Rebuilding La Suisse

Supporting the preservation and operation of paddle steamers Waverley and Kingswear Castle

Rebuilding La Suisse

Some interesting short High Definition videos of the recent circa £12m (if I remember correctly) rebuild and re-entry to service of the Lake Leman (Lake of Geneva) paddle steamer and flagship La Suisse, which has been celebrating her 100th year on the lake in 2010.

The videos appear on YouTube and, as I could not get the embed codes to work here, I’ve just posted a normal links. For best viewing quality click through to the YouTube site, select the highest definition version and full screen viewing on the bar below the video window. Some of the 720p HD versions are biggish files, so they might take a while to load on first viewing depending on the speed of your internet connection (may be impractical if you are on a dial-up connection but you can select lower res versions) – but they are definitely worth waiting for.

First up video shows La Suisse entering the covered drydock at her owners’ (Compagnie Generale di Navigatione sur la Lac Leman) shipyard at Ouchy in the city of Laussane on the north (Swiss) shore of the lake at the start of the rebuild on 1st October 2007. The rebuild lasted until spring 2009 so La Suisse did not sail at all in 2008. She is a big paddler in Swiss terms (slightly longer than Waverley) so she has to be ‘shoe-horned’ into the drydock. Her masts are removed as is the top of her funnel as she proceeds into the dock. This video is not HD – max res is 360p

Jump forward to 6th April 2009 with underwater hull work complete there are two videos of her re-emerging from the dock, still with loads of work to do at the steamer lay up berths. In the first video the wee tug take a while to build up some momentum. PS Savoie also undergoing pre-season preparation work (max res 720p HD)

and, with views of four of the other CGN paddlers, including the now redundant DPV Italie lying, forlornly, at the outer quay wall. DPV Vevey was withdrawn from service in Sept 2010 and, with plans to re-convert them to steam effectively gone, the future of the three diesel engined paddlers on this lake does not look great at present

The next two videos, from 17th April 2009, show La Suisse heading out of the yard for the first trial of her rebuilt 99 year old compound steam engine , originally built by the famous firm of Sulzer Brothers of Winterthur. Sulzer built quite a number of paddle steamers for the Swiss lakes commencing  with the Schwyz and Victoria in 1870 for Lake Lucerne. Recently it has emerged that they apparently sub-contracted at least part of these vessels (possibly the design and the hulls) as the records of the famous Clyde shipbuilder Barclay Curle & Co show paddle steamers of these names being supplied to Sulzer Brothers in that year.
In the first video engine entablatures still in undercoat paint colour. With her windows blanked and deck fittings still missing it is obvious that there is still a lot of fitting out work to be done (720p HD)


Next one seems to be from a TV news programme talking to people involved in the rebuild – some of you may recognise Didier Zuchuat from his visits to Waverley some years back. (afraid my French isn’t up to providing a complete interpretation!) Sometimes an advert plays at the start but it doen’t last long – some nice views of the wonderfully restored ‘Belle Epoque’ interiors

Next, the big day arrives, 16th May 2009, and the magnificently rebuilt 99 year old paddle steamer La Suisse goes away astern from the passenger berth at Ouchy with her steam whistle blowing, balloons rising and her special decorations giving new meaning to the terms ‘flagship’ and ‘dressed overall’. Good for another century. There is even the sound of a few Alphorns near the end

Next a high res video of the departure from a different view point (720p HD)

and out in the lake off Lausanne (720p HD)

Now another great HD clip, passing the wonderful chateau de Chillon on the rebuilt paddler one of my favorite parts of Lake Leman (720p HD)

Another HD of her arriving at Lausanne Ouchy with the Savoy Alps and the French shore of the lake as the background (720p HD)

Short one on 16 June 2009 of her coming round the headland between chateau de Chillon and the world famous Swiss riviera resort of Montreux, calling there then departing again in the direction of Lausanne and Geneva

and finally another of her arriving and leaving Montreux (from up the hill this time) passing the now redundant DPV Vevey – something we might never see again

Stuart Cameron