Tuesday, May 29, 2012

Researching HIGHLANDER c.1835 - The Model/ Rex Stewart

           Samuel Ward Stanton's drawing of the famed Newburgh, New York steamboat
           HIGHLANDER as she appeared on the Hudson River in 1835.

Newburgh, New York was a booming river town that developed into a monopolized commerce
center for the citizens of the Lower Hudson Valley. Much freight, especially produce and livestock was going south to New York City and steamboats were needed to get those goods to its destination. Furthermore, travelers who needed to commute to various towns found these vessels accommodating for the purpose. This was the era of the 19th century and river commuting was the beginning of a new form of travel.

             Early brothers Bard watercolor depicting HIGHLANDER's 1835 appearance.
           Both renditions had to be carefully studied for accuracy and proper re-configuration
           in order to build an accurate scale model.

While researching and building steamboat models in New York's Capital region during the '80s and '90s, I was fascinated with the discoveries I encountered concerning steamboat designs of the 1830 period. I had built models from the 1840s to the present, but never considered those vessels built past Robert Fulton's CLERMONT.

Many contemporary builders had no knowledge of these early sidewheel types, so no models were available to work from -let alone, plans. Only one such work existed on an early steamboat of this period and that was produced by noted modelmaker Forrest Van Loon Ryder out of Coxsackie, New York during the 1950s. This model was HIGHLANDER, one of several Hudson River steamboats he built for collectors, museums and those interested in these prolific boats.

             A vintage model of HIGHLANDER built by the late Forrest Van Loon Ryder
             which is now on display at the Captain David Crawford House Museum in
             Newburgh, New York. There, five other Ryder models are exhibited; all at
             1/8" = 1' Scale.

In 1980 I was commissioned to copy Mr. Ryder's MARY POWELL for a corporation which  the model later became a topic of conversation with business executives at the time. I then decided to venture out and research MARY POWELL to design my own plan set relative to having an accurate model enter the Hudson Valley. These soon became highend collectibles of note. However, Ryder was my inspiration from which I drew the ability to explore, research and study the American steamboat -beginning with those that operated on the Hudson River.

                HIGHLANDER c.1835 - profile plan at 3/32" = 1' scale. Research for this
                work was based on the brothers Bard watercolor and Samuel Ward Stanton's
                drawing which included supportive dimensional data of the vessel at the time
                of her construction.

In the Fall of 2011 a colector from the Newburgh Region proposed a line of steamboat models which included HIGHLANDER. This proposition became the anticipated opportunity to finally research and build a true 1830 replica of a Hudson River sidewheeler. With the experience and credentials established over a thirty year period, it wasn't difficult to configure this vessel's appearance.

The client was very specific about his collection. He wanted all three sidewheelers to be constructed at 3/32" = 1' scale which made little room for error regarding hull dimensions, beam width and deck layout.

HIGHLANDER was a walking beam type steamer that carried her stacks and boilers on the guards away from the hull. Knowing this fact made plan drawings easier to develop...and within two weeks I was able to produce some prolific plans (for the first time) concerning an early steamboat. I now had the formula for designing these vintage gems.

               Work-in-progress showing the underside features of HIGHLANDER. Notice
               the early design pattern of the Northeast sidewheeler. Most steamboats of
               this period  omitted bottom rims which secured and protected the paddles. It
               is possible that the paddles, including the wheel system, was made of oak -giving
               way to these buckets being bolted to the stems of the wheels so to allow this
               feature to last several years without rotting.

               Port bow view showing HIGHLANDER's auxiliary flagstaff. upon viewing
               several Bard paintings and Stanton drawings, I discovered that this odd
               apparatus was carried and used to attach company house flags and pendants.

                 Early steamboat models I built during the '80s and  '90s featured handpainted
               flags made of soft metal. These were treated with acrylic base to prevent
               chipping. In recent times I now apply treated paper flags using the same
               applications. However, the paper flags are more life-like, especially when these
               are folded to give a breeze effect.

                  Maritime artist and shipmodel specialist Rex Stewart carefully applies the
                walking beam engine to the HIGHLANDER model. Nearly 140 seperate
                wood pieces make up this detail.

                   Starboard overview illustrates the strengthening process of a steamboat
                 of this period. The blue-colored kingposts, spars and hogframes, reinforced
                 with steel tie rods, were placed in strategic points on the vessel to secure
                 areas where the most strain existed -primarily at the stern and amidship
                 around the paddlewheels. So that this odd structure didn't take away from
                 the steamer's design, the kingposts and spars were adorned with gilded
                 balls and, occasionally woodsculpted eagles.

                  Port profile of Newburgh, New York steamboat HIGHLANDER c.1835.
                Scartchbuilt solely in wood at a scale of 3/32" = 1'. 


HIGHLANDER was built for the company of Thomas, Johnson and Wardrop in 1935. Her length on the keel was 160 feet with a beam of 24 feet. Her depth of hold was 8 feet and her overall length was complete at 175 feet.

Made of wood, her hull was built at the shipyard of Lawrence and Sneden in New York. The vertical beam engine was constructed at West Point Foundry in Cold Spring, New York. She carried two boilers on the guards; both of iron. Her paddlewheels were 24 feet in diameter with 10 foot length buckets that dipped 29 inches.

This unique steamboat carried a 'cookie-jar' pilothouse on the skydeck with a fancy bell attachment on the roof behind the gilded eagle ornament which sat center. When she entered service on the Hudson River she was one of the best and fastest boats to run. She operated on the Newburgh-New York Line until the steamer THOMAS POWELL appeared in 1846. HIGHLANDER was then used as an excursion boat and later ran for the Freight and Passage Line between Rondout and New York City until 1852. The following year she was taken south to the Delaware River and used as a towboat before being dismantled in 1866. Her engine was erected in the new towboat replacing her which was named WILLIAM H. ASPINWALL.

For more information about commissioning a fine quality steamboat model email: Caseships@yahoo.com or call 1-774-757-7137. You may also visit https://www.linkedin.com/in/rexstewart

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