:  The Internet's leading website for Side-Wheeled Paddle Steamers 
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PS Schiller at Brunnen on Lake Lucerne, Switzerland, taken in 2008. A photograph by Gordon Stewart

About Paddle Steamers

The first steamships were paddle steamers and for three decades they were the only steamships. Despite losing out to new forms of propulsion, those that remain are now firmly established favourites in the tourist industry, providing excursions amongst fine scenery on lake, river and in the case of the UK's renowned Waverley, coastal cruises. Their visible steam engines, linked to large paddle wheels, are a unique selling point and these engines provide a quiet, smooth and virtually smell-free experience for the customer. 

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The form of propulsion unique to paddle steamers

The engines are a major on-board attraction

The most distinctive feature when seen from shore

The method of propulsion used by the first steamships and still ideal for calm and shallow waters. Many paddlers have viewing port-holes on the main deck so the turning wheels and splashing waters can be seen to good effect.

On most paddle steamers the engines are clearly visible and are, for many, a major on-board attraction. Here, lubrication oil is topped-up on Lake Lucerne's PS Schiller whilst the engines are stopped as she calls at a pier. See Paddle Steamer Engines 

From a distance, Paddle Steamers can often be identified by their distinctive paddle boxes, with vents of different sizes and shapes, often highly decorated. The Paddle Steamer Waverley's port side vents gets a touch-up of paint whilst she waits at Tighnabruaich.



This website is one of the internet's most comprehensive first-point-of-reference resources for side-wheel excursion paddle steamers in operation, statically preserved or laid-up. It is also an introduction to the history of paddle steamers and creates a basic framework for those who wish to research the subject in more detail

Website Objective : To introduce readers to the world of paddle steamers, to understand their roles and where they operate with the intention of generating deeper interest in and support for existing paddle steamers and projects to preserve and restore historic paddle steamers.

Illustrations : The website is illustrated by webmaster Gordon Stewart's own photography (of which there is a full archive) and images kindly supplied for publication by his correspondents of their own work or from private collections owned by them which are not generally published elsewhere. Where not otherwise acknowledged, the post-1965 photos are by Gordon Stewart and under copyright. This website uses a limited number of historical images which, it is believed, are in the public domain. Creative Commons licence is shown where applicable. The original photographer is acknowledged if known from the photograph source.

See below for links to the following sections of the database :

- Paddle Steamers which are still in operation (including vessels converted from steam to motor power)
- Proposals for new operational Paddle Steamers
Paddle Steamers which are statically preserved, including those under restoration and those laid-up and at risk
Paddle Steamers of the past
- Photograph Archive : Photographs by Gordon Stewart
- Look Around Selected Paddle Steamers
- Paddle Steamer engines
- "The historical context of Paddle Steamers, their current and future roles" : by Gordon Stewart
- "Cost reduction and clean energy : An innovative solution for the retention and reactivation of vessels at risk" : by Gordon Stewart

- Paddle Tugs

Further information about this website :
see foot of this page


PS Unterwalden seen above at Luzern on lake Lucerne in Switzerland in 2016 is one of surprisingly many historical paddle steamers surviving around the world. Waverley, in the UK, is the world's last sea-going paddle steamer and the only one now offering coastal cruises. All other European paddlers now only operate on large rivers or on lakes with the exceptions of Freya which operates in northern Germany generally keeping to the Kiel Canal and Elbe estuaries. Some paddle steamers are retained in their original fleets, others are now owned and operated by preservation groups. These surviving paddle steamers are listed and profiled here

Go to :
Operational Paddle Steamers                             See also :  Proposals for new operational Paddle Steamers


This section lists and gives further information about paddle steamers which were saved from scrapping and have been opened up for static uses such as restaurants and museums. Some are open but are undergoing restorative work with the ultimate aim of being returned to operational service. Some remain laid-up, not open to the public and without plans for restoration. Many of these vessels are at severe risk of being scrapped or deteriorating beyond repair.
Paddle Steamer Mainz (1929) seen above was the last of a long line of paddle steamers built for passenger service on the Rhine in Germany. Withdrawn in 1980, she opened as a shipping and technical museum moored close to the city centre in Mannheim in 1986 

Go to : Statically Preserved Paddle Steamers - and laid-up paddle steamers awaiting their fate


This section looks at excursion paddle steamers and ferries of the past in the UK, Europe and other parts of the world and touches on short-sea ferries across the Irish Sea and from the UK to northern Europe
The Firth of Clyde, a large expanse of sheltered coastal waters with several islands and sea-lochs penetrating into mountain scenery was, since the introduction there of Europe's first commercially-viable steamship the Comet, a major location for the operation of paddle ferries and excursion vessels. Paddle Steamer Caledonia (in service from 1934  to 1969) was the second-last in a long line of these and was survived only by Waverley (1947), now operated by preservationists.  Caledonia is seen above in 1967 in a photograph kindly supplied by David Perry.

Go to :
Paddle Steamers of the past     including the   British Paddle Steamer Index

PHOTOGRAPH ARCHIVE : Photographs by Gordon Stewart

Gordon Stewart has made numerous photographs of Paddle Steamers
Many are displayed in the body of the text on this website where uncredited
photos post 1966 are from this collection
The others are shown catalogued and in reduced size format

Go to the photograph archive

The paddle steamers we see now are almost all very old, some over 150 years old but others much younger. All have had to be continuously maintained to survive and to enable them to meet modern safety standards. Whilst much of the fabric is modern, in recent years great care has been taken to recreate a traditional feel for the passenger and in many cases recreating the ships' original look as far as possible. The on-board feel can therefore be quite different from that of a comparable modern ship and is therefore another of the attractions of paddle steamers. As well as the selected photos on the link below, there are extensive internal views in the main photograph database

Click here for a look around selected Paddle Steamers

PADDLE STEAMER ENGINES :  Listing of surviving examples and photographs
Paddle steamers were the first steamships and early vessels had the most basic of engines. As time progressed these engines evolved, developing ever more power and with ever more efficiency. This section lists the surviving paddle steamer engines whether still in service, retained within a statically preserved paddle steamer or displayed publicly such as in a technical museum. There are links to photographs of many of these engines and to details of the vessels concerned

Go to :
Paddle Steamer Engines

The first steamships were paddle steamers and they spead widely across the globe challenging sailing ships for dominance of the seas. By the mid 1860s they were regarded as obsolete for ocean-going services on account of the development of the screw propellor for propulsion. By 1902 they were considered obsolete for short-sea ferry work due to the advantages brought by the steam turbine engine which was not suited for use in paddle steamers. By the late 1920s oil and in particular diesel combustion engines brought cost advantages which made paddle steamers virtually obsolete in lake, river and coastal traffic where they had still retained a significant foothold. If it was not new technologies it was the decline in the need for ship at all. Places once most easily reached by water increasingly became accessible by newly-built railways and roads. With the construction of ever more bridges over rivers and estuaries, the final disappearance of the paddle steamer seemed assured. However, this has not been the case and paddle steamers have found a new niche.........

Gordon Stewart expands on these issues, examines what their current role is and explains why they can still be successful in the future.

Click here for more

COST REDUCTION AND CLEAN ENERGY : An innovative solution for the retention and reactivation of vessels at risk

Paddle Steamers are very expensive to run and this is probably the main reason why they are now so rare. Making steam also involves burning fossil fuels and despite improving boiler performance and lighter fuels, emissions cannot be completely eliminated. There is a way to reduce operating costs by around 40 % and reduce their carbon footprint

Click here for more

Paddle tugs are not covered in this database except to highlight preserved examples. No paddle tugs are confirmed to be in operation in their original roles although some diesel-powered tugs are possibly still in service in Russia

Go to : Paddle Tugs

Swiss paddle steamer operations : 2022


For a comprehensive guide to paddle steamers in general from a historical development point of view  :

The Coming of the Comet : The Rise and Fall of the Paddle Steamer   by Nick Robins

Seaforth Publishing, 2012 : ISBN 10 : 1848321341  and ISBN 13 : 978-1848321342

It is an almost impossible task to cover such an enormous subject, deciding what to include and within those topics, how much detail to present. This book makes as good an attempt as must surely be possible. 

Other suggested reading is listed in the separate sections of this database. Nick Robins has also written a number of other books on paddle steamers, all of which are highly recommended

ABOUT THIS WEBSITE is designed and maintained by Gordon Stewart, life member of the UK's Paddle Steamer Preservation Society

The webmaster attempts to keep information as up-to-date as possible but does not guarantee that any information is necessarily current.  Any views expressed are those of the webmaster alone unless otherwise indicated. All information is presented in good faith. If any information is clearly wrong, please advise the webmaster and it shall be corrected

Send an e-mail to the Webmaster, Gordon Stewart   

What counts as a Paddle Steamer in this side-wheeled steamer database ?

Steam powered side-wheelers including those which have been converted to diesel power and those which survive statically (even if the machinery has been removed). Side-wheelers built as motor vessels are also included where they can be regarded as equivalent in size to the steamers covered.  Some very small steamships in private ownership and limited to 12 passengers are noted. Modern ships primarily propelled by screw propellor but with a side-wheel either entirely or substantially for visual effect are excluded. Stern-wheel vessels are excluded.

Copyright and re-use of information and images

The website is illustrated by webmaster Gordon Stewart's own photography (of which there is a full archive) and images kindly supplied for publication by his correspondents of their own work or from private collections owned by them which are not generally published elsewhere. Where not otherwise acknowledged, the post-1965 photos are by Gordon Stewart and under copyright. This website uses a limited number of historical images which, it is believed, are in the public domain. Creative Commons licence is shown where applicable. The original photographer is acknowledged if known from the photograph source.

Photographs displayed are with the permission of the acknowledged photographer but are not to be copied for re-use for any other website or publication without the specific authorisation of the photographer. You are welcome to use the text from this website as a research source and basis for your own work but it should not be copied and republished elsewhere verbatim or only slightly altered.
All text on the database is Gordon Stewart also photos as follows : unacknowledged post-1965 photos or the individual photographer where acknowledged. Other photos pre-1952 are deemed to be in the public domain due to age


The webmaster gratefully acknowledges many sources of information, including websites shown on the links page, magazines such as Paddle Wheels and Dampferzeitung and published books which he has read and absorbed information from. Many of these are listed in the Bibliography sections of the main pages to which they refer and readers of this website are referred to these books for much more detailed information about the relevant subjects. Thanks go to everyone who has submitted photos. They are acknowledged on the website alongside their photos. Particular thanks are due to many, especially Kenny Whyte, Phil Barnes, Kevin Hoggett, Zsolt Szabo, Olivier Bachmann, Enrico Crosti, Robert McLuckie, Chris Allen, Tom Lee, Malcolm Oliver, Istvan Radi, Derek Gawn, John Hendy, Bernd Gross, Markus Graf,  Andrew delaGhetto and Lukas Bannier for the large number of excellent photos which they have submitted to this website and for those who have granted access to their post card collections including Istvan Radi and Peter Rolf.

Paddle Steamer Information Requests

Most of the information available to me is presented in abbreviated form in this database and it is unlikely that I will be able to help with ships which are not included in this database, but please send the webmaster an e-mail and I will give as much assistance as I can. I can for example also give general guidance about paddle steamer services in Europe (e.g. Swiss lake steamers operations) and guide you to the best sources of external information. I can also assist in identifying paddle steamers in old photographs
Send an e-mail to the Webmaster, Gordon Stewart

Can You Help With This database ?

The webmaster would be delighted to receive any updates of relevant information and non-commercially available photographs which could help to keep this database as up-to-date as possible and fill in gaps in the historical record. These should be taken by yourself, a family member or from unpublished collections to which you own the copyright. However, recent photographs of PS Waverley sailing in preservation with Waverley Excursions are not required due to the enormous number of images of her now available on the internet and in numerous publications


Clyde Turbine Steamers

Although Clyde Steamer fleets were dominated by paddle steamers, the introduction of the turbine steamer King Edward in 1901 dramatically improved the quality of the long-distance day excursion fleet. The world's first ever passenger ship powered by turbines brought a new level of speed, comfort and smoothness and in the next 35 years a number of excellent vessels joined the Clyde fleet.

The only surviving example is TS Queen Mary (seen above in 2017 in Prince's Dock, Glasgow) which sailed from 1933 to 1977. She was bought by a Scottish charity the Friends of TS Queen Mary in October 2015 with the intention of taking her to Glasgow and preserving her in a permanent berth near the city centre and she was returned to the Clyde on May 15th 2016 to be prepared for her new life. Stripping out of old fittings was proceeding rapidly when the above photo was taken

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InTramCities  with Gordon Stewart : Infrastructure, Architecture and Environment along streets with trams

Gordon Stewart travels regularly throughout Europe to create what is perhaps the finest tramway photograph resource on the internet. Although trams are the focal point and common thread throughout, it is where they are running which provides the diversity and interest in his photos. As well as city centres with their grand architecture, Gordon takes you to less well-known suburbs to give a real feel for the tramway city. The photos are becoming an important historical record for those interested in the city itself as well as its trams and also show how trams fit into urban environments to provide an attractive and accessible transportation system.  Domain front page
Gordon Stewart 2001-2022