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The Ibex dining saloon

In 1890 the Great Western Railway could not afford to be outdone by the fast new vessels of the London and South Western Railway, especially the Lydia, so they had the Ibex built in 1891 by Cammel Laird of Birkenhead.

Ibex was a steel, twin screw steamer, schooner rigged, of 1,160 gross tons, 265 feet long, and 32 feet beam. She carried 600 passengers and had sleeping accommodation for 210. Ibex first came to Jersey on 5 September 1891 and it was not long before she broke the speed record set by the Lydia.

Race for harbour

Ibex had an eventful life. On Good Friday 1897 she was racing London and South Western's Frederica towards St Helier Harbour when she struck the Normontaise rock off La Corbière and tore a hole 10 feet by two in her hull and losing most of her propellor blades. Her 230 passengers were landed in Portelet Bay and the next day Ibex was towed to St Aubin's Fort, and to St Helier the day after by the Reindeer. At a later enquiry her captain was suspended for six months.

After the two railway companies reached agreement to share the Channel Island routes in 1899, Ibex operated as a relief vessel during the summer, resuming full duties in the winter.

On 5 January 1900 Ibex again struck a rock off Platte Fougere, Guernsey, and sank with a loss of two lives. She was refloated months later, repaired and placed back on service and her captain was again suspended for six months. On 18 April 1914 Ibex collided with a disabled schooner off Portland and on 19 September she collided with, and sank, the Great Western Railway cargo steamer Aletta, 20 miles off Weymouth. All the crew were saved.

She was the only member of the Weymouth fleet to serve the Channel Islands during the Great War. This proved to be another eventful period in her life. A torpedo narrowly missed her on one occasion and she sank an enemy submarine. After the war she operated between Weymouth and Le Havre and on the Dover-Calais service for a short time.

Ibex was given a very special send-off when she sailed direct from Jersey to Weymouth for the last time after Easter 1925 and was broken up later that year.

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