[ Future of the Delta Queen Steamboat Co Boats ]

Date: January 18, 2003 at 20:56:33
From: Ted Guillaum
Subject: MQ Calliope Press Release-Part 1

I have discovered a press kit for the MQ from 1976 with lots of interesting background. The following is on the calliope including some history of calliopes in general. These are the facts as the company saw them in 1976. Warning--this is a bit long therefore I am entering it in two parts.


SEATTLE-- Art Davis gives a hoot about the Mississippi Queen, The Delta Queen Steamboat Co.’s new sternwheeler. And a whoop and a toot and a tweet, to boot. For Davis is building the new boat’s steam calliope and wedding the ship to one of river travel’s most colorful traditions. His creation will be the finest and fanciest “steam-pianna” ever to float, 44 separate whistles played from a solid state keyboard. But for all its electronic ingenuity, it still will be a genuine “calli-ope” (as river people put it), and that’s the real wonder of his work. Steam calliopes (and paddlewheeled steamboats themselves, for that matter) are hardly ever built nowadays. Constructing either one is just about a lost art. “People ask me,” Davis says, “where do you get the parts for a calliope?’ My answer is, ‘You don’t.’ ” So last February, Davis visited the Delta Queen in drydock in New Orleans and took measurements of the whistles on her calliope. Returning to his home in Seattle, he started designing the new parts, trying to take advantage of mass-produced brass tubing already available. But each tube had to house three separate brass couplings, and these were custom done at the Ballard Brass Foundry, Seattle, then finished in Davis’ own shop. To make matters more complex, his supply of pre-milled tubing for the 11 largest whistles dried up, unless Davis would order it in special, 1,000 foot long lots at $2 per foot, $11,000 for a few hundred inches of pipe. The Ballard Foundry came to his rescue, rolling the tubes from brass sheet stock and welding them together. Now test models of each whistle have been built, and the first six finished whistles have been completed. Completed, the calliope’s chimes will range from two inches in length and 1-5/8 inches in diameter to 22 inches long and 9-1/4 inches in diameter, arranged in a wide, shallow “U” five feet deep and 27 feet wide across the new boat’s stern. The whistles will be gold-plated to resist tarnishing, and every part not made of brass will be of stainless steel. “People just aren’t building things this solidly anymore,” Davis says. “It will probably outlive me.” But what might be the most remarkable about this revival is that Davis has never built a calliope before and has no strong background in music. A computer programmer at the University of Washington, Davis was drawn into the vanishing craft by a family friend, Donald Isham, a theater organist who once played accompaniment to silent movies. Isham wanted to build a “dream organ”--a pipe organ coupled to an electronic console. He called on Davis, with his electronics expertise, to help him build it. Starting in 1968, Davis worked two-and -a-half years on Isham’s organ before delivering it to his home in Los Angeles. There it was spotted by William Muster, a board member and former president of the steamboat company, who asked Davis to cure the ills of the Delta Queen’s calliope.

[ Future of the Delta Queen Steamboat Co Boats ]

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