This film is part of Free

Ships Arriving

Watching the days go by on the rivers Wear and Tyne in the 1950s.

Amateur film 1957 8 mins Silent

From the collection of:

Logo for North East Film Archive


Along with Sunday strollers, an amateur filmmaker lets his imagination drift with the rich world of river life on the Wear at Sunderland and the briny, bracing air off Roker pier. A rusting hulk snuggles beneath towering cranes and one of the last steam paddle tugs on the Wear, Eppleton Hall, steers cargo ships into dock. Moving to the Tyne at dusk, The Empress of England ocean liner sails out on sea trials, a vestige of the romance of sea travel.

The “Eppie”, as it was affectionately known, had been guiding ships on the Wear since its launch in 1913 and worked the river until 1964 when a modern diesel fleet was introduced. The tugboat was rescued from a trip to the breaker’s yard in 1969 and adapted to sail to the USA where it was restored for the National Park Service Maritime Museum in San Francisco. It is now one of only two surviving British-built steam paddle tugs. The stylish Empress of England was built by Vickers-Armstrong at Newcastle for the Canadian Pacific Line. In her launch speech on 9 May 1956, Lady Eden, wife of the Prime Minister, recalled the role of the Empress class of ships carrying Canadian soldiers to Britain during World War Two.