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Dan Lewis 03-24-2009 08:57 PM

Avalon Model Restoration Help
I've been SLOWLY piecing together the remnants of an old R/C Avalon model. Since this will become a display model, I decided to put a few more details in it than it had in its previous life. I have pictures of it before its demise, but I don't have a complete history. I have to say "thank you" to the help I've gotten from the Tschiggfries during their recent visits to the Belle and John Fryant for his model building expertise. While I've also had a chance to sift through some of our archives on the Belle, I'm still in a quandary about some of the details I'm sure many of which are much more familiar to members on here--so comes my plea for help. I've used the extensive work done in 1954 as a reference. One mystery for me is how late did the Avalon run with the rescue boats strung up on davits over the hurricane deck. I'm also wondering what color she sported on her decks--black, brown, or the ever-so-popular kelley green. To give you an idea of size, the scale is about 1/4"=1'. I appreciate any help.

Keith Norrington 03-25-2009 07:29 AM

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Dan: There are several people who undoubtedly can answer your detail questions about the AVALON - mainly Capts. Doc Hawley and Don Sanders, who worked on the boat, as well as those who rode her in the last years such as Capt. Gabe Chengery, Dave Tschiggfrie and Judy Patsch, all of whom have extensive collections of photographs and slides. And, don't forget Capt. Alan Bates, who was entrusted with the daunting task of transforming the dilapidated old AVALON into the beautiful BELLE. I remember his humorous description of colors used on the AVALON, one of them being "pank"! My parents rode the Str. AVALON for the New Albany High School Prom in 1949. The attached picture, taken at that time, shows the boat at the New Albany landing (no floodwall then!) and the life boats are in evidence.

Some years ago I inherited a model of the Str. MISSISSIPPI. It was built in the early 1960's by a crew member and formerly had been part of an encased diorama in the [I]Midship Museum [/I]aboard the boat after she became the BECKY THATCHER at St. Louis. Later, after she was sold to the group at Marietta, it was removed from the diorama setting and placed on a shelf in the bar. When the boat sank in 1984, the model slid off the shelf as the BECKY tilted and hit the deck, shattering into MANY small pieces. It was rescued from a trash barrel and given to me in TWO boxes, looking like a jigsaw puzzle! Ironically, the only part intact and undamaged was the paddlewheel! It took a LONG time and much PATIENCE, but with the help of numerous photographs, and my artistic mother, the model was re-assembled and is now a treasured artifact in my collection of "steamboat stuff".

Good luck with your project! And if I can be of help in any way, please let me know.

David Tschiggfrie 03-25-2009 08:32 AM


Very glad to hear that the old model of the AVALON will be resurrected. Is this the model that was displayed in the museum at Evansville? I have a newspaper article from a Sunday magazine section featuring that model back in the late 50s. If I can be of any help, please don't hesitate to ask. You can contact me via my home e-mail address at: [email][/email]

Shipyard Sam 03-25-2009 12:24 PM

The goose-neck boat davits were gone before my first introduction to the AVALON some three, or so, years before I started serving orange and grape pop out of five-gallon glass water coolers behind the snack bar. That I did for a very long 30-some hour "day" in June of 1959 before I approached that big Captain and transfered down to the deck and changed my life, forever.

The bow may have been painted gray and the Main Deck green with a walkway with two stripes of [I]Mardi Gras[/I] yellow and purple outlining the path that people were expected to trod; thereby limiting the amount of painting to that deck.

The Hurricane and Texas decks were both covered in canvas, and I seem to remember the lower of the two being painted Silver and the upper was Red.

Interestingly enough, a small portion of the Texas was covered with cheesecloth and "doped" in the same fashion of a fabric-covered aeroplane of the era when the boat was built. Captain Hawley loved showing that doped deck, and may have proclaimed the covering original to the IDLEWILD. This covering stayed on until the deck was resurfaced, possibly by Captain B and Crew.

Keith Norrington 03-26-2009 06:47 AM

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Here's a photo of an AVALON model that was in the River Room at the Evansville Museum. I took this snapshot in September, 1972, when Capt. Gabe Chengery (then Purser) and I visited the museum while the BELLE OF LOUISVILLE was on a week long charter to the Evansville & Mount Vernon area.

The museum has undergone extensive renovation in recent years and I've heard that a lot of the river memorabilia is no longer on display.

Keith Norrington 03-26-2009 06:53 AM

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Dan: Capt. Doc Hawley phoned last night and we had a lengthy chat. He said that the lifeboats were in place on the AVALON until 1956. He was most interested in your project and said he'd be more than happy to answer any questions you have. If you need his address and/or telephone number, please e-mail me at [email][/email].

Doc built a model of the AVALON many years ago, painted with the actual paint used on the boat. The model survived a house fire when the Hawley home in Charleston, WV partially burned one Christmas Eve in the 1950's. Herewith are several photos I took of the model, one of which shows Capt. Doc proudly posing with it in 1990.

Alan Bates 03-26-2009 11:54 AM

my crew and I replaced the canvas roof with a temporary one made of masonite sheets bedded in a bituminous tar. The joints were covered with duct tape and paint. Temporary extended to more than ten years! Captain Paul Underwood would accept any color so long as it was green.

The old canvas roof was painted red and in places was twelve or more layers deep. The roofers' tacks could not penetrate to the wooden deck. When the roof leaked it was almost impossible to find the leaking point. Water traveled for many feet and through many layers of canvas to reach inside the boat. Sometimes it would rain and the leak would not start to drip for two or three days. When it was REALLY soaked, one could walk along and watch the water squirt UPWARD through the tack holes.

When the masonite and duct tape finally wore out a Dex-O-Tex patented roof system was installed and it lasted about twenty years.

R. Dale Flick 03-26-2009 12:32 PM

*RE: Canvas decks/'Hot leading.'*
Hi, alan & steamboating colleagues:
Interesting insights from you all above RE: AVALON model etc. Alan, during that time did you, Doc, Shipyard ever see evidence tearing all of that material up of any signs of the old technique of 'hot leading' a canvas deck? I recall some discussions on this web a long time back about that process and how it was done. I well remember the canvas decks on the DQ years back with the tacks but didn't know if they 'leaded' all of that. I can't imagine what the uproar would be today using that with the health and environmental concerns.

Well, what do I know?

Coal Haven Landing, Ohio River.

Dan Lewis 03-26-2009 08:54 PM

I'm not sure if this model was ever on display. I've talked to the previous owner some,but my memory is resembling swiss cheese lately, so I can't recall what history he gave me for it. I plan to get back in touch with him this summer, though, to satisfy his curiosity about the model's new look and pick his brain more. If I can manage, I'll try to post a few pics of the photos I have of the model still in one piece. Thanks for your offer to help! I will keep your email handy because I'm sure I'll need it before I'm done.

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