Got a general question. How much wood does a paddle wheeler like the Herion use.
I wasn't sure if you meant how much firewood was used to run a steamboat, or how much wood was used in construction, so here's my take on both. Good question either way.
Firewood (from Steamboats on the Western Rivers, Louis C Hunter): "Steamboats of the smaller classes burned 12 to 24 cords of wood every 24 hours, and the larger boats running at mid-century consumed anywhere from 50 to 75 cords per day."
Also, keep in mind that firewood quality varied tremendously along western American rivers, everything from well-cured oak with lots of heat potential to green cottonwood that was barely worth burning. Early boats (like Heroine) probably had to cut their own wood daily as they worked up-river (salvaging driftwood, dead trees, live when necessary), whereas woodlots began to proliferate along navigable rivers as traffic developed, meaning that boats could stop and buy wood daily instead, often finding better-quality stuff as woodcutters could stack and cure wood for later sale knowing that boats would be coming along. Especially on the Missouri River, this too changed along the route, as the river slowly left behind forested areas and extended into the mostly treeless plains and prairies of the Upper West.
Construction (from The Western River Steamboat, Adam Kane): "According to the 1880 census, the shipyard at Sewickley PA consumed 100,000 to 225,000 feet of oak, pine, and poplar in the construction of each steamboat hull between 180 and 260 feet long...this equates to approximately 20-50 old-growth trees per hull".
Early boats were built tough and heavy, simulating maritime construction, but builders quickly realized this wasn't the way to go about things, and starting building them lighter and lighter, using less oak and more pine & poplar, and using thinner pieces. American riverboats needed to be light and flexible, not hefty and rigid like an ocean-going ship.
Edited by Cathead, 07 May 2016 - 04:50 PM.