Loch Lomond paddle steamer could yet sail again

The Maid of the Loch paddle steamer rests at Loch Lomond Shores. 'Picture: Allan Milligan
The Maid of the Loch paddle steamer rests at Loch Lomond Shores. 'Picture: Allan Milligan

A historic paddle steamer could once again sail on the waters of Loch Lomond after enthusiasts working on her restoration vowed to have her shipshape by next summer.

The Maid of the Loch - which first entered service in 1953 and is the last paddle steamer made in Britain - has been tied up by the quayside for more than three decades.

She made her last cruise and was mothballed at Balloch in 1981 after passenger numbers fell.

Since then, she has been left idle - exposed to the elements and a target for looters.

Now fundraisers hope that a £1.7 million target can be reached by the autumn, allowing her to take to the water once again.

A successful campaign over the spring and summer would release £3.8m of heritage lottery cash and members of the restoration team are hopeful that the vessel would be sailing by late summer 2018.

Former diplomat Robin Naysmith, chairman of the Loch Lomond Steamship Company, which is restoring the vessel, said: “Our aim is to restore the Maid to how she was when she was launched in 1953, which would be with a white hull and a cream to yellow funnel.

“It will give her not just a more authentic but a more elegant look.

“There was no security. She was just next to the pier. It was like a car left in a car park and, not surprisingly, anything that was worth stealing disappeared.

“But as the campaign has gathered momentum, surprisingly some quite interesting artefacts have started to reappear. The ship’s bell is a good example.”

Conservation expert Jim Mitchell said: “We have been extremely lucky in that lots of the builders’ drawings have survived.

“So we have things like pipework layout drawings so we can put all the copper pipe back in the engine room pretty much as it was, because we have the great gift of those drawings.”

John Beveridge is overseeing engineering tasks such as sourcing and installing a new boiler.

He said: “From our point of view this is the real unique bit about a paddle steamer.

“You’ve got the engines that everyone can see going round, the engineer working the controls, you hear the sounds and the smells, and you can see the paddles turning.

“You can’t do that in any other vessel, everything is hidden. This is the showpiece of the ship.”

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