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Hjälp oss att rädda S/S Orion - behov av ny hamnplats!

S/S Orion, världens äldsta ångbärgningsskepp, står inför en akut situation och behöver en ny kajplats.
Vi vädjar om ert stöd för att bevara denna maritima skatt. Kontakta oss om ni kan hjälpa till eller har förslag på en ny kajplats.

Tips oss - Bo Thorstenson, 070-779 25 79

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Sweden's last steamship ship

In the spring of 1928, the lighthouse engineer J.A. Hultman drawings for the new steam service vessel for the Royal Pilotage Board, decided by the Riksdag.


The ship was built in 1929 at Helsingborgs Varfs AB.


The ship, which measures 32 x 6 meters, has seven cabins, two salons, three fairs, a galley, a shower room and a cargo hold, all in good condition.


The ship was mechanically equipped with a coalfired boiler and seven steam engines, all still in operation. In addition to the main machine of the compound type, there are steam machines for operation of generators, pumps, anchor winches and more.


The ship, classified as a steam rescue ship, is the oldest of its kind that remains today in Sweden.

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The history of the ship

Sweden's last steam salvage ship

The oldest ship of its kind in Sweden.

In the spring of 1928, lighthouse engineer JA Hultman presented drawings for the new steam service vessel decided by the Riksdag to the Royal Pilots Agency. The ship was built in 1929 at Helsingborgs Varfs AB.

The vessel, which measures 32 x 6 meters, has seven cabins, two salons, three messes, galley, shower room and a hold, all in good condition. Mechanically, the ship was equipped with a coal-fired boiler and seven steam engines, all still in operation. In addition to the main engine of the compound type, there are steam engines for operating the generator, pumps and windlass. The ship, classified as a steam salvage ship, is the oldest of its kind that remains in Sweden today.

On the premiere trip in Öresund on October 11, 1929, the ship's seaworthiness was to be tested. This included, among other things, a stability test. During the test, when turning close (maximum) to starboard, the ship lay on its side without the ability to rise again. The vessel was unstable, with insufficient ballast and had to be towed back to the shipyard with a 45 degree list and was close to sinking.

There are parallels with the regal ship Vasa, but then it ended in a disaster. On the premiere trip on April 10, 1628, the ship capsized and sank off Beckholmen after sailing 1,500 meters. Vasa was unstable due to an extra gun deck and insufficient ballast.

Image from Kalmar's maritime museum
Both on sea and lake

S/S Orion was stationed in the Eastern pilot district which stretched from Karlskrona in the south to Trosa in the north and also included Lake Vättern. The ship was therefore built for traffic in Göta Kanal and was given dimensions of 28 x 6 metres. Here she served between 1929 and 1956. The steamer was used as an inspection and work vessel. They inspected lighthouses and pilothouses, worked on laying out and picking up buoys and points in our waterways, gassing lighthouses and carrying out sea surveying. In addition, the ship was helpful to general shipping with, for example, towing and icebreaking. The ship has exceptionally good characteristics in rough seas. The reason is the ship's long, slender shape and the fact that the ship is pointed, i.e. pointed at both ends. The ship shape was common in the late 19th century and the concept was used until the early 1930s but was then abandoned due to high construction costs.


The commander was a pilot director or pilot inspector. In addition, a mate, a machinist, a stoker, a cook and five men served on deck. The master had half the living space, including his own mess. The rest of the crew of nine shared the other half located in the forward part of the ship. The spaces there were separated between commander and crew. There was a partition in the ladder (stairs) down to the cabin deck, so that officers and crew would not have to meet on the way to or from the cabins. In addition, they had separate fairs where they took their meals. The hierarchy on board meant that the captain did not communicate directly with the crew, but this happened through the officers and the commander being unrestricted rulers on board.

In the Swedish Maritime Journal from 1928, where the ship's construction was presented for the first time, you can read about how the cabins were designed depending on the user's status on board. The captain's cabin was built in mahogany, the commander's cabin in veneered oak, while the crew had to make do with pine.

A sailor was always placed in the chain box when the anchor chain was winched on board. The chain tube was incorrectly designed and the chain went like a cone under the tube until it was blocked. A man therefore had to constantly help push the chain to the side in the chain box. Sometimes it happened that he got the heavy chain across his chest and his shrill voice could then echo in the chain tube: "Stop the hell!" whereupon the game was stopped.

S/S Orion during WWII

At the end of World War II, the Swedish Navy practiced in Stockholm's southern archipelago with, among other things, submarines. For an unknown reason, the S/S Orion accidentally entered a restricted area and ended up in the middle of a torpedo exercise. According to information from a former commander in the fleet, at the time a newly appointed commander of a submarine, a serious incident then occurred. A violent torpedo explosion caused the S/S Orion to heel heavily and disaster was imminent. The ship managed, however, and was nevertheless able to proceed under its own engine. The crew received minor injuries but were badly shocked. A lot of work then followed in clearing up the devastation on board. What caused the command of the S/S Orion not to be informed of the cancellation is to this day shrouded in obscurity and the whole thing was hushed up. The commander wishes to remain anonymous.​

Inspection of lighthouses and pilothouses

The sailor Lars Boman tells in memory notes from the late 1930s about how an inspection of a pilot station could go. The pilot then assembled the crew standing on the hold hatch. Orders had previously stated that overalls and uniforms should be impeccable, i.e. freshly washed and freshly ironed. The inspection at the pilot site was the event of the year. The pilot-in-command had lined up his staff in good time, who were freshly combed and dressed in freshly pressed uniforms in honor of the day. The flight director began his visit by solemnly greeting the staff. Installations, storerooms and residential buildings were then checked. If flaws were found, the criticism was not merciful and in some cases could end with immediate dismissal. So it was a matter of being prepared and making sure everything was in order and that everything was in accordance with the established inventory list. One of our visitors who researched the history of the pilotage agency told us about a chief pilot who served as the ship's commander. He spent more time drinking coffee with the pilots' wives than inspecting the stores.


Chef's status on board

One of the more legendary cooks, "Big Erik", who served on the ship in the late 40's was so fat that he was more or less stuck in the galley (kitchen). He therefore rarely or never left his post to the great delight of the rest of the crew.

He also tells about an incident when the chef was not very good at it. On steamships, steam is used for cooking. A steam pipe is placed in a special steam vessel. Coffee is also brewed this way. The steam was produced in the ship's boiler and filtered to remove any residual oil.


Sometimes it was a little so and so with the change of this filter. On this occasion, the crew discovered an oil film in the morning coffee. This day the chef was not popular and close to the so-called plank…

SS Orion kock

Getting along well with the cook is a well-documented skill among ship's crew. On the S/S Orion he was treated with status and respect and, according to the staff, was the highest in rank after the captain. A good contact with him could mean extra nursing in the form of a sandwich or coffee between the planned meals, which was of course very welcome.

Work with life as an effort

The development of buoys and hatching made the old steamship increasingly obsolete over time. Heavier buoys showed that the ship was too tall and the work sometimes became dangerous for the crew. The winch boom was designed to lift three tons with a single block.

In order to increase the capacity of the winch in step with the increasingly heavy buoys, the boom was reinforced and the wire was replaced with several blocks, and the lifting force was thereby increased to five tons. However, this had consequences for the ship's stability. Olle Pettersson, former chief engineer on board, has said that they took off until the ship tilted so that the water was up to the deck. That meant an almost 45 degree tack and a critical position for the ship.


The ship was stationed in Holmsund during the late fifties. A guest working during the summer tells about an unforgettable summer. At one point, you would set out a dot at a foundation. To find the place, they had no other means than hand soldering. A weight on a string was thrown into the water and the depth could be read using markings on a line. After hand-soldering all morning, the location was determined and the buoy and dot were set out on the ground, after which they returned to Holmsund for the night.


The next day, the site of the puncture would be inspected to see that everything was in order. As they approached the dot, a crash was heard and the whole ship shook. The dot was misplaced and the Royal Pilots Agency steamship became the first vessel to run aground due to incorrect dotting. The ship received a good indentation on the starboard side but fortunately no leakage. After removing the foundation, the damage was repaired by pouring concrete into the area on the inside, after which the ship had to visit a shipyard for repairs.

Increasingly toothless

The steam-driven winch on board, due to the increasingly heavy buoys, became obsolete and literally increasingly toothless. A serious incident occurred in the spring of 1955. At the time, they were working on laying out light buoys in the St. Anna archipelago. A buoy hanging from the winch boom suddenly began to slide downwards. A sailor discovered this and threw himself on the band brake of the steam winch to arrest the fall. However, the brake did not have sufficient capacity for the heavy buoy and in a desperate attempt to stop the fall, the winch lock was engaged, the one normally only allowed to be used to block a stationary winch drum. The result was that four cast iron tines in the drum were planed off before it finally stopped.


Again an example of the ancient equipment of the old steamer that could not cope with the demands of the new age.
Wicked tongues claimed that the Royal Lottery Authority had two accounts. One account intended for renovation and maintenance, there was any amount of money, the other intended for new purchases and that account was completely empty of funds. Absurdity was entertained.

The Swedish state's scandal ship

Life on board was not only marked by a strict distinction between commander and crew. It was also a working and living environment that attracted strong criticism. People lived cramped and the sanitary facilities were of a very low standard.


In the newspaper columns in the early fifties, you could read about the "Swedish state's scandal ship". The writings were about the substandard standard of cabins and sanitary facilities on board the S/S Orion. The whole thing finally led to the Minister of Communications taking up the matter in the Riksdag in the spring of 1954. There eventually a decision was made to replace the aged steamer S/S Orion with a more modern vessel, which took place in 1956.


His Majesty the King Carl XVI Gustaf with adjutant and court marshal paid an official visit on board S/S Orion on 12 April 2003.


His Majesty the King's visit was planned for five minutes but the King's interest in the project meant that he stayed for 15 minutes. Which we are very proud of. 

His Majesty the King is also a major contributor to the project of restoring the ship to its original condition.

Furthermore, we can mention the Chief Superintendent at the Royal Palace, Agneta Lundström, who honored us with her visit.

The governor of Stockholm County, Mats Hellström, visited us on April 17, 2004. He was so impressed that he chose to become a member of the association.


On April 16, 2005, we were able to enjoy another official visit when the first speaker of the Riksdag, Björn von Sydow, visited the ship.

On June 5, 2007, the ship was visited by the Minister of Culture Lena Adelsohn Liljeroth, Department Secretary Erik Wahlström and Business Director Christer Asplund. The Minister of Culture was very positive about the association's efforts to ensure maritime cultural heritage and the commitment to young people.

During the spring of 2009, we were visited by the municipal management for the city of Stockholm. The entire presidium and city council in finance, environment and culture were invited to a viewing. Furthermore, we were also able to enjoy a visit from opposition councilor Carin Jämtin.

Some visitors who made a big impression are Sven-Bertil Taube, who with stories from his own past as a sailor and with his great charisma excited us all.


As well as Tommy Körberg who visited S/S Orion which was incredibly nice.

Bengt Feldreich has also visited. This is to mention some of the more famous faces that have visited the S/S Orion.

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Among other visitors who made a big impression, we can mention an elderly woman who visited the ship in the spring of 1995. Suddenly she was standing there, balancing on the gangway. The lady was helped with gentle hands on board. At first you might think it was a generally confused lady who couldn't find her home but the truth would soon be revealed. The soon-to-be 90-year-old lady said that she had sailed on several occasions with the S/S Orion, then in the capacity of the pilot's wife. She spoke with great reverence and enthusiasm about the experience of gliding through the Swedish archipelago with the steamboat's noiseless and vibration-free movement. She went on to say how much she disliked the new ship that would later replace the S/S Orion. A diesel-smelling and shaky experience that over time she completely refrained from sailing with. 

The ghost ship

The S/S Orion is haunted off and on by a deceased captain who served on the ship in the late thirties. At night, his steps have been perceived from the bridge. Faint sounds from the machine telegraph have also been heard. It is also rumored that one of the chefs who died on board under unclear circumstances is going again. Sludge from copper pans has been perceived at night and some have told that they smelled a faint food smell.


On April 22, 2022, a visitor on the ship saw that the toilet door in the captain's salon was suddenly opened and then closed, this was also heard by Captain Bosse. He opened the door and the room turned out to be empty.

Orion according to Greek mythology

According to Greek mythology, Orion was a skilled hunter, the son of Poseidon, the god of the sea. When he died, he was lifted by Zeus into the firmament and made into a constellation. The constellation Orion is characterized by Orion's belt, three stars that make up the belt around the hunter's waist. In Sweden, Orion is visible during the winter months.


The association - S/S Orion

Project S/S Orion's friends was formed in 1992. Through the association's creation, a wide contact network has been able to be built up, which has contributed to making the naval history project possible.

Goal setting

The goal is that the management of the museum ship S/S Orion will in the future be transferred to a foundation in order to secure the steamship's continued maintenance and operation. This foundation, whose name is Orion af Stockholm, will then be managed by a board with its seat in Stockholm. The steamship was K-marked in 2003 by the Norwegian Maritime Museum.

Do you want to join the association?

Deposit the membership fee of SEK 100 Plusgirot: 57 20 27-1 and send information about name, telephone number and address to

Sights at Skeppsholmen

All members and other interested parties are always welcome on board for a visit to the historic steamship.
S/S Orion is north of the Skeppsholm bridge. 

Welcome omboard!

Youth activities 

S/S Orion's Friends conducts non-profit activities with the aim of meeting the needs of socially vulnerable young people for support and personal development. The operations on the K-marked steamship S/S Orion provide an environment where youth and even adults can grow as people; both professionally by learning crafts and socially by providing a safe environment free from racism, bullying, and drugs.



Historical articles