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River Weser
The Weser is a long navigable river in western Germany which widens out into an estuary near Bremerhaven before flowing into the North Sea. The first recognised German-built steamship, Die Weser, sailed on the lower reaches of the Weser between the major Hanseatic port city of Bremen and the riverside town of Brake from 1817 and later downstream to Geestemunde, close to the sea and now incorporated into the more recently created port city of Bremerhaven. Silting of the lower Weser had made the major city of Bremen difficult to access, with goods having to be transhipped and small steamboats appeared to offer a reasonable solution. The city of Bremen purchased land in the area which became Bremerhaven in 1830 and whilst efforts were made late rin the century to improve the channel, the new port became the focus for development both for international trade and paddle steamer services to the holiday isles in the North Sea 

The river itself was poentially a major transport artery bringing produce from the continental interior and providing means of linking riverside communities. Paddle steamers became the ideal means of tugging barges, distributing produce and moving passengers.

The Weser begins at Hannoversch Munden at the confluence of the Fulda and Werra rivers and runs for 452 km to the sea. The Werra is often regarded as the Weser and adds almost a further 200 km to its length.

Service along the upper Weser and downstream to Bremen began with the paddle steamer Eduard in 1843 but operations lasted less than a year

In 1842 the Vereinte Weser Dampfschiffart AG was established in Hameln with groups in the major towns along the river all involved and the company was constituted into four groups responsible for their local sections of the river.  The company was sold to Norddeutscher Lloyd in 1857


Hermann (1843) built by Gache Freres, Paris
Wittekind (1844) built by Ditchburn & Mare, London
Germania (1844)
built by Gache Freres, Paris
Blucher (1844) built by Gutehoffnungshutte, Sterkrade
** Herzog Wilhelm was chartered locally for service in 1845
Weser (1846) built by Gache Freres, Nantes
 V Vincke (1847) built by Maschinenfabrik Buckau : Returned to builders as unsuitable

Norddeutscher Lloyd only operated services from 1858 until 1873 as they found the business equally unprofitable and sold their vessels. Two were acquired by Hameln-based businessman Wilhelm Lampe who's Oberweser Dampfschifffahrts Gesellschaft  attempted to run a service in 1874 and 1875 but with similar outcome.
This did not deter other entrepreneurs. Lampe's firm was reconstituted as the
Neue Oberweser Dampfschifffahrts Gesellschaft using the predecessor company's paddlers Germania and Armin (ex-Hermann) whilst a new vessel, Furst Bismarck, was ordered for the 1877 season.The sale of the two old steamers in 1881 was followed the next year by the winding up of the company.
Friedrich-Wilhelm Meyer of Hameln was the next to chance his arm with his Oberweser Dampfschifffahrt company, using the locally-based Furst Bismarck, which was lengthened in time for the 1883 season and put in service between Hameln and Han. Munden. Kaiser Wilhelm was ordered new but subsequent paddle steamers were purchased second hand from the Elbe where they had sailed in the Dresden area.  

Furst Bismarck (1883-1923) Built in 1877 for use at Hameln
Kaiser Wilhelm (1900-1970)  Sold and still in use on the Elbe at Lauenburg. Note : Compound diagonal engine
Kaiser Friedrich (1906-1941)  ex- Elbe paddle steamer Blasewitz of 1888. Used in World War II on the River Vistula and scrapped shortly afterwards
Graf Moltke (1906-1941)  
ex- Elbe paddle steamer Loschwitz of 1888Used in World War II on the River Vistula and wrecked in 1944
Kronprinz Wilhelm (1907-1964) ex- Elbe paddle steamer Meissen of 1881. The engine and midship section is preserved in the Deutsche Shifffahrtsmuseum in Bremerhaven
Braunschweig (1910-1958) ex-  Elbe paddle steamer Libussa of 1880. Renamed Furst Bismarck in 1924 after lengthening and fitting of engine and boiler of Furst Bismarck (I). Scrapped in 1962

Above : Kronprinz Wilhelm at Holzminden in the early 1920s. Source : wikicommons 

Kronprinz Wilhelm (1907-1967)
Built in 1881 by Schiffswerft Blasewitz for the Sachsische-Bohmishe Dampfschiffahrts Gesellschaft sailing out of Dresden on the River Elbe as Meissen

Length : 50.14 m  (lengthened  in 1923 to 55.94 m)
Engine : Original : Oscillating engine ex-Meissen of 1857 built by J Penn & Son of London
Engine : Rebuilt to a two-cylinder compound oscillating engine in the winter of 1925/26 (and a new boiler was installed second hand from the scrapped Weser tug Germania)

Sailed for the Oberweser Dampfschiffahrts Gesellschaft on the Weser from 1907 until its demise after the 1964 season
From 1965 sailed for the Personenschiffahrt Oberweser GmbH
The engine and midship section is preserved in the Deutsche Shifffahrtsmuseum in Bremerhaven

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Historical Database