Baltimore Steam Tug: Steaming Since 1906, and Still Working


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Norbeck Research 117 Ruch Street Coplay, Pennsylvania 18037.

The Baltimore, a 1906 steam tug, was rescued by the Baltimore Museum of Industry in 1981, restored, and put back into service in 1985. For more details, see the article written by Jack C. Norbeck of Norbeck Research, 117 Ruch Street, Coplay, Pennsylvania 18037.

Back in 1813, the first steamboat started working on the Chesapeake Bay. Boats propelled by steam engines permitted cargo such as coal, lumber and livestock to move at prescheduled times. Gradually, steamboats were developed to carry passengers.

The steam engine performed countless different jobs in industry and agriculture between the onset of the industrial revolution and the threshold of the atomic age, but it was in transportation that reciprocating steam made its most outstanding contribution to mankind. Without it, there would have been no steamboats to exploit the magnificent natural waterways of our country, and there would have been no railroads to bind isolated communities of North America together into great national entities. Without the steam engine we would have had no great age of steam.

The steam tug Baltimore, built in 1906, had a long proud history of service. The Skinner Shipbuilding & Dry Dock Company launched the tug Baltimore in 1906. Until 1963 a sturdy hardworking tug for several decades, the Baltimore was used to tour visitors, move pile drivers and barges, and break ice.

She was later commissioned by the state of Maryland to ferry visiting dignitaries around Baltimore Harbor.

The tug was sold in 1972 and sank in 1979 in fifteen feet of water in the Sassafras River. For two and a half years, the tug deteriorated on the river bottom until rescued in 1981 by the McLeam Contracting Company for the Museum of Industry. Incredible progress was subsequently made in the tug's restoration, through the cooperation of dedicated volunteers and generous businesses and civic-minded organizations, and the Baltimore steamed again in November 1985.

The tug's hull is wrought iron, 5/16 to ? plates. The house is made of Georgia pine and the wheel house made of saloon finished oak. The steam engine is a compound, surface condensing 12-25 x 22, 330 HP at 150 lbs. psi. The boiler is Scotch with two Morrison furnaces. The #1 generator is a Westinghouse at 5.5 KW. She is 88' 10' long, beam 18' 6', depth 9', gross tonnage 81, net tonnage 55, steering manual and speed at trial 11 knots at 156 r.p.m.

Key dates in the tug's history are as follows:

December 8, 1906-sea trial; boiler replaced in 1922; machinery rebuilt, new electrical system and search light in 1947; converted to oil burning in 1957; sold to S. F. DuPont in 1963; donated to Baltimore Museum of Industry and converted back to coal burning in 1981.

Let the Museum of Industry's steam tugboat Baltimore escort you on a journey through time to the romantic era of steam power. Now the last steam boat out of Baltimore will be giving tours and charters once again the technology of our grand father's day come alive.

Information for this article came from the Baltimore Museum of Industry, Baltimore, Maryland.