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Steamboat Arabia 1856 by Cathead - Scale 1:64 - sidewheel riverboat from the Missouri River, USA

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Very interesting. A different perspective taking into account the environment in which these vessels operated in present and past.  Also, furthers ones education on the background concerning the art subject being constructed.

 

Scott 

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Thanks Eric.  I remember too well and somewhat miss that part of the country.  Cahokia Mound, the rivers, and even the stone forts in southern Illinois.  Lovely adventures and fascinating in their beauty.  How bad is the flooding on the riverfront in St. Louis?  

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Mark,

 

The Mississippi at St. Louis is currently forecast to crest at 43' on Friday. For reference, here are the three highest crests on record at St. Louis:

  1. 49.58 ft on 08/01/1993
  2. 43.23 ft on 04/28/1973
  3. 42.52 ft on 01/01/2016

So as currently forecast, it'll be the third-highest on record and very close to the second, with more rain to come. The official river forecasts only take into account the next 24 hours of rainfall, so with five days before the currently predicted crest and more storms predicted for Wednesday and Thursday, this could easily go up to second. For context, the Coast Guard usually orders the closing of river shipping at 38', so this is well past that and nothing is moving on the river. The link above has a nice list of what effects happen where at what river levels in the area.

 

The Missouri and Mississippi aren't the only Midwestern rivers experiencing severe flooding. Check out this video of two fully loaded fertilizer barges breaking free and slamming into an Oklahoma dam on the badly swollen Arkansas River.

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And, as promised, an actual model update. After permanently attaching the boiler deck, I started installing the main support posts under the forward area (that has no other superstructure under it other than the main stairwell). I cut posts to length, then drilled a hole in the base of each and inserted a short length of wire. I drilled another hole in the deck where the post needed to go. This helped me align them properly and hold them in place while the glue dried, while providing more strength.

 

I did the same for the posts supporting the two longitudinal hog chains (one line on each side, just inside the width of the hull as these would be extended down to the hull's framing). The photo below shows two hog chain posts ready to go, with slots filed in their tops to hold the chains and the tips painted black to simulate a metal cap. Bates describes a variety of ways for chains to interact with posts, including holes through the post, metal caps, and slots in the post, so I chose a hybrid of the last two. This also shows how I made turnbuckles for the chains by filing portions of a hollow styrene tube flat before painting the tube and cutting each turnbuckle out. Sorry for the poor image quality, I took this at night, but I think you can see sufficient detail to understand the method.

Arabia_8o.jpg.e0f5230258478902162c8b09e4bc37a7.jpg

Once these posts were installed, I used lengths of steel piano wire for the chains as this is stiff and strong. I'd tried other wire but it wouldn't lie straight. I used pewter blacking to partly blacken the steel wire, then installed it and carefully painted it black afterward. For the actual installation, I laid the wire into the slots on each post and used clamps extending from the deck beams above to hold it down. Then I just added drops of CA to each post. At the stern, the hog chains run into the superstructure and vanish. In reality, they'd descend into the after hull just like they do forward, but as this area will be out of view on the finished model, I didn't bother extending them back down to the deck. Here are two views of the starboard hog chain (with turnbuckles); the port one looks exactly the same as you can see in the blurry background.

 

Arabia_8p.jpg.4cc136a66d1930328d2adf5d044b2693.jpg

Arabia_8q.jpg.e142ecea825520bf5fecde301656606c.jpg

And here's an overall shot as of this evening.

 

Arabia_8r.jpg.ae9d8731ceaeb3bbe220d50ec6f4d6f8.jpg

Next up are the transverse cross chains that support the wheels, and possibly one further forward. Thanks for reading.

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Eric,

 

She’s definitely coming along nicely.

 

I am approaching this stage on my Chaperon in assembling the structure around the boiler. One of the things that has been pointed out on several Chaperon builds was the lack of the foreword hog chain supports not extending through the boiler deck to the main deck. They just simply disappear. This is an error I do intended on correcting with my build. 

 

Even given the time difference between Arabia and Chaperon the construction of this area seems somewhat similar. Although it’s simplistic in looks, I’m sure each and every post and beam serves a purpose, whether to support the deck above or holding hull in line. 

 

On a side note, I grew up on the lower Mississippi River (Baton Rouge area) and have seen a lot of what Mother Nature can do do a river and it amazes me what lengths are taken to ensure the water stays within its man made boundaries. I’ve seen the Mississippi as high as a foot from spilling over the tops of levees on a few occasions and living only a half mile from it warrants a serious pucker factor when it happens.

 

It’s an eerie site to see huge ships go by looking like they are riding the top of the levee. But what’s even more eerie is when there are no ships at all going down the river because it’s been shut down due to high water. 

 

-Brian

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3 hours ago, Cathead said:

Mark,

 

The Mississippi at St. Louis is currently forecast to crest at 43' on Friday. For reference, here are the three highest crests on record at St. Louis:

  1. 49.58 ft on 08/01/1993
  2. 43.23 ft on 04/28/1973
  3. 42.52 ft on 01/01/2016

I was there in '93. Even went and sat on the arch steps with the water coming up the steps.  Also did some volunteer time filling sandbags that year. Not a good year for those near the rivers and remember one news cast in particular where the TV helicopter was flying over the levee, saw some men working on shoring it up and then suddenly running, jumping into their trucks and taking off in both directions on the levey as it broke through over the top.    Looks like this one is going to be as bad.

 

Nice work on the boat and the chains.

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Today is Memorial Day in the US, when we remember fallen veterans. I was fortunate that both my grandfathers survived WWII. One made it through North Africa and Sicily before taking a severe leg wound in central Italy. The other spent the war in a sub in the Pacific, despite being well over 6' tall.

 

It wasn't just the men in my family directly affected; my father's family had lived in the Philippines since the early 20th century and some still do (both my grandfather and father were born there), having come over for business following the Spanish-American war. My grandfather was in college in the US when the war broke out, and joined the Navy. Meanwhile, his whole family were trapped in the Philippines as the Japanese approached. I've read a series of letters from my great-grandmother to her son as the noose gradually tightened; the last few mention things like the first sightings of Japanese bombers overhead, then the mail abruptly stopped. The whole family went into Japanese internment camps; we were lucky that everyone came back out again at the other end, despite severe suffering; many families were less fortunate, both Filipino and American (especially the former). My grandfather spent the whole war having no idea if his family was dead or alive, while serving close to the Philippines but never able to do anything directly about it until the liberation. If you've read the book Unbroken (and you should), you've read a parallel story to my family's. They don't appear by name in the book, but were part of the community it describes and almost certainly knew many of the main characters.

 

Although my specific line all survived that war (and all those that have followed), knowing their story helps me remember all those who didn't, both veterans and civilians, and how what they suffered contributed, in the end, to the world being a better place than it was then.

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More progress! Here are the two forward transverse chains on the starboard side. These cross to the port side (as that's visible from the outside) but don't descend back down to the deck on that side (as they'll be hidden from view in the superstructure. Again, the starboard side is remaining open to view so I can show off details like this.

Arabia_8s.jpg.31a507e2cd7f9651b3adc4c366abce84.jpg

Next, I began filling in the aft superstructure. First, I built two more cargo doors (one for each side, built the same as the aft one described earlier in this log) and installed them with some extra vertical braces. Then I started filling in walls. I've gotten as far as finishing the port side so far. This work is pretty basic stuff so I don't know that much detailed description is needed.

Arabia_8t.jpg.10b20bb46770b475565c56a486136696.jpg

You can see one transverse brace just behind the wheel. There will be another one further aft at the same spacing as the forward two, but I won't add that until the walls are built. The one by the wheel won't be seen on the port side as it comes down within the paddlewheel well. But the aft-most one will be visible on both sides.

Arabia_8u.jpg.fce37f00c119e68e12135faa56198e4d.jpg

 

In this photo, it's more obvious than I expected that I used pre-scribed panels for the walls in some places and individual planks in others. Stuff like that really jumps out on screen. I hope the difference won't be so obvious once there's other detail in the way, like all the support posts between the two decks, various cargo, shadow from the boiler deck, and so on. Following up on the last comment, the forward of the two aft chains would be just behind the wall of the wheel well (and thus hidden in the final model), while the after one will come out just forward of the cargo door.

 

Other responses:

 

On 5/26/2019 at 2:24 PM, stm said:

Very interesting. A different perspective taking into account the environment in which these vessels operated in present and past.  Also, furthers ones education on the background concerning the art subject being constructed

I really like understanding the context of a model or a subject, it's just so much more interesting when you understand how, why, and where a vessel was designed and used. Thanks for being interested.

 

On 5/26/2019 at 10:44 PM, mbp521 said:

On a side note, I grew up on the lower Mississippi River (Baton Rouge area) and have seen a lot of what Mother Nature can do do a river and it amazes me what lengths are taken to ensure the water stays within its man made boundaries. I’ve seen the Mississippi as high as a foot from spilling over the tops of levees on a few occasions and living only a half mile from it warrants a serious pucker factor when it happens.

 

Yeah, I've been through that area, visited the Atchafalaya control structure, and so on. As a geologist with a particular interest in river and landscapes, that area is like catnip. Interesting to hear your personal perspective.

On 5/26/2019 at 11:40 PM, mtaylor said:

I was there in '93. Even went and sat on the arch steps with the water coming up the steps.  Also did some volunteer time filling sandbags that year. Not a good year for those near the rivers and remember one news cast in particular where the TV helicopter was flying over the levee, saw some men working on shoring it up and then suddenly running, jumping into their trucks and taking off in both directions on the levey as it broke through over the top.    Looks like this one is going to be as bad. 

On 5/26 I wrote that the river at St. Louis was forecast to crest at 43'. After another week of storms in the basin (including one that spawned a huge tornado near Kansas City), it's now forecast to crest at 46' this coming Thursday (1993 record is 49.58'). And it's just entering June, in 1993 the river didn't peak until August.

 

The Missouri continues to surge. Multiple levees have now broken and there are countless roads and bridges closed. If you don't know the area, it's hard to explain how difficult it is to get around. The river is so high that it's backing many miles up every tributary, closing all sorts of routes that normally wouldn't be affected. And levee breaks are closing fairly major roads across the state. Here are a couple more photos I took the other day of the Missouri River near its current peak.

 

Here's the river at Glasgow, Missouri. It's hard to tell from the photo, but the far bank is a levee that's at least ten feet above the bottomland beyond, and the river is about a foot from the top. The road and rail line crossing the river here are closed because they cross the floodplain for a mile after this and are underwater further back where it's not protected by the levee seen here. These bridges are a major corridor across this part of the state and you have to go a really long way around to find another way across.

 

Glasgow_flooding_1.jpg.fb275f54ae8c90b17784d27592af9bf1.jpg

Here's the Missouri River at Boonville, MO. The bridge in the background is a historic railroad bridge that's partly open to pedestrians; the water is really close to the actual bridge structure. In the foreground you can see the river overtopping the bank and coming up the hill into the lower parts of town. The corridor stretching straight back is another busy railroad line that I'd estimate is 5-8 feet underwater based on my knowledge of the area and what's left of the signals poking out. There isn't much to flood here other than the rail line, the rest of town is on higher ground. The building in the background is a casino and I could care less if that floods. However, just across the river from here, a major levee just broke and is now flooding a section of bottomland that's at least ten miles long, inundating another major road through the region.

Boonville_flooding_1.jpg.a452e309a634311439ecf221430495c8.jpg

Pretty wild times here in the American Midwest. I haven't even mentioned the Arkansas River, which has surged past its record level.

 

Thanks for reading, as always.

 

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Posted (edited)

I finished off the starboard side of the aft superstructure this week, using the same methods as the port side. Once it was done, I added the other transverse chains on both sides. I placed a few barrels and a figure for photographic interest.

Arabia_8v.jpg.f5739ecb5714c887219fc396ecb6837c.jpg

Once this was done, I decided I really didn't like the contrast between the manually planked sides and the scribed-planked aft (see photos in last post). Mulling it over, I realized that I'd left myself the ability to plank over the aft wall because the door there protruded enough to accommodate thin planks. So I went ahead and did that; the whole structure now looks a lot more uniform:

 

Arabia_8w.jpg.1e42323faa446de0ea2816e96fe5bee2.jpg

Doing this created a mismatch at the corners, though, which I fixed with the time-tested method of installing a pipe along each corner. I'm calling them gutters draining the boiler deck; they actually come out over the guards (rather than into the hull), so this is at least plausible. I like the replanked aft for two reasons: (1) it's more consistent with the sides, and (2) it's most consistent with the model's style overall. The decks and other areas are slightly rough rather than perfectly crisp, which won't win any modelling awards but gives the model a distinct "feel" and conveys the rough-and-tumble nature of upper-river boats in a way I like. So now the presentation is more cohesive. Lesson learned on trying to take a shortcut.

Arabia_8x.jpg.ddfbb805da0a0fd079eb92ef1dc6c6ef.jpg

For reference, here's the port side again, which hasn't changed except for the installation of the transverse chain. The photo has a strange color balance between the two walls, but that's just a trick of the light.

 

Not quite sure what I'm going to do next, there are various ways to move forward from here. Thanks for reading.

Edited by Cathead

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This is simply stunning work you are doing here Eric! As a community here, we are very fortunate to have people like yourself who possess not only the skill to produce such works, but also the knowledge behind the vessels they create. Congratulations!

 

Cheers

 

Chris

 

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That's awfully nice of you, Chris. My own work looks pretty rough to me, in comparison with the precision of many other modelers here, but I've learned to be comfortable with what my skill set allows for any given project. Otherwise it would cease to be fun. I do agree that a great deal of the appeal of modelling (to me) is learning about and understanding the subject, not just the actual building or viewing.

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3 hours ago, Cathead said:

I do agree that a great deal of the appeal of modelling (to me) is learning about and understanding the subject, not just the actual building or viewing.

Eric,

 

I must agree. In the short time I’ve been working on my build and log I’ve learned a tremendous amount. I have, by no means, the caliber of knowledge of steamboats you, Kurt and others have stored away but in time (20-30 years) I may get there.

 

Half the fun of the build is the learning. I always look forward to reading the updates on these builds and the tips and information that come along with them. 

 

Your Arabia is coming along nicely. I do like the “roughness” of the planked walls. It truly shows the reality of how these boats were constructed. Nice touch on the “gutters”. I myself did cheat on my build and scribed the additional wall, only because the other walls in the kit were done in the same manner and I didn’t want have that different look either. 

 

On a side note, are you guys drying out up there. I know a lot of people in northern Oklahoma and Arkansas are dealing with some serious flooding. 

 

-Brian

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2 hours ago, mbp521 said:

On a side note, are you guys drying out up there. I know a lot of people in northern Oklahoma and Arkansas are dealing with some serious flooding. 

Depends on how you define it. We actually haven't had rain in a few days, but the big rivers are carrying so much water that that doesn't matter much. The Mississippi will crest in St. Louis on Sunday (here's what it looked like a few days ago, from the National Weather Service). The Missouri is holding steady or slightly falling, but there's so much floodwater that it's going to take a long time to draw down even if the whole region turns dry, which isn't in the regional forecast. Once water gets past levees and floods the bottoms, it gets trapped there by those same levees because it can't get back out again easily. Another downside to the levee system; a natural floodplain would drain itself.

 

 

 

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Posted (edited)

I've managed to fill in some useful details in the last few weeks. First, I added a few support rods dropping from the boiler deck to hold up the steam lines between the boilers and engines:

Arabia_8y.jpg.f859491dab422a3a301e7488e43cd484.jpg

Arabia_8z.jpg.52b35a9b35890e98f8243036a873f822.jpg

Next, I started adding the outer support posts between the main & boiler decks. First, the stern:

 

Arabia_8za.thumb.JPG.2a0b6eece434d0a2a1155d91962c2bad.JPG

Then, a sequence from the bow:

 

Arabia_8zb.jpg.c2c109d99cac745da71a892124219b49.jpg

Arabia_8zc.jpg.8c6a6826318f00ad6c6f14038f69b395.jpg

You may also notice that I added another transverse chain right in front of the main stairwell. Kurt had suggested this, and I decided it was a good idea as the main deck extends pretty far from the hull here with very little support from above (as both the boiler deck and the hull curve sharply inward). It adds some nice visual detail, too.

 

Next, I started filling in the port wall in front of the paddle box. At the last moment, I couldn't bring myself to fully block off the view of the port engine, so I borrowed an idea from many sternwheelers and included some ventilation/access hatches next to the engine. No idea if this is accurate for sidewheelers, but I think it looks pretty neat. I also built a set of basic crates to fill in the cargo area here. Below, they're loosely stacked in what's likely their permanent arrangement. There will be an outer wall here from the paddle box to the first support post, so they'll only really be seen from the front, thus it doesn't matter if there's nothing at the bottom of the stack. I based these on Google Image searches for Civil-War-era crates (I chose the easiest design to replicate for a detail that will be mostly hidden). In the background of the previous photo you get another hint of what the "loaded" vessel will look like.

 

Arabia_8zd.jpg.a915f8d52a296dcd38d666fc3e1d1100.jpg

Arabia_8ze.jpg.48464f6a5de6c2a86b6da8d5d2fd599d.jpg

And last, here's an overhead view of the current model. I think the next step will be starting to lay down the boiler deck, so this may be the last unobstructed view of the main deck. There's a lot of detail left to add to the main deck, but all of it is toward the outer edges where I can do it when the model is closer to being finished.

 

Arabia_8zf.jpg.3d30b88b91e96efc651f78703c6e9689.jpg

In other news, I had a pretty neat experience over the last month. A few years ago, when I first started building wooden nautical models, I built a rough version of an upper Missouri River keelboat, the kind commonly used by fur trappers and other rivermen to float goods down from the mountains (like furs, gold, etc.). These were usually knocked together from rough lumber, took one trip, then were sold for their lumber upon reaching St. Louis. Mine was based on a variety of images, including some of the full-size replicas used in the 1952 film The Big Sky. Here's a nice, long article with lots of images for those interested in these craft. Anyway, here's the model:

 

gallery_17244_1009_221531.jpg

A fellow browsing MSW saw this model in its gallery and got in touch with me through the NRG. I assumed he was just interested in learning more about keelboats (or was maybe an expert who wanted to correct something), but it turns out he's a huge fan of the film mentioned above and was interested in buying the model! We came to an easy agreement and I carefully packed and shipped off the model. I never thought I'd actually sell a model, and it's a really neat feeling to know that my work is making someone other than me happy! Fun note, the sails are made from scrap fabric left over from Mrs. Cathead's wedding dress, 11 years ago.

 

Next up, I'll be working on the boiler deck and casting deep shadows over all that main deck detail. Enjoy it while you can! Thanks for reading.

 

 

Edited by Cathead

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Congratulations on the sale, Eric.    As for the sidewheeler, I hate to see all wonderful engine work being covered up.  Have you considered that one side using plexiglass to "simulate" the wall?  Some of the plastic guys do this (there's German U-boat going on that comes to mind).  But, builder's choice and I'm loving watching this.

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Mark, it's a good general idea and in a more solid model you'd likely be right, but as I'm just leaving the whole starboard side open, I don't think I need any glass. The support posts add enough structural integrity and any glass would probably detract from the view inward due to reflection and distortion. It'll look almost realistic anyway as the lack of walls is somewhat subtle given that much of the infrastructure is open anyway. I think the presentation will become more clear over time. Adding the deck will cut down on the light getting into the detailed area, but I can always supply a flashlight to shine in there.

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Eric,

 

Nice work on the chains, crates and support rods. Your Arabia is progressing very nicely.

 

Just out of curiosity, why would the stern-wheelers not have as many transverse chains (if any) as compared to side-wheelers. Is the weight that much more significant having the paddle wheels mounted to the side? In reference to hull size, it doesn't look like the hulls are that much different in size between the two styles of boats. To me it seems that it would be much more cost effective and more structurally sound to go with a stern mounted paddle wheel than on the sides. Although, the maneuverability of the side wheel placement seems to make more sense. Just some random thoughts that pass through my head.

 

All in all, I love the detail you have in work with the crates. I went by the "quicker" way when I made mine on my Chaperon build by just making the fronts. Since they are barely visible, the effect is there minus all of the work. I also cheated a little by finding a jpeg of a steam engine online, sizing to scale the picture and then sticking it to a piece of foam board just inside of the mechanical room. Only small parts of it are visible through the upper windows and the wall vents. Again, it gave me the effect I was looking for without the work.

 

-Brian

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Brian,

 

Yes, the wheels add a massive amount of weight that's entirely supported beyond the hull in either case You're right that the hulls themselves aren't much different, but where you mount the wheels makes a huge difference in the weight distribution both laterally and longitudinally.

 

There are a lot of reasons to choose either design. Sidewheelers were more maneuverable but their wheels were more prone to damage from river debris, which is one reason most upper-river or shallow-water boats (especially on the Missouri) tended to be sternwheelers. The sternwheel also made it easier to push or pull the boat over or off sand bars, not an issue in the lower rivers where sidewheelers predominated. Also, the placement of the engines and wheels on sidewheelers helped counteract the long, thin hull's natural tendency to hog (sag at bow and stern, rise in the middle), which was a huge problem for sternwheelers, especially with the wheel levering itself off the back end of the hull. That's one reason most sternwheelers had much larger longitudinal chains (sticking up way beyond the decks), while sidewheelers needed more transverse chains instead. Finally, sternwheelers tended to have narrower guards (the main deck extensions beyond the hull), so they didn't need as much lateral support.

 

On the crates, I "cheated" too, just didn't take photos of doing so. I didn't add rear handles to any crates that wouldn't show them and didn't scribe the front boards on any non-visible angle. I also used particularly crappy wood for the hidden parts (all of those were made from shop scrap); if you could see the other side of that stack, you'd see gouges and other damage in the wood. The way I wanted to display them meant that I had to have the full crate length because you'd be able to see around the edges of the stack, so I couldn't just use a false front as you did. Plus, there will likely be two small windows into that area (take a look at the original painting at the beginning of this log), so I needed solid crates there too. Overall, I decided it wasn't any extra work to make all the 3D crates from the same template rather than designing various different "false" styles. All I did was cut square stock to the length of each crate and glue flat pieces top and bottom, after scribing a fake front/back plank on the stock. The handles are just scrap stock glued on. Nothing fancy and didn't take long to make.

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Posted (edited)

Kurt,

 

Yeah, I've actually known about this for a while (note the 2018 date on the linked story). It's such a big story that I've been wanting to write up something properly about, and keep not getting to it. Meanwhile, you finally scooped me!

 

There are multiple inter-related storylines happening here:

  1. The Arabia museum is outgrowing its space in the current downtown KC location; they don't have enough room to display anywhere near their full collection, much less expand. The lease is up soon (2026) and there's no room to expand on-site.
  2. Hawley has known where the Malta is for quite some time, but doesn't want to excavate it until he has a clear home for it, including processing, storage, and display space. That can't happen at the current museum's location.
  3. There's a nascent movement to create a National Steamboat Museum in Jefferson City, MO (the state capitol, a lovely small city located on a blufftop over the Missouri River). See, for example, this passionate column from local journalist Bob Priddy and detailed followups on the current challenges herehere, and here (such as opposition from the casino industry for a proposed tax to pay for this idea).

In theory, this could all come together to create an amazing new space for multiple excavated steamboats on a blufftop property (he claims the owners are willing to make it available) in downtown Jeff City (as we locals call it). For example, here's a rendering Priddy shared that he attributes to Dave Hawley:

 

hawley-steamboat-museum-drawings.jpeg?re

I find this idea super-exciting, but so overwhelming I haven't been able to get my head around how to write about it here or elsewhere. It's a really cool idea, but Missouri hasn't exactly been known for investing in the future lately (for example, our infrastructure is crumbling, but voters rejected a modest gas tax increase even though it's lower than most neighboring states and the legislature doesn't have the guts to pay for this anyway).

 

EDIT: Meant to add a link to this set of now-dated posts by Dave Hawley about the early search for Malta and some background info.

Edited by Cathead

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Thanks for the additional information Eric.  Very interesting.  Knew they will have to move the Arabia Museum but had no idea of the ideas for Jeff City.

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Any chance the NRG wants to hold a convention in KC before 2026? The Arabia museum and the WWI museum are world-class attractions and the Bertrand museum near Omaha could be a long day trip. The KC convention center is even built to look like a steamboat (I realize it's bigger than the NRG would need)!

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