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Steamboats on the Danube

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Title: Steamboats on the Danube  
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Subject: Donaudampfschiffahrtsgesellschaft, Radetzky (steamship), Danube
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Steamboats on the Danube

The Danube Steamboat Shipping Company, Donaudampfschiffahrtsgesellschaft was a shipping company founded in 1829 by the Austrian government for transporting passengers and cargo on the River Danube. It was formed by two Englishmen--Andrews and Prichard. The first attempt to use steamers on the river was in 1813 by the Austrians, but the experiment did not go well.

The DDSG company ran the vessel Franz 1 between Vienna and Budapest and it was a success. Soon other routes were but on by the company with a run to Linz with the Maria Anna. A Bavarian company ran vessels downstream to Austria from Ulm.

In 1880, the DDSG was the world's largest river shipping company with more than 200 steamboat ships and about 1000 cargo tubs. It owned its own coal mines in the Pecs area of Hungary. It ran river vessels from Germany to the Danube's mouth in Roumania; it also had salt water vessels running on the Mediterranean from Constantinople to Trieste, then an Austrian colony. This was the Royal Hungarian River and Sea shipping Company or MFTR.

Steamboats on the Danube were, by the end of the 19th century, dominated by the Austrian-based DDSG. A new organisation was formed in 1896, based in the Hungarian part of the Habsburg empire, which was to become a significant player in both the freight haulage and passenger businesses. The MFTR took over the fleet of the Hungarian Railways (MAV) in 1914 and eventually became MAHART, a company which continues to exist in the Danube freight business.


Steamers acquired from MAV in 1895 were the Lukacs Bela, and later Csoka, Rakosi Matyas, Csongrad. Steamers built in 1896-7: Deak Ferenc, later Dunagyongye; Ersebet Kiralyne; Szechenyi Istvan and Ferencz Jozsef

Later new vessels were built (1916–1928) and these were the:Zita Kiralyne, later Vercse, Szent Istvan IV, Karoly, later Sas, St Imre, Felszabadulas, Szoke Tisza.

Ferencz Ferdinand Foherczeg, later Rigo, Leanyfalu, Kossuth Joszef Foherczeg, later Varju, Dozsa Gyorgy, Jozsef, Domos Szent Gellert, later Tancsics, Szoke Tisza Szent Laszlo, later Petofi

Later purchases (1939–1941) Domos, earlier Leda Bacska

Franz I Argo Pannonia, later Belgrad Zrinyi Ferdinand I Nador, later Neptun Arpad Maria Anna Sophia, later Minerva Ludwig, later Albrecht, then Diana Hermine Johann Stadt Wien Stadt Pest Friedrich Buda Szechenyi, later Szegedin Attila Sophie, later Melk Greifenstein, later Pozsony, then Esseg Franz Carl Maria Dorothea, later Rudolf, later Aggstein Nador, later Gisela Ferdinand I Hunyad Gyor Franz Joseph, later Boreas Debrecen Austria Radetzky Germania, later Balkan Prater Ebersdorf Franz Josef I, later Neptun, then Melk Albrecht Stefan Szechenyi Hidegarde Ferdinand Max Carl Ludwig, later Grein and rebuilt as Johann Strauss Elisabeth Josef Carl, later Tulln Tachtalia Islas Drau Mercur Konig Maximilian Konigin Marie Konigin Therese Regensburg Donauworth Konig Ludwig Bavaria Prinz Otto Neuburg Ingolstadt Stauf, later Lokalboot VII Straubing Zrinyi Miklos Matyas Kiraly, later Struden Raczkeve Szent Istvan Theben Freudenau Greifenstein Maros Arad Hattyu Fecske Marie Valerie Orient Drencova Zrinyi, later Ossijek, then Minerva Kazan Tegetthoff Lokalboot I Lokalboot II Minerva Iris Vesta Ariadne Lokalboot III Lokalboot IV Lokalboot V Lokalboot VI Kulpa Drina Czallokoz Budapest, later Babenberg Fiume, later Habsburg, then Pochlarn Pataj Solyom, later Aschach, then Gyor and (again) Aschach Leda Brcka Mars Venus Sas, later Aggstein Siraly, later Durnstein Turul, later Wachau Hebe Taussig Budapest Wien Schonbrunn Erzherzog Franz Ferdinand, later Johann Strauss Herzogin von Hohenburg, later Franz Schubert Franz Josef I, later Jupiter Kaiser Wilhelm II, later Uranus Laudon, later Linz Radetzky Saturnus Helios

SS Radetzky and the Birth of Bulgaria

A Bulgarian school teacher turned revolutionary named Hristo Botev rose up against the Ottoman overlords in 1876. He seized the steamer Radetzky and used it as a platform for the birth of the new nation Bulgaria. Botev was shot by a Bashi-bazouk during the rebellion, but Russian intervenion in 1878 secured Bulgaria's independence. The reconstructed vessel is now museum ship in Bulgaria, albeit with diesel engines.

See Radetzky (steamship)

River Gunboats on the Danube

The Austrian navy built powerful river monitors to patrol the Danube River from 1870-1918. The first were the Maros and Leitha It had 3 generations of patrol boats. The siege of Belgrade in 1917 was conducted with gunboats. After the loss of the empire in the First World War, some of the vessels were transferred to Yugoslav ownership. The Roumanians also had river patrol boats. The Roumanian Danube Flotilla was more modern, and consisted of four river monitors (Lascăr Catargiu, Mihail Kogălniceanu, Ion C. Brătianu and Alexandru Lahovari) and eight British-built torpedo boats. The four river monitors were built in Italy during 1907-1907 and assembled at Galați. They were armed with three 12-cm cannons each. The British torpedo boats from the Căpitan Nicolae Lascăr Bogdan class were built during 1906-1907 and weighed 50tons each. There were also approximately six older gunboats used for border patrol, minelayers and other auxiliary ships used for transport or supply.] The Romanian Navy had a secondary role during World War I and only had light losses. The river monitors participated in the defense of Tutrakan and later secured the flank of the Romanian and Russian defenders in Dobrudja. The main success of the war was the mining of an Austro-Hungarian river monitor.

See SMS Leitha (1871)

Soviet Armed gunboats on the Danube

With the Soviet seizure of Bessarabia in1940 and the dissolution of Europe into chaos, the Russians had a shoreline on the Danube. The bigger boat, known as BKA (bronirovannyie katera, or armored cutter) 1124, had two turrets initially taken from T-26 tanks and mounting 45mm guns. The boat displaced 42 tons, was 25 meters long and had 12mm of armor on its “citadel” protecting the engines and other vitals. While drawing more water than a half-meter, it still could operate in very shallow waters as it only drew 0.80 meters.

The smaller version, known as BKA 1125, only drew 0.5 meters and displaced 29 tons. These were only slightly shorter (22.6 meters) but had less armor protection.

Series production began in 1935 at small shipyards along the Soviet Union’s inland rivers, and were delivered in 1941. By the time of the 1941 Russian invasion by Germany, 85 boats had been delivered with 68 more under construction. They went into action very early, with boats of the Danube flotilla infiltrating Romanian defenses to land troops on 24 June and routing Romanian marines defending the Danube delta.

World War II

By 1935, a new power had appeared through the entire length of the Danube — Nazi Germany, whose new self-propelled barges swiftly moved up and down the river outside Germany's borders, "the pioneers of the new order. They flew the Swastika and were built of bullet-proof steel."

The Germans were held to the Danube as it moved the Roumanian oil in barges from Ploesti back to the Fatherland for use in industry. Germany invaded Hungary in 1944 ending the Horthy regime and the puppet state.During the Third Reich era, the DDSG was involved in transporting Jews after Kristallnacht.

The Allies counteracted--RAF 205 Group flew 152 night sorties against Danube shipping and US bombers attacked the river ports by day. The steamers were sunk at the quayside in the air raids, but the worst menace were the air dropped mines in the river which sunk 40 percent of the vessels. See Nazi rule over the Danube River


The destruction of Europe by the war, included many destroyed vessels. The Armies of Occupation, including the U.S. Army, and funded by the United Nations Recovery and Reconstruction Administration, (later World Bank), attempted to restart shipping. This included repairing or clearing the wrecked bridges as all of the bridges over the Danube had been bombed. The river was cleared of wreckage, ships were raised and repaired and the Danube basin put back to work. Of paramount importance was the movement of coal for heating and industry.

The hard winter of 1947 caused the river to freeze solid, impeding the movement of ships. US army engineers dynamited the floes to open shipping lanes and relieve the buckling pressure of ice on hulls.

From this the steam paddlers worked until the1970s when they were retired. One vessel the SS Schoenbrunn is run as a tourist boat, but was damaged in a collision five years ago.

The Vienna docks consists of 3 harbour facilities: a key element is the Freudenauer Hafen with the biggest container terminal in a European inland harbour (1996: overall container handling 159,049 TEU), and with storage centre, duty free area, car terminal and the head of 3 of Vienna’s harbour associations, it still lives up to its original function as protective and winter harbour. The Alberner Hafen, originally conceived as grain harbour (granary capacity: 90,000t), still plays a major role in corn exports today. The oil harbour Lobau is also a protective and winter harbour for oil tankers and is connected through pipelines

In 1991 the company was divided up with a cargo shipping enterprise and a passenger leisure cruising business and these two private companies still exist.


SS William Tell

See also

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