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The SGV can trace its origins back to the inception of steamer services on Lake Lucerne, when a Mr Knorr began operations with the PS Stadt Luzern in September 1837 and added PS St Gotthard in 1843, in order to strengthen their grip on the business of conveying mail on the Gotthard route southwards across the Alps to Italy. PS Waldstatter became the third steamer in 1847 when the "Postdampfschiffahrts-gesellschaft" was established by interests in the canton of Uri at the lower end of the lake to challenge the monopoly held by Knorr's Luzern-based company. A short-lived period of intense competition compounded by the restrictive practices of the sponsoring cantonal governments eventually led to federal government intervention and then to both companies agreeing a joint timetable and fares policy. The joint operation came into force for the summer season of 1849.

In 1859, the railways had reached Luzern from Basel and the Schweizerische Centralbahn ordered two steamers, Stadt Basel and Stadt Mailand to capitalise on the onward trade. Quickly, the railway company realised that an independent operation was not going to be possible in competition with the existing operators and the two vessels were soon sold on to them.

Knorr's company added PS Winkelried in 1864, the "Postdampfschiffahrtsgesellschaft " added the virtually identical PS Wilhelm Tell and a new small screw steamer SS Brunig was jointly owned. This increasing co-ordination was the precursor to full union from the beginning of 1870 as the "Vereinigten Dampfschiffahrt-Gesellschaft des Vierwaldstattersees" (VDGV). In 1885 the company was renamed "Dampfschiffgesellschaft des Vierwaldstattersees" (DGV) and in 1960 assumed its present name, "Schifffahrtsgesellschaft des Vierwaldstattersees" (SGV)..

Historical Paddlers (with Lake Lucerne service dates)
PS Wilhelm Tell (1908-70)
PS Rhein
(1911-39), originally built in 1905, rebuilt as MV Waldstatter (1949-1995)
PS Winkelried
(1898-1954), originally built in 1876
PS Pilatus
PS  Gotthard
PS Stadt Luzern
PS Italia
PS Germania
PS Helvetia
PS Victoria
PS Schwyz
PS Wilhelm Tell
PS Winkelried
PS Stadt Mailand
PS Stadt Basel
PS Rigi
PS Waldstatter
PS St Gotthard
PS Stadt Luzern
(1837-72) : The hull survived until 2005 as "Biebo" as a work boat originally to carry coal and later as a pumping barge for bilge water

Existing Remains of Historical Steamers
PS Wilhelm Tell (1908-70) moored as a restaurant ship at Luzern, substantially in original condition
PS Pilatus
(1895-1966) partially preserved (engine, paddle wheel and part of hull) at the Verkehrshaus, Luzern, and other pieces elsewhere)
PS Rigi
(1848-1952) preserved on land at the Verkehrshaus museum, Luzern
PS St Gotthard
(1843-72) still operating at the SGV dock for pile-driving

Die Geschichte der Schiffahrt auf dem Vierwaldstattersee
Josef Gwerder, Jurg Meister & Erich Liechti
Second edition, 1999
Maihof Verlag, Luzern
ISBN 3-9520-756-8-X
The definitive illustrated data source and historical timeline for each vessel in the lake Lucerne fleet

Detailed and copiously illustrated profiles of the current paddle steamers are available in the "Bordbuch" series by Josef Gwerder

PS Stadt Luzern -published in 1989 by Keller & Co AG, Luzern. ISBN 3-85766-030-9
PS Gallia - published in 1991 by Keller & Co AG, Luzern. ISBN 3-0-7596-12-4
PS Uri - published in 1996 by Maihof Verlag, Luzern. ISBN 3-9520027-6-3PS
PS Schiller - published in 2000 by Maihof Verlag, Luzern.  ISBN 3-9520756-9-8

Unsere Flotte Vierwaldstattersee
Heinz Amstad, Othmar Egli, Kurt Hunziker, Anton Raber
Verlag Dampferzeitung, Hirtenhofring 2, CH-6005 Luzern
Profile of the vessels in the fleet in 1987, short history of the SGV old and new yards

Schiffe Aus Alter Zeit
Peter A Meyer
Buchverlag Keller & Co, CH-6002, Luzern, Switzerland
ISBN 3-85766-016-3
Detailed profiles of all the former vessels of the fleet up to PS Wihelm Tell and PS Rhein (MV Waldstatter)

Brief details of the vessels can be found in the following more general Swiss steamer guides:
Dampfschiffe Schweiz
Anton Raber and Peter Horlacher
Verlag Dampferzeitung, Luzern, Switzerland
Brief detals in four languages including English

Paddle Steamers of the Alps
Leslie Brown and Joe McKendrick
Ferry Publications
ISBN 1-871947-19-7
Illustrated profiles of the steamers and operating areas

Sciffahrt auf den Schweizer Seen
Anton Raber
Orell Fussli Verlag, Zurich
ISBN 3-280-00285-0
Illustrated round up of Swiss lake vessels, with fleet lists and sections on vessel design and engineering.

Return to
Lake Lucerne (SGV)
Historical Database