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
Terms & Conditions
'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.