A SMALL TRIBUTE TO A GREAT LADY

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Front view of the majestic Delta Queen. Courtesy of Ted Knack, 1545 Tenth Avenue East, St. Paul Park, Minnesota 55071.
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Rear view of the majestic Delta Queen. Courtesy of Ted Knack, 1545 Tenth Avenue East, St. Paul Park, Minnesota 55071.

1545 Tenth Avenue, St. Paul Park, Minnesota

On October twenty-first a great lady passed our town on the
Mississippi River heading for St. Paul. I am speaking of the Delta
Queen; that big paddle wheel steam boat that has plied the rivers
of the United States for forty years. Now maybe a lot of you
Iron-Man readers have never seen the Delta Queen, but I am sure
that most of us steam engine fans have heard of her.

She carried many tourists on the Mississippi and Ohio Rivers,
making trips that were five days or more, from New Orleans all the
way to St. Paul and from Cinn. on the Ohio, to St. Louis, Missouri.
It was the last overnight passenger steam boat on the inland
waterways. You probably think, what is so special about the Delta
Queen to the river? To many people who live near the river the
Delta Queen is like a steam traction engine was to the men who ran
them. The Delta Queen to me is like a steam traction engine is to a
steam engineer, or the railroad steam engine was to the men who ran
them. The Delta Queen to me is the greatest of the steamers that
used to move on the rivers before the coming of the diesel
engine.

Many times I have gone down to Lambert Landing in St. Paul to
see the Delta Queen on its arrival. I have been fortunate to go
aboard and see how well the Queen is made the Teak and Mahogany
woodwork and the brass that just shines and shines. The big paddle
wheel that pushes the Queen through the water and the calliope
playing music by steam power makes this a sight to see. I have
never been able to see the Delta Queen running on the river. I
always was working when it went by, but this trip was going to be
different. It was departing St. Paul at 8:00 pm on the
twenty-second and I was in great anticipation to see it moving on
the river.

This trip was special too. It was the last time the Delta Queen
would be coming to St. Paul. Congress would not give the Queen an
extension on a safety law that they passed which prohibits vessels
with wooden structures to carry passengers overnight. The Queen has
a steel structured hull, but its super structure is wood. How
Congress ever included the Delta Queen in the safety at sea law I
don’t know, but November 2, 1970 was the last day it was
allowed to run on the river as an overnight passenger steamer.

On the day She arrived I told the wife to have an early supper
and we would take the kids to see the Delta Queen. As we came near
the landing I could see that a lot of people had come to see the
Queen, just as I was doing. In fact, it was so crowded it reminded
me of some of the steam engine shows we had gone to the past year;
many people coming to see something of the past. After driving one
half hour to find a parking place and not finding one, the wife and
I decided we would go home and try the next night when it departs
for what would be its last time in St. Paul.

I decided to go to Lambert Landing at 7:00 pm the evening She
would be leaving. Departure time was 8:00 pm. I was sure it would
be exciting to see the Queen leaving and moving down the river.
Well the Queen never let us down! There were many more people there
this time. The paper said over three thousand came to give their
last salute to this Great Lady. Parking was almost impossible
except on the street which was a thoroughfare and no parking on it.
But tonight was different! So many cars were parked on the street
that it would have been impossible to tag all of them. I commend
the Police Department for the good job in keeping one lane open for
traffic, and still letting the people stop who came to see the
Queen.

What a sight it was! It was misting that night and a light haze
covered the river. By the Queen, bands were playing, people were
singing and dancing. Every one was in a state of excitement.
Pictures were being taken. As the tow boats passed by, their
whistles blasted a salute to the Queen. The calliope was playing
songs such as; 01 Lang Syne, Minnesota’s Hats off to Thee, and
many other old-songs connected with the river. As the steam would
come out of the calliope, different colored lights would show the
steam in different colors.

Standing there watching this I got to thinking how in this world
could there be people who want to stop this great steamer from
operating on the inland waterways?

Now the time had come for Her to leave and as she backed into
the main channel, whistle blowing and calliope still playing, she
left St. Paul in a true send off. As we drove back to St. Paul
Park, our home, I said to the wife, ‘You know, we could still
get one more look at Her as She went through St. Paul Park
Bridge.’ It wouldn’t take her long to get there, so we
did.

The night was very quiet and as it came into view the search
lights scanned the banks. You couldn’t even hear the Queen as
she slipped through the night. Then the long blast of the whistle
for the bridge. As she came by it was so quiet you could hear the
people on board talking and hollering to the people on shore. The
paddle wheel was stopped as it coasted toward the bridge. As the
bridge opened, the paddle wheel began to move and soon she was out
of sight.

That was the way it was all the way down the river clear to New
Orleans as the paper said. No matter what time of the day or night,
midnight or daylight, when the Queen would go through the locks or
dams on the Mississippi, people were standing on the banks to see
Her as She would go by.

Just to see Her and hear the whistle as it slipped quietly by is
a sight I will never forget.

Incidentally, this trip was sold out for over a year. And if you
never had a ride on the Delta Queen or have not seen it, write a
letter to your Congressman to save the Delta Queen.

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