Thames Steamers Limited are specialists in steam boat hire on the Thames and operate the stunning 1883 steam passenger vessel ‘Alaska’. Based near Marlow they provide top end corporate and private charter services at locations including Henley, Marlow, Windsor, Reading, Maidenhead and further afield.
Thames Steamers Limited
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'Alaska' was built in 1883 at Bourne End by W. and J.S. Horsham and Co. probably as a private launch, although she was used exclusively by Horsham’s as a hire boat to take parties on day trips from Bourne End Wharf. She was subsequently purchased by Salter Brothers of Oxford in 1887. In 1888 Salters used 'Alaska' to inaugurate their famous Oxford to Kingston service. This trip took 2 days going down to Kingston and 3 days for the return leg to Oxford. Passengers stayed in boarding houses and hotels along the route and the fare for the trip, excluding accommodation was one pound ten shillings (£1.50). Up until WWII, 'Alaska' plied this route, gradually being relegated to shorter portions as more vessels were built to cope with demand. She was also used for parties and private functions much as she is today. At the outbreak of war the boat was sold to Jackson Brothers of Putney and served time as a guard boat but was then sold to Mears of Twickenham who used her for trips between Richmond and Teddington. Apparently the skipper during this period attempted to procure tips from the passengers by telling them that the boat had been to Dunkirk, which is completely untrue but probably had the desired effect! With her engine removed at Kingston, 'Alaska' was then 'poled' with a punt pole all the way up-river to Oxford. She was pressed into service as a Scout hut but the enterprising Boy Scouts chopped up the wooden superstructure and sold it as fire wood in order to raise funds for a new hut! When she was rediscovered in 1974 at Medley Boat Station in Oxford she was sat on the bottom, decked over with plywood and filled with concrete being used as a boarding pontoon for hire boats. 'Alaska' was brought down river wrapped in plastic sheeting with an outboard motor attached and then spent 12 years in Peter Freebody's boatyard at Hurley, being restored to her former glory. She was reunited with her original engine and fitted with a new boiler and finally relaunched in 1987.