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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), rebuilt as MV Waldstatter (1949-1995).

PS Winkelried (1898-1954)

PS Pilatus (1895-1966)

PS Gotthard (1889-1965)

PS Stadt Luzern (1887-1917)

PS Italia (1872-1963)
PS Germania (1872-1949)
PS Helvetia (1870-1959)
PS Victoria (1871-1942)
PS Schwyz (1870-1959)
PS Wilhelm Tell (1864-1916)
PS Winkelried (1864-78)
PS Stadt Mailand (1859-1916)
PS Stadt Basel (1859-1916)

PS Rigi (1848-1952)

PS Waldstatter (1847-1918)
PS St Gotthard (1843-72)
PS Stadt Luzern (1837-72)

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

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

PS Stadt Luzern (1837-72) still operating at the SGV dock as the bilge water pumping ship MV Biebo
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)

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
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