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: Caseships@yahoo.com or call 1-774-757-7137. You may also visit http://www.rexstewartoriginals.com.