November 2018:
Paddle Steamer Stadt Luzern Withdrawn for Rebuild

November 2018:
Paddle Steamer Stadt Luzern Withdrawn for Rebuild

Stadt Luzern alongside at Fluelen on Lake Lucerne at 2pm on Sunday 21st October, 2018 her last day in service before being withdrawn for a major rebuild which is expected to take around two years and cost 12.5 million Swiss francs. This will not be the first time that she has been rebuilt. Originating from the German yard of the Gebruder Sachsenberg in 1928, Stadt Luzern had major rebuilds during 1953-54, when she was converted to oil firing, and then during each of the winters 1985-89 demonstrating a rule known well to all who run historic ships: that whatsoever you do to them to repair and renew them, you have to do it again twenty five-thirty years later and again and again if you want to keep them going in perpetuity.

It was also the last day as a paddle steamer captain for her master Capt Kuno Stein who will have retired before the Stadt Luzern is returned to service. Capt Stein joined the Lake Lucerne company in October 1974 as a Kontrolleur/Matrose. In 1978 he obtained his first certificate to sail as skipper of the smaller vessels in the fleet and gradually worked his way up to become a paddle steamer captain by 1990 at the age of thirty six. For many years he was much associated with the PS Schiller and since 2008 has been master of the Lucerne flagship Stadt Luzern.

Capt Stein has also travelled extensively on paddle steamers elsewhere in his spare time including on both the Kingswear Castle and Waverley in the UK. In the autumns when paddle steamer captains have a quieter schedule I have often bumped into him unexpectedly sailing as a passenger on other paddle steamers in other locations including at Dresden, Lake Geneva and so on. On this last trip of the Stadt Luzern, very many of the passengers which included a number of other paddle steamer captains from around Europe, had come specially to pay their respects to Kuno and to wish him well for the future.

Stadt Luzern on the way to Fluelen.
Looking towards Stadt Luzern’s bow with the polished brass bell on top of the hand operated windlass.
Looking aft from the bow. Stadt Luzern was built with much undercover accommodation and here we are looking at the windows of the second class dining saloon on the main deck forward.
Looking aft towards the engine with a jazz band to jolly up the atmosphere. The ventilating cowl is collecting money for paddle steamer rebuilds.
Stadt Luzern has an unusual three cylinder engine with forced oil lubrication and therefore needs covers to contain and collect this oil as it sprays out. Originally the covers were of steel so it was hard to see the engine but for many years now they have been replaced by these newer ones which are made of transparent plastic.
Stadt Luzern’s starboard paddle wheel.
The first class dining saloon at the aft end of the main deck.
Like some paddle steamers of the past in the UK (think Cosens’s Monarch) it is possible to walk around the outside of the dining saloon on Stadt Luzern.
Looking forward towards the engine with one of the two companionway’s up to the promenade deck on the right.
Here we are on the promenade deck, much of which is saloon accommodation with tables and chairs thereby increasing the number of covers for dining. The company has a large independent catering organisation based ashore which provides the food with much of the preparation already done before it comes aboard. It is a slick operation involving a considerable number of staff involved in all stages of the food preparation and service. All live ashore as there is no crew accommodation aboard any of these paddle steamers.
On the promenade deck looking into the promenade deck forward dining saloon.
The promenade deck forward dining saloon.
The promenade deck aft dining saloon.
Looking at the bridge with Capt Stein on the starboard wing taking Stadt Luzern into Treib.
Looking forward on the port side towards the bridge with the extensive promenade deck dining saloons on the right.
Under the awning at the aft end of the promenade deck leaving Weggis.
Arriving at Isleten-Isenthal. All the Swiss piers are tiny in comparison with the size of the vessels which use them and all are deliberately designed to be bouncy to absorb the shock of large paddle steamers potentially landing heavily against them.
Tributes being paid to Capt Stein who was presented with a large Swiss cheese by the funicular staff at Treib to the accompaniment of an alpine horn.
Capt Stein berthing Stadt Luzern for the last time at Lucerne at a quarter to five on Sunday 21st October 2018.
Everyone wants to say goodbye personally to Capt Stein and thank him for his immense contribution to paddle steamers over so very many year.

Stadt Luzern should be back in service in 2021. Unfortunately paddle steamer captains cannot be rebuilt in the same way and Capt Stein will by then have retired. However I hope and expect that he will nonetheless be an honoured guest on Stadt Luzern’s first trip when she emerges from the shipyard shiny and fresh for the next thirty years.