mardi 13 avril 2010

Bateau à roues à aubes Major-Davel (1892) dans le port de Genève

Un bateau à roues à aubes (paddle steamer) est un bateau à vapeur à fond plat et à faible tirant

Vapeur à roues à aubes de la CGN Major-Davel (1892) sortant du port de Genève (collection agence Adhémar)

"Progressivement, les services de navigation vont devoir composer avec l'avènement des chemins de fer et l'afflux important des touristes dans toute la région lémanique. La flotte de la CGN devra donc chercher sans cesse à s'agrandir en assurant le meilleur confort aux voyageurs et une desserte irréprochable. La CGN passera plusieurs commandes à Escher, Wyss & Cie de Zurich : tout d'abord un bateau-salon aux emménagements luxueux et de dimensions alors inégalées, Mont-Blanc II (1875), puis plusieurs petites unités pour les services de cabotage ainsi qu'un deuxième bateau à deux ponts muni de l'éclairage électrique, France (1886), enfin un demi-salon rapide, Major-Davel (1892)" Voir historique de la Compagnie Générale de Navigation sur le lac Léman (CGN). Major-Davel sera vendu en 1969 puis après de nombreuses péripéties qui ne parvinrent pas à le sauver, détruit en 1990.

Major Davel was the last Geneva steamer to be built by Escher Weiss of Zurich, being delivered in 1892. She pleased her owners with her speed of 25 km/hr combined with good fuel economy. Major Davel was the last half-saloon steamer built for the lake. In 1926 she received major revisions to her half-saloon, and a smoking saloon was added in front of the bridge. She was out of use during the Second War, returning to service in 1947. In the early 1960s, she operated in the Haut-Lac. It was decided in 1966 that she would be withdrawn, but ran a 75 Years anniversary cruise in 1967. Her navigation licence expired in February 1968. However, in 1969, Major Davel was sold for use as a club house in Port-Ripaille, where she was moved in 1970, stripped of her engines. The project fell through, and Major Davel was moved to Thonon, where she suffered badly due to vandalism. The town of Thonon became owners in 1975. Her condition deteriorated over the years, but attempts were made to save her in the late 1980s. An application to have her classed as an ancient monument (as happened to the funicular in nearby Evian) was lodged with the Ministry of Culture, and Major Davel was moved to the CGN yard in Ouchy in October 1989 to await a response. Unfortunately this was negative, so the last surviving half-saloon Geneva steamer was taken to Bouveret for demolition in 1990.