The other day Kenny Howe and myself were doing some filing at the Howard Museum when I came across an envelope filled with papers. Apparently Jim Howard traveled to Chattanooga in 1929 to discuss building a proposed towboat for the Chattanooga Sand and Gravel Co. On the back of a piece of hotel note paper was a pencil drawing of the towboat Jim Howard proposed to build; it was to be a steam sternwheel boat.
When he got back to Jeffersonville Jim started pricing things out....the steam machinery was going to cost $11,000. A Cooper diesel engine was priced at $4,600. Guess which one the owner chose. You got it, even as far back as 1929, steam just couldn't compete.
Yet, we insist that, if operated correctly, a steam passenger vessel can be competitive today even though 85 years ago steam was too expensive for a small sand and gravel towboat.