Victorian steam ship returns home after Lowestoft refurb

The world's last remaining steamcoaster finally returned home this week, after being skilfully restored to her former glory in Lowestoft.

The SS Robin returned to London's historic Royal Docks, where she was constructed back in 1890.

The homecoming on Wednesday was the first time the Victorian steam ship – one of hundreds that were once stalwarts of the British Empire's trade links – had been back back to her birthplace.

It followed a major �1.9m restoration project carried out here in Lowestoft between 2008 and last year.

Over the course of two years, highly-skilled engineers and shipwrights from Lowestoft and Southwold worked on the SS Robin's riveted structure. This included six months spent in dry dock at Small & Co.

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Once the complex and delicate work was finished, the 300-tonne cargo vessel left Lowestoft for the Port of Tilbury in Essex where she has been since September.

Now she is back in east London, it is hoped she can become a permanent fixture as a floating museum and education centre – making her one of three core collection ships alongside the Cutty Sark and HMS Belfast.

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'We've said it before but we can't thank the teams in Lowestoft and Southwold enough,' said David Kampfner, of the SS Robin Trust.

Nishani Kampfner, chief executive officer of the trust, added: 'The trust is indebted to skills and experience we were able to tap into in Lowestoft and Southwold in terms of the restoration. Because of that work we are now in a good position for the next stage of the conservation project.'

The next step is to raise enough money to carry out restoration of the ship's interior with the aim of opening her up to the public in 2013.

In her heyday, the SS Robin worked mainly out of London delivering cargo to larger ships bound for North America, India or Australia.

During the first world war she carried iron slabs for the French government and was escorted by two destroyers to protect her from the U-boat menace.

Mrs Kampfner said: 'SS Robin is the most important maritime symbol of the capital's trading and economic success. With a life spanning three centuries, she represents a story of risk, enterprise and endurance – all of the qualities of our Victorian forefathers.'

Funding for the Lowestoft restoration work was provided by Crossrail. In the run-up to her departure from the port last year, high winds blew off a steel funnel cover, leading to a specialist dive team being called in from Lincolnshire to find it.

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