I’ve not managed to track down the whereabouts of any other ex-Broads Tours passenger boats following my last post on Princess Royal but I have received a lovely photograph this week of one of the most famous tour boats to have worked on the Broads over the years.
The photograph on the left was taken by Mick Middleton in the mid 1970s and shows the S.S. Queen of the Broads heavily laden with passengers on the River Yare. Built by Critten’s boatyard at Cobholm Island, Great Yarmouth and launched in 1889, the Queen of the Broads was 74ft in length with an 13ft beam, was powered by a 70hp compound steam engine and could carry up to 180 passengers. A sister ship the Pride of the Yare was launched in 1892 and both steamers were owned by the Great Yarmouth & Gorleston Steam Company. The Pride of the Yare ran trips on the southern rivers whilst the Queen of the Broads ran daily trips between Yarmouth and Wroxham. The Pride of theYare was sold and moved up the coast to the River Trent at Nottingham in the late 1940s where she continued to work as a passenger ship until the early 1960s when she was scrapped. The Queen of the Broads remained in Norfolk and ran popular day trips on both the northern and southern rivers up until the mid 1970s. By this time she was under the ownership of Pleasure Steamers Ltd of Great Yarmouth. The increasing cost of maintenance and coal, and the fact that she apparently failed a hull inspection survey, led to her being withdrawn from service in 1976. By all accounts she was essentially a sound boat and the company had hoped to find someone who would preserve her but, unfortunately, no one came forward and she was broken up on Lake Lothing. A small part of the Queen of the Broads lives on though – her steam engine was rescued and is now on display at the Blackgang Chine visitor attraction on the Isle of White.
The company commissioned the building of a new Queen of the Broads, designed by Lowestoft Naval architect John Perryman and built by R.J. Howlett Engineering Ltd of Rackheath. The image on the right shows her being launched at Norwich in 1977. She hit the headlines just two years later when 121 passengers became stranded on board overnight. Having set off for an evening cruise in June 1979, a thick sea fog suddenly descended as the Queen of the Broads crossed Breydon and she grounded on a mud bank. When the boat failed to return to Yarmouth at the scheduled time, the coastguard were alerted and the inshore lifeboat Waveney Forester was sent off to investigate. At first they decided to let nature take its course and wait for the cruiser to re-float on the next high tide, but in the end a second lifeboat was called and they decided to get the passengers off. Unable to get closer than 20ft away from the stricken vessel, wooden boards were laid between her and the lifeboats and the passengers literally had to “walk the plank”. The first mud splattered passengers finally arrived back at Great Yarmouth some ten hours later than they had been due to return! Most of the passengers, the oldest being 83 and the youngest just four and a half months, seemed to remain in good spirits throughout the ordeal but one complained about the fact that the Queen of the Broads had no ship to shore radio and that the passengers were still forced to pay for their tea at midnight! Another passenger was quoted as saying; “This was my first Broads trip ….. and my last!”
The Queen of the Broads is now part of the Broads Tours fleet at Wroxham and still runs regular day trips. In 2002 she underwent a major refurbishment, her overall length was extended by 14ft and an upper deck was added so that she is now capable of carrying up to 160 passengers.