SHE has been tied up by the quayside for more than three decades, a forgotten relic from a different age.
But the Maid of the Loch could once again sail the waters of Loch Lomond after enthusiasts working on her restoration vowed to have her shipshape by next summer.
The last paddle steamer made in Britain first entered service in 1953, the Queen’s coronation year.
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But, after passenger numbers dwindled, she made her last cruise the loch and was mothballed at Balloch in 1981.
Now fundraisers are hoping a £1.7 million target can be reached by the autumn that would set the navigation systems for her to sail again.
Former diplomat Robin Naysmith, chairman of the Loch Lomond Steamship Company, which is restoring the vessel, said: “Our aim is to restore the Maid to how she was when she was launched in 1953, which would be with a white hull and a cream to yellow funnel.
“It will give her not just a more authentic but a more elegant look.”
The restoration team has its work cut out, with the Maid having suffered at the hands of looters in the years she sat idle and the weather also playing a part in the deteriorating condition.
Mr Naysmith added: “There was no security. She was just next to the pier. It was like a car left in a car park and, not surprisingly, anything that was worth stealing disappeared.
“But as the campaign has gathered momentum, surprisingly some quite interesting artefacts have started to reappear. The ship’s bell is a good example.”
Dubbed an “up and downer”, the Maid was built to be dismantled and transported to her destination across land. This technique was used to take ships from the Clyde all over the world.
Conservation expert Jim Mitchell said this had made restoration easier.
“We have been extremely lucky in that lots of the builders’ drawings have survived,” he explained. “So we have things like pipework layout drawings so we can put all the copper pipe back in the engine room pretty much as it was, because we have the great gift of those drawings.”
Overseeing the engineering side of getting the Maid sailing again, tasks such as sourcing and installing a new boiler, is John Beveridge.
He said: “From our point of view this is the real unique bit about a paddle steamer.
“You’ve got the engines that everyone can see going round, the engineer working the controls, you hear the sounds and the smells, and you can see the paddles turning.
“You can’t do that in any other vessel, everything is hidden. This is the showpiece of the ship.”
Engineers on that other famous Clyde paddle steamer, the Waverley, have offered technical support.
If the fundraising drive over the spring and summer is successful, that would release £3.8m of heritage lottery cash.
The team hope she can be sailing by late summer 2018.