As mentioned in the current winter issue of Paddle Wheels MPV Vevey has been withdrawn from service on Lake Geneva which leaves 5 operational paddle steamers on Lake Geneva. In 2011 there will once again be 5 operational paddle steamers on Lake Lucerne when Unterwalden re-enters service in the spring. Unterwalden last sailed in 2008 before entering a rebuild which has allowed her original boilers to be replaced in addition to restoring her external appearance more in keeping with the other paddlers of the fleet.
Of the 5 paddle steamers in the lake Lucerne fleet Unterwalden has had the most varied history. She was launched on 12th November 1901 and entered service on the 18th May 1902, she is the second oldest of the steamship fleet. It was in 1920 that she was fitted with a wheelhouse to protect the captains and helmsmen from the elements having had an open bridge when first built. On 30th October 1923 while sailing through thick fog in darkness she ran aground at Beckenried suffering considerable damage. She also sustained damage in February 1956 when she crashed into the lake wall at Kehrsiten Dorf.
By 1960 her boilers required attention and were re-tubed this also providing the opportunity to remodel the ship to allow her to pass under the new Acheregg Bridge. The masts, funnel and wheelhouse were replaced allowing the masts to fold with the funnel and wheelhouse being able to be lowered as required. The rear upper deck was given an aluminium roof in place of the former canvas one. By the mid 1970’s her condition was giving cause for concern with plans made for her withdrawal from service to form an exhibit at the Swiss Transport Museum. In 1976 a newly built motor vessel was named Unterwalden and the paddle steamer Unterwalden made her last trip on the 22nd September 1977. After a few years of laying in a poor condition a major rebuild began in 1982 lasting till 1985 when she was relaunched and the new motor vessel was renamed Europa.
By 2007 it was becoming clear that her original boilers had reached the end of their working lives and would have to be replaced. The current rebuild has replaced the two original boilers with one larger boiler. It has also allowed much of the superstructure and interiors to be restored to as much like their original pre-1961 state, as far as possible, while still allowing her to sail under the Acheregg Bridge. The funnel, wheelhouse and masts will still be able to be lowered but the appearance of the funnel in particular will be more like the other members of the steamer fleet.
There will be a special parade of all 5 paddle steamers to mark the re-entry into service of Unterwalden on Saturday 14th May with a provisional departure time of 11:30 returning to Lucerne at 15:30.The following pictures show Unterwalden prior to her rebuild. I have included a few interior pictures to allow some comparison to be made after she re-enters service. The first class saloon should be impressive as the neo-rococo carving is also being restored in addition to the parquet flooring.