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Lake George's very own steam pianna

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    Lake George's very own steam pianna

    This is one for probably for Travis. Late-night YouTube diversion led me to this little clip: YouTube - Steam ship that sings. It shows the Minne Ha Ha's steam calliope in action for all of about 20 seconds. What's the story behind this instrument?

    #2
    Kim Graham, the MINNE HA HA calliope, Ernest Wilde, and a whole lotta calliope stuff!

    Jon,

    Originally, it (the MINNE HA HA calliope) was the 3rd of the Frisbee instruments (1. NATCHEZ (1974), 2. PA DENNY (1976), 3. MINNE HA HA (1976), 4. The manifold and valves (Only)for the BELLE OF LOUISVILLE (!977)).

    In 1999 Kim Graham of Iowa came along to "rebuild it" and took the whistles and valves with him back to his Iowa factory. The purpose of the rebuild was a caviat in the design of the Frisbee whistles. Frisbee made their whistles with baffle plates inside the whistles. The idea is the whistles would retain tune better with this set up. The downside is the part of the hollow resonant tube above the baffle plate does not heat from the steam evenly with the opening above. This stressed the bead of silver solder which holds the two sides of the sheet rolled to make the whistle bell (barrel if you will) and it would let go near the baffle. This has hapened many times on the NATCHEZ and PA DENNY. On the DENNY it is common to just use radiator hose clamps to hold the whistle together. On the NATCHEZ they just resolder them as they have the facilities aboard to do such. I believe there are two such banded together whistles today on the DENNY. Kim was going to resolder the whistles and gold plate them so they would not need polishing like on the NATCHEZ.

    Next thing anyone knew they were showed up on the rooftop of the LADY LUCK Casino in Natchez, MS. They disappeared from there in a veil of secrecy (which is par for the course with the casino people) in 2001 and have not been seen since. So has the idea of a calliope aboard the boat...there is no sign of it past 2001.

    I do not know who replaced the whistles and valves aboard the MINNE HA HA. From what I have seen in pictures they appear to be ASCO valves similar to those you should have seen on the AMERICAN QUEEN (by the way...awaiting your review of that instrument, as are the Morecrafts....pins and needles here!!!!!). The whistles are dead ringers for the Wilde instruments of the 1960's. Here is another video of the MINNE...in the middle of the video (and it is a long one for youtube) you will get some close ups of the calliope playing. If it doesn't sound like a Wilde instrument starving for steam (I bet they are playing it on something near or about 10 psig) then I will be a Monkeys Uncle!
    YouTube - Lake George, NY, and Minnie-Ha-Ha Steamboat

    I have no idea of who built this current set of whistles or where they came from. They did approach David Morecraft about a set of calliope whistles a few years back and nothing came of it.

    This I do know...I heard from the Dow family (Owners of the MINNE HA HA) in the early 2000's looking for Kim Graham and their whistles and valves. They are not only serious but were willing to offer cash if you could locate Mr. Graham and/or their whistles.

    Last time I saw Kim Graham was aboard the BELLE OF LOUISVILLE in 1986 when he came to visit and performed on the calliope in the style of Vic Tooker. He showed me pictures of a calliope he had built aboard a vessel called THE QUEEN which is a sternwheeler which pushed an excursion barge for Celebrations Riverboats in the mid 1980's in Cincinnati, OH.(the vessel is now knows as the MS MERIADA and is a sternwheel houseboat). The calliope Mr Graham reportedly built had come from the Johnston Party Boat CHAPERON. When BB Riverboats bought the boat they scuttled the calliope and Kim found it and used it's whistles for THE QUEEN. The CHAPREON instrument was one of the 4 known Ernest J. Wilde instruments (1. Mr. Wilde's personal instrument (1964), 2. the CHAPERON (1965), 3. Wild West Show (1965), 4. BELLE OF LOUISVILLE (1966). speaking of Wilde instruments, it is also rumored he was good friends with Homer Denney and Homer assisted him in the tuning of the instruments.

    The Dow family would love to hear from anyone who can get them in touch with Mr. Graham.

    There has been speculation as to what happened to Kim Graham over the last few years. Pat Welsh swears he is alive and in Iowa. Last David Morecraft heard (same here) he was murdered in early 2000 in Iowa. Either way, the calliope from the MINNE HA HA is missing, and the last person who is known to have had hand to it is Kim Graham.

    Kim was/is a calliope enthusiast who also had a fascination with railroad steam engines. At one time he advertised he could build steam calliopes and steam engines at his factory in Iowa. I believe his advertisement was in the former excursion boat annual issue of the Waterway Journal of 1991 or 1992. In 1991 he rebuilt the Str. PRESIDENT calliope for it's new life as a casino instrument. The keyboard and associated electronics aboard the PRESIDENT today are his. The whistles and manifold are original.

    He built calliopes for the CAJUN QUEEN and CREOLE QUEEN in the early 1990s. The CREOLE QUEEN calliope is a prety good sounding calliope on air. Mr. Graham tried to get copyright on the Nichol name for his reproduction instruments. He was unsuccessful at this attempt. He contacted David Morecraft and threatened him severely about using the Nichol name in his advertising, even though he was denied his copyright.

    Kim originally had the contract to build the calliope for the AMERICAN QUEEN. Again, I have no details here other than David Morecraft was contacted and I drew up a instrument in an overnight bid for the job. Rumors have said Mr. Graham was paid a builders fee for the instrument and just disappeared from the scene. I have not seen this as fact on paper.

    The keyboard of the MINNE HA HA calliope is today aboard the NATCHEZ, having been put there to replace her keyboard....I believe this happened in 2001, as she had her original calliope keyboard when I was aboard her in New Orleans in May of 2000.

    What keyboard is aboard the MINNE HA HA, I do not know. For I have not seen a picture of it as it is now. The old one sat in the Pilothouse to the port side.

    ~Travis~
    Last edited by inactive user 02; 08-08-2008, 08:29 AM. Reason: Wrong date on the WWJ ad

    Comment


      #3
      Actually, I could help you with that one, being as I work on the boat and play it periodically. The calliope onboard the Minne Ha Ha is actually the second one she's had. The original one was one of the 3 Frisbee Calliopes. One is on the Str. Natchez, the second is on the P.A. Denny, and the third was on the Minne for many years. Back in the 1980's, it was sent out to a refurbishing company in Indiana, and they sent over the calliope we have now as one to use while our old one was being fixed. After many months of not hearing anything, my dad (owner of the company) finally got fed up and called the company demanding they send it back. The owner ended up confessing that he had sold the calliope to a gaming boat in Natchez, Mississippi. By law, they didn't have to give it back to us (even though it was stolen goods) and the calliope that was only supposed to be temporary still plays to this day aboard the boat. We later found out that the man who ran the company, who's name escapes me, wasn't in very good standings with a lot of people and I think I remember hearing that he went to jail and later died there. Oh well, back to matters of importance. While there is a keyboard up there, most of the playing is done by a tape deck with pre-recorded songs. You'll see in the pictures I put up that there is one of the captains standing in the window and it looks like he's playing it. Well, he's not. The whistles stick from time to time and he's just pushing keys to get it to unstick. Either that, or they'll throw the breaker to turn off the tape deck. Sadly, it isn't taken care of the way it should be and it sounds "sick" on most days but I guess it does the job. Hope that answers your questions.
      Attached Files

      Comment


        #4
        Hey Travis,

        The boat you mentioned as the push boat for the QUEEN here at Cincinnati for ex Barelycorns now Celebrations Riverboats was the CAPTAIN DAVE originally of the Johnsonville Party Boat fleet in Cincinnati. That boat was sold to interest upriver and renamed CAPTAIN H, some years back. I think the fellows name was Brooks Javin's up near Morgantown who owned it and the CINDY. I think the boat has since been sold south (Guntersville maybe). I spent some time aboard the CAPTAIN DAVE as one of my former BONNIE BELLE Captains Tony Seibert used to run her. Not sure this will aid in the research but thought I'd send it along. Incidentally the MS Meriada is pulled out on the bank at Dayton, Kentucky awaiting her next adventure. For those who don't know she's the old Dravo built WINIFRED, sister to the NEMACOLIN and SEWICKELY.

        Aaron

        Comment


          #5
          Well, Travis beat me to the chase on the last post, but I went down to the company this morning and, after searching through many files, found out some updated information I was wrong about. The whole calliope fiasco happened in 1993, not the 1980's as I had said earlier. Also, through correspondence wth his brother Kent, we found out that Kim had ended up in Leavenworth Prison. As Travis said, it is speculation what has happened to him since. Travis is also correct in saying that if you have any information on Kim's whereabouts (if he indeed did not die in prison), please fell free to contact us.

          Comment


            #6
            Thanks for posting, Bubba. I was going to email you to alert you to the question, as I wasn't sure if you were still following the board or if you had gone off to the Maritime Academy. Too bad you're on the Lake George boats now rather than the NATCHEZ - sounds like this 'temporary' upriver dock arrangement is a real pain... Here are some pix of Matthew Bubba Dow, taken this past April, as he was finishing a New Orleans 'internship' between high school and college. He also worked on the NATCHEZ coming up to and during Tall Stacks. He's getting quite the practical steamboating education prior to the academic side. Check out his .org profile and you'll see another pix of him playing the NATCHEZ' calliope.
            Attached Files

            Comment


              #7
              Matt,

              Thanks for posting the pictures of the MINNE HA HA calliope! Now that I see them a little better I am beginning to wonder if they are infact not the whistles Kim took from THE QUEEN in 1987 when he left that boat for Iowa. They sure sound and look the part!

              If that is the case, you could have the old CHAPERON calliope out there.

              So all this happened in 1993! Wow, that was much earlier than I had thought it was. It is a wonder your calliope didn't end up on the AMERICAN QUEEN!

              As I told your Dad many years ago...if I ever find the whereabouts of Kim S. Graham, he will be the first to know, and I meant that. He gave the calliope business a very bad name and made it alot harder on those of us who know what it is all about to move forward. Believe me, I have found many a closed door as has David Morecraft because of Mr. Graham.

              This whole thing is a shame, for that Frisbee calliope was far superior to what you have there today!

              Speaking of Dave...The only person who could replace it and make it sound better (the way it should) is David Morecraft in Peru, IN ( Morecraft Manufacturing ) for he is the ne-plus-ultra when it comes to calliopes...and a straight shooter! Ask around on the boats and anyone who has seen/played one of his instruments will swear by them! He has instruments all over the place...and any of his customers will be glad to vouch!

              ~Travis~

              Comment


                #8
                Aaron,

                So the MS MERIADA is not the CAPTAIN DAVE? I guess I got my signals crossed on this one.

                We all make a mistake once in awhile...my apologies for my error on this one!

                ~Travis~

                Comment


                  #9
                  Judy, thanks for the thought about e-mailing me on this. I was on at 9:30 this morning and saw the thread and knew I had to post. Also to Travis, we have been in touch with Dave Morecraft before, though not in the past couple years. I have recently just stumbled upon his website and, after hearing what you have had to say about him, should seriously look into it because i would love nothing more than to get our calliope back "up to steam".

                  Comment


                    #10
                    STEAM-WHISTLE - Google Patents
                    I believe this is the patent to the whistle that Travis is speaking about.

                    Comment


                      #11
                      GEE Travis ,,thanks for all the kind words,,,!!
                      Thought it was about time i got on here ,,,!!
                      And yes,,,their is another new Steam Calliope being turned out as you reed this,,.
                      and HI YALL
                      Keep your Boiler Lit...
                      Dave,,,,

                      Comment


                        #12
                        Dave,

                        Welcome to steamboats.org! We are a nice little bunch of river and calliope fans here! For those of you who have not heard of David Morecraft, he is the premiere builder of steam calliopes in the world today.

                        Looking forward to more news on that new calliope and where it's new home may be!

                        ~Travis~

                        Comment


                          #13
                          Dave,

                          Welcome to steamboats.org! We are a nice little bunch of river and calliope fans here! For those of you who have not heard of David Morecraft, he is the premiere builder of steam calliopes in the world today.

                          Looking forward to more news on that new calliope and where it's new home may be!

                          ~Travis~

                          Comment


                            #14
                            Thanks again Travis,,
                            I would like to point out the second pic you posted was at Tall Stacks 1992
                            and the calliope was a brand new Nichol reproduction, but with electric valves,
                            calliope 32-003.
                            And DOC HAWLEY fell in love with it, must have brought back some memories
                            of his AVALON days.
                            Its now in Holland.on the Str.SUCCES.
                            Dave ...

                            Comment


                              #15
                              For anyone who's still interested, here are some close-up pictures of the "Minne's" calliope I took before I left for college.
                              Attached Files

                              Comment

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