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Old 02-21-2008, 01:17 PM
Join Date: Nov 2007
Location: Ashland City, TN (near Cheatham Lock)
Posts: 44
Default Article in Local Newspaper

After many diversions, interruptions, and life-matters in general, I finally found time to write my article about the DQ, which will appear in my local newspaper (middle Tennessee area) early next week.

Since its publication is on a non-exclusive basis (i.e., any paper or person can publish it with my permission), I am posting a copy of it here. Please keep in mind that it's not a "technical" article, but simply an appeal for help.


Save the Queen!
by Pat Fitzhugh

The Delta Queen is the last steam-powered riverboat still carrying overnight passengers on American waters.

Smoke billows from her mighty stack and a vintage steam calliope plays river tunes as she steams majestically along the rivers of America’s heartland, providing her guests with a wholly unique way to experience American communities and cultures.

Inside, she is rich with vintage Tiffany-style stained glass windows, crystal chandeliers, a grand staircase, teak handrails, and an authentic bell from the steamboat that carried Mark Twain down the Mississippi River.

The Delta Queen also boasts stately cabins, fine regional cuisine, nightly shows, and storytellers who will be glad to enlighten you about "river lore." The paddlewheeler’s four decks offer plenty room for leisurely strolls, and the Betty Blake Library offers up a nice selection of books. The infamous Texas Lounge keeps everyone in good spirits.

At 286 feet long and nearly 70 feet tall, she is not hard to miss when she passes through middle Tennessee late at night in the summer and early fall. The Delta Queen cruises the Cumberland River about 4 times a year, and spends the rest of her time cruising other American rivers.

A veteran of World War II, the Delta Queen is the only paddlewheel steamboat to transit the Panama Canal. U.S. presidents, a princess, stars of the entertainment world, and some of the most prominent business figures and statesmen have graced her decks over the years. She is also designated as a National Public Landmark.

Despite her distinguished career and impeccable safety record of zero passenger fatalities in her 82 years of operation, the Delta Queen's fabled journeys will end in November if her current exemption from the 1966 Safety at Sea Act, which forbids wooden superstructures on vessels that carry 50 or more passengers on overnight trips, is not extended.

Over the last four decades, Congress has regularly extended the exemption. This year, however, efforts to extend her exemption are running against a strong current.

Minnesota Rep. James Oberstar, the powerful Chairman of the House Transportation and Infrastructure Committee, will not allow the bill to go outside his committee for a full vote. "It’s a revered and historic structure, but it’s wood," says Oberstar, who was first elected in 1974. "I see no compelling case that can be made to move an exemption."

The issue is far more complicated than what Rep. Oberstar wants us believe, however. In fact, in previous years – and as recent as 2006 – Oberstar himself voted to support the Delta Queen's exemption.

A look at the top contributors to Rep. Oberstar’s 2006 campaign suggests that his sudden change of position was fueled by the Seafarers International Union, which represented Delta Queen employees up until last year when the vessel’s owner, Majestic America Lines, removed the union. As one might expect, the union, which also supported the Delta Queen’s exemption in previous years, is now lobbying against it.

An online petition to save the Delta Queen is gathering signatures, and more than 100 cities and towns in Middle America have passed resolutions calling on congress to extend her exemption.

During the week of February 25-29, the Coast Guard Reauthorization Bill is scheduled for a vote by the full House of Representatives. Ohio Congressman Steve Chabot will introduce an amendment to the bill that, if allowed by the Rules Committee, will continue the Delta Queen's long-standing exemption from the 1966 Safety at Sea Act.

If you are interested in preserving a truly unique and working piece of American history, please contact your congressional representatives today and urge them to vote for H.R. 2830. For more information about the Delta Queen, visit and get involved.

Pat Fitzhugh is an author and technology instructor who lives in middle Tennessee.
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