Postcard with Ship from

the Swedish Lake and Channel system

Two seas, a river, three canals, eight lakes and sixty-six locks

Also unique is the waterway, the Göta Canal. This is one of the world's most remarkable building achievements, a 190 km canal dug almost entirely by hand. Our journey takes you right across Sweden, through two seas, a river, three canals, eight lakes and sixty-six locks.

The boats were designed specifically to fit the locks, which allow a maximum length of 32 m, a beam of 7 m and a draught of 2.82 m. A long time ago, steam power gave way to diesel engines. The boats fulfil today’s stringent laws on maritime safety. The sanitary arrangements have been modernised and closed tanks installed to protect the environment. The original design of the steamers has, however, been preserved, together with their traditional atmosphere. Each steamer has a crew of 12.
Posters on postcard from AB Gota Kanals archive

Route: Gothenburg - Stockholm - Gothenburg

All 3 ship in Trollhattan, first JUNO, second WILHELM TAMM and third DIANA.

M/S Juno

The dean of the canal boats, "Juno" is named for the patron goddess of marriage and motherhood. She was built in 1874 at the Motala Werkstad in Motala. The intent was to call her "Darwin" to honour the English scientist, but some of the shareholders objected and Juno was the compromise choice. As a direct result of this, many of the company's subsequent ships were also named after gods. At first the boat was painted black with a white line around the deck and square windows. She had a single cabin on the upper deck and the long, thin funnel typical of the times. In 1904 the boat was thoroughly rebuilt at Motala Werkstad and in 1956 she was fitted with two diesel engines. Her current profile dates to 1963 and today she is the world's oldest registered boat with overnight cabins.



M/S Wilhelm Tham

The next oldest of the steamship company's boats is the "Wilhelm Tham", named after the industrialist and CEO of Husqvarna Weapons Factory from 1876-1911. Built at the Motala Werkstad as well, she was launched in 1912 and was one of three boats named to honour three of the area's living native sons. The other two were Victor Rydberg and Per Brahe. She became part of the steamship company in the fusion with Ångbåts Aktiebolaget Jönköping-Stockholm in 1914, was extended and given her current profile in 1961 at the Falkenberg Shipyard. One of the measures was to move her bridge forward under the mast, thus doubling the number of cabins. The steam engine was replaced by diesel in 1965.


M/S Diana

The combined passenger and freight boat, the M/S Diana was delivered to the Angbats AB Jonkoping - Stockholm on March 15, 1931. Built at the Finnboda Shipyard in Stockholm, she had been ordered in anticipation of a wave of Swedish-American guests during the Tercentenary Celebration and was built to travel the Göta Canal in scheduled traffic between Stockholm and Gothenburg. Named after the goddess of the hunt and chastity, she was Sweden's last steamship in regular canal service. It was not until 1969 that the steam engine was replaced by a diesel one and in 1975, the boat received its current profile. In 1987 efforts to pump her dry failed and the boat sank at the quay in Trollhättan, was condemned and then returned to the Steamship Company. It was decided to totally renovate her, to reduce the number of cabins and outfit other areas of the boat for meetings of various types. One result was that the dining-room and the lounge were made into one large room.



Facts about the boats



Wilhelm Tham






Registration no.




Signal letters








Speed, knots




Engine, hp




Gross tonnage




Length, m




Beam, m




Draught, m




No. of berths




No. of cabins




The History

Motala Ströms Ångfartygs Aktiebolag (current Rederi AB Göta Kanal) was formed in February 27 1869 at Motala Werkstads Wärdshus. It was at the initiative of the then captain of the cargo vessels MOTALA STRÖM, Captain Erik Bernhard Thorsell. Until 1860, was the Göta Canal a major way for the passenger - and freight services between Gothenburg and Stockholm, but when Västra Stambanan (railway) was completed in 1862,many channel ship owners belived that they would lose their passengers.
They sold in panic, their vessels to some extent mitigate their alleged losses.

Thorsell, however, had his own ideas and submitted them to the principal owner, L. Ringborg in Norrköping, to change the ship to a combined cargo - passenger ships.
Ringborg did not want to take these measures, considering them not be economically feasible. He therefore sold the vessel to Thorsell for a sum of 32 000 rdl. rmt. During the winter of 1868-69 there was installed a new machine at Motala Werkstad, while the ship was fitted with 48 cabins, divided into 20 first, 16 second and 12 third class passengers in addition to the deckpassenger.

1871 There was built a new vessel named after the Göta canal creator BALTZAR VON PLATEN. In 1872, it was time to reinforce the fleet. Two new ships were ordered for a sum of 115 000 rdr. rmt. each. Proposals had been put forward in the Board that the new vessels would be renamed to THIERS and DARWIN. Protests were raised by some shareholders, why the name was changed to VENUS delivered in 1873 and JUNO delivered in 1874.

1873 had the Company four vessels of which one would be delivered 1874. The Board's headquarters were moved to Stockholm.

But the 70 - century also meant a few years of economic decline. At 1874 a explosion at the company's Nitroglycerin plant in Vinterviken, destroyed BALTZAR VON PLATEN. Since the vessel was not insured costs were severe. To this there was a number of minor accidents on the other ships.

The Board was in 1876 in the situation that the company's liabilities, by accident, due loans, etc., were closer to 150,000 rdr. rmt. It therefore took the decision that VENUS and JUNO would be sold to cover the costs.

In order to streamline procurement of goods to the vessels, encuoraged commanders, to get a capable officer, so that they would have more time for goods procurement.
Despite advertising, in booth, Swedish, Danish, Norwegian and Finnish newspapers were there no bids on VENUS and JUNO.

Captain Erik Bernhard Thorsell proved again to be the strong man. With the energetic and farsighted leadership recovered confidence in the company and already 1877 is proposed, to purchase an additional boat, namely WADSTENA.
In 1885 was order laid for two new ships, which was named PALLAS and CERES.

In 1887 was formed in Stockholm, a competitor, which was named the Göta Kanal Trafik AB. The company ordered at Lindholmen shipyard in Gothenburg three cargo steamers, all delivered in 1887. They got the name GÖTA KANAL I, GÖTA KANAL II and GÖTA KANAL III. Ångfartygsaktiebolaget Motala Ström call on the new company and in 1888 it was decided that Göta Kanal Transport AB purchased Ångfartygs Aktiebolaget Motala Ström. A last steamer DELFIN was purchased and renamed GÖTA KANAL IV and in the same year came also the cargo steamer GÖTA KANAL V.

In March 1888 the Company name was changed to Ångfartygs AB Göta Canal. The Company had eleven ships in service. Combined passenger and cargo ships were: MOTALA STRÖM, BALTZAR VON PLATEN, VENUS, JUNO, CERES and PALLAS.
Cargo vessels were: GÖTA KANAL I, II, III and V in iron and GÖTA KANAL IV of wood.
GÖTA KANAL I, III, and V were sold in 1889 to Argentina.

On February 28, 1894 had the Company operated in 25 years. On August 17, 1900 the company founder Erik Bernhard Thorsell died.

In the new century's first decade we can follow the company's development, alternating with business cycles and weather changes. The powerful advertising abroad helped to make Sweden the attention as a tourist country. The Company also has a significant cargo fleet of their lines on the channel ports, Norrköping, Stockholm and  Lake Mälaren ports. Year after year, increased traffic and filled well its role as a link between east and west coast and inland the needs of export and import goods.

1914 First World War breaks out, and as a result, it had passenger traffic on the company's ships almost ceased. Freight transport is decreased.
Coal prices had increased from kr. 1:50 to kr. 2:30 per hectolitre and machine oil by 50 percent. In view of this company have to raise freight rates by 50 percent.

In the same situation was Ångbåts Aktiebolaget Jönköping - Stockholm. They were obliged, in order to survive, to expand its service to trades where Ångf. AB Göta Canal have been alone. In order to avoid an unwanted competition the two Company merger to one. In this Ångf. AB Göta Kanal controlled the shipping traffic in central Sweden. At the same time, the Company took over all five vessels: passenger vessels, WILHELM THAM, VIKTOR RYDBERG, PER BRAHE and PRIMUS and cargo vessels TYRA.

In 1915 the channel traffic boosted because of the uncertain conditions prevailing in the Baltic Sea, dicharged the ocean-going ships its goods in Gothenburg.
This goods was carried on through the Göta Canal on the company's vessels. The company had now 14 vessels, but it proved to be insufficient to carry all goods offered. Therefore they hired five vessels for freight, JOHN ERICSON and VETTERN I, two heavy cargo vessels, and ODEN, ALFHILD and CG.

In 1918 the majority of shareholders had passed into other hands. A consortium with the shipowner Dan Broström and Commander Hans Ericson had acquired most of the stock.
1919 the funnel mark was changed to its current appearance: white ribbon, yellow shield with blue wave-line. 1923 the company consisted of seven passenger ship, and twelve cargo ship.

Faced with the upcoming 1930 - rate was good. According to estimates as expected, that the Swedish - American tourist would come in rather high numbers. Faced with this there was ordered a new ship at Finnboda yards. The new ship was christened DIANA and delivered in 1931.

1939 Second World War erupted. The days before when the situation pointed to everything else was nervous for the foreign tourists. One of the big interests were on board, was the Swedish radio news bulletins and many of the foreign passengers were worried about whether they would get home. On September 1, 1939 war was a fact. Already in the summer had foreign canceled reservations and passenger season was shortened. Cargo traffic was brisk why all ships entered that traffic.

During 1940 the company's all passenger-ship was laid up, then it was not considered worthwhile to equip them and bring them into traffic.

From travel agencys requests for passenger traffic on the Göta Canal began. The company hesitated in the longest, but decided that a boat would be put into service on trial. DIANA was equipped and put into service in 1941. The number of passengers exceeded all expectations. It showed that demand for tickets was greater than the availability of places, so already in 1942 they equipped also WILHELM THAM and ASTREA.

1945 was BALTZAR VON PLATEN, CERES and PALLAS sold to Norway. They served first as accomodat ships in Oslo harbor, later participated in the salvage of the German battle ship TIRPITZ, which was sunk at Tromsø 1944.

Since the end of the war there was a call for an improvement in the company, but rising coal prices and increased costs for ship repair appeared in the opposite direction.
Rederi AB Svea, who had taken over the Broström Group's shares in the Company, endorsed in 1947 the entire shareholding of a newly formed consortium, mainly consisting of sea captains in the Company.

When these lacked the required capital for the proceeds, the share capital was reduced from 1 100 000 SEK to 275 000 SEK
The company's cash and bank deposits, over 400 000 SEK, was used for repayment to the shareholders. Company activities during a dozen years forward with relatively high losses.

Then the difficulties encountered could not overcome was decided that the shipping company, in 1951, would go into liquidation. Among other things, informed the Stockholms Enskilda Bank, that the conditions for continued financial assistance was, as the Executive Director and the Board put its seats available. In the last moment was the majority shareholder of a few individuals who wanted to save this unique tourist attraction for Sweden. Director was Alf Tuneld which with interest went in for its task. The five passenger vessels was left, JUNO, ASTREA, ARIADNE, WILHELM THAM and DIANA, were equipped. The Cargo vessels was sold and now it would only be passenger traffic for four months each year.

It proved to be a successful approach. Tourist flows to and economic growth showed a positive trend.
So did a few years during good and calm behave. When the rejoicing at the Company during 1953 could show a smaller profit, decided's to purchase a smaller passenger ships for day-traffic. GÖTALAND was deployed on the route Jönköping - Bergs locks. Unfortunately, it was a bad business, because of that the conversion of the ship was too expensive.

Mid 50 - century was unusually lively, summer weather was beautiful and passenger traffic on the canal was a small operating profit. In 1956 pointed a series of accidents that the company again got into financial difficulties. Company debt is now approaching a million and cash was missing. Additional boats was sold, ASTREA and ARIADNE, but the total sales were used to cover mortgages on the vessels. 1957 the Company was into bankruptcy.
Now there was a high risk that the ships would go to the auction, they would be allayed, which in turn would mean that the channel traffic story would be ended.

Shipowners Helge Källsson in Lidköping submitted an offer to the administrator that the felt that it could accept. For Thun Company's behalf, he send in a tender for the ship JUNO, WILHELM THAM and DIANA and the company name was changed to Rederi Aktiebolaget Göta Kanal. The vessels were re-built and the passengers pouring again.

1980 - century was marked by the quick clips and carefree monetary transactions. None of this came to the company's behalf. Thunrederiet began now seriously thinking of selling the unprofitable parts of the Group. It was in the middle of the 80 - century, a few foreign stakeholders who wanted to buy the shipping company. But Helge Källsson hesitated, his basic position was that the shipping company to all parts would be Swedish, and that it would remain.

First, the bid was going to BritMari Brax, which fully shared her father's approach and saw it as an ideological issue that a company would be retained in the Swedish registrants.
In 1986 came BritMari Brax as sole owner and managing director of the Company. The vessels were re build eith a new interior to meet the high demands put on them. The foreign agent network received a much-needed overhaul, and the foreign representatives were to experience a better and more intensive marketing in their respective countries
Autumn 2000 BritMari Brax sold the Company to Strömma Turism och Sjöfart AB and the new Managing director was Björn Neckman.

The text is taken from the book; Med Göta kanal  på Göta Kanal.

Facts about the other ships





Primus Venus


1858 1871 1855 1885 1876 1873

Registration no.

1838 1860 1833 1835 1909 1834

Signal letters



Motala Werkstad, Motala # 65 Motala Werkstad, Motala # 147 Motala Werkstad, Norrkoping. # 51 Motala Werkstad, Motala.
# 367
Motala Werkstad, Motala.
# 248
Motala Werkstad, Motala.
# 195

Speed, knots


Engine, hp

70 50 30 200 200 240

Gross tonnage

208 249 393 256 242 267

Length, m

31,74 29,70 29,42 29,28 29,40 29,59

Beam, m

6,55 6,67 6,72 6,72 6,65 6,72

Draught, m

2,82 2,53 2,67 2,50 2,85 2,78

No. of berths


No. of cabins



at Vadstena Castle

 1854-11-22 Ordered by Wadstena Ångfartygsbolag, Vadstena at Motala Werkstad, Motala ( 65) for delivery 1856.
  1858 Delivered by Motala Verkstad as WADSTENA to Wadstena Ångfartygsbolag, Vadstena.
  1877 Sold to Motala Ströms Ångfartygs AB. In traffic Stockholm - Göteborg via Göta Canal.
  1887 Rebuild and renamed ARBOGA II. In night traffic Stockholm - Arboga.
  1888 Motala Ströms Ångfartygs AB changed name to Ångfartygs AB Göta Kanal.
  1889 Rebuild at Långholmens varv, Stockholm. Renamed ASTREA and back in traffic on Göta Canal.
  1899 New steamengine from Bergsunds mekaniska verkstad fitted (70 hk, 51 kW).
  1911-05-11 Sold to Ångfartygs AB Bore, Åbo, Finland and renamed DELET. In traffic Åbo - Mariehamn.
  1916-05-03 Rekvirerad av kejserliga ryska marinen. Återlämnas på hösten.
  1917-04-16 Sold to Arthur Lindblad, Åbo, Finland.
  1917-04-21 Sold to Mainio Erland Grönroos, Åbo.
  1919-12-09 Sold to Lovisa Ångfartygs AB, Lovisa, Finland. In traffic Helsingfors - Lovisa - Viborg.
  1921-04-22 Renamed to ULRIKA.
  1923-03-20 Sold to Ångfartygs AB Kusten, Åbo, Finland and renamed DELET. Rebuild. New tonnage: 315 grt, 108 nrt. In traffic Åbo - Mariehamn.
  1937-11-25 Grounded at Sottunga, Åland on a voyage Åbo - Mariehamn. Left on the ground over winter.
  1938-04-24 Refloated and towed to Åbo for inspection. Condemned and sold to Dalsbruk to be broken up.


at Vadstena Castle
(Postcard from 1912)
1870-04 Ordered by Motala Ströms Ångfartygs AB.
  1871 Delivered from Motala Werkstad as BALTZAR VON PLATEN to Motala Ströms Ångfartygs AB, Motala.
  1874-05 An explosion at the company's Nitroglycerin plant in Vinterviken, Stockholm destroyed BALTZAR VON PLATEN. Since the vessel was not insured costs were severe. Rebuild and renovated. Repair cost 67.000 SEK.
  1880 New steamengine from Bergsunds mekaniska verkstad, Stockholm fitted (175 ihp, 129 kW.
  1888 Motala Ströms Ångfartygs AB change name to Ångfartygs AB Göta Kanal.
  1946-02 Sold to Oslo Kommune, Oslo, Norge for 45.000 SEK. Rebuild at Lödöse varv, Sweden to a accomodate ship.
  ? Sold to Høvding Skipsopphuggning, Sandessjøn, Norway.
  1954 Scrapped at Tromsø, Norway.

at the locks in Trollhattan

1855 Delivered by Motala Warf, Norrköping as MOTALA STRÖM to Norrköpings Kanalångfartygsbolag, Norrköping.  In traffic on Göta Canal.
  1868 Sold to Captain E B Thorsell for 37.000 rdr rmt.
  1869-02-27 Thorsell establish the company Motala Ströms Ångfartygs AB, Motala with the ship. Rebuild at Motala Werkstad from general cargo ship to a combined cargo- and passenger-ship for 32.000 rdr rmt. New steamengine installed.
  1872 Rebuild. Foredeck built in at by Lindholmens Varf, Goteborg
  1881 New steamengine from Bergsunds mekaniska verkstad, Stockholm (180 ihp, 132 kW), installed.
  1888 Motala Ströms Ångfartygs AB change name to Ångfartygs AB Göta Kanal.
  1891 Rebuild.
  1906 Rebuild.
  1937-05 Sold to AB Lödöse Varv to be broken up. Laid up at the yard.
  ? Sold to K J Rebensdorff, Göteborg.
  1944 Moved to Göteborgs Mekaniska Verkstad, Göteborg. Rebuild to a open barge.
  1945-07 Sold to Sand & Grus AB Jehander, Stockholm and renamed JEHANDER IX. Name later changed to JEHANDER 9.
  1969-07 Sold to Lars Jonasson, Väddö for 200 SEK and renamed DJURÖN II.
  1974-09 Sold to K G A Ljungh, Stockholm.
  1974-09 Sold to Mo Do Cell AB, Husum.
  1976 Damaged and scrapped.
  1987 Deleted from the Swedish ship-register.

On the left from a 1904 Postcard, on the right at Brinkebergs Locks, Vänersborg.

  1885 Delivered by Motala Verkstad as PALLAS to Motala Ströms Ångfartygs AB, Stockholm.
  1888 Motala Ströms Ångfartygs AB change name to Ångfartygs AB Göta Kanal.
  1925 Rebuild at Eriksbergs Mekaniska Verkstad, Göteborg.
  1939 Laid up at Lödöse varv.
  1946-02 Sold to Oslo Kommune, Oslo, Norway för 45.000 SEK. Rebuild at Lödöse varv to a accomodation ship.
  ? Sold to Høvding Skipsopphuggning, Sandessjøn, Norway.
  1956-11-06 Sunk after a fire on board.
  1958 Refloated and scrapped at Sandessjøn, Norway.


at Göta Kanal
  1876 Delivered by Motala Verkstad as PRIMUS to C F Nordh, Motala. Building cost 120.000 SEK.
  1878 Sold to Ångfartygs AB Primus, Jönköping, Sweden.
  1888 Transferred to Jönköpings Förenade Ångfartygs AB, Jönköping, Sweden.
  1899-01 Sold to Ångbåts AB Jönköping - Stockholm, Jönköping, Sweden.
  1914 Ångbåts AB Jönköping - Stockholm merged with Ångfartygs AB Göta Kanal.
  1937 Rebuild and renamed ARIADNE.
  1940 Laid up.
  1944 Back in traffic.
When passing the lock at Hajstorp, the vessel cant´t stop the engine and run straight into the lock gate. The ship diden´t get any damage, but the lock gates damaged so severely that all traffic on the Göta channel was stopped for a long time.
  1956-09 Sold to Koehlbrand Werft, Paul Berendsohn, Hamburg, West Germany for 65.000 SEK to be broken up.

in the entrance at Forsvik locks

  1872 Ordered by Motala Ströms Ångfartygs AB. Building cost 115.000 rdr rmt.
  1873-07 Delivered by Motala Verkstad as VENUS to Motala Ströms Ångfartygs AB, Stockholm.
  1880-12 On T/C during the winter to Stockholms City to be used as a icebreaker between Stockholm - Sandhamn.
  1888 Motala Ströms Ångfartygs AB Change name to Ångfartygs AB Göta Kanal.
  1918-11 Sold to Rederi AB Kristinehamnstrafik, Kristinehamn for 70.000 SEK. Laid up in Göta älv off Götaverken, Göteborg.
  1923-02 Sold to Fritz Forsman, Stockholm for 7.000 SEK to be usead as a accomodation ship.
  1928 Stricken from the Swedish ship register.
Södertelje Kanal
The narrow fairway through Södetälje has since early times had an enormous importance for the towns around lake Mälaren. Ancient towns like Birka, Sigtuna and Helgö by. This was the fastest route between lake Mälaren and the sea.
The Vikings and their ancestors knew the art of pulling ships on rolls over land and had to use that technic when land elevation made the passage here too shallow.
King Engelbrekt is supposed to be the father of this canal as he during the 15th century ordered a number of clearings and dredgings here. However these works were never completed. During the reign of king Karl XI a canal was built between lake Maren and Saltskogsfjärden. This canal fell in decay and soon it was too shallow, but it was not until 1806 works started for a new canal with lock. The works this time were led by Erik Nordewall and they were finished in 1819. This time the whole fairway from Linabay in lake Mälaren to Igelstabay in the Baltic sea was properly prepared.
This canal worked well, but as ships were built bigger and bigger it soon got to narrow and shallow. In the first decades of the 20th century several surveys were made about an enlargement of the canal. The proposed enlargements were made in the 1920ies. The lock built then is still in use and it it the biggest lock in the Scandinavian countries.
During the 1970ies the canal was further widened and deepend.
Lenght 5,2 Kilometers
Locks 1
Total elevation max 1,2 meters
Max lengths of ship 135 meters
Max beam of ship 19 meters
Max draft of ship 7 meters
Max free heights of ship 40,5 meters

Read more here in English:

Passenger steamer PALLAS passing the railway bridge.
(Postcard from around 1906)