Historic paddle steamers still working

Posted by Chris Graham on 27th January 2023

Paul Brown takes his camera to beautiful Lake Lucern in Switzerland, to record the historic paddle steamers still working regularly there.

Historic paddle steamers

Historic paddle steamers: Built in 1913 by Escher Wyss in Zürich, Gallia carries the Latin name of France as a homage to French guests in central Switzerland. Her Escher Wyss two-cylinder steam engine and sleek hull make her the fastest lake steamer in Europe, with a speed of 17 knots. The ornate dining saloon is in Belle Époque French Empire style. Gallia was comprehensively overhauled in 2004 and carries 900 passengers. (Pic: SGV)

Switzerland is paddle steamer heaven, as is evident on Lake Lucerne, where paddle steamers have had a presence since 1837, and five vintage paddlers still grace the scene. Together with various motor vessels, they serve four routes, with each itinerary involving calls at some of the 33 landing stages around the lake’s shores.

Historic paddle steamers

Stadt Luzern is the flagship of Lake Lucerne, and was built in 1928 by Sachenberg, Rosslau, Germany as the last steamboat for a Swiss lake. She is the largest of the five Lucerne paddlers, taking 1,100 passengers. In 2029-2021 she was given a major overhaul costing £11.5 million, returning her to her original glory. Here she is seen shortly after leaving the landing stage at Treib-Seelisberg. (Pic: Paul Brown)

The steamers mainly work on the Luzern-Brunnen-Flüelen route, which has 18 landing stages, five of them connecting with aerial cableways and funicular railways. Paul Brown’s photographs capture the picturesque scenes. 

Historic paddle steamers

Built in 1906 by Sulzer Brothers, Winterthur, Schiller has a two-cylinder diagonal compound steam engine. Her graceful appearance leads to her being regarded as one of the most attractive steamships in Switzerland. The First Class saloon on the main deck features Art Nouveau decorations and ornate wood panelling. Carrying 900 passengers, she was last given a major overhaul in 2000. (Pic: SGV)


Built in 1902 by Escher Wyss, Zurich, Unterwalden is the only paddle steamer on Lake Lucerne capable of sailing under the low Acheregg bridge and reaching Alpnachstad at the foot of Mount Pilatus, with the funnel and wheelhouse being hydraulically-lowered. She carries 700 passengers and was converted to oil-firing in 1949. Here she is seen about to leave the Lucerne jetty. (Pic: Paul Brown)


The elegant dining saloon in Unterwalden has wood-carved panels and hand-painted ceilings. The ship was threatened with scrapping in 1977, but was saved through a fund-raising campaign, which led to her re-entering service in 1985. The same fund-raising organisation has continued to support the conservation of the Lucerne paddle steamers. (Pic: lsgv)


Built in 1901 by Sulzer Brothers, Uri is the oldest ship in the fleet and also the oldest paddler in Switzerland. Carrying 800 passengers, she was converted to oil-firing in 1949, and has the oldest operational diagonal compound engine. (Pic: Paul Brown)

This feature comes from the latest issue of Ships Monthly, and you can get a money-saving subscription to this magazine simply by clicking HERE




Subscribe & Save today!

Subscribe to Tractor & Machinery today and pay just £3.44 an issue!