In July 2011 we saw 1911-built “laker” SS COL JAMES M. SCHOONMAKER repainted, restored and re-christened to her original name and colors for the 100th anniversary of her launching.
Just over a year later we would see her away from her long time dock for the first time since 1984 as she is towed to a new location where she will be the center of a new Great Lakes Maritime Museum in Toledo. I had to be there to see the move.
Historic Move: SS COL JAMES M. SCHOONMAKER
By Richard I. Weiss
All images © Richard Weiss, 2012.
October 28, 2012
The day started out cold, drab and gray as I watched the freighter PUFFIN clear the Cherry Street Bridge on her way up river for a load of grain. Most folks felt this tow would jeopardize the 11:00 time for the SCHOONMAKER’s departure which can be an issue with the short days at this time of year. As luck would have it this delay amounted to maybe half an hour, just long enough for the sky to clear up. While waiting for the tugs I took one last photograph of the ship at her long time home.
In short order the tug MISSISSIPPI would latch on to the stern while the tug NEBRASKA would take up the bow. These two tugs, re-engined in the late 1950’s have hulls that go back to the 1890’s. Shortly before noon the SCHOONMAKER was back in her natural element, free from the dock at this time we could clearly see the painting crew was unable to paint her hull that was closest and blocked by the dock.
The tow proceeded at a very slow pace, her decks loaded with passengers made up mostly of those who supported and financed the ships restoration and tow. Question was, what would be the best vantage place to observe and photograph the ship?
After a few pictures of her being pulled from the dock I went to a small park down river for a few formal 3/4 bow views.
What a magnificent sight to see a real ship with such such fabulous colors “sailing” again. Such a scene pre-dates all but the old timers in the hobby. From there I went over to join a few of the other “boatnerds” on the Cherry Street Bridge but really I wanted to take pictures there and of the ship coming through the open bridge.
I could not be in two places at once so I took a few from the bridge, than as I walked away took several of the ship against the Toledo skyline and thanks to the slowness of the tow was able to walk at a very fast pace and catch the ship as she passed through the open bridge.
Just after the SCHOONMAKER cleared the bridge a big cloud rolled in, with the gray sky and knowing I could not get better pictures than I already had, I took time just to watch the tow.
I did take one photo as she passed what would be her new home.
The tugs started to swing her around and back her into place.
This picture in shows the unfinished dock where she will be tied up, from what I could see this will become a nice landscaped park. I kept moving around, always looking for a better angle and eventually made it to the to the end of the slip where I made a few more pictures as the ship got closer to me.
A lot of people like the close up of the ships hull clearly showing the riveted plates and her tumble home.
And then, what’s this? I see they are using a bulldozer to pull her at the stern while the tugs at the bow pushed.
In the last picture with the bulldozer you can see a concrete slab. This is where they tie up the ship.
This platform will be the entrance when she is open for tours, tours start in the engine room.
Back to the ship, the passengers got on midships but now at the new dock, the platform for them to get off was to high off the ground. Solution: bring in a front loader and build up a mound of dirt.
Lastly, we see the proud old veteran tied up safely at her hew home.
The final picture is that of the old powerhouse across the street that had been said for years was going to be preserved now undergoing the final stages of demolition. I remember this from years ago when it had an electric railway that would bring coal to the furnaces of the place.
All images © Richard I. Weiss, 2012.