Paddler Information => Research => Topic started by: Roderick Smith on April 13, 2008, 10:49:24 AM

Title: African paddlesteamers
Post by: Roderick Smith on April 13, 2008, 10:49:24 AM
This has been a frustrating continent to document.  There are lots of rivers, and lots of need for river exploration and commerce.  Little is documented: I suspect mainly for cultural reasons.  Even in Anglo-dominated South Africa, little is documented.  Most of my African work has been on railway history, again with patchy availability.  The two were interlinked: many railways were built to bypass unnavigable stretches of rivers.  The rivers had lots of water, but rocky rapids sections.

* Nile: the best documented, partly because of British influence and patronage.  Traditionally, it had the lower and upper navigable reaches.  One of the earliest African boat photos which I saw was of 'General Gordon' on the upper reach.  The fond hope of railway builders was to complete a 'Cape to Cairo' (why not Cairo to Cape?) railway.  Today, it is possible to complete most of the journey by rail and river; I have done 40%, and hope to fill the gap.  Upper Nile navigation is a bit vague during the long-standing civil war in Sudan.  The lower Nile was further split by Aswan Dam.  There were many paddlesteamers operating there, and navigation (tourist cruises and local small boats) is still important today.  Several Nile boats have been documented in many parts of Paddleducks, including QWPS Karim, and gunboats.

* Juba: Rising in Ethiopia, and heading through Somalia to the sea.  A fascinating insight appeared in the modelling forum recently: the exploration vessel PS 'Welf'.

* Zambesi: the river which forms Victoria Falls (Zambia - Zimbabwe border), and flows through northern Moçambique.  The lower 650 km were navigable.  It has been dammed to form Lake Kariba, which does have tourist boats.  I don't know aboat boats on the lake formed by Cabora Basso Dam.  It has its own post in this series.

* Limpopo: This was sufficiently important to appear in a Rudyard Kipling poem.  I am guessing that it was navigable.  I saw no evidence of boats while I was photographing trains crossing the river at Beitbrige, with hippos swimming underneath.

* Vaal: South Africa's second river, an Oranje tributary, serving an important region.  However, I have no hint that it was/is navigable.

*Oranje: South Africa's most important river.  Rising in Drakensberg Mountains, it crosses the dry Karoo region and forms the border with Namibia in its lower reach.  Along the way it has been dammed for irrigation schemes.  Navigation was blocked by Ausgrabie Falls.  I assumed that it would once have been the equivalent of Australia's Murray River, with a lot of navigation.  Apparently not so: it may have been too temperamental.  I was spurred into research on this one by seeing a photo of a sternwheeler in the museum at Upington.  I didn't photograph the photo.  I have chased up from a variety of sources, with no success.  Apparently it was a one-off exploration vessel, imported in pieces and assembled above the falls.

* Congo: Navigable and navigated.  However, this was one river where railways bypassed tricky bits.  In the modelling forum we have just been treated to a photo of the Congo sternwheeler 'Ville des Bruges'.  Most railway history in this region has been researched by French enthusiasts, and published in French.  I suspect that the same is true of river history.  It has its own post in this series.

* Niger: was and is navigable.  It has its own post in this series.

Africa has lots of other rivers, and many/most/all must have been navigable and navigated at least to local fishingboat and cross-river ferry level.  The problem is finding which ones were navigable by boats of the size on which Paddleducks concentrates: for exploration, and  upriver/downriver commercial traffic.  Then how many of these were paddle vessels?  If African rivers were temperamental and seasonal with tricky patches, surely a common solution (as in Australia) would have been to use paddle not screw.

There are extensive services on Lake Tanganyika (rail connection to Tanzania at Kigoma) and Lake Victoria (rail connection to Tanzania at Mwanza; rail connection to Kenya at Kisumu; rail connection to Uganda at Kampala).  I spent a day at Kigoma once, but the scheduled ferry did not arrive.  Some of the ferries on these lakes have featured in other forums for sinking when overloaded and undermaintained.  AFAIK all current ones are screw; I don't know if there were paddle vessels in the early days.

Attached: A train ferry at Kisumu (Kenya) in Sept.05, supplied to me by my railway-enthusiast friend Chris Lewis.

New ferry for Lake Kyoga (Uganda):
Feb.07, Nakasongola to get ferry.  The government will next financial year acquire a ferry to operate on Lake Kyoga.  According to the Minister of Works, the vessel will link Nakasongola, Apac, Amuriat, Kayunga and Amolatar districts.  The ferry will improve communication between the districts.  'As soon as the ferry is purchased, we will build a landing site at Rwampanga', the minister said on Mon.19.2.  The Government would take over several key roads in the Nakasongola district and upgrade them.  (Tues.20.2.07 Uganda New Vision

Ghana: Ferry on Volta Lake operates on only one engine:
7.3.08.  The ferry plying between Yeji in the Brong Ahafo region and Makango in the Northern region has been operating on only one engine for over a year.  Volta Lake Transport Company Limited (VLTCL) operates the ferry.  On Thurs.28.2.08, the ferry developed a fault and could not dock at Makango.  It took the intervention of fishermen, who used ropes to draw it ashore.  The source ferry had never been overhauled since its acquisition in 1968; it was only painted in the early 1980s.  The ferry now plies once a day at a slow pace instead of the twice daily routine services from Makango to Yeji.  Two other ferries operating at Dambai in the Northern region and Adawso on the Afram Plains were also operating on single engines.  Purchasing of new engines had been covered in the 2008 Budget.  It was hoped that funds would be provided for refitting the ferries.  ( General News of Fri.7.3.08)

Roderick B Smith
Rail News Victoria Editor
Title: Re: African paddlesteamers - Niger River
Post by: Roderick Smith on April 13, 2008, 03:17:20 PM
Illustrated with a painting: Paddle Steamer 'Ethiope' off the West Coast of Africa by Samuel Walters (1811-1882).  The painting probably dates from about 1840-45.  PS Ethiope is shown in starboard profile off the coast of West Africa, probably in Bight of Biafra, under full steam and with all sail set.
Ethiope was built by Thomas Wilson of Liverpool in 1839. She was schooner rigged with three masts and was fitted with a 30 hp condensing engine. She was built for Robert Jamieson for the express purpose of finding a route via Benin River to the main Niger River 'and at the same time to endeavour to establish a commercial intercourse with the interior'.  In Apr.1840 Ethiope began the ascent of Benin River under the command of John Beecroft, an experienced trader and government agent. Initially frustrated in their aim, a second attempt via Warree River, a tributary of the Benin, took them into the main Niger River and more than 400 miles [650 km] up the river. However, sickness and death amongst the European crew convinced Beecroft and Jamieson that 'commerce on the Niger can only be followed by means of steam-vessels manned entirely by native Africans, under the direction of European officers and engineers well inured to the climate'.   Clearly visible on the foredeck is the 'nine-pound swivel gun' and other unspecified guns can be seen from some of the gun ports. Such armament was a necessary precaution in areas where Europeans were viewed with suspicion and hostility.
Covers the Laird boats:
1833 PS Lady Lansdowne
1834 PS John Randolph (went to Savannah, USA)
c1832 PS Alburkah, used to explore Niger River to the Benue River confluence.  This is described in references as the first ocean-going iron ship (not just the first ocean-going iron paddlesteamer).
1830s (second half): one for the Euphrates, and another for the Nile.
mentions PS Alburkah (55 tons) and PS Ethiope, but adds little new.
Is also mentions Quorra (built in Liverpool), but doesn't state if paddle or screw, or if for the Niger trade.

Afraf citations require a paid subscription to view.  'Sternwheeler' is tempting (the same SWPS Empire quote as below).
THE RIVER NIGER; MACGREGOR LAIRD AND THOSE WHO INSPIRED HIMsteaming slowly up the river Niger on the stern-wheeler ..... the paddle-steamers made their way up the Niger to Lokoja, situated at the confluence of the ...
MEETINGSCaptain Shelford then took his audience for a trip up the. Niger River, showing native canoes, and a paddle steamer. " All up the River Niger," he said, ...

Here is another pay-for-use site.
It cites: The River Niger; Macgregor Laird and Those Who Inspired Him
H S Goldsmith
Journal of the Royal African Society, Vol. 31, No 125 (Oct.1932), p383-393   (article 11 pages)
Published by: Oxford University Press on behalf of Royal African Society
With the tempting phrase 'While steaming up Niger River in SWPS Empire in 1899...'.

JSTOR: The Design of Shallow-Draft Steamers for the British Empire ...Some installed compound engines in river steamers for tropical work.25 Some .... on the Niger was having "great success" with paddle wheelers of 2.5-foot ...
This leads to another pay-for-use: USD10 for the full article
The Design of Shallow-Draft Steamers for the British Empire, 1868-1906
Robert V Kubicek
Technology and Culture, Vol. 31, No 3 (July 1990), p427-450   (article 24 pages)
Published by: The Johns Hopkins University Press on behalf of the Society for the History of Technology
This repeats some familiar territory, but continues: In 1854 Laird sent out...a small steamer (Pleiad) which...made so successful a voyage that Laird induced the government to sign contracts for annual trading trips by steamers specially built for navigation of the Niger and Benue. Various stations were founded on the Niger...British traders continued to frequent the river which Laird had opened...
I have found nothing yet on Pleid, or on the early boats.  Given that the river was seasonal, and the era, paddle seems to be more likely than screw.
In late 1865, George...was given command of HMS Investigator, a steam-powered, flat-bottomed British navy gunship. He spent the next several months steaming up Niger River...
The article is illustrated with a drawing of a brass [grass?] canoe fitted with an awning and armed with cannons, used for local trade along the river.  There is no clue about the propulson of Investigator. has the best map so far, and covers a few river explorations: the Niger by paddlesteamer (covered elswhere), and Gambia River and upper Niger River by canoe.
Image pd1307622.jpg  is a photo for sale.  MALI , Niger River A tourist sits atop a pinasse (motorised riverboat) as it makes it way along the Niger River between Mopti and the port of Korioume at Timbuktu.  This shows what the river is like in that reach, but nothing paddlesteamer about it.  This catalog could well evolve, with the photo in a different place or removed.  As at Apr.08 it is one of 113 thumbnails on 3 pages, the 22nd on page 2.  Most of this page is devoted to Mississippi paddleboats.
This is an interesting article from an 1876 New York Times, referring to an attack on two trading boats:
Sultan and Pioneer.  Propulsion isn't mentioned, but I would suspect paddle.  The article was written aboard Steamship Victoria at Bonny River: river or ocean vessel? possibly paddle?  It was dated 23 June 1876, and refers to events over 14-18 inst.  This is sufficiently archaic style that I have no reference to check; my hazy memory is that inst is the current month; ult is the previous month, so the events were 14-18.6, and were written up within days.
Book review: WHITE DREAMS, BLACK AFRICA: THE ANTISLAVERY EXPEDITION TO THE NIGER, 1841-1842. By Howard Temperley. New Haven: Yale University Press, 1991. Pp xv, 204, cloth, USD35, ISBN 0-300-05021-6. By CARLOS R. ACUÑA-DUNN, University of South Florida.
COPYRIGHT: Atlantic Millennium, Department of History Graduate Student Association, Florida International University, 1997.
The review mentions that three paddlesteamers were used, but does not mention the names.  One would have to consult the full book to find out more (possibly even an illustration).
This is a very journalistic and flowery 2005 account of river history and conditions, with some excellent colour photos of life on the river today, but virtually nothing on paddlesteamer navigation.  It has two interesting comments:
* Its rainy season high-water mark can be 11 m above its low, a range rivaled only by the Amazon.
* A flat-bottomed steamer operated by the Compagnie Malienne de Navigation tilts unsteadily on the mudflats, awaiting the summer’s rains to clear the Niger’s unpredictable shallows and make the 10-day run from Mopti to Gao navigable again.
I guess that the vessel isn't a steamer, and that this is a reference to navigation today.  It seems that small vessels (pinasses or pirogues) account for almost all river traffic, not only today, but probably right back to the 1830s.

River timetables in Thomas Cook Overseas timetable for Mali (upper Niger River):
* 385 km Bamako - Kankan
* 1308 km Koulikoro - Gao
Services are affected by river levels.
A travelog with some good photos of the cruise on MV Tomboctou from Timbuktu to Gao.
Operated by Compagnie Malienne de Navigation (CMN)...judging by the signs in's ex Europe [flat bottomed, Rhine?].  There's a large flat deck is open, airy and uncrowded, containing the first class and luxury cabins, as well as a bar selling cold beer, soft drinks and water...the second deck contains the second class cabins (four bunk beds in each room)...bottom deck engines the third class dorms and lots of cargo.  There is also fourth-class deck passage.
This is a 2006 report, and includes: The railway network links Bamako to Dakar. This network will be modernized following the privatisation of the 57 km Bamako-Koulikoro section and its takeover by the Canadian company Transrail and linked to the river transport on the Niger managed by Compagnie Malienne de Navigation (Comanav), from July to September with a total length of 1500 km. During the dry season, large motorised canoes [pirogues] take over from the boats.
Image:   pd1307629.jpg  Mali, Mopti: Pirogues (Niger River water taxis) jostle to meet an incoming passenger ferry near the port of Mopti . The slender wooden canoes are the traditional craft for fishing and transporting passengers and livestock on the Niger.  [This photo may not last forever, but it shows only small canoes, and not the motorised long-distance craft shown in other source.  It doesn't show the large ferry which is being met].
Research is becoming incestous: one of the references which Google brings up now is this thread in Paddleducks.

Roderick B Smith
Rail News Victoria Editor
Title: Re: African paddlesteamers - Congo River
Post by: Roderick Smith on April 14, 2008, 11:30:40 AM
An excellent source of information on SWPS Stanley, another Yarrow vessel.  There are specifications, dates and a photo.
It is worth reading the whole item.  I have extracted the river bits in case the online archive doesn't last for ever.
...On a slow boat through 'Heart of Darkness' country, a Congolese ship's captain waxes nostalgic for colonial rule...into our 500th kilometre "We should just give it all back to the whites...Even if you go 1000 km down this river, you won't see a single sign of development. When the whites left, we didn't just stay where we were. We went backwards."...earns his keep sailing the tributaries of the Congo River...his job on the river, piloting three dugouts lashed together with twine and mounted with outboards  "The river is the artery of Congo's economy," he says. "When the Belgians and the Portuguese were here, there were farms and plantations - cashews, peanuts, rubber, palm oil. There was industry and factories employing 3000-5000 people. But since independence, no Congolese has succeeded. The plantations are abandoned."...our journey through 643 km of rainforest to where the Maringa River joins the Congo at Mbandaka, has been an exploration of decline. An abandoned tug boat here; there, a beached paddle steamer stripped of its metal sides to a rusted skeleton; several abandoned palm oil factories, their roofs caved in, their walls disappearing into the engulfing forest, their giant storage tanks empty and rusted out. The palms now grow wild and untended on the riverbanks and in the villages we pass, the people dress in rags, hawk smoked black fish and bushmeat, and besiege us with requests for salt or soap. There are no schools here, no clinics, no electricity, no roads. It can take a year for basic necessities ordered from the capital, Kinshasa, nearly 2000 km downstream, to make it here - if they make it at all. At one point we pass a cargo barge that has taken 3 months to travel the same distance we will cover in two days. We stop in the hope of buying some gasoline, but all we get from the vessel are rats.

Roderick B Smith
Rail News Victoria Editor
Title: Re: African paddlesteamers - Zambesi River
Post by: Roderick Smith on April 14, 2008, 09:20:04 PM
In the 1850s, Dr Livingstone voyaged the Zambesi to the falls which he named 'Victoria Falls', also Shire River (a Zambesi tributary) into Lake Nyasa.
1861 PS Pioneer arrived from England with missionaries to build a mission on the Shire .

Livingstone explored several other rivers, but it is unclear if this was done by boat or by land.

This site describes one of Livingstone's books, republished by Narrative Press c2005.
The Zambesi Expedition
To the Zambesi River and Its Tributaries
Series: Adventure & Exploration - 58
ISBN: 1-58976-122-7
Pages: 304
It refers to an exploration paddlesteamer before 1861: 'this time he had...a paddle steamer (it gave out rather quickly)....' appears before 'In August 1861 he...sailed the Upper Shire in a light, four-oared gig'.
This will have been PS 'Ma Robert'.
Enclosed: the cover of the book.

Various rapids above Victoria Falls.
The river is frequently interrupted by rapids and so has never been an important long-distance transport route.
Cahora Bassa dam, 1974, formerly the site of dangerous rapids.
The lower Zambezi, 650 km from there to Indian Ocean, is navigable.
David Livingstone's expedition...was defeated by the Cahora Bassa rapids.
Many small villages along the banks of the river are accessible only by [small?] boat.
In the 1930s and 40s a paddle barge service operated on the stretch between Katombora Rapids, about 50 km upstream from Livingstone, and the rapids just upstream from Katima Mulilo. Depending on the water level, boats could be paddled through by a dozen or more men.  Teams of oxen pulled barges 5 km overland around Ngonye Falls.  See is not open access, but includes the tempting words: 'The expedition’s first paddle steamer, Ma Robert...'.
'The expedition explored the Zambesi in an eighty foot [24 m] paddle steamer and was beset with difficulties. The boat was not the best for the task...'.  This is sandwiched between 1856 and 1862 events.

Summary so far: two paddlesteamers for the Livingstone era (Ma Roberts, then Pioneer); no paddlesteamer above Cahora Bassa; 'paddle' above Livingstone refers to manual paddling.  There could well be an era of paddlesteamers on the lower 650 km which I have yet to reach. The resort is at Siavonga, on the Zambian side of Lake Kariba.  On the website, there is a page on the river, with a good description.  The activities page covers the boats which the resort runs for dinner cruises, a houseboat, and pedal boats.  The photos are small.
MV (fake PV) Southern Belle, operating on Lake Kariba.   54 m long, five decks, 44 berths, airconditioned.  It is the largest vessel on the lake.
The links on this page to deckplans and to the vessel don't work.
The main page for this boat is
Lots more photos, and some hint of layout.

From National Maritime Museum (UK):
Dr Livingstone's Steam Launch Ma Robert Built for Exploring the River Zambesi, by John Laird Esq, Birkenhead
Artist: Samuel Walters (artist & publisher), Thomas Picken (engraver), April 1858
Item No: PAH0259; Neg No: PY0259
In the 1840s Dr David Livingstone joined a growing band of missionaries who took Christianity to Africa. Sent by the London Missionary Society, he tried to promote trade as well as religion in an attempt to end African slavery. Livingstone became famous not only for exploring the Zambesi but also for his epic three-year crossing of the continent from west to east.  [The thumbnail is too small to show the detail] (a pay-for-use site)
The Sinking of the "Ma Robert": An Excursion into Mid-19th-Century Steelmaking
J. Gordon Parr
Technology and Culture, Vol. 13, No. 2 (Apr., 1972), pp. 209-225   (article consists of 17 pages)
Published by: The Johns Hopkins University Press on behalf of the Society for the History of Technology
This dates the Ma Robert venture as 1858: 'In early 1858, just before he set off...'
'It was named the Ma Robert, after Livingstone's wife who, follow- ing an African custom, was given the name of her oldest son.  7 Picken's lithograph8 of the...'.
'the Ma-Robert failed in every particular, and was so slow that ... Thence the Ma-Robert returned to Tete for the repairs which she constantly needed...'.
[This is a must-register, pay-for-use site]

Roderick B Smith
Rail News Victoria Editor

Title: Re: African paddlesteamers
Post by: Hankwilliams on April 15, 2008, 07:28:22 PM

very numerous fascinating informations - I would like to start a journey to Africa just today!

In 1990/ 91 made a journey throught Africa by car. I also was in Zaire (now again Congo). In Lisala I first reach  Congo river, then we  drive througt jungle to Bumba and  Kisangani (very difficult and dangerous).

I didn't see any running paddle vessel on the Congo river, but some wrecks of sternwheelers. In Bumba obviously former sternwheelers which had engines and paddlewheels removed, were in use of barges for passengers and cargo, pushed by strong diesel towboats. The condition of the barges were rather poor, on one journey the crew tried to seal a leak in the hull with cement!
I recomment the little book: "Mailboat Steamers on Congo Rivers and Lakes" by Abbe Gudenkauf, Cockrill Booklet, Brüssel 1985.
It may be availiable on second hand.

On Lake Tanganika still the famous "MV Liemba" ex "Graf von Goetzen" mades her voyages from Kigoma to Mpulungu. She was built in 1914-1916, the parts from the Mayer shipyard in Papenburg were transportet by ship and railway to Kogoma and assemblet there in the beginning of WWI. There was a intention, to build 3 vessels of the same type by Mayer, Papenburg.
The steam engines of "Liemba" were removed in 1970 and replaced by diesels.

It is probable, that on the lower Zambesi in Mozambique some sternwheelers can be found, I got photos of 3 sterwheelers, photographed in 1975, one was diesel, 2 were steam driven. I will look after the pictures, when I find it will put in paddle ducks.

On river Niger 2 big motor vessels for passengers and cargo are running, but only for 3 to 4 months a year when the water has enougt dept. May be, some wrecks of paddle steamers would be found.

On river Nile in 1995 I saw the big sidewheeler "Sudan" of 1923, driven by steam, the ship in the 1990s got also a diesel driven screw. Also running is still the quarter wheeler "Karim". The superstructure was newly build in the 1980s, but it's still steam driven.
In Cairo I saw also the sternwheeler "Ibis", obviouisly out of use for years, but still complete with a coal fired boiler of locomotive type.


Title: Re: African paddlesteamers
Post by: Hankwilliams on April 21, 2008, 07:02:49 PM

the resarches of Roderick are very interesting.

Complementary I want add some informations. The Niger river between Gao and Niamey is not navigable for engine driven ships, but long distances of the lower Niger in Nigeria are navigable.
I don't know anything about the recent situation of paddlevessels in this area, but as late as 1939 the Mayer shipyard in Papenburg/North Germany has build 3 modern identical sternwheelers with steam propulsion for use on the lower Niger.

A friend, who lived in Nigeria in the 1990s told me, as far he knows, no paddlesteamer was in use in this time.

The "Ma Robert" of David Livingstone proved with less succes, because the engine was weak and the patented iron plates of the hull  corroded in a short time.


Title: Re: African paddlesteamers
Post by: AlistairD on April 25, 2008, 10:00:48 PM
Niger: Many of the steamers here were operated by the United Africa Company. If you find a history of that company you may get details. Latterly they were diesel sternwheelers.
The book Elder Dempster: a fleet history 1852-1985: James E Cowden and John O C Duffy has a fleet list of vessels employed on the Cross River and the Niger Delta, but no paddle steamers as far as I can see at a quick glance.

Zambesi: There was a series of articles in Paddle Wheels magazine in the late 1970s on Zambesi paddle steamers

Congo: I have recently purchased the book Blood River, about a trip thorough Congo from Lake Tanganyika to the sea. I haven't read it yet, but I notice a photo of abandoned paddle steamers on the river bank. The BBC did a series called River Journeys about 1980 featuring a sail on Luama which was then the last steam sternwheeler on the river

Title: Re: African paddlesteamers
Post by: Roderick Smith on May 23, 2009, 02:44:15 AM
I have now been back to Upington.  The photo which I remembered from an earlier holiday isn't there.  Conclusion: my memory was wrong.
The river was never navigable through Ausgrabie Falls, and seems to have had too many rock shoals to be navigable even seasonally.  There are now dams and irrigation outakes too.

There is a two-deck party boat (not paddle) based at Upington.
Today I have viewed many boats at Cape Town V&A, but none was paddle.  The cutest is a steam launch, and I intend to cruise on it on my spare day when I am back from St Helena.

Roderick B Smith
Rail News Victoria Editor
Title: Re: African paddlesteamers
Post by: Hankwilliams on May 26, 2009, 11:45:44 PM
The Orange River was considered as not navigable.
Probably the boat at Upington only has a short range of cruising?
But what's about navigation at river Limpopo? I don't know anything.

The navigable rivers (for longer distances)in Africa are not numerous, as far I know: The Nile, the Niger and his tributary Benue, the Congo and his tributary Ubangi, in the east the Rufiji (in German colony times there were 2 sternwheelers) and in the south the Zambezi.

On my visit 1990/91 I saw the "Liemba" and one obviously abandoned big screw steamer on Lake Tanganijka.

On Lake Victoria I also discovered a derelict screw steamer.

Lake Nyassa: I didn't visit him, but in the past he was navigated by steamers.
There are some unknows areas about steamboating, as the central African lakes like Lake Albert and Lake Rudolf.
Possibel, that in Belgian colony times there was also trafic by steamers.

The Juba river in Somalia was navigated by the explorer Carl Claus von Decken in 1865 for a lenght of 760 km (see my topic -German explorating steamer Welf- in Construction) but never used for navigation after this time.


Title: Re: African paddlesteamers - Lake Malawi
Post by: Roderick Smith on June 13, 2009, 12:13:03 AM
This was formerly Lake Nyasa.
The regular cruise is by MV Ilala, see
I am told that this has a well-preserved interior (built in 1949).  The cruise has been recommended to me.
Perhaps it had a paddlesteamer predecessor?

See also: (which describes it as a steamer, which it isn't) (an unnamed 10 berth cruising launch). (small charter yachts)

Roderick B Smith
Rail News Victoria Editor
Title: Re: African paddlesteamers - Lake Tanganyika
Post by: Roderick Smith on June 13, 2009, 12:19:42 AM
So far, all I can find is a modern 6-berth cabin cruiser (Winsor Rose), making day tours.

Since the lake is 677 km long, and deep, there must have been traditional navigation too.

Roderick B Smith
Rail News Victoria Editor
Title: Re: African paddlesteamers - Knysna (RSA)
Post by: Roderick Smith on June 13, 2009, 11:52:43 PM
Relocated from an independent thread to be part of the Africa one.

This is a modern diesel, for dinner cruises on the inlet of this major tourist centre. On a proper reading: another fake, with propeller drive and the paddles simply decorative.
See for photos, this text and any extra text.
For a unique cruise and dining experience - with a modern, hip and trendy twist - Paddle Cruiser offers both lunch (12.30 departure) and evening (18.15 departure) cruises. This is the only paddle-driven vessel in South Africa, and is a unique dining venue in Knysna. Turn your evening meal into a special occasion - depart at sunset, cruise to the famous Knysna Heads at twilight and return under the stars and twinkling lights of the town.
Paddle Cruiser was built over a period 12 of months by Two Oceans Marine and launched in Cape Town in Oct.03. It was delivered to Knysna by sea. 22.7 m length; 7.5 m beam; draft of 1.4 m. Her propellers are powered by twin Caterpillar 3056 Turbo Diesels and twin diesel electric generators, which power the boat's galley, lighting and its paddles.
Paddle Cruiser offers delicious meals, enjoyed at lunch time during a well-deserved midday break or at the end of the day during a magical sunset cruise. It is the ideal opportunity to unwind and enjoy a cocktail, locally brewed beer or a fine wine from an award-winning selection, while savouring fresh Knysna oysters. Lunch cruises offer a Tapas Mediterranean a la carte selection while a three-course Mediterranean buffet is available in the evening, with matching five-star service guaranteed. Paddle Cruiser has been graded as a four- star restaurant by SA Tourism Grading Council, the only floating restaurant in South Africa with this grading.
Paddle Cruiser has 360 degree views and is fully enclosed, thus unaffected by weather conditions, and she has a bar on each deck. It is a unique and unconventional venue for conferences, corporate functions, incentives, product launches, weddings and private functions. Special cruise time requests are catered for groups.

Roderick B Smith
Rail News Victoria Editor
Title: Re: African paddlesteamers
Post by: sandystrone on July 19, 2009, 06:08:08 AM
A very pleasant experience I had a few years ago when I took the steam train from George to Knysna
 and a sail out to the Heads on that paddler.
 On my visit back to the Cape this year I was told that the Choo Choo did not run to Knysna any more because of some problems with the track.            Sandy
Title: Re: African paddlesteamers
Post by: kiwimodeller on July 19, 2009, 08:03:03 PM
Roderick, congratulations on your perseverence in following such diverse threads of info. While researching the Whanganui River (N Z) steamers of the Hatrick company I came across a comment about the Manuwai, Hatricks only sternwheeler, that said something like "built by Yarrows to a design originally for an African river sternwheeler". Can I find the article again to relate it to you? Of course I cannot but will carry on looking. Do you know anything about Yarrow built or designed boats for Africa? Thanks, Ian.
Title: Re: African paddlesteamers
Post by: Harold H. Duncan on July 20, 2009, 05:44:51 AM
Hi Ian,
Yarrow's built quite a number of stern paddle steamers (all similar in design) for the British Govt ('Mosquito' 89 feet on the Zambesi), the Russian Govt (100 feet), and the Columbian Govt (150 feet). They also built for private companies such as Hatricks and the Manawai. They all used loco style boilers located at the bow driving the sternwheel via twin horizontal single cylinder connected through the crank and paddle wheel shaft to form a self-starting twin. They all used similar construction for the hulls with longitudinal structural bracing through the light-weight deck structures. Hull shapes all similar.
I have some info and illustrations of these and anyone having anything on similar Yarrow boats I'd be most interested in obtaining copies please. Will help with finishing off my drawings of the ps Manuwai.
Title: Re: African paddlesteamers
Post by: mjt60a on July 20, 2009, 06:30:42 AM
There are several pictures of yarrow boats in 'Paddle Steamers' by Bernard Cox.... always a copy or two on Ebay...
Title: Re: African paddlesteamers
Post by: Roderick Smith on July 20, 2009, 08:28:02 AM
Yarrow built many vessels for Irrawaddy River, Burma (today Ayerawady, Myanmar).
Follow the clues in the Myanmar thread in Research:
I now have the books mentioned there, but there are not many photos or plans.
The Burma style looks similar to the African and Indian one.
I also have photos of some Indian sternwheelers posted in an India thread.
The sidewheelers PS Yamuna and PS Gomati were built by Yarrow, but not to the typical style.  SWPV Bhadra looks to be related to the Yarrow African ones.
A second thread 'Paddlesteamers on India rivers' also mentions Yarrow.

Roderick B Smith
Rail News Victoria Editor
Title: Re: African paddlesteamers - Lake Kioga
Post by: Roderick Smith on June 22, 2011, 05:52:50 PM
The Rift Valley lakes comprise three majors (Malawi, Tanganyika & Victoria) and several minors (Albert, Edward, George, Malombe & Kwania), most/all navigable & navigated, and linking to Nile, Congo, Shire and Zambesi rivers.
Most lake vessels were/are medium size and screw.
In most countries, lake-navigation was in the hands of railway companies.
On my recent 5 weeks in the region, I didn't photograph every boat photo in Nairobi railway museum.  Most of them showed screw vessels.  Enclosed are photos a model of SWPS Grant and SWPS Stanley, both built for the relatively-shallow and weed infested Lake Kioga/Kyoga.

* (Lake Malawi / Lake Nyasa): the southernmost lake in the Great Rift Valley system, the third-largest in Africa, eighth-largest in the world, the second-deepest lake in Africa. Water flows out through Shire River, which joins Zambesi River, and flows into Indian Ocean.
*  The second-largest freshwater lake in the world by volume, and the second deepest (after Lake Baikal).  Divided among Burundi, Democratic Republic of Congo, Tanzania and Zambia. The water flows into Congo River and Atlantic Ocean.
* Africas largest lake by area, and the world's second-largest freshwater lake by surface area (Lake Superior, North America, is larger),  the world's eighth largest lake by volume.  Water flows into Nile River, and also via Katonga River to Lake George.
* (also Lake Kioga) is in Uganda, between lake Victoria and Lake Albert.

Both vessels in the enclosed photos look very much like Yarrow products, but that is presumption, not proven.

Roderick B Smith
Rail News Victoria Editor
Title: Re: SWPS Stanley
Post by: Roderick Smith on June 24, 2011, 02:22:00 PM
I notice a disparity between the postcard in the Kenya museum (SWPS Stanley, built for Lake Kiyoga) and an earlier reference in this thread (SWPS Stanley, on Congo River).
Which is right?
The two waterways were not connected.  Since the vessel must have been imported in sections and reassembled, was it split again and relocated?

See also
This mentions several steamers, but is vague re propulsion
Two on the middle Congo from 1879
Peace, 1884 for evangelical work
Roi de Belge, upper Congo, 1889 (photo, with no paddleboxes visible)
A small side-wheel trading steam on the upper Congo (photo, name not visible)

Over 100 steamers on the river by 1900.
Henry Reed
General Olsen
(had cabins but slept on the deck)
Most were tiny Victorian relics, half rusted away. Many of the larger riverboats had been towed across the Atlantic after outliving their usefulness on the Mississippi. These were big flat-bottomed sternwheelers.
Large paddle steamers were built by Otraco and worked the river until the civil war, when boats were machine gunned and charges dropped into their boilers.
River steamers ran until the 1980s...diesel pushers were put to work.

Up to 150 people were drowned when ferries collided on the river in 2010.

The north bank of the river being an entirely separate french colony with their own boats.

Roderick B Smith
Rail News Victoria Editor

Title: Re: African paddlesteamers
Post by: Roderick Smith on June 30, 2011, 06:03:34 PM
I didn't see any paddleboats on this holiday, so have just a single photo of the two screw ferries which I saw on Lake Victoria.
I travelled on MV Victoria (just over 50 years old), in a first-class two berth cabin, and served in a proper dining room with a separate lounge bar.
MV Clarias may be the relief vessel.
MV Bukoba allowed the service to be nightly, but went down in Tanzania's worst maritime disaster, drowning 800 people.

Apart from passengers, and their voluminous luggage, Victoria was carrying huge quantities of bananas on the overnight journey.  It makes three return trips per week.

Roderick B Smith
Rail News Victoria Editor

Title: Re: African paddlesteamers
Post by: Hankwilliams on July 12, 2011, 09:14:07 PM
In this web adress you will find some interesting historical (mostly in the 1950tis) photos of old Leopoldville, now Kinshasa.
There is one picture of a big sternwheeler on river Kongo. Also the photos of the present city are impressible:

Title: Re: African paddlesteamers
Post by: Roderick Smith on July 29, 2011, 10:46:30 PM
Lake Malawi has no paddleboats either, but does have five major vessels, and lots of smaller ones.
On the Malawi side:
* Cargo vessel MV Katundu,
* Passenger boat MV Illala, built by Yarrow, and recommissioned in 1972.  This makes a return trip from Monkey Bay to Chilumba every week (3 nights each way), with the vital sector being Nkhata Bay - Likoma.
* Backup passenger boat MV Mtendere.
* Floating clinic MV Chauncy Maples, built as a steamer in 1899, and being revived by an international trust.

Links: (which includes a section on fish) (temptation) (Mtendere) (Ilala) (heartwarming, and a fascinating history)

There is also a Tanzanian operation on Lake Malawi, using MV Songea.
Itunga dep. 17.00 Th; Mbamba Bay arr. 12.00 F, dep. 12.00 F; Itunga arr.
12.00 Sat.
Occasionally it crosses to Malawi, to Nkhata Bay. Some sites state weekly crossing.
From Wikipedia
The Tanzanian ferry MV Songea was built in 1988. Her operator was the
Tanzania Railway Corporation Marine Division until 1997, when it became the
Marine Services Company Limited. Songea plies weekly between Liuli and
Nkhata Bay via Itungi and Mbamba Bay.

Roderick B Smith
Rail New Victoria Editor
Title: Re: African paddlesteamers
Post by: Roderick Smith on October 18, 2012, 10:45:49 PM
Here is a good link

Roderick B Smith
Rail News Victoria Editor
Title: Re: African paddlesteamers
Post by: greateastern on October 22, 2012, 07:27:15 AM
here's a stern wheeler for Cameroon.
Title: Re: African paddlesteamers
Post by: greateastern on October 22, 2012, 07:41:04 AM
here's a paddler for German East Africa
Title: Re: African paddlesteamers
Post by: Bierjunge on October 28, 2012, 08:34:12 AM

Thank you so much for posting these scans of the Soden and the Ulanga! They are  a real treasure at least for those being interested in colonial river steamboats.
I would therefore love to read the entire article; unfortunately, the begin of the article (before page 98) and page 104 are not included. Were they missing in the document, or did you simply not post them? Unfortunately, I cannot access the hathitrust from outside the USA. So could you please also post the missing pages, or send the to me by email (I`ve also sent a pm to you)?

Thank you so much, Moritz
Title: Re: African paddlesteamers
Post by: Harold H. Duncan on October 28, 2012, 09:59:40 AM
yes please, if you have the missing pages, or the link.
Title: Re: African paddlesteamers
Post by: greateastern on October 28, 2012, 12:23:02 PM
here are the pages beginning pg 95 start of article and all the way to end, except for the drawings pages which are already here.
Title: Re: African paddlesteamers
Post by: Harold H. Duncan on October 28, 2012, 02:36:37 PM
thanks for those, very much appreciated
Paddlers of the 1800's are of special interest to me, there was so much variety and things tried

Title: Re: African paddlesteamers
Post by: Bierjunge on October 28, 2012, 06:09:23 PM
Thank you so much!
Title: SWPV Zanha, Zambezi River
Post by: Roderick Smith on May 23, 2014, 02:45:07 PM
This photo from Geoff Cooke (operator of rail tours) popped up on flickr.
SWPV Zanha at Matille, in the Zambezi River delta near Chinde.  7.6.75.

Roderick B Smith
Rail News Victoria Editor

Title: Re: African paddlesteamers
Post by: Hankwilliams on May 24, 2016, 02:27:26 AM
Hi all,

an interesting picture I found on Graham Greenes Book "Travel without maps", it came out 1936, this is a new german edition.
Greenes expedition led throught west Africa (specially Liberia and sierra Leone). The illustration picture was made by National Geographic Society, no further informatin was availiable. In the text I didn`t find anything about the motiv.
Does anyone know something about the sternwheeler?

Title: Re: African paddlesteamers
Post by: Bierjunge on May 24, 2016, 06:26:43 PM
Looks quite similar to this one, doesn't it?

( (
Title: Re: African paddlesteamers
Post by: Hankwilliams on May 24, 2016, 06:50:01 PM
Interesting woodcut.
Doubtless also a type built Yarrow sternwheeler for the colonies.
The superstructure was addet to the special purpose.

Title: Re: African paddlesteamers
Post by: Hankwilliams on March 18, 2018, 01:18:53 AM
Quite interesting sternwheeler "Garoua" for Benue River in Cameron. Built by D.W. Kremer shipyard in Elmshorn, builder date and further informations unclear - either before 1914 for the german colony or after first world war for the french part of the land.
Title: Re: African paddlesteamers
Post by: Hankwilliams on February 11, 2019, 11:03:07 PM
I got an interesting book today about Nile travelling in former days. It includes pictures and describes of Nile steamers. Last but one picture is the plan of preserved steamer "Sudan".
Title: Nile River at Cairo (Egypt) PV Andrea
Post by: Roderick Smith on May 11, 2019, 03:53:44 PM
Roderick Smith 181113Tu Nile River at Cairo (Egypt): Dinner-cruise PV Andrea. (Roderick Smith). This had been steam until a few years ago. It has operated under various names.  The steam equipment has been retained, as display items.
Title: Re: African paddlesteamers
Post by: Spankbucket on May 11, 2019, 06:19:14 PM
Is that a Chinese restaurant on top of it??

Even looks a bit like the Bataclan in Paris?
Title: Re: African paddlesteamers
Post by: Roderick Smith on January 11, 2020, 09:00:48 PM
Yes, it had been running as Chinese, but was now Egyptian buffet with a bellydancing and a dervish.
Title: Re: African paddlesteamers
Post by: Spankbucket on January 12, 2020, 07:23:15 PM
OK! That explains it! Does the dervish whirl?
Title: Re: African paddlesteamers
Post by: Hankwilliams on January 19, 2020, 10:38:51 PM
I know the ship. In the 1980-tis she was named "Time Machine". She made several Nile cruises until she got in new ownership and was completely altered to this strange Chinese design. As far I know, steam engine and boiler are still in Situ?

Title: Re: African paddlesteamers
Post by: Roderick Smith on June 21, 2020, 02:17:15 PM
Yes, the boiler and engine are still in place.  I have a photo posted higher up in the thread.
Yes, the dervish does whirl.  I didn't photograph the one in Egypt, so have a Dubai one from earlier in the holiday.

181020Sa Dubai Creek dinner cruise - - Roderick Smith

Title: Re: African paddlesteamers
Post by: Spankbucket on June 21, 2020, 05:29:54 PM
Well it is good to see some cultural customs are still maintained. Thanks for the confirmation.
Title: Re: African paddlesteamers
Post by: Hankwilliams on July 20, 2020, 03:04:12 AM
These pictures made in Mozambique I bought from Geoff Cooke some years ago. Some steam and diesel sterwheelers are still in use in June 1975. Unfortunately I don`t know about any list of Zambezi vessels. Perhaps someone knows more?
Title: Re: African paddlesteamers
Post by: DamienG on July 20, 2020, 07:31:51 PM
 :) :) :) :) :) :) :) :) :)
Title: Re: African paddlesteamers
Post by: Roderick Smith on July 25, 2020, 08:27:34 PM
Re Zambezi River in Moambique, my earlier link to a Geoff photo has lapsed.
Here is his collection on flickr:
SWPV Zanha [at Matille] [with the name showing] [at Luabo, with two SWPS]

Title: Re: African paddlesteamers
Post by: Hankwilliams on September 14, 2020, 04:06:22 AM
Very interesting pictures. But another question: Does anyone has some informations about the big Congo sternwheeler "Reine Astrid"? Except the pictures, I don`t find anything like shipyard, builder date, dimensions and the time of working.