In Search of Steam


| September/October 1971



6118 Portland Avenue Minneapolis, Minn. 55417

Ever since Steam Boats magazine ceased publication, those strange fellows who take steam engines to sea have had to be content with only occasional reference to their hobby in the magazines catering to the steam traction engine and the steam car enthusiast. However, steamboating is not dead by any means and to all appearances, seems to be growing.

The Puget Sound Live Steamers, who seem to be drawn together by the very looseness of the group, report that almost every year, a new boat appears on the scene. For those people who have never heard of the Puget Sound Live Steamers, they encompass that area between Olympia and Vancouver, B. C. and the Pacific Ocean and the Cascade Mountains. They have no president and no dues, the only concession to parliamentary procedure being their unsung herothe secretary who mails notices and arranges meetings. The membership is a conglomerate of enthusiasts who like traction engines, miniature locomotives, full size locomotives, stationary engines and of course, steam ships and launches.

Down through the years, steamboat activity seemed to be pretty much centered in the New England area. A reader of Motor Boating or Rudder will remember the occasional stories on steam yachts and launches. Most of them seem to have been written by Dick Mitchell of Hinsdale, N. H., who has been able to ride on, or at least keep track of, all of the marine steam left in New England.

The Great Lakes had their share of small marine steam. We know that Chas. P. Willard and Thomas Kane of Chicago were just a few of the companies that built engines, boilers, and even hulls for the Mid-West. However, not much has ever been written about these vessels and more surprisingly, not too much of the machinery has made its way into the hands of the collectors. We can only hope that someday, someone will be able to chronicle marine steam of the Mid West and Great Lakes area.

While the Vanderbilts and the Carnegies were watching the America Cup races from the decks of their steam yachts, the loggers of California, Oregon, Washington and British Columbia were putting the steam engine to use in a different fashion. Steam donkies skidded trees from the forest and loaded them onto railroad cars that were pulled by the oddest assortment of locomotives imaginable. Whether the logs were taken to the mills, cut and loaded aboard a steam schooner for shipment or whether they were dumped into the water, rafted up and towed to the mills, there was always a steamboat in the picture. Water was the best roadway, be it the salt water of the Pacific or the clear fresh water of Lake Couer de Lane.