INTEREST is already growing in Britain's last surviving coal-fired paddle steamer after it was successfully brought home to Dartmouth.
The Kingswear Castle paddle steamer is now berthed in the historic port where it was built in 1924.
Bosses at the Dartmouth Steam Railway and Riverboat Company said it was a relief to see her on the river Dart in one piece after she was brought home by tug from Chatham on the River Medway.
Company managing director, Andrew Pooley, said: "It was a real relief to see her back safely. We only had a short weather window to get her back. The weather turned foul within a few hours of having her back on the Dart.
"It is very exciting to have her back."
The last remaining paddle wheeler of her generation, the Kingswear Castle was built on the River Dart by Philip and Son at their Noss works in 1924.
The paddle steamer will now undergo a refit before operating pleasure trips once again to Totnes and back from Easter.
Mr Pooley said the boat would be back from her refit a month before she is due to go into operation so it can be given a few runs on the river to make sure it works perfectly.
South Hams councillor and steam enthusiast Hilary Bastone said having the paddle steamer back in its spiritual home was very special.
He said: "Everyone in the town is very excited to see it back at home.
"It will be great to see her go up and down the river again."
Cllr Bastone said he was so excited about the boat's return to Dartmouth that he has already booked a pair of tickets for its maiden journey on the river on Good Friday next year.
He said: "It is the only one of its kind left in the UK, if not in the world. She is so unique."
The 113 feet long 27 feet wide Kingswear Castle will take 253 people on board.
The Dartmouth Steam Railway and Riverboat Company will run the vessel on a 15-year lease and will use it as part of its service from Dartmouth to Totnes and back.
Mr Pooley said: "It will bring a lot to the whole region. It will have a great appeal to people far and wide and will increase trade in the South Hams and Torbay."
Mr Pooley said the paddle steamer's first trip on Good Friday would be a fundraising trip to help the Paddle Steamer Preservation Society which saved, restored and preserved the Kingswear Castle 47 years ago.
He said: "Without them the boat wouldn't be back here so we thought it was only fair to raise money for them."