Fathers are a peculiar species. They tend to recall and regret their mistakes as parents, often overlooking the things they did right. Focused on the grand strategy, our dads rarely suspect the little, spontaneous moments that had a profound impact on our lives.

An early memory I cherish is my father drawing an atom for me at the breakfast table, answering my silly questions and sharing his vision on the future of technology. Later, as my family moved to Lucerne, he often took my brother and me to the Swiss Museum of Transport, wandering through the exhibition halls and explaining how things worked with contagious enthusiasm.

So, if you are wondering how to spark your kid’s curiosity, why not book a trip to the Verkehrshaus? Neither of you will regret it, and here is why.

Paddle Steamer Rigi

Built at the Ditchborn & Mare shipyards in London, the DS Rigi is the world’s oldest remaining flush-deck side-wheeler steamer, as well the oldest existing engine-driven form of transport in Switzerland. She was launched on Lake Lucerne in March 1848, with the primary purpose of transporting goods and animals. Before the construction of Alpine railways, Lake Lucerne was an important stage on the European trade routes from Basel to Milan and from Rotterdam to Genoa. In 1863, when Thomas Cook led his first group of British tourists through the Swiss Alps, the eight travelers crossed the lake on the Rigi.

Swiss Museum of Transport
Paddle Steamer Rigi (Credits: Patrick Hürlimann/Verkehrshaus Luzern)

The museum displays the relic in a fun and interactive way – a water canal with small boats surrounds the ship, so that the more adventurous visitors can climb into a boat and board the steamer by climbing up a ladder. A more conventional entry is offered through a connecting gangway in the museum’s Navigation Hall.

Sulzer Steam Engine

The Navigation Hall also houses the inclined two-cylinder compound steam engine of the paddle steamer DS Pilatus. Built in 1893, this 380-psi steampunk icon kept the Pilatus’ paddles turning until its retirement in 1966. Visitors can see the engine moving every hour.

ship steam engine
Sulzer steam engine at the maritime hall of the Swiss Museum of Transport. (Credits: Dennis Vantage)


Walk through a Belle Époque style paddle steamer salon, while learning how the dawn of steam power transformed entire regions around the Swiss lakes. Light and sound effects take you back on a journey through the Golden Age of industrialization, inventions, and human progress.

Swiss Museum of Transport nautirama
Nautirama (Credits: Verkehrshaus Luzern)

Mésoscaphe Submarine

The Mésoscaphe was designed by Auguste Piccard in 1963, with his son Jacques bringing his father’s design to life in 1964. The historic submarine has completed more than a thousand dives in Lake Geneva and has taken part in marine research expeditions around the world. It is the first and largest submarine ever built for tourism.

Swiss Museum of Transport submarine
Mésoscaphe Submarine at the Swiss Museum of Transport. (Credits: Verkehrshaus Luzern)

Waterways Lock

A moving model of the Birsfelden river lock demonstrates how boats get elevated from one canal to another, overcoming differences in water level.

Waterways lock model. (Credits: Verkehrshaus Luzern)
Waterways lock model. (Credits: Verkehrshaus Luzern)

Paddle Steamer DS Uri

Want to sail on a historic steamer after your visit? As you leave the museum, cross over to the Verkehrshaus Lido quay and board Switzerland’s oldest paddle steamer in operation – DS Uri. In the vessels belly, you can stand by a railing and watch the original 1911 Sulzer steam engine in action. Glass windows on both sides allow passengers to observe two red paddle wheels turn in the water. For those who need a break, the beautiful dining salon on board offers drinks and food. The Uri is the only Swiss paddle steamer that also operates in the winter.

Paddle steamer Uri on Lake Lucerne
Paddle steamer Uri on Lake Lucerne (Credits: Adinda on Wiki Commons)

While this article was focused on the maritime section of the museum, car and train lovers will not be disappointed either. And while I often went there with my father, the museum offers an equally warm welcome to mothers! What is your favorite transport or maritime museum?

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