PS COMET

PS COMET

Built in 1812 by John Wood & Co, Port Glasgow, East Yard. 

Launched 24/07/1812 and completed 4/08/1812.

She was a wood paddle steamer built for passenger excursions. 

25 tons registered , 45 ft 6 I’m. Long, 11ft 4 in. Breadth, 5ft 9 in. Depth.

Her engine was a Double acting, single inverted upright 3hp. (Later 4hp.) Steam. The boiler and flywheel were manufactured by David Napier in Glasgow. 

Comet named after the Great Comet of 1811 has the accolade of being the first commercial steamship in Europe and the first Clyde Steamer.

Competition in the first four years with services on the Firth of Clyde to the traditional resorts saw Comet outclassed by newer vessels. She moved over to the Forth where she was a moderate success.

1819 layered and rebuilt at Helensburgh by James Nicol : 30ton, 23ft 10in. X 11 ft 6in X 7.0ft. ????

She was wrecked at Craignish Point near Crinan. Attempts were to salvage her continued for 10 days without saving the hull, although the engine was. 

A sad end for such an historic vessel.

British registry closed 1822 

A replica was built in the North East of Scotland in 1962 and brought to Lithgows at Port Glasgow where her engine was installed. Launched in July 1962 she took part in the Comet celebrations. This replica is now on permanent display in Port Glasgow Town Centre .

October 2020 a council report has indicated she has determinate day so much that she is beyond saving. 

First Arrangement of PS COMET 

In her original configuration PS COMET, the first commercial steam ship in Europe, had 4 paddle wheels, two on either side. Each wheel had four non-feathering floats. Presumably she could be heard from far away. 

That arrangement did not provide satisfactory and she was altered to a two wheel configuration. 

The drawing shows the original four wheel configuration. 

Comets First Engine 1811-1812 

 John Robertson was an early steam engine builder based in Neilson, Renfrewshire. He was one of the first engineers to design steam systems for the heating if mills and factories.

In 1808 Robertson supplied a small steam engine to Henry Bell, the new proprietor of the `baths Hotel in Helensburgh to pump sea water. In 1811 Robertson agreed to build an engine for Bell’s new steamship, PS COMET Then under construction in John Woods shipyard at Port Glasgow. The agreed price was £165, which did not include the price of the boiler. The latter was supplied by David Napier..

A second more powerful engine was fitted to Comet after a few years. Her original machinery was acquired by Bailie MacLellan  to provide  power at his coach works in Miller Street, Glasgow. A few years later Comets first engine went to a brewery company in Greenock. Thereafter the engine was purchased by Robert Napier and gifted to the South Kensington Museum in 1862, it is still there.

The first engine was shows John Robertson and his first engine for PS COMET. John was in his 80th year when the photograph was taken .   

 The second photograph shows the arrangement of the engine