November 2011:
Lake Lucerne Paddle Steamer Unterwalden

November 2011:
Lake Lucerne Paddle Steamer Unterwalden

The paddle steamer Unterwalden returned to service on Lake Lucerne this summer after a major renovation which included a new boiler, new decks and much else.

Pictured here at Fluelen in her early years, the Unterwalden was ordered from the shipbuilder Escher-Wyss of Zurich in 1899 at a price of 370,000 Swiss Francs…

…and ran her first sailings on the lake under the command of Capt Josef Lauber (1853 – 1926) in April 1902.

With the building of a new bridge at Stansstad in 1960, the Unterwalden (pictured above) and Uri were given telescopic funnels, masts and wheelhouses, all of which could be lowered to reduce their air draughts, so that they could continue to sail into the Alpnachersee and on to Alpnachstad.

Stepping aboard the Lake Lucerne paddle steamers is always a joy as they are just so well maintained to such a high standard. Here we are on the upper deck looking forward with the delightful little deck cabin on our right.

Part of this deck is now covered with an awning which conjures up in me the feeling of standing on the deck of a pre-First World War luxury yacht.

The wheelhouse, funnel and masts still collapse – you can see the hinge on the foremast – so that now, uniquely amongst the Lucerne paddlers, the Unterwalden can still sail to Alpnachstad. However the new mechanisms for doing this have all been cleverly concealed so as not to be too obvious. Frankly, unless you look closely, you wouldn’t notice that they were there at all until everything starts to come down.

Part of the upper deck aft of the funnel is enclosed to provide more dining places with a view…

…whilst the ornate and panelled first class main deck dining saloon continues to provide quality meals and service in a luxurious atmosphere.

Second class diners on the main deck forward get an excellent close up view of Unterwalden’s wonderful Escher-Wyss engine.

Below, the engine controls with the large wheel for altering the valve settings for ahead and astern and the levers for main steam, the low pressure cylinder impulse valve and the water condensate discharge and, on the lower level, cylinder drains.

Like everything else on the Lucerne paddle steamers, the engines are maintained in immaculate condition with a gorgeous sheen on all the polished steelwork.

Capt Hanspeter Mosimann joined the Lucerne fleet in 1974, was promoted captain in 1993 and has been Unterwalden’s master since 1996.

If you have never been to lake Lucerne, do go. It is heaven on earth with five beautifully presented and operated paddle steamers providing an object lesson to us all in how to run efficiently, successfully and to a very high standard large paddle steamers with a core crew of just six plus the catering staff.

Although the main summer season is now over, motor vessels run on the lake throughout the year and, in December, the Unterwalden will be back in steam and out again offering Christmas cruises. Book up now!

For Lake Lucerne website click here.

Some pictures courtesy of Robert Knoepfel.

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.

John Megoran

John Megoran