:  The Internet's leading website for Side-Wheeled Paddle Steamers 
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PS Schiller at Brunnen on Lake Lucerne, Switzerland, taken in 2008. A photograph by Gordon Stewart


This website is one of the internet's most comprehensive first-point-of-reference resources for side-wheel excursion paddle steamers in operation, statically preserved or laid-up. It is also an introduction to the history of paddle steamers and creates a basic framework for those who wish to research the subject in more detail

Website Objective : To introduce readers to the world of paddle steamers, to understand their roles and where they operate with the intention of generating deeper interest in and support for existing paddle steamers and projects to preserve and restore historic paddle steamers.

Illustrations : The website is illustrated by webmaster Gordon Stewart's own photography (of which there is a full archive) and images kindly supplied for publication by his correspondents of their own work or from private collections owned by them which are not generally published elsewhere. Where not otherwise acknowledged, the post-1965 photos are by Gordon Stewart and under copyright. This website uses a limited number of historical images which, it is believed, are in the public domain. Creative Commons licence is shown where applicable. The original photographer is acknowledged if known from the photograph source.

See below for :

- Link to specific sections of the database to Find Out About Paddle Steamers
- Link to the Gordon Stewart Photograph Archive
- Link to illustrative photos allowing you to Look Around Selected Paddle Steamers
- Link to Gordon Stewart's "
The Historical Context Of Paddle Steamers And Their Current And Future Roles"
- Link to Gordon Stewart's "Cost Reduction and Clean Energy : An Innovative Solution for the Retention and Reactivation of Vessels at Risk" 

About Paddle Steamers

The first steamships were paddle steamers and for three decades they were the only steamships. Despite losing out to new forms of propulsion, those that remain are now firmly established favourites in the tourist industry, providing excursions amongst fine scenery on lake, river and in the case of the UK's renowned Waverley, coastal cruises. Their visible steam engines, linked to large paddle wheels, are a unique selling point and these engines provide a quiet, smooth and virtually smell-free experience for the customer. 

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The form of propulsion unique to paddle steamers

The engines are a major on-board attraction

The most distinctive feature when seen from shore

The method of propulsion used by the first steamships and still ideal for calm and shallow waters. Many paddlers have viewing port-holes on the main deck so the turning wheels and splashing waters can be seen to good effect.

On most paddle steamers the engines are clearly visible and are, for many, a major on-board attraction. Here, lubrication oil is topped-up on Lake Lucerne's PS Schiller whilst the engines are stopped as she calls at a pier. See Paddle Steamer Engines 

From a distance, Paddle Steamers can often be identified by their distinctive paddle boxes, with vents of different sizes and shapes, often highly decorated. The Paddle Steamer Waverley's port side vents gets a touch-up of paint whilst she waits at Tighnabruaich.


Operational Paddle Steamers

Paddle Steamer Reactivation Projects
Laid up Steamers
Paddle Steamers Under Construction

Statically Preserved Paddle Steamers

Paddle Steamers of the past
British Paddle Steamer Index
Recently Lost Paddle Steamers

Paddle Steamer Engines

Paddle Tugs


Gordon Stewart has made numerous photographs of Paddle Steamers
Many are displayed in the body of the text on this website where uncredited
photos post 1966 are from this collection
The others are shown catalogued and in reduced size format as per the photos sbove, of PS Blumlisalp taken at Interlaken West, Switzerland in 2016.
Click here to see the photographs  



Above : Excursionists flock on to the open promenade deck of Waverley at Rothesay. With wide open deck spaces and lots of seating a paddle steamer is a great way to see the scenery. They are usually large enough to explore and move around freely for different viewpoints and there is lots to see and do below deck too - a cafeteria, bar, souvenir shop and the engines to marvel at.  The ship is en route to the Kyles of Bute, a famed beauty spot in the Firth of Clyde.

The paddle steamers we see now are almost all very old, some over 150 years old but others much younger. All have had to be continuously maintained to survive and to enable them to meet modern safety standards. Whilst much of the fabric is modern, in recent years great care has been taken to recreate a traditional feel for the passenger and in many cases recreating the ships' original look as far as possible. The on-board feel can therefore be quite different from that of a comparable modern ship and is therefore another of the attractions of paddle steamers. As well as the selected photos on the link below, there are extensive internal views in the main photograph database
Click here for a look around selected Paddle Steamers


Above : The primary current and future role of paddle steamers is to take tourists and day trippers to see outstanding scenery. PS Lotschberg heads along the River Aare from Interlaken shortly before entering the spectacular Lake Brienz

The first steamships were paddle steamers and they spead widely across the globe challenging sailing ships for dominance of the seas. By the mid 1860s they were regarded as obsolete for ocean-going services on account of the development of the screw propellor for propulsion. By 1902 they were considered obsolete for short-sea ferry work due to the advantages brought by the steam turbine engine which was not suited for use in paddle steamers. By the late 1920s oil and in particular diesel combustion engines brought cost advantages which made paddle steamers virtually obsolete in lake, river and coastal traffic where they had still retained a significant foothold. If it was not new technologies it was the decline in the need for ship at all. Places once most easily reached by water increasingly became accessible by newly-built railways and roads. With the construction of ever more bridges over rivers and estuaries, the final disappearance of the paddle steamer seemed assured. However, this has not been the case and paddle steamers have found a new niche.........

Gordon Stewart expands on these issues, examines what their current role is and explains why they can still be successful in the future.
Click here for more

COST REDUCTION AND CLEAN ENERGY : An innovative solution for the retention and reactivation of vessels at risk

Paddle Steamers are very expensive to run and this is probably the main reason why they are now so rare. Making steam also involves burning fossil fuels and despite improving boiler performance and lighter fuels, emissions cannot be completely eliminated. There is a way to reduce operating costs by around 40 % and reduce their carbon footprint
Click here for more


For a comprehensive guide to paddle steamers in general from a historical development point of view  :

The Coming of the Comet : The Rise and Fall of the Paddle Steamer   by Nick Robins

Seaforth Publishing, 2012 : ISBN 10 : 1848321341  and ISBN 13 : 978-1848321342

It is an almost impossible task to cover such an enormous subject, deciding what to include and within those topics, how much detail to present. This book makes as good an attempt as must surely be possible. 

Other suggested reading is listed in the separate sections of this database. Nick Robins has also written a number of other books on paddle steamers, all of which are highly recommended

ABOUT THIS WEBSITE is designed and maintained by Gordon Stewart, life member of the UK's Paddle Steamer Preservation Society

The webmaster attempts to keep information as up-to-date as possible but does not guarantee that any information is necessarily current.  Any views expressed are those of the webmaster alone unless otherwise indicated. All information is presented in good faith. If any information is clearly wrong, please advise the webmaster and it shall be corrected

Send an e-mail to the Webmaster, Gordon Stewart   

What counts as a Paddle Steamer in this side-wheeled steamer database ?

Steam powered side-wheelers including those which have been converted to diesel power and those which survive statically (even if the machinery has been removed). Side-wheelers built as motor vessels are also included where they can be regarded as equivalent in size to the steamers covered.  Some very small steamships in private ownership and limited to 12 passengers are noted. Modern ships primarily propelled by screw propellor but with a side-wheel either entirely or substantially for visual effect are excluded. Stern-wheel vessels are excluded.

Copyright and re-use of information and images

The website is illustrated by webmaster Gordon Stewart's own photography (of which there is a full archive) and images kindly supplied for publication by his correspondents of their own work or from private collections owned by them which are not generally published elsewhere. Where not otherwise acknowledged, the post-1965 photos are by Gordon Stewart and under copyright. This website uses a limited number of historical images which, it is believed, are in the public domain. Creative Commons licence is shown where applicable. The original photographer is acknowledged if known from the photograph source.

Photographs displayed are with the permission of the acknowledged photographer but are not to be copied for re-use for any other website or publication without the specific authorisation of the photographer. You are welcome to use the text from this website as a research source and basis for your own work but it should not be copied and republished elsewhere verbatim or only slightly altered.
All text on the database is Gordon Stewart also photos as follows : unacknowledged post-1965 photos or the individual photographer where acknowledged. Other photos pre-1952 are deemed to be in the public domain due to age


The webmaster gratefully acknowledges many sources of information, including websites shown on the links page, magazines such as Paddle Wheels and Dampferzeitung and published books which he has read and absorbed information from. Many of these are listed in the Bibliography sections of the main pages to which they refer and readers of this website are referred to these books for much more detailed information about the relevant subjects. Thanks go to everyone who has submitted photos. They are acknowledged on the website alongside their photos. Particular thanks are due to Kenny Whyte, Phil Barnes, Kevin Hoggett, Zsolt Szabo, Olivier Bachmann, Enrico Crosti, Robert McLuckie, Chris Allen and Malcolm Oliver for the large number of excellent photos which they have submitted to this website.

Paddle Steamer Information Requests

Most of the information available to me is presented in abbreviated form in this database and it is unlikely that I will be able to help with ships which are not included in this database, but please send the webmaster an e-mail and I will give as much assistance as I can. I can for example also give general guidance about paddle steamer services in Europe (e.g. Swiss lake steamers operations) and guide you to the best sources of external information. I can also assist in identifying paddle steamers in old photographs
Send an e-mail to the Webmaster, Gordon Stewart

Can You Help With This database ?

The webmaster would be delighted to receive any updates of relevant information and non-commercially available photographs which could help to keep this database as up-to-date as possible and fill in gaps in the historical record. These should be taken by yourself, a family member or from unpublished collections to which you own the copyright. However, recent photographs of PS Waverley sailing in preservation with Waverley Excursions are not required due to the enormous number of images of her now available on the internet and in numerous publications


Clyde Turbine Steamers

Although Clyde Steamer fleets were dominated by paddle steamers, the introduction of the turbine steamer King Edward in 1901 dramatically improved the quality of the long-distance day excursion fleet. The world's first ever passenger ship powered by turbines brought a new level of speed, comfort and smoothness and in the next 35 years a number of excellent vessels joined the Clyde fleet.

The only surviving example is TS Queen Mary (seen above in 2017 in Prince's Dock, Glasgow) which sailed from 1933 to 1977. She was bought by a Scottish charity the Friends of TS Queen Mary in October 2015 with the intention of taking her to Glasgow and preserving her in a permanent berth near the city centre and she was returned to the Clyde on May 15th 2016 to be prepared for her new life. Stripping out of old fittings was proceeding rapidly when the above photo was taken

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InTramCities  with Gordon Stewart : Infrastructure, Architecture and Environment along streets with trams

Gordon Stewart travels regularly throughout Europe to create what is perhaps the finest tramway photograph resource on the internet. Although trams are the focal point and common thread throughout, it is where they are running which provides the diversity and interest in his photos. As well as city centres with their grand architecture, Gordon takes you to less well-known suburbs to give a real feel for the tramway city. The photos are becoming an important historical record for those interested in the city itself as well as its trams and also show how trams fit into urban environments to provide an attractive and accessible transportation system.  Domain front page
Gordon Stewart 2001-2022