The Paddle Steamer Rigi, pictured above at Lucerne in her early days on the lake, was built by Ditchburn and Mare of Greenwich with engines by John Penn and Son, famous makers of some very fine machinery for, amongst many others, the British paddle steamer Consul. Commissioned in 1846, the Rigi made her first trip on the lake in 1848.
Somewhat altered and rebuilt over the years to fit in with changing passenger tastes and needs, the Rigi continued in service until 1952. She then languished for several years before taking on a new role as a museum ship and sometime tearoom in the centre of the Swiss Transport Museum at Lucerne in 1958.
A view along the deck from the bow.
Looking aft towards the engine and into the deck saloon. Rigi was lengthened by about 4m in 1860 and rebuilt once again in 1894. During this work she lost her original John Penn machinery and had it replaced by an oscillating engine from the Zurich based ship builder Escher Wyss.
Unusually the feathering gear for the paddle wheels is on the inboard rather than outboard side of each wheel.
Like many paddle steamers the Rigi had quite a big rudder for the size of ship. As you can see, a bit has been has been added to the end making it even bigger.
On Thursday 8th March 2006 the Rigi took to the air and was lifted out of her home of many years in the museum in order to be restored to her original condition. Funding for this project is mainly from a legacy which is a useful reminder for all of us. Paddle steamers need money if they are to survive. And their future can be greatly assured if supporters think of them when making their wills.
When the work is finished, it will be quite something to be able to step aboard an 1840s paddle steamer fitted out as she was then. I can hardly wait!
Pictures by Kuno Stein and John Megoran.
Kingswear Castle returned to service in 2023 after the first part of a major rebuild which is designed to set her up for the next 25 years running on the River Dart. The Paddle Steamer Kingswear Castle Trust is now fund raising for the second phase of the rebuild. You can read more about the rebuilds and how you can help if you can here.