As most of you know, I spent two weeks this spring aboard the steam powered sternwheel riverboat, the Delta Queen, on this, her 80th year. Back in 1969 she was the last overnight steamboat left operating on American waters, and Congress had passed a new legislation designed to make Ocean travel safer for the public. This legislation outlawed wood in overnight passenger vessels on the high seas. Because of poor wording, it also affected ANY American ship (or boat), including the Delta Queen, which never is more than a few minutes from shore (and is designed to be beached on shore, that's how they "dock" for all those interesting river stops they make, like the Oak Alley Plantation), and is actually taller than any of the rivers she is traveling. In addition, the wood has been treated with NASA designed fire-retarding paints, and has a modern sprinkling system covering every space onboard--even the little tiny bathrooms we get on the upper decks!
But back to that law, in 1970 she was granted a 3 year exemption, and the whole tale is very long, but it was a case of the public forcing Congress to pass a popular piece of legislation--which had to be on the sly, as the Merchant Marine committee chairperson was dead-set against it (despite unanimous passage by the Senate). Six times since, the exemption has been renewed (why it wasn't permanent is still a mystery), and the Delta Queen has been carefully cared for, with modern safety appliances and training added as they were developed. She has a perfect safety record, and even was "Steamboat 1" for a week with President Carter and family on board. Well, the exemption runs out next year, in 17 months to be exact. The company that runs her has given up trying to get the legislation passed--there is a Union fight going on, and a new Committee head that apparently doesn't like the boat either. When the company announced on August1 that they were giving up the fight, and 2008 would be the final cruises of the Delta Queen, a number of us enthusiasts started a grass-roots campaign to SAVE THE DELTA QUEEN. We think we have enough time, and enough interest to get congress to once again listen to the people they purport to represent. We have no financial interest, no big PR company, just a group of Americans, who love the Delta Queen, and want to keep the National Landmark status boat operating, carrying people into the next decade, preserving the living history of Steamboating on the American Rivers.
So why this long letter? To get YOU to write your congressperson and to visit www.save-the-delta-queen.org or www.steamboats.org to see what you can do to help us SAVE THE DELTA QUEEN!
Thanks for reading through to here and I now return you to your regular programming.
PS, if anyone knows how to reach Jay Leno, Paul Harvey, President Carter, we would really like to get them onboard too!
SAVE THE DELTA QUEEN!
Help save this American Icon, it IS up to you!
The St. Louis Post-Dispatch ran a front-page story about the Delta Queen today.
Thanks! That was a pretty good article. Yep, we have an uphill fight ahead, but we're going to give it a good try!
Save the Steamboat Delta Queen!
Only YOU can help save this American Icon!
Think I have figured out how to post this, hope so anyway. This is my Great Grandfather Samuel Grierson Allardyce and his paddle wheel steamer, complete with a gambling room on the upper deck. He is the one on the left in the gray fedora. Too late to try and save this one, it burned quite some time back. He was quite a character, will not bore you with the details, just thought I would show a bit of history from Texas and the Sabine Country.
Thanks Mr. Dewey, I got a full mailbox on my computer after this posting, instead of answering each one individually, I will answer some questions here. The Sternwheeler was named the Neches Belle, and cost about $3,000 new. It served until about 1897. When Grandpa Allardyce owned and operated it, he ran between Beaumont and Galveston, hauling freight or passengers. When the season and water level would allow, he would go up the Sabine and Neches rivers to about Jefferson. A few times he and others were able to go as far as Dallas if the water was right, as in a flood stage. The log jams were the biggest hindrance, as these ships could operate "in a wet dew". He would haul general freight and passengers up, and cotton and lumber back. In off seasons and etc., he would operate it as a Tour type ship, had a band, dance hall, dining room and all the amenities of the day. The Ship's Bell can be seen directly overhead on the flat "roof", this was found after the ship was burned and sank (vandals). It was in the family but is now in the hands of a Historical Group in the area. The man next to Grandpa Allardyce was his brother in law Earl Hines. The Hines, (my grandmother's family) were in what is now Texas before the Mexicans were in that area. They settled in the Sabine Country before 1820, where my great great grandfather was the Alcalde (Judge) for that area for Mexico. The Mexicans became interested in settling that area with Anglos from the United States in about 1828, and encouraged immigration. We had been there on the ground for a long time before them and etc. To keep this on a Model T level, Grandpa Allardyce was always an innovator, he had one of, if not the first, cars in that part of Texas, supposedly bought in New Orleans, and shipped to Beaumont by boat, as the roads were too bad for a car. His black Engineer for the Belle was charged with keeping his cars running, and having never seen one before, must have been a challenge. Grandpa told tales about his cars, and really thought they were useless, staying broke down and stuck most of the time.