Builders: Earle`s Shipbuilding & Engineering Co Hull 1875
Propulsion type: Paddle, double oscillating engines
Owner: London Chatham & Dover Railway
Service dates: 1875
Tonnage: Gross 727
Comments: This unique and splendidly experimental vessel was one of a series of attempts to improve the crossing of the English Channel in the latter part of the 19th century. The other two vessels, the Castalia and the Calais-Douvres (I) , are shown elsewhere in the South Coast Steamers section of my site. All the vessels were doomed to failure and the Bessemer was designed to counter the problems of pitching and rolling of the vessel when in heavy seas. The idea was that the passenger saloon was hung on a horizantal axis and thus would remain level even when the hull of the ship was moving.. As you can see from the above image, she had two paddle wheels each side of the vessel, each set being driven by separate pairs of oscillating engines. The machinery was never perfected and in trials to Calais from Dover in 1875, the latter trip with over 200 passengers aboard, she crashed both times into Calais Pier as she was not sufficiently manoeuvrable, even on a calm sea. At nearly 350ft long and displacing 727 tons she was a mighty vessel and the swinging saloon was over 85 ft long in itself. She did not enter regular service and her swinging saloon was removed to a house in Swanley, Kent and was later used as a lecture hall within a women's Horticultural College, into which the house had been converted.
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