119-year-old steam slipway saved

Posted by Chris Graham on 9th January 2021

Essential repairs to the 119-year-old steam slipway at Balloch, on the shores of Loch Lomond, in Scotland, are finally underway.

steam slipway

Maid of the Loch, successfully raised from Loch Lomond on the slipway, before the cradle broke on January 12th, 2019. The ship ran down on the cradle, back into the loch. (Pic: Hugh Dougherty)

A £200,000 renewal of the 119-year-old Balloch steam slipway on Loch Lomond, is now underway, following the serious damage done to the wooden sections of the structure as the PS Maid of the Loch was being taken out of the water on the slipway cradle, just over a year ago. The ship splintered part of the cradle, and ran away down the slipway before being brought under control.

steam slipway

The slipway as restored in 2006, with Maid of the Loch at Balloch Pier in the background. (Pic: Hugh Dougherty)

John Beveridge, Loch Lomond Steamship Company chairman, said: “We have removed all the wood from the carriage, and our ideal solution was to replace it entirely with steel. However, as it’s a grade ‘A’ listed structure, we’ve had to design a new carriage including some wood. We have been able to use the rail and bogies of the original, along with some of the structural steelwork. The project is being managed by Industrial Heritage Consulting Limited, and carried out by volunteers.

steam slipway

The slipway being dismantled, showing the salvaged rails and bogies. (Pic: Industrial Heritage Consulting)

We have applied to Historic Environment Scotland for a grant to offset some of the £200,000 cost. When completed, the renewed slipway carriage, and its original, working, Bennie steam engine – also being overhauled – will be able to draw Maid of the Loch from the loch for repairs, once again.”

Railway-owned steamer, The Queen, built by Caird of Greenock in 1883 and scrapped in 1910, photographed on the steam slipway in 1903. (Pic: LLSC)

The unique steam slipway was built in 1901, by the Dumbarton & Balloch Joint Railway Board, to allow railway steamers on Loch Lomond to be drawn out of the water for winter maintenance. It carried out that role using the original Bennie steam engine, housed in a Caledonian Railway-designed building (also in use today), until Maid of the Loch was withdrawn in 1981. The steam engine, winch and slipway was restored to working order by LLSCL in 2006, and used to bring the steamer out of the water for inspection and hull repairs. Regular steaming weekends were also bring run. Passed fit for the 2019 lift of the ship, the structure failed under the weight of the steamer, leaving complete renewal as the only option.

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