S/S Mariefred’s history
When s/s Mariefred made her maiden voyage along the Stockholm–Mariefred route on 14 April 1903, Lake Mälaren and the Stockholm archipelago was served by several hundred passenger steamships all operating different sea routes. S/S Mariefred was just one of a whole host of steamships serving the different jetties and communities.
S/S Mariefred was, in the same way as other steamships, not only intended for passenger traffic. The steamships were also cargo vessels which transported goods such as milk, vegetables, fruit and farm produce from the farms around the Mälardalen region to the capital, Stockholm.
With the merger of two competing shipping companies, Gripsholms-Mariefreds Ångfartygs AB (GMÅA) was formed. It is still today the same shipping company.
Back in the 1920s, GMÅA started to sense serious competition from cars, buses and lorries. During the rest of the 1930s, more and more shipping companies closed down and the once so proud ‘Mälarflottan’ fleet of boats on Mälaren shrunk significantly year by year as boats were sold, rebuilt or scrapped. The Second World War’s rationing of fuel and rubber restricted road transportation and inland shipping once again became important. The shipping company could for the first time in 15 years show a surplus on its annual report.
After the Second World War the era of the steamship was well and truly over. S/S Mariefred continued to traffic Mälaren’s waters but its economic situation remained insecure. There were fewer and fewer steamships with passenger traffic on Mälaren and during the summer of 1963 there was suddenly no other steamship still operating. S/S Mariefred was the last one standing – the final representative of the once so vast fleet of goods and passenger steamships on Mälaren.
During the early 1960s, the few remaining steamships, including s/s Mariefred on Mälaren and some steamships in the Stockholm archipelago, began to gain increasing attention. In 1966, the archipelago boat association, a newly founded non-profit association with ambitions to support and maintain the remaining steamships, took a majority shareholding in GMÅA. The association lacked the necessary capital to run a steamship service, but showed commitment, will and ambition that more than compensated. Despite these setbacks, the steamship continued to serve the Stockholm–Mariefred route under its new owners.
The steamship was damaged in a fire in the spring of 1980, but just two months later it was back in full service! Two years later, the steamship’s steam boiler needed to be changed. The original boiler from 1903 was replaced by a newly manufactured one and this brought with it new costs – costs that could however be covered mostly by the help of voluntary collections and non-profit making efforts.
The steamship was once again damaged in a fire caused by a gas explosion on board on the night of 8 May 1994, during which the dining room on the upper deck and parts of the main deck were damaged. Once again it was clear just how important voluntary efforts were for getting it back in working order again, which took eight weeks and approximately one and half million Swedish kronor in costs. S/S Mariefred was renovated at a shipyard at Beckholmen in Stockholm, where the association established a business for steamship renovations.
On 2 July, s/s Mariefred ran its first tour of 1994 to Mariefred after being rebuilt following the fire, and this is how the journey was described in the shipping company’s 90-year anniversary publication: “It was a fantastic experience to see the welcome the steamship received from the crowds, reminiscent of the welcome in 1903, 1980, 1983 and 1993. But the welcome on 2 July 1994 is seen by many to be the greatest moment in the steamship’s 91-year history. Thousands of residents from Mariefred, all of whom had contributed to its rebuilding, applauded when their boat returned back to its home harbour. After many trials and tribulations the steamship could once again return to serve her waters, just as she has done every summer since 1903.”