Skibladner | Norway’s oldest paddle steamer still in service

Skibladner is one of the world's oldest paddle steamers still in regular service. Her launch was in 1856, and she sails on Norway's largest lake, Mjøsa.
PS Skibladner. | Andrez1 - Wikimedia - cc by-sa.

Image: PS Skibladner. | Andrez1 – Wikimedia – cc by-sa.

The great Lake Mjøsa

It was on the great Lake Mjøsa that Skibladner went on her maiden voyage in 1856, as both a passenger and a freight vessel. And she is still there.

Mjøsa is an inland meltwater fjord, surrounded by undulating farmland and large forests, located just northeast of Norway’s capital city Oslo.

The Norwegians know Skibladner as Mjøsas hvite svane – the white swan of Mjøsa. Her owners named her after the ship belonging to the old Norse fertility god Frey.

Frey’s ship could sail both on land and on water, and it always had a tailwind. Frey could also fold the ship up, like a piece of cloth, and put it in his pocket.

Linked to Norway’s first railway

Skibladner’s southernmost port, Eidsvoll, was and is a connection point to Norway’s first stretch of railway: the Oslo-Eidsvoll Line. The railway opened in 1854.

From Eidsvoll, Skibladner sails as far north as to the Olympic city of Lillehammer.

Skibladner’s early years coincided with Norway’s budding industrial revolution. With the steam engines, came a different kind of prosperity and change in society.

Skibladner continued its journey through history, and had an advantage that the ever-expanding railroad did not have: it connected Mjøsa’s eastern and western shores.

She has sunk twice

Lake Mjøsa fills with mountain-snow meltwater in early summer, and is covered by ice during the winter. The ice gives Skibladner some well-earned time for rest and repair.

In 1937, she spent her winter at Minnesund. Substantial amounts of snow made her tip over to one side, and water found its way in through an open valve. She sank quickly and was barely visible above the waterline. Good forces joined to restore her.

In 1967, she sank once again, also at Minnesund. At the time, she was not insured, but the Norwegian Army’s engineer corps came to her rescue.

Today, Skibladner’s winter home is a half-open boathouse at Gjøvik.

A tourist attraction

In the new millennium, PS Skibladner is primarily a tourist attraction, and runs between midsummer and mid-August. She has room for 230 passengers and a crew of 16.

A trip with Skibladner is pure history, and a journey back in time. At a pleasant pace, you travel across the ever-flowing water.

Imagine a warm and sunny day, sitting in a deckchair on the Skibladner, reading a book, or simply watching the world go by. And later, enjoying some fine dining in her rustic restaurant.

If you are ever nearby, we recommend that you experience the wonders of this beautiful vessel. But book well in advance. We wish you a pleasant trip.

Main source: «Skibladner 1856-1981» Jan H. Olstad and Eyolf Knutsen – A/S Oplandske Dampskibsselskap 1981.

Category: Knowledge

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