Thursday, 6 August 2009

Waverley in Switzerland

Click images for larger view
This week a number of Waverley crew members and enthusiasts have been enjoying some Swiss steamer sailings. Earlier in the week I met up with Waverley's Iain McCorkindale i.e. Corky and John Sims on Lake Lucerne where we enjoyed some sailings on the four operational paddlers Uri, Schiller, Gallia and Stadt Luzern. (the lake's fifth paddle steamer,Unterwalden, is currently undergoing a life extension rebuild in the SGV Shipyard at Luzern (Lucerne). When she returns to service in 2011, Unterwalder's two original 'Scotch' boilers will be replaced by new steam plant - unusually from Italy). It is good to see that a fine picture of Waverley is now on permanent exhibition opposite the entrance to Schiller's First Class Saloon, as exhibited above. The picture was the result of a genorous donation by a PSPS member during the celebration of the 75th Anniversary of PS Stadt Luzern in the previous year. Many thanks to Captain Kuno Stein of PS Schiller for arranging for the picture to be displayed in such a splendid location and for bringing my attention to it on our first meeting of my 2009 visit.
It was John Sims' first visit to the Swiss steamer fleets and I think he was suitably impressed - except possibly for the 'view' from the summit of Mount Rigi (after we had disembarked from PS Uri and ascended the mountain on the Vitznau - Righbahn, which was the world's first mountain railway). Later in the week I met up with Waverley's relief Purser/Shopkeeper/Chief Steward Paul Semple at Lausanne on Lake Geneva for a sailing on the newly rebuilt 99 year old paddle steamer La Suisse.
Corky was first to work out the intricasies in the changes to the SGV timetabled excursions on 2009 - particularly the daily 'Dampfer Matinee'. In this the paddler covering the 'express' Luxern-Beckenreid sailings (usually Schiller or Gallia) joins with the early Fluelen service paddler (usually Uri) on the return voyage at Vitznau. The two paddlers sail on a parallel course to Weggis but just before they get there, the 1315 Luzern-Fluelen paddler (the other of Schiller or Gallia) sailed through the gap between them - a spectacular few minutes but you need to be ready for it. The view below (from Weggis) shows Uri (left) and Gallia with the '1315' boat Schiller in the distance approaching Vitznau i.e. first time round I wasn't ready for it!

The second part of the show plays out about half an hour later (provided you are on the 1245 or 1315 sailings from Luzern when both steamers converge on the pier at Beckenreid (along with a motor ship going to Luzern. The two paddlers cruise across the lake at full operating speed about half a boats length apart giving good photograph opportunities. Below is Schiller from Gallia
Better prepared today for the meeting of the three paddlers off Weggis on Lake Lucerne at just after 2pm:
Uri on the left (on the return leg of the full lake sailing that originated at Luzern at 0912), Schiller on the right (on the new 1245 roster from Luzern to Beckenreid with added attractions) and picture from Gallia (on the 1315 full lake sailing from Luzern. Paul Semple on the main deck (forward, starboard side) for the nearer the water shot!

Second part of the show plays out about 30 minutes later when the two ships on the 1245 and 1315 sailings from Luzern converge on Beckenreid at full speed - Schiller from Gallia

SGV, the Lake Lucerne Navigation Company, are justly renowned for their famous fleet of five classic paddle steamers and some of the world’s best passenger excursion motor vessels. Therefore it is probably to be expected that the arrival of the lake’s first large passenger catamaran, the MS Cirrus, has provoked lively debate – not just between professional crew members and enthusiasts but also amongst Lucerners in general, who always seem to be very interested and knowledgeable on ‘their’ fleet. The view below provides some contrasts between MS Cirrus, turning into Pier No 1 at Luzern with the restaurant / bar paddler Wilhelm Tell and the Bucherer motor vessel Stanserhorn (or Pegasus?) in the background at the Schweizerhof Quay.

Cirrus was specified by SGV and designed and built by their in-house subsidiary ‘Shiptec Lucerne’ which also undertakes specialist contact work for the Swiss water and power infrastructure companies. Anyway the debates continue over dinner and a few drinks as we gaze out on Luzern’s beautiful nighttime lakeside.

Other Views of the Lake Lucerne paddle steamers and the spectacular mountain scenery of Luzern and its lake can be found at the following links
Lake Lucerne and its steamers
Lake Lucerne and its steamers - part 2
Paddle Steamer La Suisse, which reaches her 100th year in 2010 has just returned from very extensive 2-year long multi-million pound rebuild and restoration, carried out at her owner’s shipyard at Ouchy in Lausanne. The results of the work on the external areas of the ship may be regarded as quite subtle, apart from the much more appropriate and traditional wheelhouse. Although the structure to support an awning over the forward section of the upper deck has been put in place, so far the awning has not. She did have such an awning when new. Internally, facilities on the upper deck have been upgraded including a very well presented new wood panelled forward ‘observation’ section. The view below shows La Suisse, heralding her imminent departure from Montreux, on the Swiss Riviera, at 5.10pm on Wed 5th Aug 2009. Although she seems to have two steam whistle tubes these do not produce the two tone sound that might be expected. Instead it starts with a rather ‘dry’ tone, changing to a powerful sonorous single tone somewhat reminiscent of the whistle of a great American locomotive.

Another view of the magnificently restored La Suisse departing from Montreux to trace her way back to Lausanne. Her owners operate five paddle steamers on the lake – La Suisse. Simplon, Savoie, Rhone and Montreux.

The following view shows the beautifully restored ‘Beau Rivage’ 1st Class Saloon of La Suisse with its traditional decorated wooden panelling, runner carpets and mirrors (to enhance the impression of size. Of particular note is the very characteristic lighting which reflect those originally fitted a century ago when the vessel was new.

Man with a mission, Waverley enthusiast and relief crew member Paul Semple (incognito), captures La Suisse’s departure from Lausanne.

For more views of the Lake Leman (Lake Geneva) steamers and the cities of Geneva, Lausanne and Montreux follow this link:
Lake Geneva
Also visit the Swiss Transport Museum

Stuart Cameron