Marietta is ready to welcome back the good-as-new, 95-year-old W.P. Snyder Jr. sternwheeler on Thursday when the steamboat returns to its shoreline at the Ohio River Museum after a seven-month absence for repairs and renovation.
The nearly $1 million project to restore the entire upper deck and electrical system of the Marietta attraction is complete, and on 10 a.m. Thursday residents can come down to the museum’s port to welcome her home from her stay in a shipyard in Henderson, W.Va.
After the hull of the 175-foot, 342-ton boat was repaired in 2010, the vessel departed again in October 2013 for above-water repairs, and will return in what historians say is prime condition.
“When we took it away, they said ‘It’ll come back as shiny as a new penny,'” said Fred Smith, architect for the Ohio History Connection, formerly known as the Ohio Historical Society. “It might not look like that but it’s the best I’ve ever seen her look.”
Repairs, with $736,000 coming from the Ohio Department of Transportation’s Transportation Enhancement Program grant and $222,000 coming from State of Ohio capital funding, included an overhaul of the boat’s dated electrical system, new paint, repaired holes and rust and an overall repair of everything that sits above the water.
“Over the years the boat has gone over several remodeling phases, but this has given us a chance to restart on the boat to bring it back to what it was in 1955,” Smith said.
That 1955 date refers to when the Ohio Historical Society and the Sons and Daughters of Pioneer Rivermen bought the vessel for $1. OHS and Charleston-based marine construction company Amherst Madison have used 1955 photos to restore the vessel’s color and condition.
“Because the electrical system was tenuous and not up to marine standards, we replaced it to marine code,” Smith said. “The lights we’ve used aren’t historic, but they’re safe and provide abundant light to visitors.”
Workers also repaired and sealed the vessel’s old coal bunkers that were previously rain-damaged, and have filled in holes and removed rust.
Le Ann Hendershot, director of the Ohio River Museum, said she’s excited to have the city’s big historical attraction back in time for spring.
“The month of May is our busy time for school students, and we’re booked every day with if not one group than two or three,” she said. “We’re excited to have it back and to see what it will look like.”
New life rings line the vessel where they were missing previously, handrails are now a pristine white and the sternwheel has been completely repaired and re-painted.
“From the waterline up, everything has been cleaned, painted and repaired,” Smith said. “It’s pretty transformative.”
Unlike the 2010 repairs, the visual on this transformation period will be much more visible and much more exciting for spectators.
Amherst Madison will be swinging the pedestrian bridge in Harmar away Thursday morning so the boat can make its way through.
“I don’t think river levels will be a problem, because the water was supposed to crest last week and now we’re back down under this week, so it shouldn’t be a concern,” said Jeff Spear, president of the Sons and Daughters of Pioneer Rivermen.
Consistent rain throughout the past week that resulted in quicker currents should not be an issue, Spear said, as the vessel has to be steered against the current anyway.
“If you bet on something happening on a river, you always make sure you have extra time,” he said.
The steamboat will leave Point Pleasant at about 10 a.m. Wednesday, giving it plenty of extra time to arrive in Marietta.