A lake with a rich history
Before the advent of passenger navigation, many of the Swiss lakes and rivers were used for the transport of goods. Thanks to its central location along the north-south Gotthard corridor, Lake Lucerne also became part of this European trade route. In 1835, the merchant Casimir Friedrich Knörr surprised the residents of Lucerne, when he announced his intention to construct a mighty paddle steamer and establish a shipping company for the transport of goods and passengers.. The proud steamer “Stadt Luzern” made its maiden voyage on 24 September 1837 and thus a new era began.
From trade to tourism
With the development of the national railway network from the mid 19th century onwards, steam-hauled trains started to supercede steamboats or old barges for freight traffic and there was a focus on the development of tourism and leisure cruising instead. During the Belle Epoque in the late 19th Century, tourism to the Swiss Alps really started to boom. Many elegant hotels were built at resort towns along the lake and these required sufficient links to and from Lucerne and Fluelen, the towns with the major railway stations along the shoreline. During this era, truly grandiose steamboats were built, many of them with such illustrious Latin names as “Victoria”, “Germania” or “Italia”, thus providing direct homage to the foreign visitors in Central Switzerland. Our magnificent fleet of preserved paddle steamers also dates from this era, with our five icons “Uri”, “Unterwalden”, “Schiller”, “Gallia” and “Stadt Luzern” having been built between 1901 and 1928 respectively. On 2 May 1980, Queen Elizabeth II travelled on our flagship “Stadt Luzern” during her state visit to Switzerland. In her honor, the upper deck lounge is still known as “Queen’s Salon”.
A unique attraction:
During the wave of modernization in the 1950s and 60s, many of the older paddle steamers still dating from the late 19th century were withdrawn. At one point there were plans to replace all steamers with more economical motor vessels, but the local population rebelled and established the preservation society “Dampferfreunde Vierwaldstättersee”. This group not only became a widespread public movement, but also an important lobby and advocacy group for the preservation of the last 5 paddle steamers. The Dampferfreunde have since supported the shipping company with fundraising for the overhaul and tasteful restoration of each remaining steamboat. Thanks to the small and large donations of thousands of steamboat enthusiasts, this remarkable piece of Swiss history has been successfully preserved and represents a genuine, nostalgic attraction for visitors from nearby or far away. Using our traditional know-how for shipbuilding and maintenance, countless modern motor vessels have been built “in-house” at the Lucerne shipyard since the 1930s. Most recently, these have included such sleek and stunning modern vessels as MS Saphir, MS Diamant and MS Bürgenstock. All of these combine state-of-the-art design with innovative technology and graceful aesthetics.Indeed, our shipyard has emerged as the leading competence center in Switzerland for shipbuilding and naval design. All of these activities are managed by our successful subsidiary Shiptec AG.