Caledonian Princess

 

The Caledonian Princess is accredited with being the ship that saved the Stranraer - Larne crossing from closure in the aftermath of the loss of the Princess Victoria in a storm on 31st January 1953. She entered service in December 1961 under the flag of the Caledonian Steam Packet Company (Irish Services) Limited, a wholly owned subsidiary of the BTC.

 

The new ship was an instant success and by 1964 supplemental tonnage was required to assist with the large volume of traffic on offer. With the route in safe waters, ownership of the Caledonian Princess was officially transferred to the British Railways Board on 1st January 1967. By this time the Caledonian Red Lion Rampant on the black-topped buff funnel had given way to the red and black of BR, complete with the white double arrow logo already familiar on other Railway ships. As built she was a two-class vessel with accommodation for 400 1st class passengers and 1,000 in 2nd class. On her vehicle deck was space for 103 cars.

 

On 26 June 1968 the Caledonian Princess became the first stern loading car ferry to sail into Douglas, Isle of Man when she visited with a special day charter from Stranraer. The following month saw the her introduction on the Holyhead - Dun Laoghaire seasonal car ferry service operating alongside the Holyhead Ferry 1 until 5 September. Between 1969 and 1975, having had side loading doors cut into her vehicle deck, the ship was mainly associated with the Fishguard - Rosslare service but by and large, since leaving Stranraer she led something of a nomadic career often acting as support or substitute for other members of the fleet.



After a transfer to the English Channel the ship received extensive alterations to her accommodation before returning to Holyhead in 1976. Operating to Dun Laoghaire in company with the Duke of Lancaster the ship remained on the link until the last day of February 1976 when she returned to the Channel. This was to be her final spell of Irish Sea service.

 
 

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By 1981 the ship held the honour of being Dover's final steam turbine ferry and after her last crossing from Boulogne on 26th September she was laid up at Newhaven pending sale. A year later she was sold for static use as a nightclub berthed on the River Tyne at Gateshead as the Tuxedo Princess. On 20 September 2005, during a quick visit to the UK from Australia, I was permitted to view the former Caledonian Princess 23 years after her departure from the Sealink fleet. It really was hard to belief that she was now in static use for longer than her seagoing career.