Historic paddle steamer Maid of the Loch heads to shore for some TLC

If at first you don't succeed, try, try again.

Two years after efforts to haul the Maid of the Loch out of the water were thwarted, the historic Loch Lomond paddle steamer was finally brought ashore on Wednesday morning.

The 430-tonne ship is back on dry land for only the second time in 40 years, meaning that vital restoration works can finally go ahead.

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The operation to bring the vessel out of the loch and onto a bespoke cradle on a restored slipway carriage took more than two years to plan with the help of structural engineers, David Narro Associates.

The previous attempt in January 2019 left the carriage damaged, causing the steamer to slip back into the water.

The Maid of the Loch is the last paddle steamer to be built in Britain, and the only remaining example of a so-called ‘up an doon’ vessel.

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She first launched in 1953 with a licence to carry 1,000 passengers. Over the course of her service, she has hosted more than three million daytrippers, including members of the royal family.

The Maid of the Loch is brought ashore for vital restoration work. Picture: Jamie Simpson/PA WireThe Maid of the Loch is brought ashore for vital restoration work. Picture: Jamie Simpson/PA Wire
The Maid of the Loch is brought ashore for vital restoration work. Picture: Jamie Simpson/PA Wire

The 191 foot-long vessel has been operating as a static tourist attraction at Balloch pier, but it is hoped the restoration works will allow her to once again set sail.

The work involves the first full ultrasound survey and repair to her hull in nearly 30 years, with plans to restore her deck saloon to a 1950s style, and create an educational suite.

Steel beneath her boiler room will also be repaired and, funding permitting, a refurbishment of the starboard paddle box will also be carried out, before the ship is repainted in her original ‘white goddess’ colour scheme, complete with yellow funnel and green waterline.

The repairs are being carried out at the steam slipway and winch house, the only means of taking the ship out of the water for inspection or repair.

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It was built in 1902 and used until 1989, when it fell into disrepair. But the grade A-listed building was rebuilt and officially reopened by the Princess Royal in 2006.

Fittingly, it was the original steam powered winch that was used early Wednesday to haul the vessel out of the water and on to the slipway.

Loch Lomond Steamship Company, the charitable firm that looks after the steamer, has raised more than £2 million towards her conservation, with the Scottish Government also contributing £950,000 via its capital grant regeneration fund. It has also received funding from Historic Environment Scotland and the Architectural Heritage Fund.

A spokesman for the company said the work was vital to ensuring future generations could enjoy the vessel.

He said: “This will allow a complete survey and repair, as required, to the ship’s hull. We will also do other necessary work while she is on the slipway and we aim to get her looking as good as this again.

“The Covid-19 uncertainty to reopening has now been turned to advantage to make 2021 the year when we ensure the ship’s hull will be good for another 60 plus years.”

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