Sunday, April 15, 2012

'Queen City' Burning

"Another chapter of the romantic history of steamboat and packet traffic on the Ohio River at Cincinnati was closed Saturday with the announcement from Pittsburgh that the Queen City, stern-wheeler, had been burned and junked.

At the time the largest inland drydock in the United States viewed from across the Ohio River in Dayton, Kentucky, the Queen City is visible above the shantyboats on the right side of image.

Built at the old Queen City Marine Ways, foot of Hazen Street, Cincinnati, in 1897, the Queen City gained riverwide fame for the luxury of her appointments and the speed with which she traveled the Ohio’s waters.
Her dismal fate was forewarned seven years ago when her towering stacks, upper cabins, pilot house, rigging and machinery were removed and she was tied up on the Monongahela River at Pittsburgh as a wharf boat.

Once the proudest packet of this section of the Ohio River, she was the favorite of thousands of river travelers, but Friday a mere handful of spectators watched wreckers pull her apart and burn the timbers on the wharf, according to a news dispatch.
Twice during her career she was sold for a fraction of her original $100,000* cost.
Among the hundreds of local rivermen who remember the packet are Capt. Tom Green, president of the Greenline Steamers, foot of Main Street, and Capt. W. C. Beatty, superintendent of the Rookwood River Rail Terminal, 1700 Eastern Avenue, East End. They agree as to the Queen City’s past glory and sketched her career.

The Queen City's main cabin set for dinner.

Captn. Greene recalled that the boat was first owned by the Pittsburgh & Cincinnati Packet Co., which operated her between the two cities until 1916. She was taken out of service and docked at Pt. Pleasant, W. Va., until river ice wrecked many of the packets at Cincinnati during the winter of 1918. The shortage of available hulls recalled her from idleness and she was once more placed in service—this time in the Cincinnati-Louisville trade. In 1932 she was returned to the Cincinnati-Pittsburgh run but was retired as a wharf after approximately a year.
Her first master was Robert Agnew, now a resident of California, Captn. Beatty recalled. Captn. Jim Dupey, one-time master of the old Island Queen, Coney Island Steamer, was also in charge of the Queen City, he said.
Her last master was Captn. Ed Dunaway, Huntington, W. Va., Captn. Greene said.

Although the Queen City was generally considered to have had a comparatively adventureless career, one unusual incident was recalled by Captn. Beatty. It was while on a special trip to the New Orleans Mardi Gras with 135 passengers on board that she tore a hole in her hull by backing on rocks at Louisville. The river was not deep and, although the Queen sank, the water did not cover the boiler deck and not a single passenger received as much as wet feet, he said."

--Cincinnati Times-Star, February 17, 1940

*$100,000 in 1887 dollars would be the equivalent of $2,784,000 today.


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