Preserving a National Historic Landmark
W. P. Snyder Jr.
Journeys Down the Ohio River
The towboat W.P. Snyder Jr. made an arduous two-day voyage down the Muskingum and Ohio rivers recently. The 91-year-old Snyder, the last remaining steam-powered stern-wheel towboat in existence, was in desperate need of a new hull.
Dozens of onlookers gathered at the Ohio River Museum in Marietta on the chilly morning of November 20 to watch workers from McGinnis, Inc., the firm contracted to replace the Snyder's hull, remove her from her moorings and gingerly guide her 146 miles downstream to the shipyard in South Point, Ohio.
Moving a River Relic
The Snyder has not operated under her own power since she arrived in Marietta on September 16, 1955. Like the hundreds of barges she pushed during her 37-year career as a working towboat, the Snyder was towed from Marietta. Moving the 342-ton, 175-foot-long sternwheeler was a challenge.
The Snyder and the towboat pushing her had to go under Marietta's Washington Street Bridge, Putnam Street Bridge and the historic Harmar Railroad Bridge, which had to be laboriously turned open by hand for the boats to pass under and then turned closed. (A second boat was used when needed to help guide the cumbersome sternwheeler around obstacles, such as the bridges.) The Snyder, once on the Ohio River, was brought along the shore then secured to barges on port and starboard before being towed downriver.
The Friends of the Museums offered some a closer view of the Snyder's voyage aboard the Valley Gem sternwheeler - complete with a luncheon buffet cruise and entertaining tidbits about the historic towboat. Others followed the journey along the shoreline down to the confluence of the Muskingum and Ohio rivers.
On the Ohio, the Snyder passed through three sets of locks along the way: the Bellville Locks (Reedsville, Ohio), Racine Locks (Letart, W. Va.) and Robert C. Byrd Locks (Gallipolis Ferry, W. Va.). She arrived at the shipyard 31 hours later after being delayed by early morning fog.
Dry Dock at Last
"She handled it as well as could be expected," said Fred Smith, project coordinator for the Ohio Historical Society, who stayed on the Snyder for the entire trip downriver to monitor the boat's condition. "Working out every detail of the move ahead of time and planning on every contingency paid off in her safe delivery to the shipyard."
According to Smith, the hull replacement is expected to take about eight months. The cost of the entire project will be almost $1.5 million.
The preservation of the W.P. Snyder Jr. is made possible by a grant from the Save America's Treasures program of the National Park Service, by an appropriation from the State of Ohio capital improvements fund, by grants from the J. Mack Gamble Fund of the Sons and Daughters of Pioneer Rivermen and by donations from individuals, community organizations, corporations and foundations.