SIGNIFICANT work has begun in the bid to get the historic Loch Lomond paddle steamer Maid of the Loch fully restored to her former glory.

Five new full-time jobs have been created as part of the work to bring the ship back to life – with the aim of one day seeing her fully operational again.

Vital structural work has been contracted out to a leading firm of naval architects, while two boiler feed pumps, new pipework and valves are being installed.

The Maid's owners, the Loch Lomond Steamship Company, say the work is a major achievement after an "unfortunate set-back" in January when an operation to pull the vessel out of Loch Lomond and on to the Balloch Steam Slipway for a hull survey went wrong after a cable snapped, causing the vessel to slide back into the waters of the loch.

READ MORE: Maid 'slipping' goes wrong as hundreds of spectators watch

Following a £950,000 cash injection from The Scottish Government, the Loch Lomond Steamship Company (LLSC) has contracted out vital structural work to naval architects, Marine Design International Ltd.

This particular stage is necessary for meeting the required safety standards and will place a strong focus on the vessel’s current state by surveying, calculating and designing any adjustments which may have to take place.

The ship will also see the installation of two-boiler feed pumps, which were last year donated by Summerlee Heritage Museum, along with new pipework and valves being manufactured by Stevenson-based McEvoy Engineering Ltd.

Once the £1 million refit is completed, visitors to the Maid will be able to enjoy the ship ‘in steam’ again and watch her majestic engines and paddles slowly turning.

The work is the latest stage of the Maid's recovery after the disappointment of seeing a bid for £3.64m from the Heritage Lottery Fund knocked back.

Following that decision the Scottish Government stepped in with a pledge of £950,000 to help get the restoration project back on track – with a further £50,000 from the Paddle Steamer Preservation Society taking the funding boost to £1 million.

READ MORE: Maid team 'devastated' after funding bid is rejected

Work has also begun to restore the Maid’s appearance back to the original 1950’s style. This will be carried out by Dumbarton company, Ferguson Flooring, who will source the appropriate materials for refurbishing the promenade aft deck saloon, originally known as the deck bar, and the main deck saloon aft.

Once complete, this will house an education facility for hosting school visits and a main room for holding functions and events. A lift will also be fitted to provide assistance between decks.

As part of the Maid’s long-term strategy, the paddle steamer has created five job opportunities within West Dunbartonshire, and LLSC has successfully filled the roles of an office and events manager, an operations assistant, a heritage engineer and two fitters.

The fitters will work onboard to carry out a variety of tasks from maintaining and installing fixtures and fittings, servicing equipment and machinery.

READ MORE: Maid of the Loch receives £1 million funding boost

John Beveridge, chairman of the Loch Lomond Steamship Company, said: “This week we’re celebrating 66 years since the Maid of the Loch first launched, and with the refit work well underway our visitors should expect to see big changes over the coming months.

"They will be able to view the work taking place during this exciting time and get a glimpse into her former glory, when we open again at Easter.

“Despite an unfortunate set-back with her slipping in January, we are more determined than ever to succeed in the restoration of this iconic steamer, and it’s been a major achievement for us to be able to employ five people full time.

"With the help of the Scottish Government and other valuable funders, we will not only create more jobs and training opportunities but also help the local economy.”

The Maid currently operates as a static tourist attraction and hopes to gain industrial museum status for the ship and steam slipway as a growing number of artefacts are collected and restored to working condition.

The Loch Lomond Steamship Company, a registered charity, has worked since 1996 to transform and restore the ship, with the aim of bringing her ‘back to life’ and fully operational once again.