W.P. Snyder staying put for now

For nearly two weeks the W.P. Snyder has been unable to be moved back to its permanent location at the Ohio River Museum and, unless the Muskingum River loses its fast current, the delay could be through the end of next week.

Ohio History Connection Architect Fred Smith said the delay in moving the 95-year-old steamboat, the last of its kind, has been unwelcome.

“I’m sure our visitors are very discouraged,” he said. “We told them it was coming back (and so far it hasn’t). We don’t like it very much either.”

The Snyder underwent a seven-month round of repairs, costing nearly $1 million, at a dry dock in Henderson, W.Va. The work, completed by Amherst Madison through a grant from the Ohio Department of Transportation, included work on the decks, new paint, a new electrical system and a new paddle wheel, the bottom of which would frequently rot off from lack of turning.

The boat was supposed to return to its permanent spot at the Ohio River Museum on May 8, but elevated river levels kept the boat docked by the Lafayette Hotel.

Smith said for safety reasons the boat was moved last week from its mooring near the Lafayette Hotel down to Neale Marine in Vienna, W.Va. It was believed the mooring to the barge would not be suitable for a 14-foot rise in the Ohio River and the boat could become unstable.

Neale Marine has agreed to house the boat free of charge, said Smith.

“Neale Marine is being very good and they’re not charging us,” he said. “So there is no extra cost. It’s very much appreciated by all parties involved.”

Trials this week for the Snyder include high Muskingum River water levels and a fast-moving current.

“As of (Wednesday), the shipyard (Amherst Madison) informed me the Muskingum River is running 324 percent of it’s normal volume, so that’s a lot of water coming down,” Smith said.

Before thoughts of moving the boat spring to mind, that volume has to slow down.

“We have to wait until that subsides before we can firm up our plans to move the boat,” Smith said, adding that the fast current makes it “very difficult to maneuver and unsafe.”

Smith said Amherst Madison is ready to finish the job.

“They want to get it back up there more than we do, I think,” he said. “They want to finish the job.”

During the Snyder’s absence, the Ohio River Museum has noticed some discouraged school children.

“The school students are a little down; they haven’t been able to see (the Snyder),” said museum director Le Ann Hendershot.

For now, Smith said the boat is safe at Neale Marine, where it has been for about a week.

“The vessel is safe,” he said. “We just wish it was back up (at the museum) so we could start running tours.”

Hendershot said the tourist season hasn’t really picked up yet, so it’s hard to discern if any revenue has been lost because of the delay.

“I can’t say we’ve noticed it yet,” she said. “Our tour season really won’t start until about June. Hopefully it’ll be ready to go.”

In the meantime, Hendershot said she understands the delay.

“We’re kind of upset but we want (the Snyder) to be safe,” she said. “We don’t want it to come back until the river conditions are ready.”

Smith said there is one positive that’s come from the tribulations surrounding the Snyder’s return.

“That’s one of the wonderful things about this, a silver lining: it’s a positive thing that people are really understanding and generous toward the boat and the whole effort,” he said. “It’s been very nice and appreciated.”