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Steamboats and other rivercraft - general discussion

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Sal, that's a great insight! Seems very sensible.

 

Don't know what to think about aesthetics, as it's so subjective. I do wonder whether they'd add a much larger box just for appearances, given how much weight and top-heaviness mattered to these boats.

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I am considering a scratch build of the "City of Monroe" from J Fryant supplied plans. I any of you have any additional info I woud appreciat it. One thing in particular would be a view or info of "life Flots" of the era.

 

Clarence

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The City of Monroe was built at the Howard Ship Yards and Dock Company in Jeffersonville, Indiana in 1887. The Howard Ship Yard is still in operation and Mr. Howard's house has been turned into a museum with hundreds of river boat models.  I have received copies of steam boat pictures from them in the past.  The staff there is quite helpful. 

 

See this site.  http://digital.library.louisville.edu/cdm/ref/collection/howard/id/2

 

Bob

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Steam boaters info

Steam boaters information found on web. I have been to the Howard steam boat museum and have found on their web site various pictures and listing of ships built over the years. Another site is The Lilly Library in Bloomington, Ind. which has a large collection of pictures on line of various ships built and pictures of the ship yards and family. They have over 200,000 pieces of information turned over to them from the late owners. pictures, records, plans, drawing ect. You can make a request a search for information on a boat and they can locate it. You can go there to view it and request a copy. Please check it out.

 

Lee

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Are any of you aware that you can get Card models of two Australian Paddle steamers, The "Pevensey" and the "Alexander Arbuthnot" Both are in 1"100  scale and available from WORLD OF PAPERSHIPS Tm  which is a Dutch publisher. No affiliation just a satisfied  customer. The Pevensey will build into a model measuring some 335 mm or about 14 inches long. The other slightly smaller 230 mm. The "Adelaide" is also available. Both my copies were picked up from a Melbourne based Hobby shop. Just hope this post is legal?

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As I slowly move along on my Chaperon build, I often look at old photos of steamboats on several websites just for the fun of it and try to imagine life at that time on the rivers. One thing that I have noticed is many of these old boats have long spars attached to the edge of the boiler deck and most often are seen just hanging down to end a foot or two below the rubbing rail. In a few instances they are tilted so the bottom of the spar rests on the main deck rather than just hanging straight down. Try as I may I cannot figure out what these critters are used for. At first I thought they might be to kind of poke out and fend off docks where the boat would tie up but the way they seem to be attached they would not swing out but only left or right through the vertical plane.

 

Sorry for no picture to show what I mean but does anyone have an idea as to their function?

 

Bob

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Bob,

 

It sounds to me like you're describing grasshopper spars, which were used to lever steamboats over/through particularly low-water places like sandbars. They were particularly common on rivers like the Missouri which were sediment-dominated (unlike the mostly bedrock Ohio and upper Mississippi), and thus so shallow that boats routinely got stuck but soft enough that doing so didn't rip their bottoms out. Here they are on my Bertrand, an 1865 boat from the Missouri River.

 

post-17244-0-02242300-1481163518_thumb.jpg

 

You can read a much more thorough description of their setup, purpose, and use in the Bertrand build log, which has a whole post dedicated just to this feature. Grasshopper spars were a key technological innovation that allowed boats to navigate the upper reaches of Great Plains rivers that would otherwise have been inaccessible to steamboats, and really mark a boat geographically.

 

The quick version of their function is that, yes, tney are free-swinging, but are linked to a steam winch/capstan. They hang from twin booms which can be positioned over the side of the bow as desired, and are then allowed to drop into the river, planting the dense, heavy poles into the sand. Then the winch is engaged, which tightens the lines running to the poles' tops, drawing the steamboat up out of the water as if on crutches. At the same time, the wheel is engaged to drive the boat forward (or backward, if needed), essentially levering the boat up and over (or off) the sandbar. This operation was repeated as needed until the boat was clear; the appearance of this repeated motion, and of the tall poles, gave the spars their name. These boats' hulls were so flexible (no equivalent keel to a sailing ship) that they could quite literally slither over a sand bar and back into deep water beyond. The spars gave the boat leverage at the bow to combine with the power at the stern (sternwheelers were most commonly fitted with these for upper river use, as sidewheelers generally couldn't handle conditions as shallow).

 

Does this match what you were asking about?

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I believe he is asking about the 6 X 6 beams the hang from the boiler deck as in these pictures.  I've always thought they were bumpers.

 

Bob

 

Here you can see them hanging along the side.

post-513-0-35971000-1481213154_thumb.jpg

 

Here they are pulled up so the ends are on deck.

post-513-0-24459600-1481213144.jpg

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Oh, interesting, I see how that could also match leclaire's description. The photos are certainly helpful. In that case I don't know, but your guess of bumpers does make sense, particularly for boats commonly pulled up in the close-packed confines of a busy levee like St. Louis.

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John and Cap'n Bob - Indeed, I was referring to those "hanging spars" shown in your photos. So they are there to provide extra protection while alongside in addition to the rubbing rail. Interesting how some were seen to be stowed away all ship shape while many others were just left to dangle. I imagine it all depended on the discipline or lack thereof from the master.

 

Cathead - I knew they were not the grasshopper spars primarily from following the excellent description in your Bertrand build log.

 

Many thanks to all,

 

Bob

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Apologies for misunderstanding your original question and jumping to conclusions; I should have asked for clarification first. Oh well, just a few more pixels spilled.

 

I wonder if some of the "dangling" in photos relates to the likelihood of these boats being photographed while pulled up on a levee where encounters with other boats were more likely. Certainly in Cap'n Bob's photo above, that boat is ashore and might well have another boat come alongside at any moment, so it makes sense to leave the fenders out even if the narrow photo view makes it look unnecessary. It would be interesting to compare photo sets and see if there's any correlation between onshore and underway in the arrangement of the fenders.

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In all the pictures I have seen, and I may have missed one, but I have never seen an anchor on deck. I would have expected one on the stern to hold the boat from swinging when headed into the bank. I was going to put one on my current Monroe build but don't know what kind would have been used.

 

Clarence 

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Clarence, see my response to a similar question here. It's my understanding that anchors were rarely, if ever, used in riverboats. There really isn't a need for them, and it could often have been dangerous to do so as any anchor holding the boat against the river current would tend to make it heel, rather problematic when these often had only a few inches to a foot of freeboard. Boats were generally held in place against a bank or levee by running the boat up onto the bank itself, or by tying off a line to a tree or other onshore support. Keeping the paddle(s) turning slowly was another approach to holding position.

 

I'd be happy to hear if anyone else has a different take.

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I'll add that you really don't want the boat anchored when it's run it's bow on the bank.  Debris floating downstream would create some serious problems if the stern couldn't swing if hit.

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Although, any debris big enough to meaningfully swing the stern of a ~150-200' long steamboat is likely going to do some severe damage when it hits anyway...

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I live on the Mississippi River and with the stuff I have seen floating by, particularly in the spring, you definitely would not want to get hit broadside (or any other side) while tied up on the shore, anchored or not.

 

Bob

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