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Dan Lewis 03-08-2017 09:16 PM

Belle of Louisville boiler anniversary
I know it's been at least one blue moon since my last post, but time flies, doesn't it? In my recent annual boiler crawl, I realized these boilers are turning 50 this year. Here's a challenge for all of you steamboat sleuths out there: Is there any other boat known to have run a set of boilers this long? My only recollection is the SAINT PAUL/SENATOR having run one set of boilers at any length near this. Way notes a change in her boilers from three to four, but he doesn't give a date. Is it safe to say the Belle has the longest operating set of Western River style boilers, or maybe just the longest operating set of boilers on a riverboat?

David Dewey 03-09-2017 03:18 AM

Delta Queen boilers beats her by decades!! And if you consider year built--they are over a century old!

Dan Lewis 03-10-2017 09:27 AM

Yes, I'm aware of the DQ's boilers, being the last engineer to fire them. They were a much different animal from the Belle's, though. While the DQ's boiler settings are certainly original, she's had many tube replacements over the years--as was typical practice for boilers of that type. Those boilers also ran with clean water, not the raw river water pumped into the Belle's, which would significantly shorten the life of any boiler. What I should ask is whether any Western River style firetube boiler was in service as long as the Belle's. Of the riverboats left in this country, I'd say the Belle's boilers have the closest resemblance to what was typical of the boats of her day.

R. Dale Flick 03-10-2017 12:32 PM

*Oldest steamboat boilers/DQ boilers.*
Steamboating colleagues:
Great question and follow discussion above RE: BELLE OF LOUISVILLE's boilers/DELTA QUEEN boilers with Dan Lewis providing his concise, professional experience and knowledge. I wondered also about the boilers installed on the AVALON taken from the retired GORDON C. GREENE with, no doubt, more information from those who know like Jim Reising, Kenny Howe, Don Sanders, Bob Reynolds and others. Again, we go with those in the know who were there then with us all here now. Steamboat history shows many engines, pumps etc. passed from one boat down to another.

Years back, when I hosted John Burns, son of old Jim Burns who built the DK/DQ and Stan Garvey author of 'KING & QUEEN of the River' in my home, we pumped John for his first-hand memories and his dad. John himself licensed in boilers under his dad for the 'California Transportation Co.' on the Sacramento serving as a young man as " dad's legs during the building" as Jim Burns had a 'gimpy leg.' The first discussions and plans building the new DK/DQ commenced around 1922. Jim Burns was charged with the project in spite of his thinking and misgivings building two boats like them at the time thinking they were not needed, other company boats still in fine condition along with changing times. Capt. Anderson and stockholders went ahead with the "Two million dollar babies" as Capt. Fred Way wrote.

Once Jim placed the initial orders for the two hulls etc. with DENNY BROS., Dumbarton, Scotland, he sleuthed the U.S. Navy surplus depots in California up around Suisin Bay finding the U.S. Navy destroyer boilers of 'water tube design' unlike, as Dan reports, Western River boilers with "tubes" along with other equipment, bric a brack. These boilers intended in World War I for the 'Wickes-class' destroyers used 1917 to 1919 for "The war to end all wars" rated at 300 lbs. steam pressure with double turbines. Stan Garvey wrote in his book the DK/DQ ran at 225 lbs. pressure. Both DK/DQ had big tanks aboard to store fresh non-salt water from the Sacramento River to avoid brine from San Francisco Bay as they ran in two water mediums--salt and fresh. The fresh water was 'condensed' and used again, in part. John said these tanks often "...sucked up fish which I saw when they opened to clean the tanks. DK/DQ had 'side intake pipes' for fresh water that could be clogged with debris with careful observation of their water level gages."

Steamboat engine builder CHARLES EVANS & CO. mounted the engines etc. also being the 'agent' for getting the other DK/DQ components from DENNY BROS. into the United States. I have all the letters/cables between Jim Burns and DENNY with Jim cautioning, "Remember, we have the Steamboat Inspection Service here to contend with." What's that tell you? From the get go the DELTA KING was marked as the "flagship of the line."

Years ago I watched Marion Frommel, from BUCKEYE BOAT & BOILER CO. here, along with the DQ engineering gang working to replace those bad boiler tubes. Once the supplier sent the wrong tubes [Metal factor?] with them failing when heated by the oil fire with pressure. There was no end to the cussing, grousing, 'kicking the can' over that. So, the DQ boilers close to being now 100 years old with all that implies. Who alive now other than me remembers this in 2017? Again, what do I know?

R. Dale Flick
Old coal Haven Landing, Ohio River, Cincinnati.

David Dewey 03-10-2017 06:17 PM

Wow, you had those two in your house, that must have been quite a time. On one of my trips Stan was onboard with his daughter when I gave a short powerpoint presentaion in the Olreans room, "The King and Queen, Not Twins Anymore." showing the similarities and differences of the two boats at that time. Stan came up to me and said, "I thought I was the only one crazy about these two boats!" High praise, in my "book."
OK, I'll give you a "gimme" on fire-tube vs water-tube! I was told the original boiler pressure design for the Navy was for 450--but that seems awfully high. Dan, you must have been onboard when we rode; that last trip we ( very few of us FRNs with mechanical interests) were allowed into the boiler room; although the weather was cold outside, I think it was above 80 degrees in the boiler room (easily above 80). As with most boiler rooms, not a lot of "extra" space there. As I recall, we had to be "snuck" in and didn't stay long. Hard to believe how long ago that was (2008).
Even the UP railroad had problems with tube material (although fire tube), I was in Sacramento when the 844 blew a tube. Fortunately I was a few hundred feet away, but even then I knew immediately something wasn't right. It is still debated a bit if the problem was over-rolling or metal composition (or a bit of both).

R. Dale Flick 03-11-2017 07:37 AM

*Burns, Garvey & steam pressure*
Morning, Steamboating collelalgues:
David, thanks for your words and rest assured I include you with the above in knowing more than most about the DQ, her steam technology. The quoted U.S. Navy figure of 450 psi 'could' be possible but, like you, seems high. This could be verified with further research. On the flip side, figures for the fast speed queen liner SS UNITED STATES, designed by William Francis Gibbs, registered high temperature steam at 900 degress plus with operating pressure of again 900 psi +. Her turbines spun at some 5,000 per minute. I remember the DQ's boiler room at other times being even hotter. Kenny Howe one who could verify that here. These now nearly 100 year old boilers require replacement with no doubt or argument. People today often fail to remember that steam in the early days a marvelous new power source driving the Industrial Revolution analogous to nuclear power in our time. Steam has always been a dangerous power product then and now requiring careful, diligent monitoring and control. It just isn't "fire her up boys and run her hard" in the 'dear old romantic, wonderful steamboat days' we hear filled with nostalgia.

Years back in late 1980s, I searched around getting wind of John Burns still living out in Oakland California. I got in touch with us conversing by phone; then John put me in contact with Stan Garvey, who was just in the very early throes of his book research. These acquaintances bloomed with me contacting the then DELTA QUEEN Steamboat Co. and Patti Young. The company extended an invitation for John and Stan to come to Cincinnati, take a trip on the boat. I met them at the airport, conveyed them to their then hotel in town as a group. This conviently fell in with the S&D of Pioneer Rivermen annual meeting that September. John spoke to the DQ passengers relating his dad's history along with his own in building the DK/DQ and the 'California Transportation Co.' etc. making quite a hit with the audience. Jim, his dad, had been invited by Capt. Tom Greene to take a free trip on the DQ here out of Cincinnati but never got around to it. Capt. Doc Hawley, I 'think,' mentioned to me having met one of the DQ former captains on a trip out of Cincinnati years later. IF it was Capt. King, I can't recall but will check with Doc.

I picked both up from the boat after the trip to spend two days here in my home prior to driving to Marietta. Our house open to them along with both doing needed laundry here from their travels. We grilled outside here for dinners in the evening. John liked good Scotch whiskey in a tall glass with just water and no ice, thank you. We talked, Talked, TALKED to the wee hours for two days with many documents, papers, plans they brought on the trip for me to view. Many papers on the DK/DQ with, perhaps, one of the last surving big leather log books from the DQ in existence from those early days. Other ledgers they had came from the boat's purser office. John and Stan both made a hit at S&D with John meeting Capt. Fred Way again for the first time since 1947 when he and his dad, Jim, visited the DQ being 'crated up' at the 'Fulton Yard' for delivery to New Orleans, Cincinnati and on to DRAVO. John Burns, as written, formed his own marine engineering company in Oakland with commercial and big U.S. Navy contracts for engine work. He was VERY successful to say the least. John was divorced from his first wife and never married after that. John was up in years [90s] later suffering a fall at work with a severely broken hip and leg. That was the beginning of the end for him. Last time we talked John was grousing in a weak voice about being in rehab. Dick Rutter, Capt. Fred Way's grandson living/working in California, informed me of John's death. John Burns, though a hit at S&D, sobered a few up with history and events for the boat long before 1947 when Capt. Tom Greene purchased her with his "now you know the rest of the story" approach. Stan Garvey originally was doing only the DELTA KING until he met all of us. I was one who encouraged him to do the entire story on both boats. Once Stan met, conversed, corresponded with our old S&D steamboat hands like Helen Huges Prater, daugther of Capt. Jesse Hughes, he was hooked and good.

I did see and do remember Marion Frommell and company working on the DQ boilers the time the tubes failed. I'm dumb as mud on engineering but remember about the problem being with the metal. I also recall a large wood shipping crate of water tubes for the DQ's use stored on the old GREENE LINE wharfboat here in Cincinnati as delivered from the foundry. What ever happened to them I know not when the wharfboat was sold being towed down river, sprang a puncture leak and sank. Again, what do I know?

R. Dale Flick
Old Coal Haven Landing, Ohio River, Cincinnati.

Bill Judd 03-11-2017 11:54 AM

"Who still alive now other than me remembers this in 2017". Hey Dale I got up this morning, did not read my name in the death notices so here I am, don't forget me!

R. Dale Flick 03-12-2017 11:42 AM

*Capt. Bill Judd remembers*
Hi, Capt. Bill. How could anybody forget you?! I purposely made that statment, left the issue dangling in order to draw you out of hibernation. Anybody like you and me [With you older] who remembers riding the last ISLAND QUEEN, seeing the GORDON C. GREENE and the big auto carriers in operation at Old Coal Haven Landing have to be silver foxes like us! Cheers!

R. Dale Flick
Old Coal Haven Landing, Ohio River, Cincinnati

Jim Blum 03-12-2017 09:45 PM

Now Dale just could be some of us out there can or could remember seeing the Big Liz, but not riding her and possibly could remember M. Frommel etal and maybe reading the builders plates of the DQ boilers.

Don't want to git the Chief Engineer at the Rabbit Hash Shipyard and Brewery's shorts all bunched up regarding boiler tubes----by the way where is Cap't Walnut when ya need him.

R. Dale Flick 03-13-2017 07:53 AM

*Frommel, boilers, Capt. Walnut*
Morning, Jim, Bill, David, Dan:
Sure, I knew more than a few of you out there also had L-O-N-G memories rooted in hands-on-experience but wanted to bait you all. I phoned Capt. Walnut [Tom Schiffer] a month or so ago along with our exchange of E=Mails. Tom has been buried in writing, editing of another book. Tom an expert in firearms, gun powder, ballistics with a previous book on the local King powder company once here near present day King's Island amusement park. Tom and I in the past have enjoyed local day jaunts looking at old buildings, memorials, book stores with a lunch included. I know he 'lurks' here when he can. Tom, are you reading this?

R. Dale Flick
Old Coal Haven Landing, Ohio River, Cincinnati.

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