What is this mysterious four decked paddle steamer out on a seemingly open sea somewhere on a grey November day last year with flags fluttering in the chill air and steam providing a little bit of atmosphere?
Here she is backing into an old fashioned pier with an old fashioned coaster alongside with an old fashioned crane on its foredeck.
But no! It is not an old fashioned crane. It is a sleek, new camera boom and filming is afoot aboard Lake Geneva’s preserved Mercure for a major Russian movie with Russian actors and the paddle steamer Rhone as one of its stars.
Rather in the same way that meeting an old friend after some time can come as a bit of a shock when you find that they are not quite as they once were but, in the interim since you last met, have become bloated, fat and lined, the Rhone, in her film disguise, whilst still recognisable, is not quite the Rhone that we have all known and loved.
There is a new name on her paddle box in the Cyrillic alphabet. Mock cabin extensions have been built on the foredeck and at the forward end of the promenade deck. An extra passenger deck has been added on top of everything with a gazebo attached. The normal sides of the upper saloon have gone and a new cabin structure sits in the middle of the deck in place of the usual wall to wall tables and chairs. The life-rafts are covered in canvas.
There is even a new ladder up to the bridge. The wheelhouse has a new outside to it. And the radar has disappeared inside a grey box.
Le Bouveret Pier was also transformed to become a Bosphorus location with plenty of Belle Epoque props on and around it, including old boats, horses, carts, sawdust and straw all conjuring up another age.
Poised ready for “take seven”, our film star is about to set off “full ahead” with key members of the Russian cast standing by on the new top deck to wave goodbye to those they are leaving behind.
Off she goes…
…with the Mercure and camera in hot pursuit.
The filming lasted from mid October through into November doubtless providing a good end of season bonus for the CGN’s finances.
Now the Rhone is back home in the Lausanne chantier. The bloating, the fat and the lines have all gone and, Dorian Gray like, she is restored to her former beauteous self.
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.