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Urger got some love yesterday, and tugster was there to document it.

Wait . . . is that Urger?

No . . . that’s tug Seneca

and there is the Capt. Wunder getting some visitation in and 

telling stories about the days he was her captain, but

“there’s more,” he said. 

The older step-sister is here too. 

The tugs were a place of pilgrimage.

Recall they are now seldom-seen but certainly not forgotten. 

Want to make a poster?  Write my email and ask for a full-size version of this image.  Once you get it, send it far and wide to enthusiasts who lament her isolation as well as enthusiasts who can take her out of isolation.  

All May 9, 2022 photos taken by WVD with arrangements by the Canal Society of NYS.  Please share this post far and wide to the family of Urger and Seneca fans. 



Here’s a history-packed and very detailed photo.  In the foreground you see James K. Averill and Amsterdam.  In the next row back, that’s Urger behind Averill and a boat I can’t identify [name board just to the right of Averill’s stack shows a name that ends in –le No 1 ] behind Amsterdam. Also, in the foreground, there’s good detail of the ratchet and chain system to open the bottom-dumping doors of the scow.

Averill, 50′ x 14′ x 4.5′, was a wooden-hulled tug built in 1912.  It worked for a D. G. Roberts of Champlain NY until 1925.  Champlain is a town on the NY/QC border.  Her original power may have been a 200 hp coal-burning 1905 Skinner & Arnold steam engine. and a Murphy Donnely Co. boiler.  She was repowered and given new superstructure in 1930, but I don’t know what the new power or the previous superstructure were.  Notations on her info card says her coal storage capacity was seven tons and she burned on average a half ton of coal per eight-hour day. 

This dry dock photo shows a “cutaway” of her frames and stringers.

Initially, I looked at this photo and assumed Averill had experienced a catastrophic fire, but with her all-wood structure, a fire would likely not have gone out before entirely consuming the vessel.

Another look at Averill, here off the stern of Tender #3, 

says to me that this was the dismantling of Averill, which happened some time after October 1960.


All photos used thanks to the Canal Society of New York.  The top photo above appears in Enterprising Waters, by Brad Utter.



It appears this tug and derrick barge are working over by the power house at the Vischer Ferry 2000′ twice-bent Dam opposite lock E-7.  This is the dam where Margot and Watermaster have broken up ice jams the past few winters.

Here’s a closer up and 

an even closer up, confirming that it’s Canal tug Amsterdam and Derrick Barge (DB) 8.  And sorry . . .  this is a call for group sourcing.  Many thanks to Canal Society president Craig Williams, who started filling in details as follows:  “Amsterdam… was B. B. Odell Jr., built in Schenectady in 1901 (50.4′ x12.4′ x5.9′).  In the Department of Public Works report for 1945 (1946) Amsterdam is described as having been built, along with the Averill, ‘for the old Erie Canal, [and is] no longer efficient to operate and [having] deteriorated to the point it is no longer feasible to operate them.’ ”  A post on Averill is in the works.

Urger, on the other hand and shown here as a steam vessel and with a different superstructure configuration, has appeared on this blog many times and will appear some more next month, or so is the plan.  Urger was converted from steam to diesel in 1948.  

I can’t be certain, but Urger here appears to already be dieselized in the next photos. 

Below is a closer -up of the photo above showing the jackstaff on the bow topped with a wind direction indicator.


Here are two more tugs we might find more about. . . . the story of Queen City is [again from Craig] “very complicated.  In 1946 it was reported as ‘so weak it will no longer hold patches’ yet they overhaul its engine in 1948 (for use on another boat?).  It is replaced in the early 1950s by one of the 1950s tugs [of the] Pittsford, Lockport... [class]. Merchant Vessels for 1926 says that the Queen City was built in Buffalo in 1906.  The State reported that year that they had rebuilt the tug, completely replanking the hull, new decks and pilot house, and the boiler and engine ‘thoroughly repaired’  Was it then probably considered a new tug?

The Merchant Vessels for 1902 credits NYS with a Queen City, nearly the same dimensions as having been built in Poughkeepsie in 1889.  Curiously, the State Superintendent of Public Works describes painting the Queen City in 1881.  There is a 1879 Lockport newspaper article that mentions the State hiring the tug Queen City to help tow boats at Lockport.”  Maybe a name like Queen City gets recycled?”

As to Flower City, “According to Merchant Vessels it was built in Buffalo in 1909 though it doesn’t show up in the State’s annual reports until a note for 1912 that it worked throughout the season (sort of implying something new).  It was condemned in 1937, replaced by a State Department of Corrections tug Refuge.  Don’t know if it was dismantled at that time.”  Actually, I’d love to learn more about tugs operated by the State Department of Corrections.

All photos used thanks to the Canal Society of New York.  Many thanks to Craig Williams for filling in detail for these government boats.


B. No. 90 is clearly a Bouchard barge, this one eastbound at lock E-17.  Pushing it might be the 1946 Evening Light, but that’s just speculation. Evening Light has appeared in this series a little over a month ago as Margaret Matton et al.

I added this because this IS a miscellany post.  I’d love to hear from folks familiar with the Barge Canal more than a half century ago, but how common were “loopers” or just long-distance recreational boats back then.

OTCO Newark was a 1943 barge.  I can’t tell from this photo which of the OTCO tugs was moving it.

Colonial Beacon was a 246′ x 40′ tanker built in 1927 by Sun Shipbuilding of Chester PA.  A history of her ownership extends through Ecuadorian interests in 1981. After 1981, I’ve no idea what became of her.  With all that black smoke, would she have been steam powered at this point in this undated photo?

We end this post with a 1910 64′ x 17′ tug named Waterford built in Whitehall NY in 1910. 

Socony 104 dates from 1920.

Here’s Waterford towing two barges of lumber quite late in the season.  Can anyone place this lock?  Lock E-3, perhaps and downbound?

All photos used courtesy of the Canal Society of New York.  Any errors of interpretation, WVD.

From the archives of the Canal Society of New York, it’s a set of photos taken along the Hudson showing some unidentified cargo vessels of yore.  The large building just off the bow of the T-2 tanker is unmistakably the West Point Gillis Field House.    I can’t quite make out the tanker’s name, however.

Ditto here, as to the name of this cargo ship heading upriver at the Bear Mountain Bridge.  Is that type called a Victory ship?

Heading downstream, it’s another T-2 tanker.  Note the stack is differently marked from the one above.  The location is off Iona Island and heading for Jones Point.

And finally, this may be the same T-2 as above.   I can’t place the location of read the name.

South of Jones Point between 1946 and 1971, there was this presence.   Here‘s a tugster blog post on this gathering.

At its peak in the mid-1960s, almost 200 ships were anchored here.  

That’s it here.  Maybe a reader can read more out of these images used with permission from Canal Society of New York archives.

Many thanks to Bob Mattsson for doing his best to lighten these photos.  Check out his book and models here.

My approach to reporting on the archives so far has been to sort the images there, as you noticed if you’ve been following along.  

This follows a different tack:  a set of photos I wasn’t sure where to sort.  First, a July 1920 photo showing excursion steamer Ossian Bedell and steamer/barge Saratoga in Buffalo Dry Dock on Ganson Street.  The 1901 Ossian Bedell was named for its owner, operated between Buffalo and Grand Island, where Bedell had a hotel.   More information on its ownership changes can be found here.  

Saratoga, according to Benson is described as follows:  “Saratoga was the first of the USRA steamers built at Erie, Pa. by Dravo.  She carried a crew of twelve in freight service, a homeport of Baltimore, Md, 400 hp, and a tonnage of 272 gross and 152 net. Her dimensions were 147.5′ x 20.1′ x 10.5′ Her first owner was the USRA, followed by the New York Canal and Great Lakes Corp. in June 1921.

William P. Palmer, 1910 to 1978, was a steel laker loading sugar here from a canal steamer and her consort barge.  Presumably, Palmer would then take that sugar elsewhere on the Great Lakes, and that it would have arrived by sea from the sugar lands, and  in NYC,  it was transshipped to these unnamed canal boats.

The large tug here is GLDD’s H. A. Meldrum;  working alongside are John Pearce and a third unidentified tugboat.   Meldrum was a 70′ x 20′ wooden tug built in Buffalo in 1899;  eventually she made her way to the sixth boro, sinking in Barnegat Inlet in March 1970.

GLDD currently has a cutterhead suction dredge New York, but this is likely not it.  Judging by the bollards and lamppost design, this was along the Barge Canal, but I can’t quite place the geography.  The date must be in the 1930s, given the automobile to the right.

Here’s a closer up of the center of the photo, showing the string of barges being towed.  Dog of New York is a classic name.

Supreme was a 1931 Sparrows Point MD tanker built for Gulf Refining.  She was 212′ x 37′ and propelled by a total of 700 hp.  

She appears to be eastbound shown here departing lock E-23.  In 1960, she was renamed Pacific, and in 1970, she was scrapped.  I know that names are just names, but I’d love to know if she ever transited the big canal into the Pacific.

I’ve no information on what is identified as steam tug V. R. Baldwin, headed northbound here in Albany with seven barges.  I love the carved eagle atop its wheelhouse.

All photos used courtesy of the Canal Society of New York.  Any errors  . . . WVD.


This is a Carlotta in 1921.  I’m curious about the large structure on the after deck.  Is that cargo being carried?

Here’s a Carlotta 13 months later, looking the same except that large stern structure is missing.  The 1913 MVUS shows a steam tug Carlotta 56′ x 13′ x 5′ built in Boston in 1879, but registered in Buffalo as of that date. 

Aimed at canal passersby, this billboard

was located in Little Falls, most likely above lock E-17.  Steam tug George E. Lattimer was built in 1899, 59′ x 16′ x 7′ in Buffalo.

This view of lock E-17 shows a formidable structure, especially without trees on Moss Island.

I had to throw this photo in.  I took it in October 2014 of the 1901 formerly steam-powered  73′ x 15′ x 9′ fish tug Urger at the same location slightly different angle, showing a tree-covered Moss Island and virtually no windows in the powerhouse to the right of the guillotine lock door. 

Jumping back nearly a century, with lots of steam and drama, Geo. E. departs the lock and the rockpile that was Moss Island back then. 

Steamer Merchant tows a string of barges round a bend, which I believe is somewhere west of Brockport. 

From Roger N. Benson:  “A third-class wood steamer Lily was built in 1882, hailed from Buffalo NY.  Lily was 103′ x 22′ x 9′. She was registered for the Barge Canal on May 13, 1922.” Those dimensions make her a fairly large tugboat for the Barge Canal. 

The rails would likely have come from the Lackawanna Steel Plant, which that same year was acquired by Bethlehem Steel.   The area of the plant is currently the site of a wind farm called Steel Winds.

Here an eastbound Lily approaches lock E-11.  Interestingly, since the caption says the covered automobiles are Maxwells, they would be coming from one of the Midwestern plants, obviously not the original Tarrytown NY plant. Maxwell was declining at the time and as of 1922 would just have been taken over by Walter P. Chrysler, before he created the Chrysler Corporation.

I have to end with this photo I took in October 2014;  it’s the same photo of Urger as above, just with the golden morning light color restored.

Thanks to the Canal Society of New York for use of these photos;  the two versions of the Urger photo, WVD.

Not all tugboats on the Barge Canal in the first half decade were steamers, but most of them were.  More on the early diesel tugs in another post.  The photos in this post are arranged chronologically.  In these days before metadata was even imagined, I’m very grateful for photographic prints that have dates written on them.  Thanks to the unnamed photographer(s) who seemed to be documenting the commercial traffic of the era.  One interesting feature of the photos for me is that they documented the surroundings as well:  buildings and lack of them, nature and lack of it, other infrastructure and lack of it . . .

I find it odd that the caption identifies Jessie–the towed vessel but not the tug doing the towing, Harold.  And Jessie, whose name is not legible, appears to be a boat-shaped lighter or a bumboat;  maybe it was one once and now the engine has been removed to make way for cargo. That stone building just beyond Harold‘s stern is still extant, as part of Lockport locks and Canal Tours.

August 3, 1921 in Wayne County, it’s Geo. S. Donaldson somewhere between Palmyra and Newark, an area I know very well, but given how much the canal sides have changed, I can’t tell if the tow is east or westbound or exactly where it is.   Benjamin Cowles towed gravel from a pit somewhere near Palmyra on the pre-Barge Canal waterway.  He went on to form Buffalo Sand and Gravel.

The next day, the photographer, maybe the same one, captured Benj. L. Cowles eastbound at Lyons E28A.  Here‘s some case law referring to this tugboat.  Given the caption, let me quote from this article about ownership of the transmarine fleet:  “Submarine Boat Company operated the Transmarine Corporation (Transco) or Transmarine Lines a shipping company from 1922 to 1930, with 32 ships and 29 barges they had built. Providing East Coast, West Coast, Texas, Cuba and South America with cargo shipping services. [They had] the 206 dwt barges working on the [Barge Canal] with five tugboats. Barges moved cargo from New York City to Buffalo, New York in seven to nine days.”

Since Lyons and Clyde share a border, the same photographer may have taken this photo on August 4, 1921.  Note that on the forward portion of the wheelhouse, there is a Cowles Transportation sign. 

On August 10, it’s Lotta L. Cowles east of Clyde.  

Here’s Crescent two weeks later than her photo above, and no Cowles Transportation* sign is to be seen, and at lock E-23, about 50 miles to the east of Clyde.   Maybe the sign was being repaired or repainted. 

Here is one of the most amazing photos I’ve happened onto.  According to the caption, the locking operation is in the hands of no less a celebrity than the NYS governor Nathan L. Miller.  Maybe current NYS governor Kathy Hochul might see fit to operate some locks this coming summer as she runs for her office.

NYC as well as Buffalo have an Erie Basin, and this is the one in Buffalo.  That Erie Canal is now encompasses a marina and has high-end real estate on the inland side. I believe Belle dates from 1880, and I’m not sure if the boat alongside is Helen E. Taylor or Helene Taylor.

More to come, as I continue to alternate b/w photos with color ones.

These photos are used with permission of the Canal Society of New York.  Any errors of interpretation, WVD.

*Ben Cowles was an accomplished person.  Born in Buffalo in 1863, as a young man he left Buffalo to work in the sixth boro for at least 15 years as a ferry and tug captain.  At age 38, he returned to Buffalo (the 8th largest US city in 1900) and was appointed harbor master.  In 1905, he founded Cowles Shipyard.  Besides building boats, he bought old Lake Erie steam fish tugs and adapted them for use as tugboats on the canals.  For a short period, he had a business partnership with the Mattons of Cohoes.  At its peak, Cowles Transportation owned/operated 16 tugs, 11 barges, and 3 lighters.   (Low Bridges and High Water, Charles T. O’Malley)

The first steamers began operating on the Erie Canal in the late 1850s, as documented by this fascinating article “History of Steam on the Erie Canal” published in 1873.

In the early 1870s Baxter Steam Canal Boat Transportation Company had seven cargo steamers operating between Buffalo and New York City, but by 1877, Baxter declared bankruptcy. More than a dozen boats of Baxter design continued operating on the Morris Canal for some time.  Cleveland Steel Boat Company had some steel steamers that towed steel barges on the pre-Barge Canal in the late 1890s; to see their boats, click here and scroll. 

Interestingly, some steamers at this point were referred to as “propellers.”  I wonder why and when the replacement by the word “tugboat” happened.

W. H. Follette was a wooden steamer out of Buffalo launched around [maybe in] 1909.  As so many similar craft did, she carried some freight in her hold, but also towed one or more engineless consort barges.  She was owned by the Shippers Navigation Co. Inc. of Syracuse.  In July 1924 she was sold to Frank Peterson, withdrawn from Barge Canal service,  and taken to Florida.  She was 92′ x 18′ x 6′.  Though she was registered in 1919 as a first class boat, her insured value of only $8,700 suggests nine years had taken their toll.

Built in 1909 an almost identical Tuscarora.  She was built in Tonawanda, and 92′ x 18′, crewed by five and powered by a 120 hp steam engine, she was owned by Grain Transit Co. of Battery Place in Manhattan.  In July 1922 she was sold to Lake Champlain Transportation Company and renamed Buffalo.  Then she sold again in July 1924 to Brooklyn and Buffalo Transportation Corp, but in two months later she was seized by US Marshalls, who sold her to L. Forsyth where she may have operated until April 1936.

In 1918 U.S. Railroad Administration (USRA) Director General William G. McAdoo announced that American canals and waterways, as well as railroads, were taken over by the U. S. Government to control wartime transportation. McAdoo favored rails over canals and not surprisingly, the 1918 and 1919 new Barge Canal seasons did not meet the expectations of New York interests. When NY interests were successful in protesting USRA operation, responsibility for the 1920 Barge Canal operations season was placed with separate office under the Secretary of War. USRA, however, had made a significant contribution to the Canal’s floating equipment with contracts for 51 steel barges, 21 concrete barges, and 20 self-propelled steel freighters named for NYS counties.  That’s Monroe below.

The 20 freighters were approximately 150′ x 20′, with a 12′ depth of hold. 

The steel steamer had two 38-foot cargo holds with a total cargo capacity of 450 tons. How ludicrous to imagine mules like Sal who towed and carried huge loads of cargo on their backs.

The main cargo carried by each of the USRA steamers in 1920 was grain, but they also carried chemicals, metals, and general merchandise.

The pilothouse was built in two sections so the upper one could be removed to meet the Canal’s low bridges; the stack was hinged so it could be lowered. The oil-burning boiler provided the steam for a vertical fore and aft, 400 hp, compound reciprocating engine designed by Gibbs and Cox and spinning two 5′ 8″ diameter propellers.  Two balanced rudders provided steering. Each unit had quarters for a crew of 12, as they hauled a string of up to five  consort barges

Here a westbound Monroe tows its barges out of the flight.  I wonder how many locking were required, or if all fit in a single Barge Canal lock.

The USRA “steel fleet” was superseded by the McDougall ILI fleet 101 through 105

Here’s a closer up of Monroe.  Note people fishing at the point in the bulkhead off vessel port.

Monroe was sold to Munson Inland Water Lines in 1932, who in spring 1936 reported  she had sunk in Westchester Creek in the Bronx.  She was dismantled by April 1940.  Here the “fleet” heads out into Crescent Lake.  If time travel were possible, it would be fascinating to see the settlement/lack thereof along the way to Buffalo!

I’m including this next vessel here, although it was built as a barge and converted to a motor ship.  I’m not sure what type of diesel engine she had.  Frank A. Lowery was built in 1918 in Brooklyn as a 150′ x 21′ x 11′  barge Occo 101, owned by the Ore Carrying Corporation.  In 1926 and 1927, she changed hands twice and was renamed  barge L.& L. 101.  In 1929, she was  renamed Frank A. Lowery after the new owner, who converted to a motor ship with a 240 hp diesel.  The hull was shortened from 150′ to 104′. She was in freight service with a crew of five. Her canal service ended around 1953.  For more info, click here.

All photos thanks to the Canal Society of New York collections, and any errors, WVD.

Off topic but it must be acknowledged: feliz dia de san patricio!



You’d imagine there would be a groundswell of interest in saving and cleaning up such an iconic Barge Canal veteran as this.  I’d love to see a correctly colorized photo of this weeks-old cargo ship at the beginning of its first transit through the waterway that dictated its dimensions.

It’s time to close out part D with this post, or at least until there’s more news about ILI 101 now referred to as Day Peckinpaugh.  Note the date on this photo.  In her first years, there would be tweaks, like replacing her first Skandia Pacific Oil engines that plagued her first transit so much that she needed to hobble to New York City with assistance of tugboat Lorraine, a story for another post.  However, here, I imagine the crew felt like celebrities as the wealthy dockside managers and investors in their fancy clothes admired this incarnation of the future of Barge Canal cargo movement, a promising investment in its success.

I have no date here, but here ILI 101 appears to be approaching the Flight, near the eastern terminus of the Canal. 

The vessel carried the name Richard J. Barnes, as you see here in Phoenix NY, before it was renamed again, Day Peckinpaugh in 1959.

Two sister vessels–102 and 103— were launched a month after 101,  in June 1921.  102 became Andrew M. Barnes, shown below in Phoenix NY some time in 1947. She and the other motorships must still have turned heads, sent people for their Kodaks, prints of which must be stored in historical societies all along the canal.  Surely an joint effort could be made to search for them. A few years later, she was scrapped somewhere in the sixth boro.   Part D1 of this series showed other photos of this vessel from 1921.

ILI 103 had a longer and certainly more diverse history.  Below she’s westbound approaching lock E-14 as Robert Barnes Fiertz.  What’s clear is that she was sold to interests off the Great Lakes and Barge Canal in 1962 and at some point was cut down to a barge.  She was not, however, as this site suggests, scrapped in 1973, although she ceased to be a cargo carrier then, if not before.

As you can tell from the familiar lines in the photo below, 103 ended her life as a faux Confederate “blockage runner” restaurant called Scarlett O’Hara (of course)  in Charleston SC at foot of Charlotte Street, from 1973 until 1979.  Click on the photo to read the story and see the source.  I’d love to have more photos of her in this configuration, especially as seen from the water.  I made some inquiries last summer and fall but never got a response from the good folks in Charleston archive keeping.

ILI 104 was launched in July 1921, the same month as ILI 105, featured in this recent post.  

Here departing eastward at lock E-7, ILI 104, renamed Alden Barnes Fiertz followed a similar pattern to 103,

leaving at least the Barge Canal behind after 1950 when Canadian Coastwise Carriers converted her into a tanker (!), after a total rebuild that lengthened, widened, raised, and deepened her. Renamed Coastal Carrier, as shown in this photo from an unknown source other than FB and taken between 1950 and 1968, when she was renamed Bay Transport.  She is believed scrapped in Hamilton ON in 1977.

To close out this series, here’s a photo I took of the hold of 101 known as Day Peckinpaugh as configured for hauling cement and then cleaned up as spacious exhibit gallery.  To the right, you see a single poster.

I took these photos above and below along the Hudson River in Manhattan is September 2009.  If you look closely on the starboard bow, you can see remnants of the lettering spelling out Richard J. Barnes.

All but the last three photos are used with permission from the Canal Society of New York, for whose publication Bottoming Out I wrote a different draft of this post.

Other motor ships followed on the Barge Canal, but these five designed and produced in Duluth, the brainchild of Alexander McDougall led the way.

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