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Great Eastern Railway
This page is still under construction
This page is devoted to postcards and photographs of the continental services of the Great Eastern Railway (GER). An alphabetical list of ships shown on this page is shown below. Below the table is a Fleet List in chronological order.

Harwich had been used for passenger and freight sailings to the Continent since the thirteenth century, and mail packets began running to Holland in 1661. They sailed from a quay just west of the Navyard, and connected with coaches for London. The mails had previously run from Folkestone in Kent, and they reverted to that county when transferred to Dover in 1836.

The railway reached Harwich in 1854, and the tracks ran beyond the current Harwich Town station to the waterfront, where a new Town Pier had been built in 1851. The port was in decline at this time, with much traffic diverting to new installations at Ipswich and Lowestoft, whilst the mail packets had moved to Dover in 1836. The Great Eastern Railway (GER) obtained powers to run steamships in 1862, and connecting services began the following year, using chartered tonnage. The GER built a new Continental Pier at the end of the railway tracks, and used their own ships from 1865, sailing to Rotterdam and Antwerp. The Great Eastern Hotel was built across the road. This later served as the town hall, and is now private flats. Unfortunately the GER regularly found itself in dispute with Harwich Corporation, due to the limited quay space, and so between 1879 and 1883 a vast reclamation project was undertaken a mile and a half further west, outside the jurisdiction of the local council. This was opened as Parkeston Quay, named after the GER chairman Charles Parkes. The railway was diverted onto a new loop round to the new quay, where a station, hotel and goods yard were laid out. A small township, also known as Parkeston, was built for the railway and port workers.

The first Great Eastern Railway (GER) steamers were the paddle steamers Avalon (1) and Zealous. These were replaced just a year later with Avalon (2) and Ravensbury which were 670grt. The Richard Young joined them in 1871. She was the first ship to arrive in Rotterdam via the New Waterway. The John Elder-built Claud Hamilton of nearly 1000grt joined the GER in 1875, setting new standards on the service. She was followed by the paddle steamers Princess of Wales (1878, 1098grt), Lady Tyler (1880, 995 grt) and Adelaide (1880, 969grt).

The first screw steamers were the Ipswich and Norwich delivered in 1883 from Earle's Shipbuilding of Hull. In the same year Parkeston Quay opened. These were iron steamers powered by twin 2-cylinder compound engines giving a combined 2000ihp.

Ships on This Page:-
Amsterdam (1) - (1894-1928 - 1745 grt)
Antwerp - (1920-1951 - 2,957 grt)
Archangel - (1916-1941 - 2,570 grt) - ex-St Petersburg
Berlin - (1894-1907 - 1745 grt)
Bruges - (1920-1940 - 2,949 grt)
Brussels - (1902-1920 - 1380 grt)
Cambridge - (1886-1912 - 1196 grt)
Chelmsford - (1893-1910 - 1635 grt)
Claud Hamilton - (1875-1897 - 922 grt)
Colchester - (1889-1916 - 1160 grt)
Copenhagen - (1907-1917 - 2,570 grt)
Dresden - (1897-1915 - 1,805 grt) - later Louvain
Louvain - (1915-1918 - 1,805 grt) - ex-Dresden
Essex Ferry (1) - (1946-1956 - 2,683 grt)
Essex Ferry II - (1956-1957 - 2,683 grt)
Frinton - (1919-19xx) - ex-Kilkenny
Ipswich - (1883-1906 - 1067 grt)
Kilkenny - (1917-1919 - 1,419 grt) - later Frinton
Malines - (1921-1948 - 2,969grt)
Munich - (1908-1914 - 2,570 grt) - later St Denis
St Denis - (1918-1940) - ex-Munich
Norwich - (1883-1905 - 1,062 grt)
Roulers - (1920-1930 - 1753 grt) - ex- Vienna
St George - (1919-1929 - 2,456 grt)
St Petersburg - (1910-1916 - 2,570 grt) - later Archangel
Train Ferry No. 1 - (1917-1946 - 2,683 grt) - later Essex Ferry (1), Essex Ferry II
Train Ferry No. 2 - (1917-1945 - 2,678 grt)
Train Ferry No. 3 - (1917-1945 - 2,672 grt)
Vienna (1) - (1894-1920 - 1753 grt) - later Roulers

Associated Pages:-
Great Eastern Railway - East Coast Local Services
British Railways - Header page for all UK railway-owned services
Great Central Railway - East Coast Services
London & North Eastern Railway - Harwich Services
Lancashire & Yorkshire Railway - Page 2 - East Coast Services
Ferry Postcards
Cruise Ship Postcards
Ocean Liner Postcards
Simplon Postcards Home Page
Merchant Fleets No.25 - Britain's Railway Steamers by Duncan Haws (1993)
Railway & Other Steamers - by Duckworth & Langmuir
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Great Eastern Railway Fleet List

Claud Hamilton (GER: 1875-1897 - 922 grt)
Claud Hamilton was built in 1875 for the Harwich-Holland route. She was named after the GER chairman. Built by John Elder, Claud Hamilton was nearly 1000grt, setting new standards on the service. Her 22 years in service did much to ensure the popularity of the Harwich routes. She was the last paddle steamer in the GER fleet, but in 1897 she was sold to the City of London who converted her to carry cattle from Gravesend to Deptford, which she did for a further 17 years.

Claud Hamilton in use by London City Council (LCC) as a cattle boat

Ipswich (GER: 1883-1906 - 1067 grt)
Norwich (GER: 1883-1905 - 1,062 grt)
The first screw steamers were the Ipswich and Norwich which were built for the Harwich-Antwerp service. They were  delivered in 1883 from Earle's Shipbuilding of Hull. In the same year Parkeston Quay opened. These were iron steamers powered by twin 2-cylinder compound engines giving a combined 2000ihp resulting in a speed of 14kt.They had berths for 84 first class passengers and 42 second class. In 1906 Ipswich was sold to Shah SN Co, Bombay, but was scrapped in 1909. In 1905 Norwich was sold to the Channel Drydock & Shipbuilding Co, Harwich. She was later based in the Cape Verde Islands before passing to owners in Montevideo and then New York. She was lost in 1921 when owned by the Mexican Fruit and Steamship Company.

Norwich by the Town Quay with the survived Halfpenny Pier kiosks on the far right.

Cambridge (GER: 1886-1912 - 1196 grt)
The success of Ipswich and Norwich led to the order for a slightly larger vessel from Earle's.  Cambridge was built in 1886 for Harwich-Rotterdam/Antwerp/Hook services. She was 20ft longer and slightly more powerful at 2200ihp giving a speed of 14.5kt. 134 first class and 56 second class berths were provided, whilst total passenger capacity was 730. A sister Colchester was delivered in 1889. In 1912 she was sold to Anglo-Ottoman SS Co.

Postcard of Cambridge

Cambridge in drydock at Antwerp

Colchester (GER: 1889-1916 - 1160 grt)
A sister to Cambridge, the Colchester was built in for the 1889 Harwich-Rotterdam service. She was re-engined with a pair of four-cylinder triple expansion engines in 1900, which improved fuel economy. In 1916 Colchester was captured by German warships. In 1918 she was grounded and abandoned at Kiel, and was scrapped in 1919.

Postcard of Colchester
I have not been able to identify the single-funnelled steamer with grey hull on the left

Postcard of Colchester
I have not been able to identify the single-funnelled steamer with grey hull on the left

Postcard of Colchester

Chelmsford (GER: 1893-1910 - 1635 grt)
Chelmsford was built in 1893 for the Harwich-Hook route. In 1910 she was sold to the Great Western Railway renamed Bretonne.

Amsterdam (GER:1894-1922 - 1745 grt)
Amsterdam (LNER:1923-1928 - 1745 grt)
Amsterdam was built in 1894 for the Harwich-Hook route. She moved to the Harwich-Antwerp route in 1910, and was scrapped in 1928.

Berlin (1894-1907 - 1745 grt)
Berlin was built in 1894 for the Harwich-Hook route. In 1907 she was wrecked at entrance to the New Waterway with the loss of 128 lives.
Wreck of the Berlin.
Wreck of the Berlin.

Vienna (GER: 1894-1920 -1753 grt)
Roulers (GER: 1920-1922)
Roulers (LNER: 1923-1930)
Vienna 1894 Harwich - Hook, 1910 Harwich - Antwerp, 1920 renamed Roulers, Harwich - Zeebrugge, 1930 scrapped.

Official GER card of Vienna

Dresden (1897-1915 - 1,805 grt)
Louvain (1915-1918)
Dresden was built in 1897 for the Harwich-Antwerp route. In 1915 she was taken over by Admiralty and renamed Louvain, but in 1918 was sunk by U-Boat in Aegean Sea.
Official GER postcard of Dresden
Scan: Leo Palmer

Photo postcard of Dresden

Brussels (1902-1920 - 1380 grt)
Brussels was built in 1902 for the Harwich-Antwerp service. In WW1, she transferred to the Tilbury-Hook route, and was captured by German warships in 1916. Her master, Captain Fryatt, was executed by German firing squad for attempting to ram a U-Boat which had attacked his ship. In 1920 she was sold to the Dublin & Lancashire SS Co, and later served with the British & Irish SP Co as Lady Brussels.
Postcard issued in the war to after the execution of Captain Fryatt.

Kilkenny (1917-1919 - 1419 grt)
Frinton (1919-19xx)
Kilkenny was built in 1903 for the City of Dublin SP Co. In 1917 she was purchased by the GER for the Harwich-Rotterdam service. In 1919 Kilkenny was renamed Frinton.

Copenhagen (GER: 1907-1917 - 2570 grt)
Copenhagen was built in 1907 for the Harwich-Hook route. In 1917 she was torpedoed and sunk in the North Sea.

Munich (GER: 1908-1914 - 2570 grt)
St Denis (GER: 1918-1922)
St Denis (LNER: 1923-1940)
Munich was built in 1908 for the Harwich-Hook service. In WW1 she was used as the hospital ship St Denis, retaining the name afterwards. In 1940 she was caught in Amsterdam, and was scuttled. She was raised and used by Germans, and was scrapped in 1950.

St. Petersburg (GER: 1910-1916 - 2570 grt)
Archangel (GER: 1916-1922)
Archangel (LNER: 1923-1941)
St. Petersburg was built in 1910 for the Harwich-Hook service. In 1916 she was renamed renamed Archangel. Archangel was bombed and sunk off East coast of Scotland in 1941.

St George (GER: 1919-1922 - 2456 grt)
St George (LNER: 1923-1929)
St George was built in 1906 for the Great Western railway's Fishguard-Rosslare service. She was sold to the Canadian Pacific Railway, and purchased from them by the GER in 1919, retaining her original name St George throughout. She was scrapped in 1929.

Antwerp (GER: 1920-19221 - 2957 grt)
Antwerp (LNER: 1923-1951)
Antwerp was built in 1920 for the Harwich-Antwerp service. In 1945 she became the Harwich-Hook army leave ship. Antwerp was scrapped in 1951.

Bruges (GER: 1920-1922 - 2949 grt)
Bruges (LNER: 1923-1940)
Bruges was built in 1920 for the Harwich-Antwerp service In 1940 she was bombed and sunk near Havre while trooping.

Malines (1921-1922 - 2969grt)
Malines (1923-1948)
Malines was built in 1921 for the Harwich-Antwerp service. She was laid up in 1945, and scrapped in 1948.

Train Ferry No. 1 - Essex Ferry (1) (1924-1957 - 2683 grt)
Train Ferry No. 2 (1924-1940 - 2678 grt)
Train Ferry No. 3 (1924-1945 - 2672 grt)
These three train ferries were built as part of the WW1 war effort in 1917 to operate from Richborough Military Port (in Kent) to Dunkirk. Despite attempts to interest the local railway companies in continuing the service from Richborough, the ferries were laid up. In 1922. the Great Eastern Railway considered using these ferries from Harwich. The Belgians were the most interested in providing a continental terminal, and two companies were formed in 1923, Great Eastern Ferries Ltd and Le Société Belgo-Anglaise Des Ferry-Boats SA, although the Great Eastern railway itself had become part of the London & North Eastern Railway (LNER) by this time. In 1924 a new Harwich-Zeebrugge route was started, using original original gantries and linkspans from Richborough and Southampton. The three wartime ferries were refitted for service, retaining their names Train Ferry No.1, Train Ferry No.2 and Train Ferry No.3, henceforth referred to as TF1, TF2 and TF3. The service was operated by the LNER for freight only. Great Eastern Ferries Ltd went into liquidation in the depression in 1932, and its assets were purchased by the LNER.
During WW2, the three ships were requisitioned by the Royal Navy , TF2 was lost off Saint-Valéry en Caux June 13th 1940. In 1940 TF1 and TF3 were renamed HMS Princess Iris and HMS Daffodil, after the ex-Mersey ferries used in the famous WW1 Zeebrugge raid. In 1941 HMS Princess Iris and HMS Daffodil were converted into Landing Craft Carriers. Both ships were modified with their twin funnels trunked into one, slightly improving their ungainly appearance. HMS Daffodil (ex-TF3) was lost off Dieppe on March 18th 1945, leaving only HMS Princess Iris (ex-TF1) to survive the war. She returned to civilian use in 1946, and was renamed Essex Ferry (1), running three return trips a week to Zeebrugge. She was joined by new ferries Norfolk Ferry and Suffolk Ferry in 1951. Essex Ferry (2) joined them in 1957, and Essex Ferry (1) was briefly renamed Essex Ferry II before being broken up in Grays.
There are a lot of conflicting details of these ferries in published works. Some sources, including H.T.Lenton, list TF2, not TF3, as becoming HMS Daffodil. Other sources suggest that HMS Princess Iris was briefly named HMS Iris, or that HMS Daffodil was later renamed HMS Princess Daffodil.

Train Ferry No.2 at Zeebrugge.

Train Ferry No.3.

Train Ferry No.3 at Harwich.

Train Ferry No.3 at Zeebrugge.

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