Tankers into Pleasure Craft

  • 17 Jan 2012
  • Severn Crafts
  • Back
Steam propelled pleasure craft on the Severn were converted to diesel about 1960. In 1971 they were taken over by Mitchell & Butler's Brewery and run by their special projects departtment under the name of The Worcester Steamer Company with an office at the Diglis Hotel, Worcester.
As a result, besides the old Belle, two new type of pleasure vessels came into service, each capable of accommodating 200 passengers. These were the Severn Traveller and the Pride of the Midlands.
The most interesting of these is the Severn Traveller. She was built in 1937 and spent many years as a diesel barge/tanker carrying petrol up river from Avonmouth to Stourport. In 1939, she was involved in the Severn Bridge Disaster. For a year she was used as a stone-laying vessel downstream at Lydney. She retains her original steel hull, is 90 feet long, and weighs 140 tons, and has a 90 h.p diesel engine. Now in a smart white livery, with a roofed in super-structure which includes a bar, it is difficult to realise her humble origins.
The Pride of the Midlands was introduced as a pleasure vessel in 1975. She was a frieght barge, and was very largly rebuilt, with two decks, both covered in and is equiped with central heating, which makes her an all-weather ship. She remains in service until New Year's Eve whereas the others only run between March and October. Once abroad it is difficult to realise you are not in a very elegant pub. Both Severn Traveller and Pride of the Midlands are now used for charter cruises from 8pm to midnight and have become very popular for party outings by trade and business organisations.
The Traveller and the Pride as we know them hereabouts, have introduced a new style of river cruising, in keeping with the higher standards of comfort expected today. Yet there's no denying it, those old steamers with their wooded seats and canvas awnings, did have an attraction of their own, especially for a schoolchild, just picture it that bottle of pop, drunk in a squat little saloon with the river bank sliding past the windows. Then a look down below decks at the boiler with its gauges and the sudden glow from the opened firing door. The fascination of cranks and link motions turning, and that warm engine-room smell coming up through the hatch, the wisps of smoke floating away to stern, and the blast of s stream whistle. These were part of our childhood.

The conversion of the Severn Traveller was undertaken by the boatbuilding firm of J . H. Everton for the managing director, who intended to use her as his own private boat when she was not on commercial work, but shortly after completion she was sold to Mitchell & Butler. A report in Worcester Evening News of August 1967 stated that a 100 h.p. Glenniffer diesel engine had been fitted, with a second engine for the boat's 230 v. electrical equipment, and a third diesel engine to provide power for the two-60 ft long fire hoses mounted in the bows and stern. Her main engine can be started either of two-ways, by compressor or electrically.
If you are looking for a something to do on a nice sunny afternoon - pop down the river and take a crusie, I went a couple of months ago and it was really enjoyable. Pam