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Border Star Question

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    Border Star Question

    I have a question for those of you more knowledgeable about the history of Captain Dennis Trone's Border Star, aka Bonnie Belle, Magnolia Belle, etc. In preparing for the Belle of Cincinnati's Tennessee River trip this fall, I ran across Captain Trone's word-for-word narrative from the time he had the boat on the TN. Exactly where-and when-did he run the boat on the TN? (I had fun reading a long thread from 2009 started by Travis about the history of Captain Trone's interesting boats, and where they are now.
    Last edited by Mary Sward Charlton; 07-16-2010, 10:31 AM. Reason: remove italics

    Hi Mary,

    Others will fill in the blanks, correct the mistakes. She ran out of Knoxville and I think 1969-71 or 72. She then went to Little Rock and Jack Trotter. Dennis had turned his attention to the JBS and her construction 71 so that's probably a better guess.



      Mary and Aaron,

      I didn't know about Capt. Trone having the BORDER STAR to himself at any time except after Jack Trotter owned her.

      She was built in 1969 for a consortium on the Missouri River at Kansas City, MO. Although I have never seen a picture of her there, I always understood whe was taken and delivered there. She is to have run one season on the Missouri before being sold to Jack Trotter in 1970. I can't imagine how this worked...cause the current and her lack of horsepower must have made for a harem scarem ride!

      Jack Trotter ran her out of Little Rock, AR. and even took her to the head of navigation on the Arkansas River once. I have an article somewhere in my collective that shows her making a bank landing above Port of Catoosa in 1971. she also raced the DELTA QUEEN at Little Rock in 1971. Strangely she won that race...cause for all purposes she shouldn't have...she never had the power to outrun herself!

      From the stories I heard from Capt. Lloyd Poore, C.W. Stoll, and W. Clyde Glass, Jack Trotter moved her to Knoxville, TN in fall of 1973 because of lack of ridership in Little Rock. Capt. Dennis Trone was who told him he should go there. He ran her there for a year and in fall of 1974 closed her down at Knoxville and put her up for sale.

      From here the stories change somewhat. Yes, it is true the Belle of Louisville Operating board looked at her (and almost bought he as a consort to the BELLE OF LOUISVILLE back then) at Knoxville in May of 1975....I have pictures that are dated to prove that. In the pictures she appears laid up and abandoned.

      Capt Lloyd Poore states he bought the boat from Capt. Dennis Trone and took delivery in Knoxville. However, in 1976 she shows up as a year-round operation at Chattanooga, TN. Capt Trone operated her from the WAKEROBIN his Chattanooga wharfboat. She was painted up much like the JULIA BELLE SWAIN with robins egg blue trim, the gargantuan and hideous finials above all the Main deck windows were demoved, the rams were updated to real pitman arms, and an air-powered steam whistle was fitted to the left forward corner of the pilothouse. Brochures and painted advertisements that were on the WAKEROBIN prove she operated at Chattanooga in 1976 and 1977.

      Capt Lloyd Poore brought her to Louisville on the 3rd of April 1978 and tied her up at the landing about 7:30pm. He named her BONNIE BELLE for his wife Bonnie and his mother BELLE. She was on the news that evening at 6pm and I was on the landing when she landed. His story on her was that she was abandoned at Knoxville. Capt. Dennis Trone stated she sold her from his landing at Chattanooga. So who is right? I don't know...but no pictures are extant which show her in Knoxville in the giuse she was sold to Capt. Lloyd Poore. She appears with the original yellow trim and with ram rods instead of pitmans in every picture at Knoxville.

      She operated at Jeffersonville, IN, the foot of Spring Street, for 12 years until Capt. Poore and the City of Jeffersonville got into a battle over land Capt Poore bought just below Wootens River Service at mile 599 RBD. He wanted to open a picnic grounds there for his passengers...the local government didn't want it to happen, citing it would be a disturbance to the neighbourhood. Perhaps this was because of the addition of a leased air-operated Tangley calliaphone he added to her in the summer of 1990. Capt. Poore moved the BONNIE BELLE to Madison, IN in spring of 1991. The operation there never made him much money and she was frequently in Louisville running chartered excursions. Capt. Poore along with Capt Edward G. "Pete" O'Connell took the boat to Natchez, MS in 1992 to film the movie "The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn". Accounts of this adventure are interesting. The boat literally floated with the current down to Natchez and required fleeting with an upbound tow to get her back. She was ill-equiped to deal with the current of the Lower Mississippi. Some modifiactions were made to the boat for the crew to live aboard her for this trip. The womens restroom was converted to a large shower stall. The boat was covered in a lamination of "aged" wood for the 'Hollywood steamboat" look. Unlife the other excursion boats leased for this filiming, she looks exactly like herself through the whole thing. A testament to the Capt. Dennis Trone authentic sternwheel steamboat design. Like Capt. Frederick Way Jr. once said in the S&D Reflector (the house organ of the Sons and Daughters of Pioneer Rivermen), "she looks like a minature Howard-built packetboat". Charming as they come!

      In 1993 he leased her to a group in Cincinnati, Ohio who ran her one season (I believe their name was Ohio River Packet Company). He took the boat back from them and ran a partial season in 1994 before selling her to a group in Toledo Ohio who took her under her own power to Toledo. Down the Ohio, up the Mississippi, up the Illinois (where they removed the upper decks and stacks for bridge clearances) and then to Chicago, where she was put aboard a cargo ship and moved to Toledo and reassembled. She ran one season for this operator and was renamed ARAWANNA PRINCESS. The next season she was renamed by new operators the ARAWANNA BELLE. I believe the waterway she sailed up there was the Maumee River. She wouldn't have fared well on the lake.

      This operation lasted until 2000 when she was sold to a couple in Florida who renamed her COCOA BELLE and operated her on the Indian River there. They divorced in the first year of operations and she was put up for sale. This lasted 2 years until Capt. Joe Baer bought her and moved her to Mandeville, LA. on the Tchefuncte River. She was repainted, the wheel rebuilt, and she was again renamed, this time MAGNOLIA BELLE. She floundered there due to competition with another operator. I even looked into buying her in 2006 and came close to doing so. The last public cruise she made was in April of 2007, a charter I ran for the Thunder Over Louisville celebration that year. Many tries have been made with the boat in the last 8 years and none have worked.

      She is a great boat which has alot of years left in her. I bet if someone with a dream and money came along, she could be had. If she were repowered and her rams bebuilt, I bet she'd run for several years flawlessly. She isn't very you might not want to poerate her on the Lower Mississippi...I would suggest she run on the Upper Mississippi or the Upper Ohio...perhaps on the Tennessee, or Cumberland, too!

      In the early days she had rods instead of pitmans. You can age the pictures of her by the pictures that show her with proper pitman arms.

      There are only two Trone-designed pitman/ram boats running on the rivers today. The JONATHAN PADELFORD, at St. Paul, MN and the JOHN ANDERSON WHITE at Des Moines, IA. There is one laid up in pretty good condition, the TALISMAN in Salem, IL. So if a person wanted one, there are but two precious examples available.

      Who ever wants her better hurry...cause when I win the lottery, she is mine...and will be my houseboat!

      Okay, that is my treatice on her....pick it apart and fill me in on my gaps!

      Mary, I'd love to see that narration! I bet he talks about the boat and her history, power plant, and other details of a time gone by that would be very interesting to read!

      First picture attached is the BORDER STAR at Little Rock in 1971
      Second picture attached is the BORDER STAR at Knoxville in May of 1975
      Third picture is one I purchased at Tall Stacks 1988 of the BONNIE BELLE at Cincinnati, OH.



        Travis, I figured you'd come through--I KNOW how you love this boat! This narrative was in the stuff Fred rescued from being thrown out after the boat was leased and "our" desk and files were being "cleaned up." I'll get you a copy. Most of it is about the river and history. Here is what is says about the boat:
        "The Border Star is 105 feet long overall, 23 1/2 feet wide and she has a loaded draft of 3 feet 3 inches. This boat is actually powered by the paddlewheel just as the sternwheelers were a century ago. The paddlewheel is 14 feet in diameter and turning 19 revolutions per minute, the boat has a top speed of approximately 9 miles per hour. This is considered a reasonably fast speed for a sternwheeler. The Border Star was built new in 1969 along the lines of the real old-time sternwheelers. She is of all steel construction throughout and is completely fire-proof."
        Nothing about the power plant!!


          Thanks for this information. This fills-in a lot of gaps in my info on this boat. The only other bit of trivia I had is that she was initially renamed NORTHERN STAR at Toledo in 1995, before receiving the "ARAWANNA" names. Is that correct?


            Just a note that the boat's length of 105' is her extreme overall length, from the monkey rudders to the tip of her stage. Actual hull dimensions are about 65' x 20'.


              I was on DELTA QUEEN during the 1971 "race" with the BORDER STAR, and have 35 mm slides from that day. The BS was 'allowed to win' to help give the local boat some badly prestige. Capt. Trotter was a friendly sort, and our association was short, but pleasant.



                I couldn't find my photos from the boat showing the name NORTHERN STAR. I knew there was another name in there somewhere. She has had a bunch of names over the years...I still think BORDER STAR was the prettiest one. If I win the lottery and make a glorified house boat out of her BORDER STAR is the name she will bear.


                I'd love to have a copy. If I had known that was in our desk I'd have copied it already! I can't believe I didn't see it before. Heres to my intellegentness! I can't believe that boat would have been capable of 9 miles per hour! Must have been downbound on the Missouri in a raging flood. Top speed I have ever known her to make is 5mph and that was with the current. She is pretty...but, none too fast!


                I'd love to see those slides. She was prettiest (in my estimation) as the BONNIE BELLE. But, I bet there would be alot to learn about her youth in those slides. Details that are missing in her later years only they would contain. If you care to share them on here sometime...we will all be the better for your sharing! I had heard the race in Little Rock was "staged" from several sources. Capt. Dennis Trone contended (in a personal conversation we had about the boat back in the early 1980's) "if she was in the right shape, she could have won it". He always had quite a strong belief in his boats...and that wasn't those Dubuque-built diesel sternwheelers were the best looking, running, and operating boats of their time. You'd be hard pressed to beat some of them with todays attempts at sternwheelers!



                  So where is this multi-named vessel located now? What is her price tag? Who owns her? May Lady Luck be with you on the lottery.


                    Originally posted by Lexie Palmore View Post
                    So where is this multi-named vessel located now? What is her price tag? Who owns her? May Lady Luck be with you on the lottery.

                    It is still called the Magnolia Belle, and it is owned by B&C Marine, LLC of New Orleans. Right now the boat is laid up in an undisclosed location.

                    Wish I could tell you more but I can't.

                    Capt. Joe Baer
                    m/v Magnolia Belle


                      Travis, Shipyard: there is a photo appearing in the book Water Trails West (1978) on page 36. It shows the DQ wheel and the BS in the background looking like it was ahead! This was done by the Western Writers of America, none of whom I have heard of...Cap'n Way not mentioned! Cap'n Walnut.


                        There is an excellent account of that entire trip, entitled "Arkansas River Odyssey" by Capt. Fred Way in an old REFLECTOR, I'm thinking maybe June or September issue of 1972. The picture Cap'n Walnut mentions accompanies the article if I'm not mistaken. The article is just excellent reading, pure and simple.