Bill Gilpin's Clydeside comprised a list of over 200 1/1200 scale white metal models, mainly in a single casting.  For many like myself his models provided the backbone of our collections during the 1980s.  This article looks at the Clyde Coast range and is an abridged and revised version of an article published in Waterline International Volume VI, number 20, 2002.

The Clyde.
For those brought up in Glasgow the Clyde was not just a river on which ships were built but a means of transportation for commuting and for holiday making.   Bill Gilpin with his production of thirty-seven ships of the Clyde Coast allowed one to recreate the steamer history of the last 100 years in a most enjoyable manner. The vast majority of Clyde 'steamers' were between 190 and 260 feet in length - this continuing to the present day and the reproduction of this fleet with the fine detail e.g. the buoyant rafts which doubled as deck seating, made it a pleasure to collect.  The checking of details such as ownership and livery, the routes sailed and the vessels final destinations - often the Greek islands, the Adriatic or in some cases crossing the Atlantic to Canada or South America, all make for interest.  The ships, like the time span itself, divides naturally into three, or if one includes the war years, four distinct periods: what was known as "The Golden Years" of the Paddle Steamer spanning 1880 to 1914; the inter war period when consolidation under the railway companies dominate; the steamer at war; and finally the post war period with the arrival of the car ferry. 

For those not familiar with the Firth of Clyde it must be remembered that the crossing from the mainland to an island such as the Isle of Arran is comparable with cross channel distances.  One hundred years ago, and indeed up to the 1939 it was possible to commute from the islands and further reaches of the great sea-lochs to the centre of Glasgow in a manner impossible today.  The network of steamers and railways provided a regular and often faster means of travel than any form of public road transport today and for those who could afford first class travel much greater style:  dining saloons with white linen, silver plated tableware (still found in the fifties), general saloons with well upholstered seats, carved cornices, writing desks and during the winter months open fireplaces with good fires.  In 1901 there were 40 vessels serving more than twice that number of piers. 

Victorian Paddle Steamers.




SLIDE SHOW of other Victorian Steamers

TrSS Duchess of Hamilton  (1930),  Length 262’ 793 gross tons; London,

Midland & Scotish Railway Co. then Caledonian Steam Packet Company.

                                                                                                                 The slide show (above) shows the inter -war paddle and turbine steamers.

The post First World War period saw further development of the turbine steamer: the  King George V,  the Duchess of Hamilton (above), Queen Mary II, the Marchioness of Graham, and Lochfyne.  Paddlers remained because of their shallow draft and manoeuvrability: Caledonia, Jeanie Deans, Marchioness of Lorne, Juno(II), Jupiter(II)  and Talisman Interestingly the Caledonian Team Packet Company designed their paddle steamers with built in paddle boxes to resemble the screw turbines while LNER retained the full fan paddle box.  All these were produced along with the three smaller Motor Vessels Countess of Breadalbane, Ashton and Leven.

III.  Paddle Steamers at War
The Second World War, like the First, saw the vessels of the Clyde called up, many taking part in, and being lost at, Dunkirk and thereafter as Anti-Aircraft ships or as Minesweepers, with Gilpin issuing models in both their peacetime and wartime roles e.g. P.S. Talisman (LNER) became HMS Aristocrat and severed first as an A/A ship and then as a Normandy HQ ship at Arromanches; P.S. Caledonia (Caledonian Steam Packet Co) became HMS Goatfell first used for minesweeping and then as an A/A vessel.  Other vessels found themselves used as tenders and all were first painted grey and then with black hulls and sunset yellow superstructure and funnels (eg Duchess of Montrose).

IV.  1950 - 1980 (The Car Ferry).While the last of the paddle steamers was the 1947 Waverley  (above) all other new tonnage were Motor Vessels.  The post second war years, saw the need to replace war losses and to adapt to a changing market place.  The answer came in 1953 in the form of four new diesel ships - the Maid's - smallish vessels with high slanting bows and cutaway sterns, low bridge and single squat funnels.  The growth of car ownership and in particular the taking of the car on holiday meant that the single car squeezed between funnels on the main deck was no longer acceptable, and so the first generation of car ferry appeared.   The ABC ships as they came to be known - Arran, Bute and Cowal - named after the areas they served - were larger versions of the Maids, taking fifteen cars, with car lifts capable of taking five cars at a time down to an extensive garage.  Later modifications such as the removal of the Samson posts increased the capacity to thirty-four cars.  A larger vessel, Glen Sannox (III), with a carrying capacity of fifty cars, 1100 passengers and a speed of 18 knots, appeared in 1957.

The final adaptation starting in 1970 was the adoption of ramps at the Clyde piers to allow the vessels to use the ro-ro format of loading and unloading.  This lead to the rebuilding of the ‘ABC’s, the Glen Sannox (see below) and one of the Maids to the same car ferry format as her bigger sisters (Maid of Cumbrae).  Clydeside faithfully record all these changes giving a total of seven different designs for the ships of this period.  The list was completed with two of the second generation ferries - Jupiter(III) and Juno(III), and Saturn.     

V.  In addition to Clyde steamers the list included a 'Puffer' - the model for the VIC craft which were to be carried to naval bases all over the world as water and store carriers; the Loch Katrine steam ship - Sir Walter Scott, celebrating its century in 2001; the Loch Lomond paddle steamer Maid of the Loch (1953); the Shieldhall - the Glasgow sewage vessel, the Balmoral, a Bristol Channel vessel and the short lived consort of the Waverley – Prince Ivanhoe ex-Shanklin. [OTHERS]

I am pleased to see that Bill is back in production and full details may be found at

Bill Gilpin produced a fine range of Victorian paddle steamers,  (Juno (above), Mars,  Madge Wildfire, Ivanhoe, Glen Sannox, Culzean Castle and the Lucy Ashton).  All noted by their having the bridge abaft the fore funnel, and being painted in a wide range of livery, often changing from year to year depending upon the particular owner-captain's taste.  However by the turn of the century the fleets were beginning to be the adjunct of the railway companies, with three companies dominating: Caledonian, Glasgow South Western, and North British.  One aspect of competition, although nothing like as fierce as under the owner captains, was the race to reach the pier ahead of a rival and to control this all Clyde piers had signal towers with three black disks which would be used by the pier master to indicate which closing ship had priority.  These piers, gatehouses, pierhead buildings, and signal towers were faithfully produced as part of the list to complete any diorama.

1919 -1939: The Post War Years.

g}  Glen Sannox III (1957 – 1989, rebuilt 1970 and 72)   243.9’ 1107 Gross TonsCaledonian Steam Packet Company.

h]  Car Ferries: Arran (1953 rebuilt 1974 – 1979)  and Glen Sannox (1957 rebuilt 1970 and sold 1989).  The rebuilding involved the removal of the stern superstructures and the building of stern loading ramps. Shown in Caledonian MacBrayne livery.(1970 on). Clyde pier from Clydeside