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Excursion Paddle Steamers of the Past : vessels and paddle steamer operators

Above : The ship that started it all off. Robert Fulton's North River Steamboat of 1809 (usually referred to as Clermont) which inaugurated a service on the Hudson River in the USA. In 1909 a replica was built to celebrate the centenary of this momentous development

Below : The ship that started it all off in Europe. PS Comet, built in 1812, inagurated a service between Glasgow and Helensburgh promoted by Henry Bell to bring customers to his shoreside hotel. This replica replica, owned by the local authority (Inverclyde), is located alongside the main road past Port Glasgow on the Clyde estuary. 

Comet Port Glasgow.jpg
Click below to see the history of operators and vessels in many of the major operating areas in Europe, with very limited coverage of other parts of the world.

You can return to this page (Paddle Steamers of the Past), or follow onward links (e.g to existing vessels / services) from the individual area historical pages
Vessel dates are first and last years in the fleet. Vessels may or may not have sailed for the company in the year of purchase / disposal
Links are provided to vessel profiles from the pages covering the paddle steamer operating companies in each geographical area.

United Kingdom

List of British Paddle Steamers (not fully comprehensive - only those profiled individually on this website)

Main areas of excursion steamer operation in the UK : Excludes short-sea routes such as to Isle of Man, Ireland, France/Belgium unless shown below
On short-sea connections paddle steamers quickly lost prominence to screw steamers and after the advent of turbine power at the beginning of the 20th century, turbines tended to dominate this market.

Firth of Clyde
Loch Lomond
Western Isles
Bristol Channel
Thames Estuary - Medway - North Kent and East Anglian Coasts
South Coast  (Southampton, Portsmouth, Bournemouth, Weymouth & Isle of Wight)
Sussex Coast
South Devon Coast
River Dart
River Tamar
Conwy, Clwyd and Lancashire
Morecambe Bay
Firth of Forth
Firth of Tay
Belfast Lough
Rivers Orwell & Stour

River and Estuary Ferry Crossings

As well as the Humber ferry service, which saw large paddle steamers continue in operation well into the 1970s, there were numerous paddle steamer services offering short crossings across rivers and estuaries. These included the well-known Mersey ferries, crossing between Liverpool and Birkenhead and other piers on the Wirral, where paddle steamers dominated until the beginning of the 20th century, after which all new-build was for screw-propelled ships.

The Pembroke ferry in west Wales is remarkable to the extent that the UK's last paddle steamer was built to serve the short crossing of the Cleddau River to Neyland. Paddle Steamer Cleddau Queen was introduced in 1956 and was a small primarily vehicular ferry and replaced the older passenger ferry PS Alumchine. She later sailed in association with the diesel ferry Cleddau King. The ferry service survived until 1975 and the opening of a bridge.

Hull - New Holland / Humber Estuary

Irish Ferry Connections

London and North Western Railway
Drogheda Steam Packet Company
Lancashire and Yorkshire Railway
Great Western Railway (inc. Ford & Jackson)

Isle of Man Ferry Connections

Isle of Man Steam Packet Company

UK to the Netherlands

Great Eastern Railway
Stoomvaart Maatschappij Zeeland


For a comprehensive annotated photographic record through historical postcards : go to Ian Boyle's Simplon Post Cards Website :


Lake Lucerne (Vierwaldstattersee)
Lake Geneva (Lac Leman)
Lake Zurich (Zurichsee)
Lake Brienz (Brienzersee)
Lake Thun (Thunersee)
Lake Constance (Bodensee)
Lacs de Neuchatel et de Morat
Lake Biel (Bielersee)
River Aare (Biel - Solothurn)
Lake Lugano
Lake Zug (Zugersee)
Untersee and River Rhein

River Rhein
Lake Constance (Bodensee)
River Elbe - Dresden
River Elbe - Lauenburg
North Sea Coast & Islands : Elbe & Weser estuaries

River Danube
Lake Constance (Bodensee)

River Danube
Lake Balaton

Lake Lugano
Istanbul / Bosphoros

Lake Annecy


River Nile

Burma (Myanmar)

Irrawaddy River

Ganges River


Port Phillip Bay
Port Jackson / Sydney Harbour / Manly

Note : most Australian shipping lines were involved in lifeline passenger and cargo services and cannot be described as providing excursion services as such

Details of Australian shipping fleets here : 

Newcastle & Hunter River

North America

The history of steamships in the USA is a long and large one which has not attempted to cover

South America



Paddle tugs were highly numerous and no attempt is made in this database to include these vessels. They included small vessels used for manoevring larger vessels around confined port areas and larger vessels used for carrying cargo (and also pulling cargo barges) especially on rivers

Paddlers were especially common on rivers such as the Rhein and Danube, sailing in the same waters as conventional passenger steamers. A typical example is shown below : 

Above: This is Adolf Linden IV, seen near Koln on the Rhein in 1958 in a photo kindly supplied by Alan Murray-Rust.
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