INTRODUCTION TO THE EIGHT SHIPS
AND THEIR HISTORY
TEXTS: MAURICE DECOPPET • PHOTO: © CGN
THE VETERAN, EQUIPPED WITH A 21ST CENTURY STEAM ENGINE (1904)
Partial overhaul with the installation of a diesel-electric propulsion plant: 1958-1962
Complete overhaul with a reconversion to steam: 1998-2001
Capacity: 560 passengers
Foodservice: 172 persons
Power: 650kW (885HP)
- Sister ship of the Général-Dufour (built in 1905, decommissioned in 1965 and broken up in 1977).
- Woodwork of the 1st class salon from the Valais (dismantled in 2003).
- The most extensive transformation of any boat of the fleet, but then it was also the oldest.
- Prototype, as far as the shape is concerned, of the current boats and, at the same time, the last remaining witness of “heavy” type boats.
The Montreux is the veteran of the Belle Epoque fleet, even though it is equipped with the most modern steam engine: remotely-controlled from the bridge by the captain and functioning without the need for a mechanic – a world first!
The history of the ship is rather eventful: it was subjected to a major overhaul between 1959 and 1961, which consisted in the re-motorization with a diesel-electric power plant and a radical change of its silhouette. On the occasion of the CGN’s 125th anniversary, the company launched an ambitious program to re-equip four of the historic boats, which had lost their original steam engines in favor of diesel-electric power, with steam power. These were the Vevey in 1955, the Italie in 1958, the Montreux, as mentioned, in 1959, and finally the Helvetie in 1977. The program was a bit too ambitious and finally only the Montreux profited from a reconversion, accompanied by a major renovation of the hull, the superstructure, and the interiors. This was the first complete overhaul from 1999 to 2001 and a return to its original state of a Belle Epoque boat of the CGN.
Scheduled cruises of the Montreux
- Summer (from 16 June to 1 September): Afternoons on the Lausanne-Ouchy – Chillon return
- route and evenings on the Lausanne-Ouchy – Yvoire return route for the Beau-Rivage Palace gourmet cruise (light catering only on Sundays and Mondays).
TOGETHER WITH THE ITALIE, THE BELLE ÉPOQUE BOAT AT THE TOP OF TECHNOLOGICAL EVOLUTION (1907)
Partial overhaul with the installation of a diesel-electric power plant: 1953-1955
Complete overhaul: 2012-2013
Capacity: 560 passengers
Foodservice: 150 persons
- Twin of the Italie.
- Boat with the best preserved 1st class salon of the fleet and benefitting from the most modern technology.
- Salon in chestnut, inlaid with amaranth and ebony, set off by chiseled bronze decorations. Reconstruction of a smoking room on the upper deck forward of the chimney.
Originally, the Vevey was equipped with a classic two-cylinder double expansion steam engine from Sulzer Brothers, a machine similar to the one in the Savoie of 1914, still going strong. In 1955 steam propulsion was abandoned in favor of a diesel-electric power plant.
The Vevey profited from a general overhaul between May 2012 and August 2013 which included the installation of a new kind of diesel-electric power plant at the top of modern technology. It took more or less 60’000 hours of work in order to offer it a rebirth. Thanks to the research conducted by the Patrimonial Association of the Lake of Geneva (APL), it was possible to find elements dating from the beginning of the 20th century to restore its original silhouette.
The modern diesel electric propulsion also allows it to circulate in the winter, while the steamers are not kept under steam.
Scheduled cruises of the Vevey
• Summer (from 16 June to 1 September): Lausanne-Ouchy – Yvoire – Geneva – Nyon – Yvoire – Lausanne-Ouchy – Montreux – Lausanne-Ouchy, except during the Fête des Vignerons from 18 July to 11 August.
• During the Fête des Vignerons from 18 July to 11 August: Geneva – Nyon – Yvoire – Lausanne-Ouchy and return.
• On Friday evenings: “Perchs fillets” cruise, sailing from Geneva, from 18 July to 11 August.
• Winter 2019-2020: to be confirmed.
THE BOAT HAVING ACCUMULATED THE MOST KILOMETERS (1908)
Complete overhaul during the years 2015-2016
Partial renovation with the installation of a diesel-electric power plant: 1955-1958
Capacity: 560 passengers
Foodservice: 150 persons
- Twin of the Vevey.
- Magnificent mahogany Neo-Empire salon, decorated with gilded bronze fittings.
- Has collected more mileage than any other boat on Swiss lakes.
Twin of the Vevey, the Italie, ordered in 1908 from Sulzer Brothers and put into service in 1908, was baptized to illustrate the even closer ties which united this country and ours as a result of the opening of the Simplon railway tunnel. It was originally equipped with a classic steam engine, very similar to the one still found today on the Savoie. In 1958, steam propulsion was abandonned in favor of a diesel-electric group. For the fans of the Belle Epoque fleet, it became a legend through its daily “translémanique” cruises from Le Bouveret to Geneva without interruption for 47 years from 1959 to 2005. Decommissioned for ten years, the Italie finally was able to profit from a complete renovation between 2015 and 2016, identical to that of the Vevey, thanks in grand part to the donations collected by the ABVL. As for the Vevey, the research conducted by the Patrimonial Association of the Lake of Geneva (APL) permitted the restoration of its original Belle Epoque style.The boat returned to service in November 2016.
Scheduled cruises of the Italie
- Spring (from 14 April to 15 June) and autumn “Riviera Tour” (from 2 September to 20 October): Upper lake (Le Bouveret – Saint-Gingolph – Vevey – Montreux – Chillon – Villeneuve – Le Bouveret)
- Summer (from 16 June to 1 September) “Riviera Tour”: Upper lake preceded by a morning cruise on the Le Bouveret – Montreux – Vevey – Lausanne-Ouchy – Vevey route.
- From 21 October until the end of the year: check the boat’s scheduled sailings
FLAGSHIP OF THE CGN (1910)
Complete overhaul: 2007-2009
Current capacity: 850 passengers
Foodservice: 252 persons
Power: 1030kW (1400HP)
- Oldest and, along with the Simplon, equipped with the most powerful steam engine of the fleet.
- Sculptured and gilded figurehead and stern decoration.
- Life boat rebuilt as the original and located at the stern.
On its launching on May 30th, the La Suisse became the flagship, and thus the most emblematic boat, of the fleet. It was intended to be the largest and the most elegant of all the steamboats in the country. Thus it was that the CGN selected from five different projects specially elegant sculpural decorations, as well as Aubusson carpeting and upholstery.
Over the past decades, the boat was subject to several modifications, both structural and technical: renunciation of coal and conversion to heavy oil in 1960 and to light oil in 1999, a new, more economical, boiler with two burners in 1971 (re-tubed in 2009 and still in service), but also a rather unfortunate re-design of the rotundas on the main and upper decks in the same year, with, in addition, a new and not very esthetic wheelhouse and a lateral entrance to the salon.
Between 2007 and 2009, it benefitted from a complete overhaul, thanks to the funds made available by the ABVL and the shareholders of the CGN. Thanks also to the research done by the Patrimonial Association of the Lake Geneva (APL), the La Suisse found its original look with the gilded figurehead and stern decoration and a historical life boat. It was the most important renovation project of a historical boat in Europe.
Scheduled cruises of the La Suisse
- Spring (from 14 April to 15 June): Lausanne-Ouchy – Chillon return, followed by an evening cruise Lausanne-Ouchy – Montreux and return.
- Summer (from 16 June to 1 September): Lausanne – Saint-Gingolph – Le Bouveret and return via Chillon – Montreux – Vevey
- Autumn (2 September to 20 October): Lausanne-Ouchy – Chillon return, followed by an evening cruise Lausanne-Ouchy – Montreux and return.
THE STEAMER THAT MARKED THE EVOLUTION OF THE BELLE ÉPOQUE BOATS OF THE CGN (1914)
Complete overhaul: 2004-2006
Current capacity: 600 passengers
Foodservice: 150 persons
Power: 660kW (900HP)
- Sister ship of the Valais (built in 1913, decommissioned in 1961 and broken up in 2003).
- The only unit of the “60 meter” class with a classical steam engine preserved today.
Considerably inspired by the plans of the flagship La Suisse, the Savoie was launched on January 7th, 1914. Refined and elegant, it could accommodate 1100 passengers. This boat is one of the rare having lived three lives.
1914 to 1963 – A faultless commitment (the first life)
With its home port in Le Bouveret, the Savoie assumed the “express runs” connecting Port-Valais and Geneva via the Savoy coast line for twelve years. It continued its function on the busiest lines and was often called upon to replace the large boats on fast runs for 49 uninterrupted seasons. During the winter 1962/1963 it was taken out of service due to the poor condition of its boilers
1966 to 1967 – The first overhaul (the second life)
For the first time in the history of overhauls, the CGN maintained the original steam engine, replacing only the boilers. Thus, the decline of steam propulsion of the fleet was finally interrupted.
2004 à 2006 – Complete overhaul (the third life)
After 18 months of work, only 50% of the hull and the superstructure, as well as the original steam engine, could be preserved. The rest of the boat had to be completely rebuilt.
Scheduled cruises of the Savoie
- Spring/summer/autumn (from 14 April to 20 October): Geneva – Nyon – Yvoire return and gourmet cruise “Chef’s Table” at midday
- From 23 May to 21 September: Additional evening gourmet cruise, “Chef’s Table”
THE MOST IMPOSING STEAMBOAT
Last and most important partial renovation to be done: 2022-2023
Partial renovations: 2004-2005 and 2010-2011
Capacity: 850 passengers
Foodservice: 310 persons
Power: 1030kW (1400HP)
- Sister ship of the Helvétie in its appearance, built in 1926.
- The first steamboat launched on the Lake of Geneva with the boiler placed behind the engine, thus “pulling” the boat (gain of space on the main deck).
- 1st class salon in white maple, the last made for a boat by the reputed Lausanne cabinetmaker Henry Bobaing.
It is the most imposing of the Belle Epoque boats, with the highest capacity and a steam power plant reputed to be the most reactive of them all. The keel was laid at the end of July 1914, but work was stopped a few days later due to the start of the 1st World War. The steam engine was finally installed in 1915. At the end of the conflict, the CGN decided to finish the construction and put the boat into service. This was finally the case in 1920. As of 1959, it became the first boat to be fuelled with oil instead of coal.
It benefited from two partial renovations, the first in 2004/2005 as a result of a serious accident in the boiler room which kept it out of service for two years, and in 2010/2011 the complete overhaul of the steam engine and the installation of bow thrusters. During the winter of 2017/2018 the exterior was entirely repainted.
Scheduled sailings of the Simplon
- Summer (from 16 June to 1 September — Except during the Fête des Vignerons from 18 July to 11 August): Geneva – Nyon – Yvoire – Lausanne return.
- “Perch Fillets” cruise: Friday evenings, sailing from Geneva.
- From 18 July to 11 August, during the Fête des Vignerons: Lausanne-Ouchy – Yvoire – Geneva – Nyon – Yvoire – Lausanne-Ouchy – Vevey – Montreux – Lausanne-Ouchy and sometimes private cruises.
- From 30 September to 11 October: Operates the route between Lausanne-Ouchy and Evian instead of the Léman, from Monday to Friday.
THE THIRD OF THE LARGE BELLE ÉPOQUE SALON BOATS OF THE CGN (1926)
Decommissioned in 2002
Partial external renovation: 2011
Complete overhaul coveted up 2026
Capacity: 850 passengers
Foodservice: 330 persons
- Twin of the Simplon in its appearance.
- Bow figurehead.
- The original steam engine is exhibited in the Musée du Léman in Nyon.
In 1923, after the end of the 1st World War and with the hope of a rebirth of the Belle Epoque, the CGN ordered a third large steam boat of the same class as the La Suisse and the Simplon. As a result of the first oil crisis and the increase in fuel prices, the CGN decided to forego the replacement of the boilers at the end of their useful life and change to diesel-electric power plants.
Ever since its re-motorization, the Helvétie had never operated satisfactorily and was progressively relegated to the role of a reserve boat. In 2002, it was disarmed.
During the summer of 2011 the CGN, in agreement with the ABVL, decided to put the boat at the disposal of the Olympic Museum during its renovation and extension between 2012 and 2013 to house the “Transient Olympic Museum”, The ABVL paid for refurbishing the hull and parts of the superstructure. As concerned the hull, the work consisted primarily of sandblasting, which included also the rudder, the railings and the side-wheel housings, all in all 100 m2 with a budget of CHF 350’000.–.
The anchorage along the Quai d’Ouchy came to an end at the end of 2015 after the exhibition “100 Years of the IOC in Lausanne” and the boat was returned to the CGN shipyard.
Helvétie could be scheduled for a complete overhaul from 2026, if the necessary funding can be found by then.
THE LAST PADDLE-WHEELER BUILT IN SWITZERLAND (1927)
Complete overhaul: scheduled as of 2019
Future capacity: 600 passengers
Foodservice: 186 persons (to be confirmed after overhaul)
Power: 625kW (850 HP)
- Automatic pressurized lubricating system, requiring hoods over the cams.
- A prototype steam engine unique in the world.
- Neoclassic salon in cherry wood, copied from the two previous constructions.
The Rhône started its career on the occasion of the Fête des Vignerons (Vintner Festival) of 1927. It was the last side-wheel paddle steamer to be built in Switzerland and is distinguished on a technical level by a unique steam engine lubricated automatically. This required that hoods cover the crankshafts and eccentrics in order to avoid spraying passengers on the main deck with oil while admiring the machine. First complete overhaul 1968-1969. The steam engine was completely overhauled 2002/2003. A program to improve the visualization of the machine by replacing the steel hoods with ones of Plexiglass was financed by the ABVL in 2011. At the same time, the ABVL provided the money to refurbish the 1st class salon.