Delta Queen History
The Delta Queen and her identical twin the Delta King - called the million dollar boats - were fabricated from 1924 to 1927 on the River Clyde at the William Denny & Brothers Ltd., Dumbarton, Scotland and assembled that same year at Banner Island shipyard in Stockton, CA. The machinery was built by William Denny & Brothers Ltd., Dumbarton, Scotland. The paddlewheel shaft and the cranks were forged at the Krupp Stahlwerke AG, Germany. The boats were completed on May 20, 1927.
Both boats run for the California Transportation Company of San Francisco on the so called "Delta Route", the Sacramtento - San Joaquin River Delta, which gave them their names. The boats took up their regular service on June 1, 1927, replacing the steamers Fort Sutter and Capital City. Both boats had their last regular runs on September 29, 1940, the closing day of the Golden Gate International Exposition or world fair on Treasure Island.
The Delta Queen was required by the Navy as receiving ship for naval reservists. The first group arrived on October 16, 1940. The Delta King followed in November, 1940. This leases were planned for 6 months but in April, 1941, the Navy renewed the leases for another 6 months. In fall of 1941 both boats returned to Stockton but instead of returning them to regular passenger service the California Transportation Company sold the boats to the Isbrandsten Steamship Co. of New York. Both vessels should be towed to the East Coast via Panama Canal for use as excursion boats on the Hudson river. Pearl Harbor brought a turn in the fate of the boats. The Delta Queen and the Delta King rushed back into Navy service as emergency hospital transports. They were classified as Yard House Boats, the Delta King as YHB-6 and the Delta Queen as YHB-7, but retained their names. On July 5, 1944, reclassified the boats as Yard Ferry Boats, the Delta King as YFB-55 and the Delta Queen as YFB-56. During the founding conference of the United Nations from April 25 to June 26, 1945, the Delta Queen took delegates of the 51 gathered nations on sightseeing trips around San Francisco Bay. In 1946 the boats went into lay-up at the Reserve Fleet on Suisan Bay, called the "mothball fleet". The Delta King was off the Navy records on April 17, 1946, the Delta Queen on August 28.
On December 17, 1946 the Delta Queen was bought from the War Shipping Administration by Capt. Tom R. Greene of Greene Line Steamers of Cincinnati, OH, for use on the Mississippi River system. Capt. Frederick Way Jr., engineer Charlie Dietz and ship carpenter Bill Horn prepared the Delta Queen on Fultons shipyard in Antioch, CA, for her voyage on sea. The Delta Queen started her legendary voyage through the Panama Canal on April 19, 1947, tugged by the tug Osage. She arrived in New Orleans on May 18, 1947, after 29 days covering 5,261 miles of open sea. The Delta Queen was reassembled and prepared for her voyage up the Mississippi river and the Ohio river to Dravo Corporation on Neville Island, Pittsburgh, PA, for a major overhaul. She went back into passenger service on June 21, 1948. In 1966 the Safety of Life at Sea Law nearly ended the Delta Queen´s career. Because of her wooden structure the legislation would end her passenger cruise. With the help of Betty Blake, Bill Muster and E. Jay Quinby the Delta Queen got an extension for two years. E. Jay Quinby also installed an old calliope on the Delta Queen, which was rescued from the sunken showboat Water Queen, made by Thomas J. Nichols as one of the famous "Three Sisters".In 1969 the ownership changed to Overseas National Airways. The Delta Queen´s extension ran out in November, 1970. The "Save The Delta Queen" campaign promoted by Betty Blake seemed to be a failure. On October 21, 1970, the Delta Queen left St. Paul for her final cruise to New Orleans with Capt. Ernest Wagner as master arriving in New Orleans on November 2. On December 31, 1970, President Nixon signed another extension until 1973. Those extensions are prolonged until the present time. In 1973 the company´s name was changed to Delta Queen Steamboat Company as the Greene family was no longer involved. In April 1976 the Delta Queen was sold to the Coca-Cola Bottling Co. of New York. Soon after that the Prudential Lines Inc. of San Francisco, CA, became involved. In the early 1980´s Sam Zell and Bob Lurie of Chicago, IL, acquired control of the outstanding stock. On October 19, 2001, American Classical Voyages, the parental company of the Delta Queen Steamboat Co. and still under control of Sam Zell, filed for Chapter 11. All boats finished their cruises except the Delta Queen which finished the season on January 5, 2002. Fortunately, the Delta Queen Steamboat Co. finally was bought by Delaware North Companies, Inc. and the Delta Queen went back in service on August 26, 2002, the year of her 75th birthday. In 2006 the Delta Queen Steamboat Company again was sold, this time to Ambassadors International, who formed a new cruise line called Majestic America Line, running now also the Empress of the North, the Columbia Queen, the Queen of the West and other ships.
Since the exemption for the Delta Queen from the Safety at Sea Act expired end of October 2008 she must no longer carry overnight passengers. From February 2009 the Delta Queen is located at Chattanooga, TN, to serve as a hotel and restaurant beginning in April 2009. Delta Queen fans are still working on getting a renewal of the exemption from Congress. For details see www.save-the-delta-queen.org.
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