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Dan Lewis 03-08-2017 08:16 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 02:18 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 08:27 AM

David,
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 11:32 AM

*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 "...my 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 05:17 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 06:37 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 10:54 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 10:42 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 08:45 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 06:53 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.

Phillip Johnson 03-13-2017 07:37 AM

3 Attachment(s)
[QUOTE=R. Dale Flick;36375] The quoted U.S. Navy figure of 450 psi 'could' be possible but, like you, seems high. This could be verified with further research. [/QUOTE]

See attached here, the two boilers still on the DQ today were built in 1919 to the same navy specification by two difference builders. The forward boiler (Boiler #1) was built by the McNaull Boiler Mfg. Co of Toledo Ohio in August 1919, the after boiler (Boiler #2), was built by Murray Iron Works of Burlington, IA also in 1919, however the month no longer legible on the name plate. Both were in fact rated at 450 lbs originally, but having never been operated above half of that may be a key factor in their longevity and ability to have withstood countless retubingings.

Story is the Delta King retained her boilers for use in generating the steam for heat and the turbine dynamos for electricity up until the mid 60's, but I have yet to find anything confirming that. Having climbed all over the DK a couple years ago, and every remaining inch of mechanical space (to which there is very little), she's been wiped almost totally clean of any trace she once was a fully equipped self sustaining steam plant. The only remaining piece of equipment I found on the whole boat was the bull gear on the bottom of the capstan. However, even the little steam engines that once drove it are long gone. Down in the aft galley below the former engine room, the shape of the pitman wells in the overheads are still prominent, but up above no signs it was ever an engine room.

R. Dale Flick 03-13-2017 09:06 AM

*DQ boiler pics/Photos*
Steamboating, colleagues:
WOW! Thanks Phil for chiming in here with the great photos above and your textual data. Pretty much falls into place with what I found, heard from John Burns. Running at less than 450 lbs psi probably, as you state, extended their life. Sorry the boat now "wiped almost totally clean...once sustaining steam plant" but what could we expect? Thanks for being direct and telling it like it is. I did get down in there once eons ago but honestly can't recall now all I saw in detail. Years back I did get access to the huge boiler rooms, tubine spaces on the old liners QUEEN MARY, QUEEN ELIZABETH and later then then new QE2 while underway at sea New York to The UK. What an experience! I'm certain Kenny Howe, Don Sanders and others would know more from their experience what these photos above represent. Again, what do I know?

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

Frank X. Prudent 03-13-2017 11:59 PM

[QUOTE=Phillip Johnson;36380]

Story is the Delta King retained her boilers for use in generating the steam for heat and the turbine dynamos for electricity up until the mid 60's, but I have yet to find anything confirming that. Having climbed all over the DK a couple years ago, and every remaining inch of mechanical space (to which there is very little), she's been wiped almost totally clean of any trace she once was a fully equipped self sustaining steam plant. The only remaining piece of equipment I found on the whole boat was the bull gear on the bottom of the capstan. However, even the little steam engines that once drove it are long gone. Down in the aft galley below the former engine room, the shape of the pitman wells in the overheads are still prominent, but up above no signs it was ever an engine room.[/QUOTE]

I'm assuming that the DK still had her boilers when she left British Columbia. but not necessarily. Perhaps they were sold and removed before she left. What year was she towed back to sunny California? I've never heard if while she was in Kitimat if she had a dynamo or not and generated the electricity used aboard.

R. Dale Flick 03-14-2017 06:47 AM

*DK/Kitimat/NATIONAL GEOGRAPHIC*
Steamboating colleagues:
Hi, Frank! The DK did hard duty serving as workers' barracks and mess hall, generating steam for other purposes at the Kitimat aluminum site as you write. In some ways it was a blessing as it saved her from other possible fates endangering the continued life of the DQ, her sister. The DK's shaft and vital components the life line keeping the DQ in operation without immense expenses in casting, milling new components. In many ways both boats have had nine lives like cats.

I vividly recall back in possibly the 1950s/very early 1960s [?] an indepth article with color, B/W photos appearing in NATIONAL GEOGRAPHIC MAGAZINE on the Kitimat mines and operations. Interior photos showed workers in their cabin bunks during those long, dark, bitter winters talking, reading, playhing cards. Those vintage destoyer boilers were cranked up pumping out steam for the boat's need with insulated steam lines running ashore. Other interior photos showed the DK's fine stained glass windows still in place. I doubt if I have that vintage copy now in my dusty boxes but will look. For years I kept rows of NG in shelves going way back until running out of space, moving to my present home. Something had to give. NATIONAL GEOGRAPHIC also now indexed in DVD's etc. for easier archival retrieval. How many of you here remember that article at the time appearing in NATGEO? But what do I know?

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

R. Dale Flick 03-14-2017 08:48 AM

*DK at Kitimat/Photo link/Alcan*
Steamboating colleagues:
Quick as a bunny, I ran searching in vain for that long ago NATIONAL GEOGRAPHIC MAGAZINE featuring the DK doing duty at Kitimat. Now, kids, your assignment is to hop on your computer search engine for your class project. Kitimat in the native tongue of British Columbia [Not Alaska] means "People of Snow." Alcan abbreviated from Aluminum Company of Canada.

In the internet web sites you'll also see a very short photo array of the DK and the Kitimat operation beginning in the 1950s: views of the boat laid up minus paddlewheel, smoke belching from her stack generating steam, some crew members, interior shot. And that's about it. Type in and have a go.

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

Jim Reising 03-17-2017 09:00 AM

The big question is not "any other western river boilers last 50 years?"....but rather were there any other BOATS with western boilers that lasted 50 years????????

R. Dale Flick 03-17-2017 11:45 AM

Western boilers "lasting" 50 years?*
Hi, Jim! Glad you posted here as I'd not read much from you on the webs or at home. I agree with your question "any...Western boilers that lasted 50 years?" What about the boilers from the GORDON C. GREENE put on the AVALON/BELLE? I heard 'something' about that but, frankly, can't remember. The DQ's boilers now approaching 100 years old came as a surprise to a few reading here that sent a 'private E=Mail' to me.

With steamboats in the past there was no real concern or worry about aging boilers. Boats not built to last that long with the average life in the old days being four (4) to seven (7) years at most. If boilers wore out they replaced them. Usually the boat and boilers wore out together. The thinking back then of milking the life out of an aging steamboat beyond their life span never considered. Facts/figures showed that any boat then over four (4) years of age was faced with increasing insurance coverage along with mounting repairs. Others met their end by fire, snagging, wind storms, flexible hulls wearing out. Engines then fared better at times being handed down from boat to boat. Steam, contrary to thinking, just as dangerous back then as it is now being under strict monitoring and control with instruments, gagues etc. even in this age. Letha Greene told me from her experience, "I always had a respect for steam and the boilers on any of our boats." "Respect" to the point of being nervous during steamboat races whether contrived for PR, media cxoverage and old time steamboat romance. It was all a kind of financial equation from profit to loss with boats and their boilers. Even Jim Burns never considered that his DK and DQ would survive as long as they have. They were exceptions to the rule in design, construction far more solid than our Western Rivers boats here. Let's get Dan and Kenny Howe to chime in here. Well, what do I know?

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

David Tschiggfrie 03-26-2017 12:36 PM

Okay, Dale, you've finally sucked me into making a post! (Yes, the reports of my death are greatly exaggerated.) IDLEWILD's second set of boilers which replaced her original trio from Rees came from CITY OF HELENA after that towboat burned at Cairo in 1937. They served up until the fall/winter of 1953 when they were replaced by three from GORDON C. GREENE at Owensboro. The GCG's four boilers were built in 1941 by Acme Boiler Works of Gallipolis. So of the four sets of Western Rivers boilers (and the one short-lived set of Brown Fintube boilers which were a big bust) that saw service on the boat, their longevity was respectively: 23 years; 22 years -- assuming CITY OF HELENA's were new when that boat was built; 12 years; and 50 years. That should give a hint, anyway, about the relative longevity of the current set of Nooter boilers and what a fantastic job they have done over five decades.

Jim Reising 03-27-2017 07:38 AM

Dave what you wrote is most interesting. The life expectancy of a wood hull boat was about 20-25 years. By that time the hull was waterlogged and rotten, no way around it. Now from what you wrote the life expectancy of western river boilers is about the same..interesting, a perfect balance, by the time the hull was no good the boilers were also worn out. Those old boat builders knew what they were doing.


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