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Historic ‘Gondola’ steams out for spring

Gondola alongside the sentinel steam wagon from Old Hall Farm at Pier Cottage, Coniston, credit: NT/Paul Stearne

The majestic Steam Yacht Gondola will be re-emerging swan-like from her winter makeover on Saturday 30 March, her whistle tooting the start of another tourist season on Coniston Water.

Over the winter the historic yacht has undergone a thorough top and tail with the help of steam specialists from Old Hall Farm.  The use of a crane was required to haul out the engine room cabin to gain access to the boiler. The boiler was then lifted out and loaded on to a sentinel steam wagon and transported to Bouth to be re-tubed and returned in tip top condition. Once back at base, the crew and their skilled team of volunteers patiently put the yacht back together again giving the grand lady a new lick of paint and lashings of TLC.

The engine room of Gondola being lifted off by crane at Pier Cottage, Coniston, credit: NT/Paul Stearne

Jane Saxon, General Manager for the National Trust’s holidays portfolio, said: ‘We’re really grateful to our dedicated team of staff and volunteers who are so passionate about Gondola and keeping the authentic experience of Victorian steam alive for visitors and residents alike. As Gondola is one of a kind, winter maintenance is always a big challenge and requires a lot of expertise from the team and our friends outside the Trust. When we see the iconic sight of Gondola re-emerging, we know the effort has been worth it.’

In 2019, the open season will see the return of the Grand Victorian Tour. Following in the footsteps of the Gondola’s Victorian crew, the tour partners up with fellow transport and tour operators Windermere Lake Cruises, Lakeside and Haverthwaite Railway and Mountain Goat.

Gondola gliding effortlessly southwards on Coniston Water, credit NT/Tiree Dawson

The tour can be booked on any date for groups, or individuals can sign up for tours on Fridays 10 May, 7 June, 6 September and 4 October. Other events include Cadburys’ Easter trails on board over the bank holiday weekend and a Beatrix Potter’s Landscape Cruise and walk to Monk Coniston with a Volunteer Ranger which includes afternoon tea at Monk Coniston Hall.

This year the crew are also searching for a Volunteer Research and Events Assistant to help develop a season of celebratory events to mark 40 years since Gondola was relaunched on Coniston Water. After re-establishing contact with many of the apprentices who rebuilt her at Barrow Shipyard in 2018, the National Trust are looking for someone to record and archive the stories of those involved in Gondola’s history to enable the crew to continue telling those personal stories into the future.

Full details of Gondola’s timetable, special events and details about the Grand Victorian Tour can all be found on the website www.nationaltrust.org.uk/steam-yacht-gondola and for anyone interested in the volunteer role, they should contact [email protected]

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