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The Autocarrier

Maiden voyage of the 'Autocarrier' 30 March 1930. The only vehicle carried was Lord Howe's aluminium and blue 3.5 litre Mercedes racing car.  The special train was hauled by Lord Nelson class locomotive 'Lord Howe'.
Spurred by the success of Captain Townsend’s ‘Forde’, the  Southern Railway ordered their own purpose built car ferry. The  ‘Autocarrier’ entered service on 30 March 1930, leaving the  Admiralty Pier a few minutes before her rival from the Camber  on the eastern side of the harbour, just as the ‘Forde’ was about to make her first run of the season.   There was special lunch for the VIPs on board on arrival at  Calais and the Southern Railway representative took the  opportunity to have a sly dig at Townsend’s service. The  ‘Autocarrier’ was, he pointed out, not second hand, and would  stay on the service whether it was profitable or not. Brave  words, but in the light of the increase in such traffic, not with  much risk attached.  There were already two other Southern  Railway services carrying cars to and from the Continent, a  midnight cargo boat to Calais and the return 4am sailing.   The ‘Autocarrier’ was the first railway owned cross-Channel car  ferry and could carry 307 passenger and 26 cars. In the  summer she operated Dover to Calais, switching to Folkestone  to Boulogne in winter.  In 1940 she was at Dunkirk rescuing  troops, then later became a recreation ship for men of the  Royal Navy, complete with a large cinema and canteen. After refitting in 1945, the ‘Autocarrier’ ran first as a cargo ship  from Southampton, returning to Dover in 1946. She operated  on a number of routes in the following years, including between  Southampton, St Malo and Le Havre. She was finally withdrawn  in July 1954. 
The 'Autocarrier' loading at the Admiralty Pier.  The photo must date from the second half of the 1930s as the car being loaded is a 1935 Riley Falcon. Back to Ferries and Shipping Index