ABOVE: A pre-delivery picture of the main vehicle deck looking forward showing the mezzanine in it's fully lowered position. At the top left of the picture the piggy back ramps from the mezzanine to the upper garage on B Deck can be seen in position. The equivalent on the starboard side is in its usual stowed position.
ABOVE AND BELOW: Looking forward on the starboard side, showing the ramp to the mezzanine deck.
Above In 1969 with the mezzanine as a whole lowered, but the ramp leading to the main deck raised. Again, the piggy back ramp to the upper garage is stowed against the deckhead.
Below In 2004, with the whole mezzanine fully stowed and out of use, the scene seems barely changed over 35 years.
Further details of the following areas are available on separate pages:
General overview
The A Deck Britannia Bar and Verandah Bar
The B Deck Forward Lounge
The B Deck Side Lounges
The B Deck Aft Garage (later Aft lounge)
The A Deck Cafeteria
The C Deck passenger cabins
Outside Deck Space
ABOVE: The same location, over 35 years later in a view aboard Nisos Limnos. The now filled-in railway lines are still clearly visible, whilst the mezzanine in it's stowed position conceals any evidence of what has become of the piggy back ramps to the upper garage.
With the Vortigern, British Rail created a variation on both the established train ferry and the conventional car ferry by effectively merging the two into one ship. Consequently, whilst Vortigern and her later half sisters had a full complement of passenger facilities and a full-capacity car deck, they were also equipped with railway tracks on the main ro-ro deck as well as the Dover/Dunkirk train ferry berth-compatible upper garage for cars on B Deck. Combined, this offered the potential for a total of 240 cars which when built was the largest of any BR ferry.
The versatility of this concept was further enhanced by various loading options: in addition to traditional loading of cars and lorries through the bow and stern doors (rail traffic used only the stern opening), there was a mezzanine deck which offered capacity for 80 cars. This deck was suspended from the full-height of the main vehicle deck and consisted of several panels which could be hydraulically raised or lowered as needed: there was a degree of flexibility in the manner in which the this area could be used, a typical layout being that the panels close to the centre casing remained stowed permitting tall commercial vehicles to be carried, whilst cars or small vans were carried on and below the gallery decks. The mezzanine was loaded by ramps on the starboard and port sides from the main freight deck.
Additionally, the upper garage could be loaded from the main vehicle deck, via these mezzanines using a system of piggy back ramps designed by Sealink and Cargospeed. This therefore offered three different ways for cars to access the B Deck garage:
- from the main deck as described above
- through the "conventional" route over the high-level ramps alongside the train ferry berths at Dover and Dunkirk
- through a pair of doors at the aft end of the garage, over the aft open deck and the horizontal plane of the stern door and onto the double-deck linkspans at Dover Eastern Docks.

For this latter purpose, the stern door jack-knifed upwards to form the connecting ramp between the ship and the upper level of the linkspan.
However, despite all this ingenuity (and expense) it is worth pointing out that these options appear to have been rarely, if ever, used in practice.

The main deck itself featured two rails at the stern which split into four in a manner consistent with previous train ferries, the rails being set flush to the deck. This offered a capacity of 1,100 feet of track which could accommodate 30 35ft rail freight wagons or 10 sleeping cars and 11 wagons. When in use as a train ferry, buffers were located at the forward end of the railway lines whilst open sewer troughs were put to use between the rails when the ship carried the Night Ferry's sleeping cars. Although the ship in later years of Sealink service saw little use as a train ferry the rails remained in place; indeed, although they were latterly filled in, their outline could be seen aboard the ship throughout her Greek service.
ABOVE: One of the sliding watertight doors on the car deck of Express Milos in 2001 shows Sealink signage which has been "painted around" rather than replaced.
ABOVE: Two views of the open bow visor - on the left a picture from before the ship entered service in 1969, and on the right Milos Express undergoing refit at Pireaus in 1992. Vortigern was the first British Rail ship on the Dover Strait to be built with both bow and stern access and the visor in this case it hinged through 130 degrees, throwing it clear of the piles alongside the berth at Boulogne.
ABOVE: The original stern door partially open - this lifted upwards forming a horizontal plane at B Deck level and was replaced by a combined door/ramp after the ship moved to Greece.
Click here to return to the Vortigern index
See also:
The complete 1985 Vortigern deckplan
Vortigern 1969 General Arrangement plan
ABOVE: A view of the port side of the garage on board Nisos Limnos, looking forward. Again the two railway lines on this side of the centre casing are still visible, whilst passenger luggage not required on the crossing is stowed in the racks to the right.
The most noticeable aspects however are the watertight doors which were added in the 1990s and the raised mezzanine panel which appears to be showing some signs of distress
e-mail: matt@hhvferry.com