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Belle of Louisville boiler anniversary

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    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????????


      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.


        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.


          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.