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

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