The towboat W.P. Snyder Jr. at the Ohio Historical Society’s Ohio River Museum in Marietta will make a historic voyage down the Muskingum and Ohio Rivers November 20 to a shipyard in South Point, Ohio, for a new hull. The 91-year-old Snyder, a National Historic Landmark, is the last remaining steam-powered sternwheel towboat in existence.
River conditions permitting, McGinnis, Inc., the firm contracted to replace the Snyder’s hull, will remove her from her moorings at the Ohio River Museum and gingerly guide her down the Muskingum River to the Ohio for her 146-mile downstream voyage to the McGinnis Shipyard in South Point, Ohio.
A Sight To Behold
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 will be towed from Marietta. Moving the 342-ton, 175-foot-long boat is a challenge and a spectacle, which will start with the turning open of the Harmar Railroad Bridge in Marietta on the morning of November 20 and will end with the Snyder’s arrival at the McGinnis Shipyard at South Point later that night.
The Journey Down River
Unmooring the Snyder and ¾ mile trip down the Muskingum River to the Ohio River is expected to take a good part of the day. The Snyder will begin its journey between 11 a.m. and noon. The move will be a sight, as the Snyder and the boats towing her must go under Marietta’s Washington Street Bridge, Putnam Street Bridge and the historic Harmar Railroad Bridge, which must be turned open by hand for the boats to pass. Once on the Ohio it will go through Bellville Locks (Reedsville, Ohio), Racine Locks (Letart,W.Va.) and Robert C. Byrd Locks (Gallipolis Ferry, W.Va.).
A New Hull for the Snyder
McGinnis will place the historic boat on its marine ways for the work. Replacing the hull is expected to take about eight months. The cost of the entire project will be $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 a State of Ohio capital improvements appropriation, 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.
Take a Cruise, Tour the Ohio River Museum
For a closer view of the Snyder’s voyage down the Muskingum and Ohio River, the Valley Gem Sternwheeler will be offering a 4-hour luncheon buffet cruise and buffet. Boarding starts at 10:30 a.m. with departure about 11 a.m. Tickets are $45 for adults. There is a $5 discount for seniors, Ohio Historical Society members and Friends of the Museums. All proceeds benefit Friends of the Museums. For reservations, call the Valley Gem at 740-373-7862 or go online at www.valleygemsternwheeler.com.
The Ohio River Museum will be open Thursday, Nov. 19 from 9:30 a.m. to 5 p.m. and Friday, Nov. 20 from 8 a.m. to 5 p.m. to serve visitors for the W.P. Snyder Jr. The museum, located at 601 Front St., Marietta, is operated by the Friends of the Museums, and is one of 58 sites administered by the Ohio Historical Society. The Ohio Historical Society is a nonprofit organization that serves as the state’s partner in preserving and interpreting Ohio’s history, archaeology, natural history and historic architecture.