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We all have our colonels or folks like him, Col. James M. Schoonmaker.  The photo below, in the center, shows the man.  While he’s important, I’m really talking about the vessel shown in yesterday’s post.

After the war, the colonel made a fortune in coke, not the carbonated, heavily-sugared beverage.  The colonel and the iron broker created a company.

Since we have a “how,”  let’s jump to a “where.”  Where the ore boat carried its cargo is shown below, one of the holds.  Her total ore-carrying capacity was 12,200 tons.  By way of comparison, the largest laker today has capacity of 68,000 tons of ore.  Dividing each of those numbers by 20, i.e., 20 tons per truckload, you have a ratio of 610 to 3400.  Schoonmaker aka Willis B. Boyer was launched in 1911;  Tregurtha in 1981, the year after Schoonmaker was retired.

How it’s steered is shown here, although most boats have only a single wheel.

How crews stay in touch with families, friends, and businesses . . .  the bucket is lowered.  The Detroit mailboat J. W. Westcott II can be seen in the photo above and to the right of the mail bucket.

How the crew gets onto the dock to handle lines . . . the green boom swings out, and the crewman sitting on the bosun’s chair is lower.


Why these robust blocks of cross-plied wood with the blue line attached can be found on lock chambers’ sides . . . is explained above.

What is an iron deckhand?  It’s a frame that moves the length of the cargo deck on rails and lifts the covers off hatches.

What backhaul helped keep ore boats like Schoonmaker profitable?

Where in the world are there similar  vessels?

How long have these vessels been built?  A fine book called Buckets and Belts traces the evolution of the design.

Where do these vessels fit into US economic history?

And here’s more.

What happens to laker after they are taken out of service?  Some become museum ships, like William A. Irvin or William G. Mather.  Others are converted into barges, like Joseph H. Thompson.  Still others are scrapped.

Here are two more photos of the Colonel.


Wh-words, the engines of writing have brought you this post.

All photos here by Will Van Dorp, who encourages you to visit the Colonel if you’re passing through the Toledo area.


Here are some previous posts with photos from Paul.

If you want to see all my posts with photos of these wonderful towing machines, click here, the tag GLT.

Illinois is typical of this fleet.  Look at the riveted hull.  She’s still working, launched in 1914, before the US entered WW1!!!    Behind her is Idaho, 1931.  If you want an exemplar of American engineering and manufacturing, you need look no farther than this fleet.

New Jersey dates from 1924.    . . . . .       And Wisconsin is the oldest.  I’ll let you guess and you can read the answer below.

Wyoming . . .  1929.

Many thanks to Paul Strubeck.

1897!!  And she still works.  some day I hope she goes to the Smithsonian, as long as the Smithsonian establishes a wet display area.  And of course, the National Museum of the Great Lakes has already seen fit to add one of these to their wet display.  more on that later.   If I lived closer, I’d be there on November 30.

There’s a whole chapter on G-tugs in Tugboats of the Great Lakes by Franz A. VonRiedel.


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August 2022