Horse Powered Packets

Horse powered vessels known as Horse Packets.

The first sea-going steam boats were used on sheltered waters: the tidal river and estuary of the Clyde, Yare and Mersey. They were low powered and unreliable. Also boiler explosions were a constant threat. So some owners sought a safer and more reliable source of power. At that date, the 1810's, horse powered threshing machines were in use - with horses either on a inclined treadmill or a roundabout. Both on the Yare and Mersey, early steam boats were fitted with horse-powered paddles in an attempt to make them more reliable. This source of power did not prove commercially successful.
  After the boiler explosion, which killed 9 people, on 4 April 1817, near Norwich; the steam Packet Telegraph[name mostly not used - just called Wright's steam packet], running between Norwich and Yarmouth, owned John Wright, was converted to horse power. It was worked by four horses, as in a threshing machine with the animals walking on a path 18 feet in diameter. The vessel itself was propelled from six to seven miles an hour, as wind and tide dictated. This form of propulsion was not retained for long.
  Similarly the steam packet Elizabeth [built John Wood, Port Glasgow, launched November 1812, taken to the Mersey 1815], was advertised with horse power from May 1818, although again this was not successful since she was put up for sale later that year. More history of PS Elizabeth.
  An illustration of a Team Boat - as used in Canada:

More detail about Norwich - Yarmouth Packet:

The Wright Family had bought a wooden vessel - a captured French privateer lugger called L'Actif and arranged to have engines fitted at Leeds - so as to provide a Norwich - [Great] Yarmouth service.. The return journey to Yarmouth in July 1813 was one of the first by a sea-going steam-boat. This first vessel was called Experiment. Later further steam vessels were obtained - one of them, Telegraph, was to suffer a boiler explosion and be converted to horse-power. This accident was discussed in parliament - questions were asked of the safety of steam passenger boats, and mandatory testing was proposed.
  [from Statesman (London) - Friday 02 July 1813]: A steam boat on Earl Stanhope's principle is now fitting up in the basin of the Leeds and Liverpool Canal near Leeds by Messrs Fenton, Murray & Wood, under the direction of a gentleman of the name of Wright, to ply on the river Yare between Yarmouth and Norwich. Vessels of this description have been in use for some years on rivers in America; and two of them, one at Manchester and one at Bristol have been launched within the last month. It is calculated that this vessel, when complete, will sail at the rate of 8 miles an hour, she will make way against both wind and tide. The impulse is given by a steam engine of four horse power, which turns a wheel placed on each side of the vessel, on which a number of paddles are fixed that act as so many oars.
  [from Norfolk Chronicle - Saturday 14 August 1813]: Monday last, the first experiment was tried with the Steam packet boat, on which occasion Sir Edmund and Lady Lacon and family, and a party of ladies, went in the boat to Braydon, and expressed themselves highly pleased with their excursion. The boat afterwards went through the bridge, amidst the acclamations of thousands of spectators. She has since gone regularly to and from Norwich, and fully answers every expectation, and we have no doubt but that she will reward the exertions of her spirited projecter and proprietor.
  [from Norfolk Chronicle - 4 April 1817, and later]: A terrible explosion occurred on Wright's Norwich and Yarmouth steam packet at Foundry Bridge, Norwich. Of the 22 persons on board, five men, three women, and a child were killed; six women with fractured legs and arms were conveyed to the Norfolk and Norwich Hospital, where one died; and the remaining seven escaped without sustaining material injury. The sum of £350 was raised for the relief of the sufferers.
A boat worked by horse power was subsequently placed upon the river. The four horses walked as in a threshing machine or mill. Each in his path which was 18 feet in diameter. The horses by walking a distance of two miles propelled the vessel six or seven miles.
  [from Chester Chronicle, Friday 06 June 1817]: The proprietors of the unfortunate steam vessel [Telegraph] at Norwich [boiler explosion resulted in 9 deaths] have repaired the damages and substituted a living power for steam. Last week the Boat made her voyages by the aid of four horses, placed on a platform to work the paddles or oars. [possibly Wright's packet Courier was also converted to horse power].
[from Norfolk Chronicle - Saturday 30 May 1818]: NORWICH & YARMOUTH HORSE PACKET. THE Proprietors return their grateful thanks to their Friends and the public general, for the liberal support received since having had the above Packet, earnestly solicit a continuance of their favours, assuring them that every exertion will be used render the passage comfortable and convenient to those who may honour them with their favours. Every attention will be paid to the delivery of all Goods and Parcels entrusted to their care, and as cheap as any other packet. The above Packet leaves Turner's Bowling-green, Yarmouth, every Monday, Wednesday, and Friday Mornings, at o'clock recisely and leaves the Foundry Bridge, Norwich, every Tuesday. Thursday, and Saturday Mornings, the same hour.

More detail about Liverpool - Runcorn Packet, Elizabeth:
  [from Glasgow Herald 25th September 1812]: We are glad to have it in our power to inform the public that a gentleman of this city is at present erecting a flat-bottomed Steam-Boat at Port Glasgow, of 12 horse-power, under the superintendence of an able engineer, upon a much improved principle, both with respect to the quickness of sailing and the accommodation of passengers. It is to be so constructed so that neither wind nor tide will prevent its sailing at a certain hour - a circumstance which will be most beneficial to the public. The boat, we understand, will be ready to start in about three or four weeks. [launched November 1812 by John Wood, engine by John Thomson, first service, Glasgow - Greenock, March 1813]
  [from Liverpool Mercury - Friday 30 June 1815]: Liverpool Steam Boat. On Wednesday last, about noon, the public curiosity was considerably excited by the arrival of the first Steam Boat, ever seen in our River. She came from the Clyde, and in her passage called at Ramsay, in the isle of Man, which place she left early on the same morning. We believe she is intended to ply between this port snd Runcorn or even occassionally as far as Warrington. Her cabin will contain about one hundred passengers.
  [from Chester Courant - Tuesday 3 September 1816]: TO SOLD BY AUCTION, On Tuesday, the 10th September, at one o'clock, at the Parade Slip, Liverpool,
THE STEAM BOAT ELIZABETH, in good repair, and now working between Liverpool and Runcorn, was built at Glasgow, and launched in November, 1812: length from the fore-part of the main stem to the after-part of the stern post, 58 feet 9 inches breadth, at the broadest part above the main wales, 12 feet, and depth, at the fore end of the after Cabin, 7 feet 9 inches. Captain Peacock, on board, at the Parade Slip, will shew the vessel; and further particulars may be had on application to William Wilson, 26, Old Dock; or JEE BROTHERS, Brokers, Liverpool
 [Liverpool Mercury - Friday 02 January 1818]: Horses substituted for steam in packet.
It seems that a packet has been prepared at Runcorn, which is to be worked by means of horses which give the motion to the wheels instead of a steam engine. It will be high time to enter into particulars when the experiment has been fairly tried out, in the mean time we heartily wish the plan all possible success.
  [from Liverpool Mercury - Friday 1 May 1818]: THE HORSE PACKET, SAFETY. The Public are hereby respectfully informed, that a NEW PACKET, worked by HORSES instead of Steam, and named the Safety, has commenced sailing from the New Slip, west-side of George's Dock, Liverpool, and that she sails daily from that place to Runcorn, lands passengers at Weston Point, and other intermediate places, and returns to Liverpool with the same tide.
  [from Liverpool Mercury - Friday 11 December 1818]: The SAFETY, Horse Packet, With all her Machinery and Materials, which are quite new, this vessel was the first Steam Packet (the Elizabeth) that came from the Clyde here, and has been nearly rebuilt within two years, is at present in excellent condition, and might, at a triflng expense be again converted into a Steam Packet. She may be viewed in Wallasey Pool, near Seacombe Ferry, until Monday next, the 14th instant, after that time, until the day of sale [18th Dec.], at the yard above-mentioned [Daulby & Co near Tranmere Ferry]. For further particulars...