Paddle Tugs

Is anyone familiar with the many paddle-wheel tugs of the UK? I’m pretty sure there are none in service any more but what’s curious about them is that they seem to have remained active in small pockets as recently as the 1960’s! Pardon me but didn’t paddle wheels go out of practicality in the 1800’s? Does anyone have the inside line on why these tugs stayed in business so late? I love these little maritime curiosities!

I’m pretty sure Amherst Madison company out of Charlestown WV still has a couple sternwheel boats they use for construction boats. The can operate them in really shallow water.

There is a huge amount of appreciation for steam powered machinery in the UK, probably because it is part of our heritage (the steam engine was invented by a British man James Watt and was primary to the industrial revolution). We also love playing with “big boys toys”. However, as far as I am aware the last remaining steam paddle-wheeled tug in the UK is rusting away on the banks of the River Medway at Gillingham for want of restoration funds. From what I have read the advantage of paddle-wheeled tugs was their ability to work in shallow waters keeping out of the way of deep draught vessels in narrow channels. I don’t think the stern wheeler idea caught on here like it did on the Mississippi.

We do have a couple paddle-wheeled passenger vessels running pleasure trips in the summer months but I wouldn’t say they were plentiful.

I was surprised to learn that the side wheeler’s could not run one side forward and the other side astern, which would have made them much more maneuverable, as both paddlewheels were fixed on the same shaft. The passenger vessel Kingswear Castle used to run pleasure trips on the Medway but often had to make several goes at getting her head up to tide when turning around.

[QUOTE=bell47;150993]I’m pretty sure Amherst Madison company out of Charlestown WV still has a couple sternwheel boats they use for construction boats. The can operate them in really shallow water.[/QUOTE]

I will confess as a maritime historian to be somewhat unable to come up with an answer for your question other than the UK is a rather conservative and tradition hidebound bunch so perhaps where just too sentimental to let the boats go to scrap as long as they were still in working order which they must have remained for some time.

Here’s a question I now am going to try to find an answer to but when did the last steam tug in NY harbor finally retire?


I remember that NYC railroad tug with Barbara Streisand singing on in “Funny Girl” that was 1967 I believe. I wonder if that tug was still towing carfloats when that movie was filmed?

The last working steam tug in the US was the CLYDE B. HOLMES of Belfast, Maine - retired in the early 1970’s. She was built as the JOHN WANNAMAKER (sp) for the City of Philadelphia. She was converted into floating restaurant in Boston, repainted green, an renamed EDMUND FITZGERALD. She was scrapped a few yeas ago.

Occasionally a few pictures of those boats will pop up on one of the FB tugboat pages. They are cool to see in action.

There was a steam tug working on western Lake Superior through 1981. The steam tug Edna G was built in 1896, and is now a static display in Two Harbors, MN.

Another older diesel powered tug still active on the Great Lakes is the Erika Cobasic, out of Escanaba, MI on Lake Michigan. She was built in Texas in 1939. The tug was in Green Bay, WI last October, and is a very good looking tug. Sorry, still haven’t developed the skills to post here.

I heard she put a hole in the side of a ship that was leaving Searsport because the skipper was coming up to it at full ahead, but when he rang down for dead slow the chief had already gone to the galley for coffee, thinking that they were headed for the barn (not a ship that had lost power!)