Old Tugboats Never Die

But they do sink! Sadly these two boats sank in a slip along the Schuylkill River in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, USA.

They sat on the bottom for a while. Then a salvage crew hoisted them onto the pier using a massive floating crane. The Carol Wales is what’s known as a “railroad tug.” She was built by one of the railroads, probably in the 1930’s or 1940’s. The railroads used to have large marine departments. Railcars were loaded onto barges known as “car floats.” These car floats typically had three sets of tracks onto which the railcars where rolled and secured. Then the barges were towed across rivers and to a special type of bridge onto which the railcars could be unloaded and sent on their way. The Big Boy was a “navy hull,” meaning that it was built during World War II under a Defense Plant Contract. These tugs are sometimes referred to as DPC hulls.

That gash in the wheelhouse above was probably caused by one the cables strung under the tug by the salvage crew. It’s a shame for these old boats. They’re big and clumsy compared to their modern counterparts. However, they have proud lines and a long history. Trouble is, they’re obsolete.

They’re both single screw, having only one main engine and one propeller. Many ship owners want twin screw boats helping their vessels to the dock simply for the sake of reliability. This is especially true in the case of oil tankers.

That propeller on the left is about seven feet in diameter, which means the Carol Wales probably had an engine in the 1700 horsepower class. I worked with plenty of single screw boats and never had a problem. A good engineer and crew keeps things in reliable condition. And if you have an anchor, you drop the hook, fix what broke, and get on with the job. If not, well, chances are you’ll be in for plenty of misery that happens slowly enough that you can see it coming.

I’m glad to have taken these photographs. Both of these boats will be cut up for scrap iron in the next couple of weeks. Two more for the boneyard and a piece of history gone from the planet.

Published in: on September 6, 2008 at 11:24 am  Comments (4)  
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