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Stenlake Publishing - Weymouth to the Channel Islands – A Great Western Railway Shipping History

Weymouth to the Channel Islands – A Great Western Railway Shipping History

Author : B. L. Jackson
ISBN : 9780853615965
Cover : paperback
Price : £13.95

Regular railway-operated steamer services commenced between Weymouth and the Channel Islands following the opening of the railway to the town in 1857, and continued until the demise of Sealink. Originally both the GWR and LSWR served the port amid great rivalry until 1860 when the LSWR withdrew to Southampton, from where the competition continued until the disastrous loss of the Stella in 1899.

The GWR service from Weymouth was operated on their behalf by the Weymouth & Channel Islands Steam Packet Company, a financially impoverished concern that the GWR were constantly bailing out. During 1878 the GWR commenced a service to Cherbourg operating it in their own right with their own vessels. Unsuccessful, it struggled on for seven years before it ceased, leaving the Channel Islands service to the Packet Company.

Following the loss of the Brighton in 1887 and the condition of the other two outdated paddle steamers operated by the Packet Company, the GWR decided to take the service over in 1889, providing three new steamers. From that time the service improved and the competition with Southampton increased, this involving racing by both companies’ steamers, resulting in several sinkings and other incidents.

The work commences with a brief account of the steam vessels operated by the Post Office prior to railway involvement; the history of the Weymouth & Channel Islands Steam Packet Company and their reliance on the GWR for mere survival; the introduction of the GWR steamers and the improvements to the fleet as the service developed; and the sinking of vessels and other difficulties in navigating the rock infested waters around the Channel Islands in the days before modern navigational aids.

Although the railway steamers were one of the principal users of Weymouth Harbour, it was owned by the Corporation, the political and historic development of this unusual partnership is fully explained, as are the later developments during the years between the wars and the nationalisation of the railways which placed the Weymouth fleet under the control of their old rivals the Southern at Southampton, and the final years of the GWR vessels at Weymouth.

The history of each of the 24 ships employed regularly at Weymouth since 1857 are fully described giving many details that have not been previously published, both technical and historical. Propelling machinery, navigational equipment, the maintenance and running of the fleet and the crews that sailed them are all covered.

The loss of the South of Ireland and the Brighton, the sinking of the Ibex, twice (the second time laying under water for six months before salvage and restoration to give a further 24 years service), and the Roebuck, a vessel that sank three times, are fully described. The exploits of the fleet in both world wars including the hell of Dunkirk and D-Day are fully covered.

This is a fully comprehensive history of the Great Western Railway Channel Islands service.

A5 format, 208 pages, 164 illustrations.

Weymouth to the Channel Islands – A Great Western Railway Shipping History