In 1816 a Joseph Price of Gateshead bought three paddle steamers that had failed to be a commercial success carrying passengers on the Tyne and tried to re-introduce the passenger services. Yet again these were not a commercial success and in 1818 Price began using them to tow sailing vessels in and out of the Tyne. They became a forerunner of the dedicated tugs that were to become a significant part of the scenery and history of the River Tyne for nearly 150 years.
The benefits of the paddle tug were to allow larger vessels to navigate the river up to Newcastle (400 tons rather than 240 tons) and also to reduce the delays in port due to adverse wind and weather. In the latter case this would increase the average number of voyages for a typical Tyne to London collier from 8 voyages per year to 13 voyages. The steam tug soon became a permanent feature of the river.
Early tugs were wooden clinker built vessels with simple steam boilers and side mounted paddle wheels, this gave them a very shallow draught and superb manoeuvrability. But over time the wood would be replaced by iron and then by steel and the paddles would be replaced by screws and other forms of directional devices. For a brief history of the development of tugs on the Tyne click here.
In the following 170 years, from that first tug, in excess of 1,400 tugs of various types were built by over 100 different shipbuilders on the banks of the Tyne. This web site is dedicated to all of them, the shipbuilders, the tugs that they built and the Tyneside owners that operated them.
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