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.


Bibliography

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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South Eastern Railway
Historical Database