Monday, October 31, 2011

Steamboat HENDRICK HUDSON -Model In Miniature

           Hudson River Day Line stmr. HENDRICK HUDSON traveling downriver toward
          toward Poughkeepsie, New York c.1920.

Many articles and several film footages have honored this handsome steamer since her first appearance on the Hudson River in 1906. As a builder I had the opportunity to meet Alfred Van Olcott, the great-grandson and heir to the Hudson River Day Line.

Mr. Van Olcott saw my exhibition at the Hudson River Maritime Center when I held my first steamboat showing during the early '80s. He spoke about a builder's model that his family donated to the Smithsonian Museum in Washington,D.C. that he wasn't particularly happy with. In his own opinion he thought "it wasn't a great or good looking model". In turn, after several meetings -and viewing his impressive photo collection of HENDRICK HUDSON, he commissioned a model that he wanted to be of "superb quality".

I spent a month reviewing the HUDSON's history and re-worked the plans he loaned and, similiar to former steamboat projects endeavored, there were no available profile drawings. I had to build the sidewheeler from those references I produced on ROBERT FULTON a few years prior. The height between decks were fairly similiar in scale, so I followed the deck layout of Mr. Olcott's materials, along with the supporting photo data to arrive at a model that would be, in laymens' terms -accurate.

          Starboard profile, in detail, of wooden steamboat model HENDRICK HUDSON.
          At 1:160 Scale she's shown as she appeared in 1943, four years before she
          ceased service on the river.

Van Olcott would visit twice from Princeton, N.J. before viewing the final completion. He was elated that his favorite sidewheeler was "captured in her true appearance". He shared this model with many affluent personalities in the maritime, especially those whom were steamboat-connected. As a model HENDRICK HUDSON became the flagship of my fleet of contemporary models, being written about by several authors and featured in a documentary by a television station in Kingston, New York in 1990. Today, the model is part of the Hudson
River Maritime Museum's collective body of steamboats currently exhibited at the facility.

HENDRICK HUDSON was built in 1906 at the T.S. Marvel Shipyard, Newburgh, New York. She was a beautiful steamer throughout at 390 feet and the second largest vessel to operate for the Hudson River Day Line.

In 1935 and 1936, the Day Line achieved great success with its excursion programs. And in 1937 the Line used their largest steamer HENDRICK HUDSON which was to become an annual event. With her 5,252 passenger capacity, HUDSON was larger than either HAMILTON or FULTON. Because of this, the schedule was altered so that the excursion originated at Indian Point which added Catskill as a landing. The departure times from Newburgh, Poughkeepsie and Kingston Point didn't change and the round trip fare remained at a dollar. The departure time from albany on the return trip was advanced to 4:30 p.m.

Also historic in 1937 was the final port to port passing of HENDRICK HUDSON with the largest nightboat on the river, the BERKSHIRE. This happened on a summer night in August
as the Day Liner left Newburgh shortly after 10 p.m. for its final destination upriver to Indian Point. Thirteen nights after that historic river passing the Night Line terminated service.

  Stmr. HENDRICK HUDSON backing out around the knuckle of the Albany Yacht Club
  on a summer afternoon c.1940.

HENDRICK HUDSON serviced many passengers during the War years since gasoline was rationed to automobile owners. Travel by car was limited, but the steamboat business has stellar years. The total number of passengers rose to 1,431,000 -the highest number since 1930. With so many pasengers traveling the Day Line's upriver excursions to Albany ceased and the Line converted to travel only.

HENDRICK HUDSON operated on the Hudson River between New York and Albany until 1948. She was later scrapped in 1951.

                         The wood model of HENDRICK HUDSON c.1943,  1:160 Scale

Mr. Olcott was a great help providing much of the data for this model. So many individuals whom had a love for these vessels are now departed, but their memories are with us and in these models that I faithfully produce in honor of them. And the histories that these vessels made during their tenure on the river is a tribute that can be preserved within these works for years to come.

For more information about commissioning a fine Hudson River or Northeast steamboat model email: or call 1-774-757-7137. You may also visit Social Share Toolbar

Friday, October 28, 2011

Collectible and Rare -The Steamboat Model /Rex Stewart

When New York celebrated its Hudson-Fulton Event in 2007, followed by the NY 400 Celebration of HALF MOON and Henry Hudson's namesake river, every museum and society between Albany and New York City had exhibitions.

From paintings, photographs and models, to fundraisers and lectures. Everything  river-related was shown. But what many facilities didn't have to support these venues were steamboat models. I reviewed every exhibition in the Hudson Valley and discovered only a few good models were shown from the hundred or so I produced in my studio.

These events indicated that those who owned these small gems did not want to part with them for public exhibition. Also on the antique circuit while showing at Brimfield, MA many buyers desired the NANTUCKET model and, when it was sold others who returned to the booth commissioned models that were from other regions in the Northeast. This event also brought awareness that steamboat models were very much in demand, especially to the connessiour who knew these were rare collectibles.

Exploring further, at auctions, few of these items surfaced and to my awe I learned that a simple folk art model sold for $15,000. Occasionally a high-quality detailed model would enter an auction floor and be swooped up by a knowledgeable buyer/collector. A few of my models were recently sold highend or slightly below their original value which dispell the myth that these aren't in demand as contemporary works.

                                 Antique folk art model of a Mississippi sidewheeler.

If one look upon today's shipmodel industry, it's apparent that there are less than twenty or so good models promoted as kits. Some are expensive and others are moderately priced. When built, depending on how much detail is involved, can become a highend collectible. Yet understand that these are kits. Beyond the kit types are models of another class, the scratchbuilt and folkart divisions. Folk art pieces are those works that are crude in appearance and simplistic in detail. However, because of rarity, these are highly sought after. Many were produced during the heydey of steamboating by crew members who wanted display pieces to remember the vessel they served on.

The highend collectible that would be most desirable to the serious buyer would be the thoroughly researched scratchbuilt model. These are called 'special class' or 'builder's models -the best of the best.

     A rare 'Rex Stewart' model of the famous Hudson River sidewheeler DANIEL DREW
    in the corporate boardroom of Bank Of America. A rare steamboat print accents the

The more famous the vessel...the fewer built as models...the higher the price. Many dealers won't disclose this, but it's a fact.

At the Smithsonian Museum in Washington, D.C. there is a Hudson River Day Line model of HENDRICK HUDSON. That model was donated to the Museum by the Olcott family, owners of that Line. However, one of the family heirs commissioned a model from my studio and that model is today exhibited at the Hudson River Maritime Museum in Kingston, New York. Seldom are these models at auction and few are made.

In the past twenty years steamboat models have exceeded expectations at auction venues -and models that represent the Northeast Corridor of the USA are quickly bidded upon and sold. Furthermore, those collectors whom I visited either owned a steamboat print or painting and desired a model to accent those heirlooms which, in essence, became a nice balance.

       A rare contemporary diorama showing the island steamer NANTUCKET carrying
       passengers to the mainland as it passes a bouy and catboat on a summer afternoon
       in 1890. Wood-sculpted collectible produced at the studio of the author.

Because steamboat collecting is a new trend, brought about in the 1960s; this unique category is fast becoming a field to watch.

           A 'Rex Stewart' model that sold in New York City at Bonham Auction in April
           2011 for $5,538.00. A wood model that was considered high-quality and one of
           the few in its category to supercede other bids.

Some thirty years ago, after producing over a hundred models, I encouraged investors to acquire them. Not so much because I produced them, but because miniature gems were part of an era fading into the annals of history and becoming an Americana heirloom.

The American steamboat, as we know it, is no longer. The only remnant to the Northeast steamer are the scale models I faithfully produce. They can't be copied or found anywhere except in Central Massachusetts where they are researched and built with blueprint-precision.

These are the highend models of today...a rare and valuable collectible of yesteryear, the steamboat.

For more information about commissioning a fine quality Hudson River or Northeast steamboat model email: or call 1-774-757-7137. You may also visit

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Wednesday, October 26, 2011

Steamboat Model ALEXANDER HAMILTON c.1959 -The Build

        Hudson River steamboat ALEXANDER HAMILTON approaching Albany, New York
       via the Dunn Memorial Bridge c.1959.

Steamboat models have become one of the most rare and highly sought after commodities in today's collectible market, both nationally and internationally. After investigating and researching the trends over a twenty year period, nothing from this observation is further from the truth.

And if these models are built with blueprint precision they, infact, become more sought after by serious maritime collectors...
which is why my line of models are highly
accredited for their presentation and accuracy.

My start with steamboats began in the summer of 1980 when the President of Albany International Corp. proposed to purchase a model of the steamer MARY POWELL from the Albany Institute of History and Art. The proposal was declined -as the model was part of the Governor's home decor, on loan from the Museum. To this end, several business executives learned about my modelmaking skills (from local media sources), especially when I received a grant from the Mayor to work at the Albany City Arts Office that same year.

And though 'fine art' was produced in that facility, the steamboat models originated on the other side of town in the basement of the Albany Institute of History and Art -the place where I studied adult courses as a youth during the '60s. And so, it was there that the exclusive one-of-a-kind steamboat model was birthed.

         The SIDEWHEELER Newsletter which was published in the Summer of 1976 by
          the Committee To Save The Alexander Hamilton.

ALEXANDER HAMILTON was a beautiful vessel known to many on the Hudson River as the "White Swan". I could never understand why she inherited that name, but after viewing many photos and angles of her appearance, I realized the meaning. She literally 'glided' along the river and her sleek appearance was indeed graceful, swan-like. Those who sailed her were fortunate. I could only get to view her stacks and billowing smoke as she passed beneath our window from the view we had of her from Capital Hill. On Phillip Street we had a visual of both Rennselaer and the river, so it wasn't difficult to miss this vessel or the sound of her whistle as she passed.

In 1974, three years after the steamboat ceased running on the Hudson, a small group was formed and called the Steamer Alexander
Hamilton Society. These individuals, through
lectures, fundraisers and memberships,
worked diligently to save the vessel from

By 1976, through the Society's efforts, the steamer was officially listed by the State of New Jersey as a historic site. In April the following year she gained National Register status only to lose federal funding when a hurricane sanked her at her pier that November of 1977. It was a great loss to the Hudson River Valley and to the maritime community at large.

As a modelbuilder of these great vessels, I have dedicated my time and talent to preserving these timeless steamboats in various scales for future generations. Unquestionably, I have honed my skills to this artform because it has never been fully tapped or explored. And what few models do exist, none can rival the degree of research or workmanship I have placed in these pieces which are, in essence, highend collectibles.

I owe, first and foremost, The Lord for my wisdom to investigate this genre of art. Secondly, I owe much of my learning experiences concerning the steamboat to many of those who are now departed -the authors, curators, collectors and rivermen whom either owned these vessels, worked on them or amassed a brilliant collective body of rare photos that they were willing to share which, inpart, escalated my growth as the leading builder of the Hudson River steamboat.

These photos show my approach building the
ALEXANDER HAMILTON from its early stages to its final completion. The model is made from four sources of wood, re: pine, bass, balsa and birch. Balsa is used for the framework to keep decks flush and alligned.

The time to plan and construct this model took an overall period of two and a half months. This is, inpart, due to the research that was involved and the minute detail requested by the collector. Normally a model of this scale would take less time, but this individual wanted the HAMILTON at a period where he remembered both her design, color and configurations. These particular models have a higher value because they are documented miniatures of a period that's not 'general'.
He places her in a period of the year 1959, so research is eminent.

               Shown here are the scratchbuilt floating rafts -handcarved and the interior
               grating individually cut out with a pen-knife.

            All basswood decks are precisely marked and scaled so that cabin work and
          deck furniture allign properly. All decks are pre-cut so that no mistakes are made
          during the build.

         The hull. This is where it all begins. The hull must be 'perfect' and flush in order to
         get the model looking like the real vessel. At least four to six hours are invested in 
        sanding and finishing the hull. Anytime past this, the wood is bad and must be discard-

                My time-tested method of building...
              Models that I built 30 years ago still has their fresh look today. But those are
              considered antiques, where my current works are now relinquished to be, by
              professional standards, collectibles.

         This bow starboard view show the sleek and beautiful lines of this prolific steamer
        as she appeared in 1959.

              This portside overhead view show all the detail ALEXANDER HAMILTON
             carried that year. The flags are handpainted, folded and treated with acrylic
             so to keep its longevity.

          Stern port view of the "White Swan" as she was called by her fellow travelers.

The final presentation, the ALEXANDER HAMILTON in 3/32" Scale. This wooden steamboat model is the result of many painstaking hours viewing photos, plans of which I had to alter
to achieve the proper configurations.

In closing, let it be said that this steamboat was in a class of her own. memorable to all whom traveled on her during her 48 years of service. She was the last steamboat to operate on the Hudson River, serving well over 5 million passengers between Albany and New York City -ceasing her career in 1971 with her final run to Bear Mountain in the Lower Hudson Valley.

For more information about commissioning a fine quality Hudson River or northeast steamboat model email: or call 1-774-757-7137. You may also visit

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Friday, October 21, 2011

Building the WASHINGTON IRVING c.1913 -A Wood Model

                 Steamer WASHINGTON IRVING heading up the Hudson River enroute
               to Albany, New York c.1921

Though I have enjoyed building accurate models of various marine craft, nothing has been more exciting or captivating in concept as that of the American steamboat.  My first humble beginnings to modelmaking began with a small Pyro kit of Henry Hudson's HALF MOON.
That was the introduction to the Hudson River and the great history of travel, commerce and its scenic views which were second to none.

As my interest developed concerning the river's maritime, my skills paralleled. Over time I would become the leading modelmaker and producer of Northeast steamboats; particularly those of Hudson River renown.

WASHINGTON IRVING was a steamboat that many SSHSA members brought to my attention during the early professional years.
Author Donald C. Ringwald, writer of the book "The Mary Powell", often mentioned the possibility of a model but always placed emphasis on the IRVING. However, it was Donald Eberle, former President of SSHSA, that commissioned the work.

I would later learn that she was the flagship of the Hudson River Day Line.

She was launched in 1912 at Camden, New Jersey by the New York Shipbuilding Company.
Her keel was 405 feet long with an overall length of 416 feet. She had an extreme beam of 84 feet over the guards, and her hold was 24 feet deep. Her gross tonnage was 3,104 and her engine was constructed by W. and A. Fletcher Company of Hoboken, New Jersey.

Destined exclusively for dayboat service between New York City and Albany, WASHINGTON IRVING was the largest and most exquisitely furnished inland steamer in the world. Her passenger capacity at that time was 6,000. She ran in line with the other fleet vessels of renown "MARY POWELL", "ALBANY", "ROBERT FULTON", and "HENDRICK HUDSON".

                      Sinking of the Day Line stmr. WASHINGTON IRVING, June 1926

On June 1, 1926 WASHINGTON IRVING left her Desbrosses Street Pier in New York bound for Albany with 200 passengers in a fog-filled harbor.

Visibility was very poor and the large steamer kept her whistle at short bursts to warn other pilots of her departure. The tug THOMAS E. MORAN of the Moran Towing Company was hauling two oil barges when one of them collided into IRVING's portside wheelhouse aft of its paddlewheel. The accident forced Captain David H. Deming to tie down his whistle for the purpose of summoning aid from other craft in the harbor.

The continuous blast of WASHINGTON IRVING's whistle immediately brought a dozen vessels to her side. As she took in water, the ill-fated Dayliner reached a pier on the Jersey side of the river. There, passengers were able to race swiftly for safety -to the loss of life to a mother and child.

WASHINGTON IRVING sank along side the pier -coming to rest at the end of the Holland Tunnel. The following year she was raised and six years later she was scrapped , ending her short-lived service of 14 years.

There were many steamboats that met tragic fates, but none so horrific as the burning of GENERAL SLOCUM on the East River in New York City or the sinking of New England's PORTLAND off Block Island with
all loss of life.

Given these tragedies, steamboating was still a bustling business and a safe way to commute. As both historian and artist/craftsman, I'm obligated to produce detailed works of these once magnificent vessels. WASHINGTON IRVING being no exception.

After much refined research, I started to scale down the little details and reconfigure the plan profile that was lent to me by the SSHSA President. From thse resources I was able to build a beautiful miniature of the Day Line flagship.

                 Hudson River Day Line WASHINGTON IRVING c.1913, Wood Model

Detail, whether large or small, has always been the focal point to my building. I decided to construct the IRVING as she appeared in 1913 because of the significance of her lines.
Steamboats were always changing with various alterations done to them. To really appreciate a vessel, it is pertinent to investigate its history and utilize what resources are available to bring out the best appearance. This, in my professional opinion, was her best presentation.

                                             WASHINGTON IRVING -Bow Profile

I truly learned much from constructing this work, and continue to unravel more history as I build. This is the beauty of being a historian and it's a double blessing when a skill can be added -such as modelmaking.

There's really little that can be said when viewers and collectors observe these miniatures.
These are accurate renditions of the actual vessels and I'm honored to bring them into 'today' -something that can be visualized in three dimensional form rather than being limited to the pages and canvases of history.

For more information about commissioning a fine quality Hudson River or Northeast steamboat model email: or call 1-774-757-7137. You may also visit

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Saturday, October 8, 2011

Building The Model -Nightboat CITY OF TROY c.1876

                                 Nightboat CITY OF TROY at dock -Troy, New York c.1890

Hudson River steamboats were legendary on the river. People enjoyed travelling on them as well as watching from the shoreline. Some accounts say that the steamboat whistle was like a clock for releasing school children from school in the Lower Hudson Valley. Other accounts state that it gave warning of the vessels arrival which could be heard miles inland from the banks. Whatever the reason, the steamboat was a vital part of America's past.

As I listened to the elder rivermen tell me their stories of these great sidewheelers, there was no room for doubt that I would be overwhelmed by the appearance of these vessels. One such boat I probably would have enjoyed watching as it passed the Albany shoreline would be CITY OF TROY. She, at that time, operated for the People's Line of her namesake city.

I remember, during the '80s, viewing a large photo of her displayed in the lobby of Troy's City Hall while exhibiting at the city's Art Festival. There she was in all her glory -docked at her Troy pier. She was a beautiful, fine-looking steamboat worth producing as a model. But not just a 'model' -a finely detailed work would be my goal to salute the gifts God placed in men to design and build such a vessel.

                            Placing the paddlewheel in the open cavity of the "C of T" guards.

After much investigating and research, I spoke with author Anthony Peluso who published a book on the famous steamboat painters John and James Bard. These artists were known for their colorful documentations of river steamers that operated on both the Hudson and East Rivers of New York. Many of their works were commissioned either by the companies that owned them or by the captains which sailed them.

Mr. Peluso stated that I could get the colorscheme from the Bard paintings but that I would have to investigate and find, if possible, the records of the vessel in the hopes of getting blueprints. I searched data banks and finally communicated with the President of the Steamship Historical Society and found little information to support the steamboats' reconstruction.

To this end, with what limited photos and references I had to work with, I set out to begin the process of building the first CITY OF TROY steamboat model...and the only one of it's kind in the entire Hudson River Valley.

I decided to use the above photo, enlarging it at the local printers to finally give me a reference for detailing an accurate profile to scale.
Once this was accomplished, the profile became the tool that I needed to research and design the deck plans which would lend to this important replica to be, in essence, 95 percent accurate.

From this experience I learned how to configure widths and lengths based solely on photos and various angles of the vessel represented in them, re: CITY OF TROY.

Careful study went into the hogframe system which, by most accounts, even in the actual vessel, is one of the most difficult  building processes to address. I spent countless hours  experimenting with those lines that ran from spars, smokestacks and frames to achieve the exact configurations that were evident in the photo. Angled views helped to some degree, but it was the countless drawings and deck corrections that became the ruling authority in this proceedure.

Very few builders of steamboats can achieve this, simply because it takes patience and passion. I've been fortunate to establish a timetable for the build -based on configurations. It took two months to draft the plans and two months to build the model. This is approximately the time-frame for a custom, one of a kind work. If the plans are available, whether by my hand or someone's database, the build would take less time.

This is the final result of the work, the CITY OF TROY as she appeared in 1876.

Here, the detail is present in close-up, showing the hogframe system and the complicated tie-rods that keep the guards of the steamboat strengthened so that the boilers and cabins remain alligned. The guards extended away from the hull and were supported beneath by knees and strakes. But the above strength had to come from the hogframes and tie-rods.

Designers of the day were brilliant. In all my models, to date, I'm blessed to have had (and continue to have) the opportunity to shadow how they built these vessels. CITY OF TROY is one of my best pieces but not the best piece. There are 'many' that only a historian will be able to discover should that individual be willing to search.

For more information about commissioning a fine quality Hudson River steamboat model email: or call 1-774-757-7137. You may also visit Social Share Toolbar

Monday, October 3, 2011

Steamboats For The Business Executive

Over the years, up to recent times, I have had the opportunity to introduce my models to the executive sector of businesses both in New York and New England. Today my models are displayed in companies and corporations that have great views of our rivers and waterways here in the Northeast.

                           Fall River Line nightboat COMMONWEALTH  c.1925,  Scale 1:182

What better way to celebrate our maritime heritage than with a model of those steamboats that once travelled our industrialized and busy rivers. It's not enough to have a Bard or Jacobsen painting gracing the wall -but accent those heirlooms with a beautiful model of the actual vessel.

This can be done through careful research and drafting of actual plans.

Certainly, we can't bring back the steamboat era of yesterday such as the Fall River Line, the Hudson River Day Line, the Stonington Line, Eastern Steamship Line out of Boston and others. But we can honor this era of Americana with a museum-quality signature model of a steamboat that once travelled on these waters.

The great Northeast was embellished with graceful yet handsome boats, so rare and unique in structural appearance that, in miniature, these would truly compliment any Boardroom, library or office setting. In essence, a one-of-a-kind.

                                  NANTUCKET c.1895 -Detail, Wood Model, Scale 1/8" = 1'

These images reflect such timeless vessels and are memorable to those (and their ancestors) who once rode and/or operated them. MARY POWELL, JACOB H. TREMPER and WASHINGTON IRVING of Hudson River fame. COMMONWEALTH, PLYMOUTH and PRISCILLA of Fall River. NOBSKA, NAUSHAN and NANTUCKET of New England's island steamers. These and more can be realized for the executive who celebrates the maritime.

These are great investments and the open door to America's past.

                                 Hudson River Steamboat M. MARTIN c.1880 -Wood Scale Model

We have the paintings...

Isn't time we have the models? Let's share the possibilities and the history.

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Hudson River Day Line Models

                          Steamboat ROBERT FULTON approaching New York City c.1950

The Hudson River Day Line was one of the most recognized steamboat lines in New York's industrialized maritime. This historic organization was established in 1856 by Van Santvoord when he purchased the steamer ALIDA -followed by sidewheelers ARMENIA and DANIEL DREW to control the dayboat monoply between Albany and New York City.

                            ROBERT FULTON c.1950  -Detail, Port View...wood model

By the end of 1863, operating as passenger-only vessels, these boats established what was known as the Hudson River Day Line. This service continued until 1948.

The models that I've built and, continue to build, celebrate this Line known during it's heydey as "The Great White Fleet". These are one-of-a-kind collectibles that are rarely seen in today's maritime venues or the Hudson Valley where they once travelled.

Plans are obsolete for these steamboats; yet, I have been able to research and produce these models with the assistance of those former personages who were once affiliated with these vessels -either as owners, authors or collectors.

   DayLiner HENDRICK HUDSON  c.1943

I have used various scales of modelbuilding in pursuit of bringing an era of maritime history to our present day  viewers/ collectors.

These quality pieces have garnished museum collections, boardrooms, homes and vacational resorts throughout the Northeast.

The Day Line era has only been one generation away from ceasing when the last American steamboat ALEXANDER

HAMILTON made her last trip up the Hudson River from New York City to Bear Mountain in 1971 -ending the era of that great line.

                      Day Line Steamboat WASHINGTON IRVING c.1913,  Wood Model

                                 Day Line Steamboat ALEXANDER HAMILTON c.1959
                                      Scale 3/32" = 1' , Wood Model -Scratchbuilt

These models, which have become sentimental to those who knew the vessels, are still produced today in greater detail and scope. They are a legacy to America's past and gives tribute to our great Industrial Age.

As a builder and artist, I've been fortunate to have had the experience to study, research and produce these models, firsthand. To know that the Hudson River was once graced with these beautiful steamboats of times past.

For more information about commissioning a fine quality Hudson River or Northeast steamboat model email: or call 1-774-757-7137. You may also visit

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