History of the Lake Zürich Navigation Company

Boat trips on Lake Zürich are likely to be about as old as the settlement of its banks, meaning before 4000 BC.

In the early Middle Ages, the waterway became increasingly significant as an important link in international freight. Goods were shipped in the direction of lake Walen and the mountain passes, and from Zürich to Horgen as well, after the extension of the Gotthard Pass. The transported goods consisted primarily of semi-processed metals and textiles, and occasionally salt and wine. In addition to the transit traffic, pilgrim traffic to Einsiedeln became increasingly common, and the lake was used by local traders on their way to the market in Zürich.

March 19, 1834 - 1897

March 19, 1834

The two entrepreneurs Franz Carl Caspar (Founder of the Steamboat Company for lake Constance and the Rhine) and Johann Jakob Lämmlin (expert in the technical field) found the company “Caspar and Lämmlin, entrepreneurs of steamboats on lakes Zürich and Walen” and commission their first boat from boatbuilder William Fairbairn in Manchester.

July 19, 1835

"Minerva", the first lake Zürich steamer and first iron ship on the European continent, goes into operation. At the time, there was no railway system (the “Spanish Brötli Train” first started providing its services in 1847), and the first car was built half a century later.

1837 - 1839

The two companies Linth-Escher Ltd. and Republik Ltd. build a boat named after themselves and start to engage in business on lake Zürich.

1839 - 1842

Merger of the three companies to Zürichsee- und Walenseegesellschaft Ltd.


Merger with "Dampfbootgesellschaft linkes Ufer" to form "Dampfbootgesellschaft für den Zürichsee".


The Nordostbahngesellschaft (Northeastern Railway Company), founder of the left-bank railway, takes over all boat activity on lake Zürich on very favorable terms.


As resistance against the impending adjustment of boat operations on lake Zürich (the railway is increasingly on the advance), the "Zürcher Dampfboot-Aktien-Gesellschaft" (Zürich Steamboat Company Ltd.) is brought to life. This has a share capital of 1200 shares at 500 francs each. To ensure similar suburban traffic on lake Zürich, a series of nine propeller steamers is commissioned. These propeller steamers are designed to provide transport around Zurich and run from 1892-93 on a regular basis from the City Hall Bridge to Wollishofen, Tiefenbrunnen, Küsnacht and Thalwil.

1894 - 97

Thanks to good business, three large propeller steamers for 180-300 people are put into service. They are called Wädenswil, Speer and Zürich.

1900 - 1952


The lake Zürich Steamboat Company takes over the Wädenswil Steamboat Company, founded in 1894. With a total of twelve propeller steamers, the Company boasts the largest fleet of boats in Switzerland.


The smaller boats are sold for two larger propeller steamers.


The Zürich Steamboat Company also pays for the boats of the Northeastern Railway Company, which is incorporated into the Federal Railways. Worthy of mention is the paddle steamer Helvetia (built in 1875) which has a capacity of 1200 people.


During the remodeling of a propeller steamer, a diesel engine is experimented with for the first time. As a result, the steamer is renamed as motor boat Uto and is the first motor boat on Swiss waters. As the diesel engines are very unreliable at the beginning, however, the first fully operational motor boat, the MS Etzel, is built in 1934. This runs today in the services of a private company on lake Zürich.


Boat traffic can no longer cope with the small propeller steamers. The steam boat Stadt Zürich, built by the Escher-Wyss Company, is put into service.


Sister boat to the Stadt Zürich, the Stadt Rapperswil, is launched.

1914 - 1945

With a fleet size of five steamers, ten propeller steamers and one motorboat, the ZSG encounters difficult times during and between the two world wars. This brings major setbacks and can be overcome only through huge sacrifices made by the staff. During this whole time, cross traffic in the upper and lower parts of the lake are maintained. All steam powered boats are also gradually being replaced by motor boats. Towards the end of the second world war, the fleet inventory renewal begins. Slowly but surely, one steamer after another is decommissioned and scrapped.


The first 3-story boat on lake Zürich, the MS Linth, is put into operation.

1955 - 1993


Commissioning of MS Glärnisch. The boat was sold in 2006 and is now a stationary restaurant in the port of Wädenswil.


Due to technical developments, the "Zürcher Dampfbootgesellschaft" (Zurich Steamboat Company) is renamed the "Zürichsee-Schifffahrtsgesellschaft" (Lake Zürich Navigation Company). The motor boat Säntis reboots over lake Zürich. The boat is completely renovated in winter 2006/2007.


The time-honored "Helvetia" makes its final trip and is scrapped in 1964. The only survivors from the steamboat era are the paddle steamers Stadt Zürich and Stadt Rapperswil. These are fortunately saved thanks to increasing concern for historical preservation in the years that follow. In the same year, the MS Limmat starts operating on lake Zürich.


The MS Bachtel begins operating on lake Zürich.


The motor boat Helvetia, with a guest capacity of 1200 persons, becomes the flagship of the ZSG and still is today.


The MS Wädenswil begins operating on lake Zürich.


The Lake Zürich Navigation Company (ZSG) is integrated into the Zürich Transport Network (ZVV).

1992 - 1993

The three Limmat river boats Felix, Regula and Turicum operate on the Limmat river and in the lower basin.

1997 - 2007

1997 - 1999

The three almost identical panoramic boats Albis, Pfannenstiel and Üetliberg are launched and quickly become crowd favorites. They are rented or used for dreamboat cruises more often than other boats.


The MS Forch and MS Zimmerberg, the two smallest boats (not counting the Limmat river boats) of the lake Zürich fleet, start operating simultaneously.


Today, the ZSG fleet consists of 17 boats. 15 motor boats, including 3 Limmat river boats and the two paddle steamers. The newest member of the family is the 700-passenger boat the MS Panta Rhei, which was christened in March 2007. As in 1835, a new era in nautical travel is thus ushered in on lake Zürich…

Learn more about the history of steamboats and the pedigree of the navigation companies on lake Zürich.

Zürichsee-Schifffahrtsgesellschaft AG, Mythenquai 333, Postfach 624, 8038 Zürich
Tel. +41 (0) 44 487 13 33 | ahoi@zsg.ch