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DeWitt Clinton was built in the 1920s, delivered before the crash. She came out of a shipyard in East Boothbay, I’m told, but I can find no record of this.   Here she was in Lockport in early October 2014.

Here is a view from the wheelhouse, and

another from a slightly different vantage point. That’s tug Urger (1901) on the wall up ahead.

Fast forward to this year, here’s one of the latest additions to the Canal tug fleet, and

here’s the view from the wheelhouse.  And yes . . . again, that’s tug Urger on the wall ahead. this time in Fonda NY, where she may or may not be today.

How about some more pics of Dewitt Clinton, all from October 2014.

Here she rounds a bend on the western Canal.

And since we’ve seen Urger from Dewitt, how about ending with Dewitt as seen from Urger.

Photos 4 and 5 by Jake van Reenen;  the others by Will Van Dorp.

 

It thrills me that use of fireworks to celebrate our Independence dates to this note by John Adams to his wife Abigail:  ” … the occasion should be commemorated ‘with Pomp and Parade, with [Shows], Games, Sports, Guns, Bells, Bonfires and Illuminations from one End of this Continent to the other from this Time forward forever more.’ ”  The first commemorative Independence Day fireworks were set off on July 4, 1777; they were all orange.

My best shots of boats and “illuminations” were here in September 2014, and

even better here in July 2012.

Since I quote Adams, here’s an engraving of him, Franklin and Admiral Lord Richard Howe meeting at the Conference House on Staten Island in September 1776. The house was built in 1680, and Christopher Billop, the resident at the time of the Revolution, was a Loyalist who fled to Canada after he was captured and imprisoned in 1779.

But I digress, thanks to Adams, we use fireworks to celebrate today.

Photos and sentiments by Will Van Dorp.  Engraving by Alonzo Chappel. 

 

Thanks to Steve Wunder for the photo below taken yesterday in Fonda NY.  To the right, it’s a new 2018 Marine Inland Fabricators 25′-3″x14′x5′ Clydesdale pushtug, either hull 323 or hull 324.

BUT, to the left and much more significant, it’s Urger, a few miles east of where the 1901 (!!) tug is said to be intended as a land display, sans integral hull, i.e., it’ll never float or tour the waterways again.

I intend this post as a followup to last week’s here, where I wanted to illustrate what we New Yorkers stand to lose, if this lock 13 park plan gets carried out.   In following up, my intention is to underscore our potential loss.

The photo below shows Urger in 1940 in Waterford, operating as a steam tug. At that point, the tug was already 39 years old.

Urger was launched in 1901 as fish tug  Henry J. Dornbos, by Johnston Brothers, a fact still visible on the bitt below.  The company was founded in 1864 by J. W. Johnston, a direct descendant of the none other than James Watt.

The rest of the photos here come from the archives of Bob Stopper, canal ambassador extraordinaire based in Lyons, NY.

Urger has likely been seen and touched by many more people than any other Canal tug or other New York State symbol, particularly because from 1991 until 2016, it crisscrossed the state’s waterways from May until October, doing programs for 4th graders and festivals for the general public.  Schools bused kids to the canal parks to learn about NYS history, technology, and the environment.  Before any program, crew cleaned, painted, and polished.

 

Think about 1901.  Life expectancy for US men was 47.6 years, and for women, 50.6!  Companies like Harley Davidson and Ford wouldn’t form until 1903, also the year the Wright Brothers made their first flight.  There were 15 automobiles registered in the 45 states of the US, where the population was all of 75 million; Utah had been the last state to enter the union in 1896.  The world’s tallest building was Philadelphia City Hall at 548.’  US Steel had not yet been created, and Standard Oil would go another decade before being broken up.  RMS Cedric was the world’s largest ship, and Titanic was not even on the drawing board. The US was involved in a shooting conflict in China. 

Literally thousands of New Yorkers of all parts of the state and ages have benefitted from Urger at a canal port near them, like this future mariner.

Time is critical here.  Unless minds get changed, we could be days or even hours away from Urger‘s life as a boat permanently sunk, which IMHO, would be a significant loss.  Please share this post with friends, local schools, and other networks.  Also, contact your federal, state, and local political leaders.

Click here for most of my previous Urger posts.

. . . illustrating what will be lost if present course is maintained.   If you don’t know what’s likely to happen imminently, Urger is NOT to be reefed.  But, it’ll be beached at Thruway Lock 13 “living history” exit, with holes “punched” in the hull and that beaching will cost –I’m told–over $3 million.

Why should you care?

First,  listen to this engine, as I recorded it four years ago on a calm day above Amsterdam NY.  Click the thumbnail below left for the sound from inside the engine room and . . . right, from outside.  It’s like the steady panting of a racing horse.  Click here for a list of remaining Atlas-Imperial engines, although I don’t know how out-of-date this info may be.

  

Here’s that same engine as seen from below, starboard looking aft, and

here, the camera is looking aft along the port side.

Here’s the view port side looking down.

For whatever value it has, Urger is

one of about two dozen NY vessels on the National Register of Historic Places, has been on that list since November 29, 2001.    Click here for what that means in terms of significantly changing the historic floating structure.

Urger was built by Johnston Brothers Shipyard in Ferrysburg, Michigan, in 1901, originally as H. J. Dornbos, a fish tug.  My point . . . if she’s been around this long and is in this good shape, that’s prime reason to keep her that way.

Urger faced significant change before, back in the late 1980s, ending Canal maintenance duty in October 1987.  Then, Schuyler Meyer (1918–1997) stepped forward with a proposal to save her by making her the “ambassador vessel” of the NYS Canals that she did become.  During those ambassador years, scores of thousands of folks–especially school kids–saw her, walked on her, learned from her about NYS.  Read the whole article below if you have time, but signifiant info is concentrated in the rightmost column.   Look at the image he’s holding in the photo.

Urger is a flagship of NYS history, having made public appearances all over the confluent waterways of the state from Lockport (I don’t have photos of her in Buffalo) to

the famous culvert east of Medina to

Oswego, shown here at Lock O-8 with tug Syracuse to

the Upper Bay of New York City, and all the great little towns in between.   I lack the photos myself, but I know she’s been to the southernmost point of the Finger Lakes and upper reaches of Lake Champlain from this video clip.

So what can be done . . .  especially since, given the imminence of converting Urger to a “static display,” time is so short?

First, share this post with anyone you know who might care about Urger.  Seek out your loud, articulate, reasonable, and well-known advocates who know [connected] people and can speak out in the meetings, press, and blogs.  It’s summer, so key political and agency leaders might not be reading their mail, forwarding it to folks with less decision-making power.  Congressman Paul Tonko would like to hear from you. State legislators might be contacted in their home districts, where you can even walk into their local offices.   Talk to your local mayors, business leaders, and union officials.  I was born upstate but haven’t lived there since the 1960s.

Educators, especially in Canal corridor towns,  have benefitted from the Urger program over the past quarter century.  They might choose to exercise power through NYSUT rather than as individuals if anyone in to better get the attention of government.

Finally, if the choice were between spending no money to beach Urger vs. spending money to keep it afloat and active, that would lend support to the idea of beaching her.  BUT, significant money (in the seven digits) will be spent to beach her at Lock 13 Thruway exit.

Thanks for your attention.  All the color photos here were taken by Will Van Dorp, except the one below, taken by Chris Kenyon in Port Gibson in 2014.

Personal disclosure:  I worked as deckhand on Urger during the 2014 season, on a leave-of-absence from my other life.  I spent about 100 nights and days aboard her between June 6 and October 30, i.e., about 2/3 of the time between those dates.  Some of the hundreds of references to the boat on this blog can be found here.

I hope you agree with me that NYS gains more by keeping her afloat and active than by beaching her.  Pass it on, if you agree.

 

It’s a non-profit devoted to the history and functioning of NY’s canals, and there have been over two dozen.  In these years of bicentennial, consider joining.  Nobody asked me to suggest this; but I’m a satisfied member.

Let me share historical photos of the boat I worked on for a season, all photos posted on CSNYS FB in the past month.

You may know, the vessel is Urger, an extraordinary boat who has likely now crossed the line from a work boat and working boat to a museum boat.  Here she is under steam power in Waterford headed for the Hudson, 1940.  At this point, Urger was already 39 years old, a product of Ferrysburg, Michigan, 1901.

Also 1940, this photo gives an idea that the colors have not always been blue/gold.  Note the extension of the superstructure forward of the wheelhouse.

Here she is in April 1941, and

back in Waterford in 1949.  Note how busy the Canal was back then with commercial tug/barge units.  That’s Day-Peckinpaugh over to the right.

Here she is in 1960.  Can anyone identify the location.  I can’t.  Of course, canal banks have changed a lot through the years.

I don’t know any of the photographers above, but I took the rest of these.

She made her last visit to the sixth boro back in 2012

July 14, 2012

Here in early September 2014 just above lock E-2, she’s being passed by Benjamin Elliot (1960).

And finally, by September 2017 she’d been tied up for almost a full year.

To close out, here was my bunk back then.  Whenever I was lying in my bunk, the distance from my nose to those angle iron beam was about 18 inches.  The bed itself was 5’11” in a bunkhouse itself about 5’8.”  I’m 6’2.”

Since this is a big Canal year, again, consider becoming a member.  And for starters, you may want to “like” them on FB.

 

Here’s the post I did the day my season on the Urger ended.   The boat seriously needs a reboot now, a rewind, since it will NOT been operating season of 2017.  None of the photos here have been posted before, and there’s a surprise at the end of this post, stemming from a conversation last night  I am grateful for. Here’s Urger approaches the guard gate at the top of E-6 on the last day of the 2014 season.

Here the morning of that last run, she’s docked above E-11.  May she not grow into the bank the way that fence has been consumed by the tree.

The entire four-person crew fits into this shot at E-14.

As the sun clears the horizon, Urger‘s out and running east, here under the onramp to the Thruway below E-17.

A few seconds earlier, she exited E-17.  Note the 17 at the top of the lock frame.

Bathed in the warm October sunrise, Urger waits for the guillotine door to raise before exiting the chamber.

Here’s the boat on the wall in Little Falls in midsummer 2014.

A month or so back while it was still winter, I returned to E-17, and there was ice on the wall and in the chamber, and I put my camera away quickly so that my hands could return to the pockets where I’d stuffed chemical heat packs.

This would have been the 25th season for the 1901-built Urger as an ambassador/educational vessel. This role for her was created –as I understand it– through a private/public  partnership fronted by Schuyler Meyer.  Here’s some more of the story of the boat and the program, which was initially operated by SCOW, State Council on Waterways, which appears to have had its last event in 2009.

At the start of this post, I mentioned a surprise.  Last night (finally) I uploaded to YouTube here a half dozen short recordings I made of of Urger underway, with closeups of her Atlas-Imperial engine.  Crank up the sound and enjoy them.  Please share widely.  The program and the boat  are too precious to be permanently lost.  Here is a post I did when Urger last visited NYC’s sixth boro.

All photos and opinion entirely by Will Van Dorp.  Thanks, MB, for the conversation.

 

Here are previous posts under the category second lives, a designation I use for vessels that are significantly modified from one owner or role to another. The approaching vessel in the next two shots–which I took on the Erie Canal west of Three Rivers in September 2014–show Grand Erie, the newest (built 1951!!) and largest tug in the Erie Canal.

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Look at that low Erie Canal design carefully, because

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she started life looking like this photo probably taken in 1951 when she was brand new in Pascagoula.  That’s probably the open Gulf of Mexico in the background.

All the black and white photos in this post are credited to Boat Photo Museum.  If anybody wants 8×10 photos, they are $5.00 each, plus postage through the Museum.

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Chartiers was considered a dredge tender.  Here she’s pushing a scow somewhere in the Pittsburgh area.

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And here she’s tied up at the Corps of Engineers repair base at Neville Island, Pittsburgh.  Look carefully at the upper superstructure in this photo, pre-1985.

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In 1985, the vessel was purchased by the New York canals system, then still called the Barge Canal.  The name changed in 1992.  Then, Chartiers traveled to New York state from the Ohio River via St. Louis, the Illinois River, Chicago, and the Great Lakes.

Here’s Dan Owen’s description of the photo:  “This is how it [looked] when I first saw it going up the [Mississippi] Aug. 13, 1985 at St. Louis.  It was on the other side of the river.  The top part of the pilothouse roof was actually cut off to the level of the second deck cabin to get under the bridges in the Chicago area. I do not know how long the pilothouse was 100% air conditioned, all the way from Pittsburgh, or at a shipyard in the St. Louis area. Or, if the pilothouse was welded back on after clearing the Chicago bridges.”

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Here’s more of Dan’s description:  “These two photos show Chartiers departing Chain of Rocks Lock, Granite City, Ill.  [Notice the helm,] complete with searchlight, sitting on the deck. Also visible are two spare rudders.”

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For more comparison, below are three photos of Grand Erie I took in September 2015.  In the photo she’s flanked by Tender #3  starboard and tug Waterford to her port.

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Compare this photo of Grand Erie to the second b/w photo above to note all the changes.

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And compare this one to the last b/w photo above.

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Many thanks to Dan Owen of Boat Photo Museum for use of these photos.  All color photos were taken by myself, Will Van Dorp, in 2014 and 2015.

Here’s how you might be able to add to this collection:  in July 1986 the newly modified Grand Erie came to NYC waters  aka the sixth boro to participate in Liberty Weekend, the rededication of the Statue of Liberty.  Grand Erie served as Governor Cuomo‘s ride.  Does anyone have photos from that time  . . . Grand Erie in NYC in 1986?  I’d love to see them.

The imp in my head wants to mess with the title and permutate this to “tugmotives and locoboats,” and I’m guessing way back when power began to be applied to hulls, there were those who thought they were seeing “loco boats” but I digress.  First, a historical photo to set the context.

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Just east of local 19, here’s Margot pushing a barge underneath the main line.  I don’t know the exact number, but these rails cross over the canal at least a half dozen times between Waterford and Tonawanda.

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As you’ll see in most of the next photos, it’s hard to get a photo of a complete tug and a complete locomotive if you happen to be moving on one of the other.  Difficulty notwithstanding, I kept on trying.

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With a drone I could have gotten the locomotive . . .

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or the rest of the tugboat.

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I know there’s no locomotive in sight, but the boxcars were colorful.

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Here’s an ALCO-built Genesee Valley locomotive, which may have been built at the Schenectady plant, itself once right on the south bank on the Canal.

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We had to wait at the top of lock 19 and my camera was ready, but no trains came.  As soon as we descended and started heading eastward . . . one passed.

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When one passed right near us, of course it was backlit.

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I took this shot from the upper wheelhouse.

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So at the end of the season, I had to conclude this was my loco-tug moneyshot, which had to be taken from neither.

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All photos by Will Van Dorp, whose focus will soon be leaving the canal.  Having said that, part of me wants to get back up there when the water levels are drawn down and the snow covers the ground.   Click here for some history of the relations rail/canal in the first quarter century after the opening of the waterway.  Click here for a basic introduction to the canal levels monitoring from the state hydrologist.

 

You can find my previous “golden” posts here.   From the first photo below until the seventh and last one, only twelve minutes pass.  The setting is lock 17 in Little Falls, NY, where the lift/descent is 40.5 feet.  .

Click here and here for some interesting historical pics.

Let’s start with 0703 hr on October 27 last.

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Six minutes later . . . the chamber has drained and the sun has emerged from the clouds.

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The door starts to raise as the counterweight descends . . . and against the south wall, it’s Urger .  . . behind a wall of drips . . .

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At 0715 . . . the captain has rung the forward bell and

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now squints, looking into the sun for navigational aids on the way east to Amsterdam, about six hours away.

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All photos by Will Van Dorp, who has postponed dealing with more unfinished business until tomorrow.

 

The transformation from Erie Canal to Barge Canal involved incorporating more rivers and lakes into the canal system.   Enjoy these river and lake photos, like the one below . . . Oswego river, northbound, June 2014.  All photos were taken in 2014.

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Mohawk River eastbound also in June.

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Oneida Lake crossing eastbound, August.

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Mohawk River eastbound in August.

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Oneida Lake eastbound in late October.  Now contrast these photos with

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land cut near Waterford in October and

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near Rochester about a week earlier.

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All photos by Will Van Dorp.

 

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