The W.P. Snyder's $958,000 facelift is well under way at a dry dock in Henderson W.Va.
It's been two months since the W.P. Snyder left its mooring by the Ohio River Museum in Marietta and was towed to Henderson to get the repairs needed to bring it back to peak condition. It was the second phase of a multi-million repair project for the boat. In 2010, the hull of the 175-foot, 342-ton vessel was repaired in a $1.4 million project in South Point.
Since reaching the dry dock there, Charleston-based Amherst Madison has completed many repairs, including the paddlewheel, which routinely rots away at the bottom from lack of use.
Jeff Spear, board member for the Friends of the Museum, said this time something different is happening after the paddlewheel repair for the boat, the only remaining steam-powered sternwheel towboat in the United States and a National Historic Landmark.
"They're going to leave the wheel loose," he said.
Because of this, the paddle wheel can be turned, which will lengthen the life of the wood used to create the wheel.
W.P. Snyder Jr. timeline
1918 - The boat is constructed by the James Rees and Sons Co. in Pittsburgh as the Carnegie Steel Co. towboat W.H. Clingerman, the first of the company's boats on the Ohio, Monongahela and Mississippi rivers.
1938 - Carnegie renames the boat the J.L. Perry.
1945 - The boat is renamed A-1, then purchased by the Crucible Steel Co., which changes the name to W.P. Snyder Jr., after the company's president, William Penn Snyder Jr.
1954 - The Snyder is laid up, put out of business like other vessels of its kind, by the advent of diesel towboats, which require smaller crews.
1955 - The boat is due to be scrapped, but members of the Sons and Daughters of Pioneer Rivermen, working with the Ohio Historical Society, get Crucible to sell it to the society for $1.
Sept. 12-16, 1955 - The Snyder travels under its own power on the Monongahela River to Pittsburgh, then heads down the Ohio, stopping at Rochester, Pa.; East Liverpool, Ohio; and Wheeling, W.Va., before arriving in Marietta on Friday, Sept. 16.
1988 - The boat undergoes $335,000 in renovations in Warsaw, Ky., before returning to Marietta.
1989 - The Snyder is named a National Historic Landmark.
1999 - The Snyder is taken to Cincinnati for the Tall Stacks festival.
2009 - The boat is towed from Marietta to South Point for a $1.4 million project to replace its hull and paddle wheel.
2010 - The Snyder returns to Marietta and its familiar spot on the Muskingum River, adjacent to the Ohio River Museum.
Oct. 10 - The Snyder is towed to Henderson, W.Va., for the next phase of its restoration, which will include repairs to the pilot house, replacement of its electrical system, installation of metal plates on the main and boiler decks and painting of the exterior, including the paddlewheel.
Source: Times research.
Shannon Thomas, communications manager with the Ohio Historical Society (OHS), said the restoration work was being closely monitored by their architect and was going better than expected.
Thomas said the original repair plan for the Snyder has changed a bit.
"(The original plan) was to replace the main deck, boiler deck and other parts," Thomas said. "Ultrasound testing showed much of the main deck and boiler deck are in good shape."
Less work there meant there was more money for unforeseen restoration costs, which included work on the coal bunkers, paddlewheel gangway and additional carpentry repairs, she said.
"(Amherst Madison) does mechanical repairs on vessels," Thomas said. "They usually just repair modern vessels. The unique opportunity here is restoring this historic one."
Thomas reported that, to date, there have been no snags on the project and the hope is the work will move fairly quickly.
"I think it's going to be a really spectacular return to Marietta," Thomas said. "People will see that boat as it was when it was first made."
Spear said the Snyder will look nearly as good as new.
"She's had any number of colors over the years," he said, alluding to the fact that if something needed painted after repairs, someone would run to get any color of paint available. Aside from that, Spear said the main colors on the boat have always been the same: red and white with a little black and green.
Thomas said the mission of OHS is preserving and sharing Ohio's history.
"I think this work on the Snyder is the best example of the work we do," Thomas said.
Thomas said Amherst Madison is on schedule to hopefully have the boat back in April, but there is no definite date at this time.
Spear said everyone involved with the Ohio River Museum is hopeful the Snyder comes back by April when schools will begin museum field trips.
Spear added that the static exhibit of the Snyder has always been the biggest draw to the museum.
"She's basically a time machine that stopped in 1955," Spear said. "I hope it increases attention, mainly because she'll look so much better. People are going to want to see all the work that's been done."