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Germany : East Prussia

River Memel  (now Neman),  Curonian Lagoon and Memel (now Klaipeda)

The River Memel was usually regarded as the edge of  Imperial Germany and of East Prussia. It formed the border with the Russian Empire. To the north was the port of Memel and an area of land (Memelland) which was incorporated into Germany. After the Treaty of Versailles concluding the First World War, Memelland was put under French control pending a settlement of its status with Germany and newly-independent Lithuania laying claim. The area was occupied by Lithuania in 1923 which complicated arrangements on the River and for services to the city of Memel which were only resolved when, under pressure, the area was given back to Nazi Germany in March 1939. After the war, the area was incorporated into the Soviet Republic of Lithuania and East Prussia itself split between Soviet Russia and Poland.

The Curonia lagoon is protected from the main Baltic Sea behind a large sand bar (the Curonian Spit) a is now national park with a small number of small settlements.  A steamer service linked the resorts of the lagoon-side of the spit with the city of Memel (now Klaipeda, Lithuania) in the north and Cranz (now Zelenogradsk, Russia) in the south,
There was a healthy paddle steamer excursion trade on the Memel river based at the local capital Tilsit, now called Sovetsk in Russia's Kaliningrad Oblast.

The mass evacuation of German citizens in the face of advancing Soviet troops in 1944 brought an immediate end to German life and the river excursion business which had survived during wartime. Paddle Steamer Grenzland, appropriately renamed after arriving in 1933 in Germany's Border Land was one of the vessels involved in the evacuation, sailing fully loaded to Copenhagen

Cranz-Memel Line :  Memel-Cranzer Dampfschiffsgesellschaft

The Cranz-Memel Line service linked the small resort villages on the Curonian Spit, serving Memel (now Klaipeda LT) , Schwarzort, Preil, Nidden, Rossiten and Cranz (now Zelenogradsk, RU), with a timed railway connection to Koenigsberg at Cranzbeek which was just a short distance from Cranz itself, the resort on the Baltic Coast.

In 1913 the paddlers Memel and Cranz were on the route operated daily with one return sailing each (PS Cranz from Memel, May 1 - Sept 30  and PS Memel from Cranz  May 8 - August 31, a journey of approximately six hours in each direction). Following the withdrawal of the paddle steamers the service was in the hands of new screw steamers

Cranz  (1885-1920)  Bought new from builders in Kiel

 Above : Post card view of Cranz moored at Cranzbeek

Memel (1910 - 1920*)  Originally in London as King Alfred.  Possibly sold to B Bieber for use at Memel from 1921. From 1924 she sailed out of Hamburg

Above : Post Card View of Memel

Reederei Gebruder Berger, based in Russ, now Rusne LT.

Beethoven (originally in London as Gresham). Operated from 1920 until she was sold for use in Prague in 1926.  

Herold  (Originally in London ?)


Zellstoff Fabrik of Tilsit (Cellulose Factory)

Gustel   (Former tug. ZW on the funnel)

Reederei Wilhelm Skorloff

Grenzland (1933-1945)

Formerly Freya on ferry run from the North Frisian island of 
Sylt to the mainland at Hoyer. Based at Tilsit. Particularly associated with music cruises and charters including school trips which continued until 1944 until the ship was used to transport wounded citizens and finally evacuees to Memel before her own final flight. Not in a regular timetabled service. Fleetmate was MV Herbert with Captain Skorloff in command.

Tilsiter Dampfer Verein

Konigin Luise

Built in 1911 by Werft Fechter at Koenigsberg (now Kaliningrad)
Length 42.6 m
Built for the Tilsiter Dampfer Verein for service on the River Memel as Konigin Luise
Bought in 1925 by the Hamburg-Blankensese-Este Line and brought to Hamburg
Renamed Lessing in 1929
Taken over by HADAG in 1963 and scrapped in 1964


Rapid  called at Turner-Bad. Still in service in 1929


Turner (?) 
(sailed from Turner-Bad to Schlossberg)  There is reference to a motor ship Turner

Note : A postcard image (post 1920) shows two almost identical paddlers tied up together at Tilsit. Look to be ex-LCC but not Beethoven (or Memel).   One is probably Herold

19th Century

Luna - built in 1837 by J&W Napier of Glasgow. Registered at Memel from 1846
Terra - built 1856 by Scott & Co of Greenock. Traded on the river Memel but registered to a Mr William Taylor of Greenock
Terra Nova  - built in 1859 by Denny of Dumbarton for Clyde service as Lochlong. From 1868 at Memel as Terra Nova until moved to Russia in 1880

Tilsit-based shipping companies :  Preugschat, Schienther, Meyhofer (based in Konigsberg)
Benno Bieber : Bieber established a shipping company in Memel in 1912 and served the lagoon resorts with his steamer Schwarzort. After World War I his company operated tugs and arranged charters. The business passed to his sons, the Heinz and Helmut 

City of Elbing (now Elblag, Poland) and the Vistula Lagoon

Shipping services in Elbing made an inauspicious start after Jacob Riesen, head of the Elbing City council, along with a number of other notables of the city established a shipping company in 1828 to link the city with Koenigsberg with the locally built paddle steamer Copernikus. The ship was wrecked less than two months after the service opened. It was not until the 1850s when Riesen could claim a successful passenger service. The paddle steamers Julius Born (sternwheeler) and Linau established a regular link between Elbing and Danzig. These were built by the Schichau yard in Elbing which grew to be a major builder of sea-going vessels, primarily screw steamers.

Schichau was a successful shipbuilder. In 1896 they built the 68 m long paddler Badenia IX for service at Mannheim. Later renamed Mainz it was bombed and sunk in 1945 but raised and the wreck later rebuilt as a Voith-Schneider-propelled motor vessel Westmark which survived until burnt out in 1978.
Schichau also got involved in shipping as a shareholder in a local company and expanded his interests and after takeovers, the Elbinger Dampfschiffs Rhederei F Schichau was formed in 1887.

Whilst August Zedler's company established predominance on the lagoon service to the resort of Kahlberg, competition was not far away with Schichau establishing a steamship company in Kahlberg 1908 with the screw steam ships Moewe and Tolkemit capitalising on newly-built pier facilities which ended the need for passengers to be rowed or carried ashore.

August Zedler  (Reederei fuer Fluss- und Haffschiffahrt Schiffsexpedition)
August Zedler formed a shipping company in 1881 with the Maria and added a stern-wheeler, Anna, in 1889 to increase services from Elbing to Kahlberg (now Krynica Morska). Elsa was added in 1896 followed later by and the screw steamers Kahlberg and Sophia, the paddler Flora (which was later converted to screw propulsion) and in 1911 the screw-driven Preussen. Zedler died in 1917 and the company was bought by Emil Berger whose operations were based in Russ. The old paddle steamer Anneliese (ex- Frisia) was purchased in 1931 and was in service until 1937.  Further details are unclear but she was reportedly sold to Captain Wilhelm Skorloff  (who owned Grenzland) in 1943 and was renamed Ostland but did not enter service and did not escape the advance of Soviet forces in 1944

Above : A post card view of the steamer pier at Kahlberg with paddle steamer Flora

Above : Anneliese seen laid up and out of service at Koenigsberg (now Kaliningrad, Russia) in 1938.
Original Photographer : Dr Julius Christiansen (1897-1951)
Source : Wiki Commons published under Creative Commons licence

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