SATURN is the only floating example of a horse-drawn Shropshire Union fly-boat in the world. She was built for the Shropshire Union Canal Carrying Company in 1906 at the company’s dock which still exists at Tower Wharf Chester. Her public health registration number was Chester 630.

SATURN was a ‘cheese fly’: That is. she was built primarily for the fast carriage of cheese from the producing towns of Cheshire and Shropshire to major markets such as Manchester She would have carried return loads of perishable goods. However, she would have also worked to other destinations on the Shropshire Union network and other waterways throughout the North West, the Midlands and Wales. For instance, the boat is recorded loading corn and soda at Preston Brook for Mills & Co. of Wolverhampton in August 1917. Painting right shows another fly boat Symbol.

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Following the cessation of fly-boat services after the First World War and the acquisition of the Shropshire Union’s owning company - the London & North Westem Railway Company - by the London Midland & Scottish Railway Company in 1923, she remained in their ownership.

She was moved to the Birmingham Canal Navigations, becoming LMS Fleet No.102 and given BCN Registration No.1103 on 9 October 925; as owned by the LMS Railway Co., based at Mill Street Basin. We know that she worked extensively around Birmingham and the Midland’s canals network from the railway interchange basins.

This work carried on after the nationalisation of the waterways in 1948 and SATURN is recorded on colour film around 1950 travelling empty up the Staffs & Worcester Canal, still in LMS style black & white livery, horse-drawn and fully rigged with cratch, mast, stands, cloths, etc. for carrying dry goods. Sometime later she was sold by British Transport Waterways to independent carrier Frank Matty.

In December 1955 SATURN was purchased by pioneer waterway campaigner and entrepreneur Peter Froud. (later to be one of the co-founders of The Boat Museum). Peter converted her with a full-length cabin at Lowesmoor Basin, Worcester and fitted an Austin 7 car engine; then later a Ford Model B engine, running on paraffin, and driving a Hotchkiss Cone Propeller unit.

In 1963 Peter started his well-known hotel boat business, under the company name Canal Voyagers, altering her to work as a single hotel boat. During 1963 she was paired with Jupiter (ex. Fellows, Morton & Clayton motor boat Hawk). The engine unit was initially retained then later removed and fitted in sister SU flyboat Symbol. Retired as a hotel boat in 1987, she was sold into private hands.

SATURN was purchased for preservation by British Waterways, Border Counties, in 2000 and is now in joint-ownership with The Shropshire Union Fly-Boat Restoration Society.

The Restoration
Click to see the full restoration story with images



The Shropshire Union Fly Boat Project c/o 7 Rydal Drive, Hale Barns, Altrincham WA15 8TE