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Isle of Wight Steamers

PS Ryde

photograph by Ron Hersey

PS Ryde arriving at Ryde Pierhead from Portsmouth.

The LB&SCR and the L&SWR formed a joint company in 1880, the South Western and Brighton Railway Companies Steam Packet Service, to take over the existing Portsmouth to Ryde ferry service. In 1884 a rail ferry was started, running from Langstone, on the Hayling Island branch, to St Helens on the Bembridge branch. This was bought by the LB&SCR in 1886 but was not a success and ceased operations in 1888. On the other side of the island was a ferry from Lymington to Yarmouth which was bought by the L&SWR in 1884. Then in 1923, with the grouping of the railways, these ferries came under the auspices of the Southern Railway. Under British Railways the railway-owned ferry service was branded as Sealink whilst today they are operated by Wightlink. Another operator, Red Funnel, has operated services for 150 years and today has a jet passenger ferry from Southampton to West Cowes and a car ferry from Southampton to East Cowes whilst Wightlink operates the Lymington to Yarmouth and the Portsmouth to Fishbourne car ferry routes. There have been many ferries operating these routes though probably the best-known is the paddle steamer PS Ryde.

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  • PS Ryde

    In earlier years the service was operated by paddle steamers, such as the PS Ryde. Built by Denny in Dumbarton in 1937 and photographed here from another ferry. She was the second ferry to bear this name, the first dating back to 1873.
    Photograph by Ray Soper.
  • PS Ryde

    Another photograph of PS Ryde, taken whilst out of the water at Newhaven during 1969. She still exists today but is nothing much more than a hulk at the Wight Marina between East Cowes and Newport, Isle of Wight.
    Photograph by John Hendy.
  • PS Freshwater

    1927 built PS Freshwater at Lymington Pier in 1955. In 1960 she was renamed as PS Swanage Queen and operated along the Sussex coast then in 1961 was renamed again as PS Sussex Queen before being taken out of service in 1962.
    Photograph by Mike Morant.
  • PS Bournemouth Queen

    PS Bournemouth Queen was built in 1908 by the Ailsa Shipbuilding Co at Troon. From 1915 to 1919 she was in Admiralty service from 1915 to 1919 as HMS Bourne and was stationed at various points around the British coast. She was laid up with boiler problems in 1939 but then was requisitioned in 1942 and served on the Tyne, Forth and at Fort William during World War II. She was reconditioned after the war and returned to service in July 1947. In 1949 she was relegated to the Swanage ferry service then was based at Southampton from 1951 until withdrawal on 29th August 1957.
    Photograph by Ron Hersey.
  • MV Southsea

    MV Southsea of 1948. She was the third ferry to bear this name, her two predecessors having been built in 1873 and 1930. Fitted with twin screws and radar, she and her sister ferry MV Brading were built by Denny in Scotland. Replaced by a catamarn in 1986, Southsea was retained until 1987 as a backup, after which she operated pleasure cruises for two seasons. Earmarked for potential preservation and laid up first at Falmouth and later at Drivers Wharf on the Itchen in Southampton, the preservation attempt failed and she was eventually scrapped in Esbjerg during 2005.
    Photograph by Ron Hersey.
  • MV Southsea

    MV Southsea is seen packed with passengers during the 1977 Silver Jubilee Naval Review at Spithead.
    Photograph by Michael Taylor.

This page was last updated 11 October 2020

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