THE engines of the famous paddle steamer the Maid of the Loch have been fired up for the first in nearly four decades today.

Lord Smith of Kelvin joined other dignitaries, including Helensburgh's MSP Jackie Baillie, at Balloch on Monday morning as the ship's engines returned to steam operation 38 years since being decommissioned.

Efforts to get the Maid, which is berthed in Loch Lomond, back sailing again have taken significant steps forward by the re-opening of the iconic vessel following a £1.1m restoration project.

The historic ship, launched on March, 5 1953 with 19th century engineering and using 20th century design, now comes with essential 21st century marine safety standards following vital structural work carried out during the refit.

READ MORE: 'Significant progress' made in Maid of the Loch's refurbishment

Work has also taken place to restore the Maid’s appearance back to the original 1950’s style by renovating the promenade aft deck saloon, originally known as the deck bar, and the main deck saloon aft.

These spaces now house an education facility for hosting school visits and a main room for holding functions and events. A lift has also been installed to provide assistance between decks.

The biggest transformation is in the engine room, where work has included professional overhaul of the engines, installation of new pipework and a mobile boiler plant erected on the pier.

Two-boiler feed pumps, donated by Summerlee Heritage Museum and identical to the Maid's original pumps, have also been installed; a critical piece of equipment in getting the ship sailing once again.

Visitors to the Maid will now be able to enjoy the ship ‘in steam’ and watch the majestic engines and paddles slowly turning once again.

John Beveridge, chairman of the Loch Lomond Steamship Company, said: “It has taken us 23 years to achieve this progress, the biggest boost of which has been the successful award of the Scottish Government’s Regeneration Capital Grant Fund, and other funders including The Wolfson Foundation, The Robertson Trust, Hugh Fraser Foundation and Paddle Steamer Preservation Society.

“We are thrilled to have our Patron Lord Smith of Kelvin fire up the engines for the first time in nearly four decades and to celebrate the completion of our wonderful £1.1 million refit.

"We are still some way from achieving our aim of her sailing again but are more determined than ever to succeed.

"Our fund-raising efforts will continue, and, in the meantime, visitors can come and see the Maid in her former glory and enjoy the spectacle of seeing the ship in steam once again.”

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Lord Smith of Kelvin added: “Since 1996 the Loch Lomond Steamship Company has worked tirelessly to save and maintain this beautiful ship, and everyone involved deserves huge congratulations in what they have managed to achieve.

"I know there have been many disappointments along the way, including the rejection of the Heritage Lottery Fund bid a year ago, but now to have a real “live” attraction and newly refurbished rooms is a real achievement.

“Equally important is the legacy which this ship can offer. Keeping traditional skills alive, training and employing future generations, and attracting inward investment to the area.

"Scotland needs icons like the Maid of the Loch, and I share the charity’s hopes that we will eventually see this wonderful ship sailing again.”

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.

Charity Loch Lomond Steamship Company (LLSC) have worked tirelessly since 1996 to transform and restore the ship, with the aim of bringing her ‘back to life’ and fully operational once again.