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Judy Patsch 01-22-2008 04:47 PM

hmmm... it probably wouldn't have fit in a station wagon, would it?

Bruno Krause 01-22-2008 06:38 PM

Mmm-mmm, absolutely fantastic, wonderful stuff....thanks!

According to the book Keith sent me, the engines were heavily modified for her visit to Pittsburgh's bicentennial in 1959, modified in a way that the wheel would turn ornamentally, hence the bucketsl being thinned out for much less water resistance. Though the book does not get too specific on what exactly was done to the engines it appears that at least both pistons and both cylinder heads were removed.

Shipyard Sam 01-22-2008 07:23 PM

Reminds me of tales of Big Bone Lick, just off the Ohio River in Boone Co., Kentucky, where the bones of the great mammals of the Late Pleistocene were strewn about until Euro curio-hunters eventually carted them away. With the price of scrap steel as it is, today, here's hoping no one makes that connection.

Wouldn't it be amazing if the bones of the SPRAGUE would remain as relics on the banks of the Yazoo for generations to come?

Shipyard Sam 01-22-2008 07:33 PM

Couldn't Keep Her Down
While the SPRAGUE was in Vicksburg, the great piston rods had been cut in two. Done, I heard, as another modification when the Great Lady was in Pittsburgh. There were stories, that in spite of the buckets being reduced to "ornamental" slats, the mighty warhorse's paddlewheel still had enough shove that she ran through her lines while tied at the P'burg landing.

Anyone else heard that story? Bet Captain Judd has.

Jim Blum 01-22-2008 09:57 PM

The boilers had been cut out and became home to the theater where the "Mellerdrama" GOLD IN DEM THAR HILLS (or name similar) was performed. The DQ would land alongside so the passengers could attend the show after touring the town. Due to the condition of the Sprague's hull--so we were told--the DQ started landing closer to the mouth of the Yazoo--close to a sawmill where a sign was nailed to a tree by the wash-up area where the majority of the laborers gathered---the message 'BE ON THE JOB WHEN THE WHISTLE BLOWS and STAY ON THE JOB UNTIL THE WHISTLE BLOWS.'

David Dewey 01-22-2008 11:12 PM

When I read about all the atrocities done to the Sprague's machinery before the fire, and what has happened to most other "preserved" steamboats, I shudder when I hear talk of the DQ becoming a "preserved" boat.
Her "brother" sits out here sans any machinery (well, most of us know where it all went, and how good it has been to the DQ.) and struggles along as a floating hotel/convention center/restaurant. The jury is still out on "him" but I hope it's a good verdict.
David D.

Keith Norrington 01-23-2008 08:42 AM

The engines on the SPRAGUE were intact at the time of the fire, having been modified somewhat in 1959 when she was towed to Pittsburgh for their bicentennial celebration. Some pieces of the engines (low pressure cylinder, etc.) were on display with signage just inside the floodwall before the boat burned and for sometime after. Also, one of her rudders was displayed near the steps that went down to the gangplank. They removed the rudders in an effort to level her a bit after the boilers were removed to make space for the showboat theatre where "GOLD IN THE HILLS" was presented for decades. It is still being presented in a Vicksburg playhouse and is touted as the longest running melodrama in history. Prior to the removal of the boilers, the showboat theatre occupied the second deck, but proved to be too small for the crowds which attended the shows each year.

The RIVER HALL OF FAME occupied the forward cabin on the second deck. It contained numerous models in diorama settings and many fine paintings of river personalities by Vicksburg artist Caroline Compton. My favorites of the portraits were those of Capt. Mary B. Greene, Capt. Tom Greene and showboater Capt. Augustus Byron French. I'm so glad that I took photos of these as EVERYTHING in the museum was destroyed in the April 15, 1974 conflagration. Several steam gauges and the brass bitt plates from the SPRAGUE are nicely exhibited at the Old Court House Museum, just up the hill from the waterfront.

During the hot, dry summer of 1988 I took pictures of the engines from the BIG MAMA and they were then lying in a ditch alongside Highway 61. Nearby were piles of hog chains and other big pieces, including the paddlewheel shaft. The stacks, capstans, jackstaff and a few other relics were moved to the new Catfish Row Landing park which opened a couple of years ago. The stacks ended up NOT being used and were hauled back to a site along the Yazoo and dumped. I have crawled inside one of the stacks -- just to say I did it -- and for a unique photo op! Some years ago, the river museum at Dubuque requested some of the artifacts from the city of Vicksburg inasmuch as the SPRAGUE was "born" at Dubuque. Although the museum offered to handle the logistics and cost for transporting the relics, the request was denied.

The capstans, jackstaff and several other items, painted UNUSUAL colors, now are part of the unique park on the Vicksburg riverfront. If you visit, be sure to see all the fine Dafford murals on the floodwall, including a fine one of the SPRAGUE. Recently moved to the landing and now sitting "high and dry" is the M/V MISSISSIPPI IV, former inspection vessel and towboat of the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers. This boat replaced the Str. MISSISSIPPI (now the BECKY THATCHER) in 1961. The MISSISSIPPI IV will now be part of a new interpretive center and river museum currently under construction.

These recollections also bring to mind that, during my first visit to the SPRAGUE in the summer of 1969, I noticed a very unusual relic sitting inside the floodwall. It was rather dilapidated, made of very old wood, octagonal in shape with a large opening on top and had small windows -- into which people pitched trash, thinking it to be a dumpster. It was the pilothouse of the Civil War ironclad CAIRO, which had been raised from the Yazoo! The remains of the gunboat (sunk in 1862) were later taken to Ingall's Shipyard at Pascagoula before being moved back to the Vicksburg National Military Park where the CAIRO is now on display, replete with an excellent interpretive center containing hundreds of artifacts that were dredged up with the boat.

Shipyard Sam 01-23-2008 05:25 PM

USS Cairo
Thanks, Keith, for your most comprehensive summary of the sad fate of a glorious steamboat. That "unusual relic.. inside the floodwall", the actual pilothouse of the USS CAIRO is something that I spent quite a long time admiring and photographing a century after the ironclad was sunk by the first electrically-detonated "torpedo"; or what we might call an IED today.

The iron cladding was still in place, and inside the metallic covering were the thick oak timbers, that Keith described, that apparently absorbed the shock from cannon rounds striking the outer iron shell. I recall a beautiful bluish-gray patina on the metal that looked more like aged copper than iron.


Frank X. Prudent 01-23-2008 08:26 PM

Because of their speed, or really lack of it, these city boats were referred to as "Pook's Turtles".

Wesley Paulson 01-24-2008 12:23 PM

Tell Me More -
What is the rest of the story referred to here re: Capt. Wagner and the steam gauge(s)?


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