Lake Constance paddle steamer Hohentwiel

Navigation on Lake Constance began in 1824 with the steamship “Wilhelm”. In the year 1911 the Lake Constance Fleet consisted of twelve ships. As in that year there had been more than four million passengers on Lake Constance, the decision was made to construct a new ship. It should be a semi-salon steamer like the already existing “Friedrichshafen”. The name of the ship was soon found: Hohentwiel, after the mountain near Singen.
After its commissioning in May 1913, the Hohentwiel was assigned the route between Constance and Bregenz. At first the route was used mainly by schoolchildren and commuters or for goods traffic, but in the 1920s more and more holidaymakers making excursions and so the passenger ships had to be adapted. As a result, the Hohentwiel was converted in the winter of 1922/23 and about 1933. More small salons were installed on the fore deck and top deck. The wheel house was moved one deck higher and a navigating bridge was added. During the conversion, the original furnishings of 1913, which had been designed by the Stuttgart artist Bernhard Pankok, had to be removed.
From the beginning of World War II, the Hohentwiel only operated on a few routes from Friedrichshafen. When several ships were destroyed during the bombing of Friedrichshafen, the Hohentwiel escaped destruction because she was in Constance at the time. At the end of the war, she was the only remaining steamer in Friedrichshafen. Later on the steamer Lindau was also moved to Friedrichshafen. The Hohentwiel remained in service until 1962, when, as the last steamship, she was taken out of service and converted into a clubhouse for a sailing club.
In 1984 the International Lake Constance Navigation Museum Club acquired the steamer and from 1986 restored it with painstaking work. The aim was to restore the ship to its original condition of 1913. The search for wharfs and companies willing to participate in the restoration proved difficult, as the costs were very high. For that reason, the project was divided into individual construction stages and small business enterprises were commissioned with the execution of the work. A project leader was appointed to deal with the coordination. For financial reasons it was decided at first only to use the Hohentwiel on special occasions. In that way costs of 2.7 million DM were calculated. Half of the costs were covered by the Lake Constance Conference, the rest came from donations, club membership fees and the sponsoring of some of the participating companies. In the course of the restoration the total costs rose to 4.3 million DM.
During the gutting of the ship, all the parts had to be carefully removed and catalogued. As the original plans had got lost, new drawings and construction drafts were made. Only the hull, the wheel house supports, the galleries and the profile of the semi-salon could be used for the rebuilding, everything else had to be reconstructed with the aid of the drawings. It was decided to do without the restoration of the salons from 1933. These served as a materials store and improvised workshops. For financial reasons, the reconstruction of the boilers and the steam engines was done under their own management. The paddle wheels also had to be renewed, because when the ship had been used as a restaurant, the former wheels had been cut in half in order to make room for storing beverages in the wheel case. As the original plans for the interior fittings could no longer be found, it was decided to use the plans for the sister ship “Friedrichshafen”, which had been destroyed in 1944 and in this way also to remember this ship. The coats of arms on the wheel cases were reconstructed from photos. They were cast in bronze, as was the name logo.
On 17th May 1990 the Hohentwiel set off on her maiden voyage. Up to the present day, the last remaining Lake Constance steamer is in use for excursions. She is no longer coal-fired, but fuel oil is used. The home port is Hard in Austria. Scenes from the James Bond film “Quantum of Solace” were shot on board the Hohentwiel.

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