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Restaurants, Night Clubs, Museums, Youth Hostels, Conference centres etc


It was a shock when PS Wilhelm Tell (above, built in 1908) was withdrawn from service on Lake Lucerne in 1970, mobilising local steamer enthusiasts into a campaign to save her. In what was one of the earliest concerted campaigns to save a paddle steamer, the vessel was not saved for service, but saved by restauranteurs whose family still own her today. She is moored at Luzern, very close to the steamer piers and her old contemporaries still pass closely by her daily in the main season. Wilhelm Tell must rank as one of the most successful of statically preserved steamers.


Paddle Steamers are not natural museum exhibits. Generally there is not much to see apart from the engines and often no significant or heroic story to tell. Those which survive are listed below

With engines in situ

Wingfield Castle
Hartlepool, UK

The prospects for Wingfield Castle, also a Hull - New Holland ferry, seemed bleak as she was towed around the British coastline in failed plans to make her the centre-piece of Marina developments first at Brighton and then at Swansea. Purchased by the town of Hartlepool and taken back to her birthplace, she was restored by master craftsmen to become part of the north-eastern town's municipal museum.

Mannheim, Germany

The former KD Rhein paddler serves as a floating industrial museum on the River Neckar at Mannheim near the Kurpfalzbrucke . Built in 1929 and operational until 1980, she was disposed of from the KD reserve fleet in 1984 and opened in her new use in 1986. Her machinery remains intact

Oderburg, Germany

The former Elbe paddler (ex Habsburg of 1897) and close sister to Schmilka, Junger Pionier and Pirna, was withdrawn in 1976 and taken out of the water at Oderburg and used as a museum.


Budapest, Hungary

Close to the Chain Bridge (Szechenyi lanchid) on the Pest side of Budapest, Hungary, Kossuth (1914-78) , serves from Spring to Autumn as a bar/restaurant, with maritime museum exhibits on the lower decks. She emerged after substantial reconstruction in 1953 named Kossuth, having carried three previous names, being built in 1914 as Ferencz Ferdinand Foherczeg. She assumed her current role in 1986 and is now owned by a museum organisation with the restaurant operated privately. In 2008 she was extensively refurbished, including considerable attention to her hull.

Medway Queen
Gillingham, UK

Originally built in 1924 and serving on the River Thames and Medway, the vessel with a distinguished record of evacuating troops from Dunkirk in 1940 was cared for by the Medway Queen Preservation Society (now superceded by the charitable New Medway Steam Packet Company Ltd) at her mud berth on the Hoo Peninsula near the mouth of the Medway. In 2006 a grant of over GBP 1.8 m was obtained which enabled the rebuilding of the hull as the first step to eventual full rebuild. Re-usable items were recovered from the hull and put into storage pending the construction of a new hull, which  started in the spring of 2009 in Bristol. In 2013 she was towed to a new permanent nerth at Gillingham, Kent, for fitting out  as new financing permits. Although her engines are now refurbished and back in situ and there are plans to purchase a new boiler, the competent maritime safety authorities have refused to confirm that they would issue a passenger certificate to a ship with a riveted hull construction and she may have to remain a static exhibit. The charity's objects for the vessel continue to include the desire to maintain a capability to sail for special charters and visits to other ports, but not a full-time excursion programme.  A visitor centre has been opened at Gillingham Pier and in 2016 open days were restricted from weekends to Saturdays only.  Occasional events are held aboard the vessel and there is now the opportunity to arrange private functions aboard by arrangement.


Tulcea, Romania

A former naval tug, she was maintained in working condition in the ownership of the city of Tulcea since 2003 and was reboilered (to burn oil rather than coal). In 2008 Republica was listed as a national cultural heritage "monument".  She is maintained in operational condition but it is understood that these are now halted on account of the condition of the boiler and she serves as a restaurant with attached museum in Tulcea.

Sviatitel Nikolai
Krasnoyarsk, Russia

Built in 1887 by Tyumen factury at Kurbatova for businessman Alexander Sibiryakov, it had the distinction of carrying crown prince Nicholas (later the last Tsar) in 1891 and then, communist agitator V.I. Lenin into exile in 1897. 56.2 m x 8,25 m in dimension. In 1927 she was concerted to an oil barge and laid up in 1960. She now lies as a museum ship at Krasnoyarsk, the point deep in Siberia to where Lenin was taken over 100 years ago. The ship has now been taken out of the river Yenisey, but lies only feet from the waters on which she once sailed. She is open to the public for a small entry fee.

At Kozloduy, Bulgaria the paddler Radetzky, a 1966 reconstruction of an earlier paddle tug rebuilt to resemble an earlier Austrian-owned Radetzky which was built in 1852 and later commandeered by Bulgarian independence fighter Hristo Botev in a revolutionary struggle against Turkish control of the country, lies as a mueum ship, but is also operable. She is listed in the Operational Paddle Steamers section of this database

In 2011, the laid-up paddle steamer Vysehrad (I) whose name is now used by an operational paddler in the same location, was moved to central Prague from her upstream berth for use as temporary exhibition space. She is listed in the "laid Up Steamers" section of this database

Bremerhaven, Germany

The central section of the German river paddle steamer Meissen (1881-1968) has been preserved as an exibit in one of the halls in the Deutshes Schiffahrts Museum. The ship sailed out of Dresden on the Elbe until 1907 and after then on the River Weser out of Hameln.

Website : 

With engines removed

Luzern, Switzerland 

When the city of Luzern was establishing its now famous transport museum, the "Verkehrshaus", it was decided to use the derelict paddler Rigi (1848-1952) as an exhibit in the central courtyard. Dragged over a short piece of land, the spartan vessel was the centre-piece of the courtyard cafeteria from 1958 until 2006. She is now rebuilt to approximate her original appearance and has return to being a major exhibit. Earlier hopes of returning her to service as a real "vintage" steamer were ruled out after serious consideration. Her oscillating engines are on display separately in one of the museum's exhibition halls
Bratislava, Slovakia

After lying in a dilapidated condition alongside the bank of the Danube at Nove Pristavisko, near Rusovce on the very short part of the river lying entirely in Slovak territory near Bratislava, the paddler Propeler was renovated and reopened as a museum on the southern bank of the Danube at Petrzalka (Bratislava) by the culture and heritage protection organisation as an art gallery. She spent most of her life as a ferry at Bratislava named Devin and her latter years first as a restaurant moored in Bratislava and then a night club.


Private restaurants would seem to be the best hope for decommissioned paddle steamers as these are reasonably common, particularly in the big cities along the major rivers of Europe. Close access to the SGV dockyard on Lake Lucerne where she was maintained throughout her life, allows PS Wilhelm Tell to be maintained in top condition and she has not been allowed to degenerate in increasingly desperate ways of generating income. Tattershall Castle on the other hand has sold its soul to the drinker and night club reveller - and been almost totally transformed to make her fit for her new purpose, but less like her original self. Her prime position in central London has at least led to her being a money-spinner. Floating bars elsewhere in the UK have proven to be less successful........

PS Maid of the Loch at Balloch, Scotland, whilst open as a cafe and function centre, is being re-fitted with the hope of a return to service in the future so is listed in the "Reactivation Projects" section of the database. (details here) 

With engines in-situ

Tattershall Castle
London, UK

Incredibly, all three of the paddle ferries plying between Hull and New Holland in the UK survived (and two still do). Tattershall Castle, the first to be withdrawn, quickly found a use in central London as an Art gallery but later became a pub and night club with a considerable degree of success, having graced the River Thames for over 25 years. She received a major rebuild in 2004 during which her paddles and vents were removed in a controversial "modernisation" for the London recreation market. Refurbished in Hull during early 2015 and returned to London for further service 


Wilhelm Tell
Luzern, Switzerland

Unexpectedly withdrawn from service in 1970, Wilhelm Tell of 1908 was quickly established as a restuarant ship and has become an integral feature of the waterfront at her home port, Lucerne in Switzerland.


Maid of the Loch
Balloch, UK

Operational on Loch Lomond from 1953 to 1981, the paddle steamer remained moored at her base, Balloch Pier in an increasingly derelict state as ownership changed hands on several occasions and plans to restore and reactivate her proved fanciful. Now in the hands of a preservation trust and open for much of the year for inspection and for a cafeteria food service, she has, over many years, been brought back to reasonable condition by volunteer workers. Now fundraising for matching funds to trigger a large grant from the UK's Heritage Lottery Fund, thgere are strong prospects that the Maid will return to service - maybe as early as late summer 2018 

With engines removed
Princess Elizabeth

Dunkerque, France

The former Southampton-Isle of Wight (England) paddler of 1927 was moved to Dunkerque on the northern French coast after being moved from her berth at Paris where she served as a floating art gallery and conference centre at Pont Mirabeau and is now a floating restaurant at the Pole Marine shopping centre.

Seeburg, Germany

Former Elbe steamer Graf Moltke of 1982 which was known as Lobositz after 1919 (briefly being Konigin Maria in 1936 and Konigstein in 1948). Withdrawn in 1970, she was hauled out of the water in 1973 and taken in two parts to the Susser Lake at Seeburg, near Halle and she became the restautant "Seeperle" lying by the lakeside, but out of the water. She remains in good condition, but much altered form

Portalban, Switzerland

Neuchatel's sister ship Fribourg (1913-1965) is used as a restaurant in the nearby inland town of Portalban.


Arona, Italy

The former Lake Maggiore paddler serves as a floating restaurant at Arona, where she has been moored since 1969. She served on the lake from 1908 until 1958 and was first used as a restaurant at Baveno.

Jos Franken (ex- Hugo Basedow)
Nijmegen, Netherlands

Former lower River Elbe steamer now used as a floating church for itinerant workers and sailors in Nijmegen harbour

Benalmadena, Spain

Former US Coastguard cutter, built in 1925 by the Dubuque Boat & Boiler Co in Iowa for the Lighthouse Sevice on the Mississippi. 200 feet long with an extremely large breadth of 65 feet, she served until late 1944 when she was involved in a collission and paid-off in 1945. She became an accommodation boat for the US army Corps of Engineers, having had her machinery removed. Sold in 1962, she went to Florida 10 years later but lay abandoned until sold to Themes International based in the UK, crossing the Atlantic to Southampton on a semi-submersible in 1989. She went to Antwerp, Belgium for refurbishment but Themes went out of business and Willow remained at Antwerp until 1995 when she returned to the UK, this time to Birkenhead. Her next move was to Spain in 1996 for operation as a restaurant ship and now trades as "Mississippi Willow".

Paddle Steamers have found other uses - as hotels or youth hostels, drop-in-centres, conference venues and club houses. Uses can be many and varied, but the costs of maintaining a ship can be high, and without regular maintenance, the fabric of the ship can deteriorate.

Steamers with engines in-situ

Hotel Aquamarina
(Pamjaty Azina)

Budapest, Hungary

This former Russian river Volga paddle steamer, built in 1903, has been restored to act as a good-quality hotel moored on the Buda side of the Danube in the northers suburbs of Budapest, having been bought by the MINOL company in 2005. Originally called "Grand Duke Alexander Mihkailovich", she became "Kharkov" in 1917. In 1924 she became "Pamjaty Tovaritscha Azina". In 1950 it was substantially rebuilt and became "Pamjaty Azina". Withdrawn in 1991 it is believed to have been bought for use in Albania but this never materialised.


Steamers with machinery removed
Utting, Germany

Andechs (1907-1955) is preserved as a floating yacht club clubhouse at Utting on her home lake, Ammersee in Bavaria.

Compton Castle
Truro, UK

Former River Dart paddle steamer currently moored in the centre of the town of Truro in Cornwall on a tidal river. Currently out of use after various roles such as flower shop and cafeteria. Much changed from her original profile. Engines removed but surviving in the ownership of the Paddle Steamer Preservation Society


Motor Paddle Vessel (ex-Steamer) : Motor is situ

Geneva, Switzerland

Still able to move under her own power if needed
Renowned as the first major paddle steamer to be converted to diesel operation back in 1934 at the age of 38, the ship continued to serve on Lake Geneva for a further 39 years. She has served for many years as cultural and social centre for disadvantaged youth at Geneva. A major renovation is taking place at her usual quay in Geneva during 2011-2012


Built as motor paddlers

Dresden, Germany

Built in 1963 as part of the Dresden-based White Fleet's modernisation programme, the former "Karl Marx" was one of four diesel-electric paddlers built at Rosslau. In 1999, after many years laid up, she was renovated and opened as a youth hostel at Dresden-Neustadt, named "Koje" until closed in 2012. In late 2014 it was reported that she would be refurbished and reopen as Hotel Poppelmann

J F Bottger
Dresden, Germany 

Sister ship of Poppelmann and named "Friedrich Engels" until 1991, she is renovated and used by the CVJM (YMCA in English) as a youth hostel at Dresden-Neustadt

For Statically preserved side-wheelers in the rest of the world, click here

PRESERVED PADDLE TUGS (including those with secure futures and those "at risk")

Although no side-wheel steam* paddle tugs remain in operation, a remarkable number of these "working" boats survive. Closely linked with local trade and industry,they are poular candidates for preservation. Their generally smaller size helps to minimise the cost, but their public appeal is surely more limited than for a passenger steamer.....
* A number of motor powered side-wheel paddle tugs are believed to be in operation in Russia and the Ukraine

Click Here for more details of preserved paddle tugs 


It is more practical to preserve paddle steamer engines than the ships themselves. Many sets have found their way into museums of transport and technology. These showcase the engineering rather than the ships themselves, but they do "tell a story" as museums now require their exhibits to do, even if it is only part of the whole story.

Click here for more details of preserved Paddle Steamer Engines

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