Saturday, February 23, 2013

February 23, 1905: First ever crossing of the gondola car

February 23, 1905: First ever crossing of the gondola car
By Tony Dierckins

 Duluth’s Aerial Transfer Bridge, predecessor to the Duluth Aerial Lift Bridge. (Image: Duluth Public Library.) On this day in Duluth in 1905, the Aerial Transfer Bridge made its first crossing with, as the Duluth News Tribune put it, a “load of human freight.” City Engineer Thomas McGilvray invited two hundred people to witness the ferry car’s first crossing. He included local dignitaries such as Mayor Cullum, Common Council President Roland D. Haven, Colonel Hubert Eva, Chief of Police Chauncy H. Troyer; Chief DM&IR Engineer Herman L. Dresser as well as members of his own staff and the team from the Modern Steel Structural Company, who built the bridge. At 4:30 in the afternoon of February 23, 1905, these men entered the car at the south tower and prepared to cross. The bridge was not yet fully complete—some of the false wooden work still stood against the south tower. McGilvray himself controlled the car, which began rolling without so much as a hiccup. One of the workmen posted atop the bridge as a safety measure decided to have a little fun with the crowd, striking at the false staging work with a wooden plank and shouting to cut the power. Afraid that “heavy objects were about to crash to the deck,” many sought protection under the car’s awnings. After a good laugh—and reassurance that a joke had been played, nothing more—the ferry car moved ahead. Riders felt “only a slight vibration” while the car moved northward. As it reached the north end of the canal with “a gentle motion, an almost imperceptible contact against the air cushion in the approach, it stopped and locked automatically.” The entire trip lasted one minute and fifteen seconds, but it had been over fifteen years in the making. TBridge_2.24.1905_DNT. Discover the entire history of the Duluth Aerial Bridge here.

Thursday, February 21, 2013

Duluth Canal and Lift Bridge History

I took some time during the past few weeks to put together this video on the history of the Lift Bridge and Canal.  We have such a rich nautical history around the "Head of the Lakes" that I thought a video would be worthwhile.  Sorry that it so long (53 minutes), but, there is a lot to tell.

Friday, February 15, 2013

Edward L. Ryerson (Fast Eddy on Ice)

Anyone traveling from Superior to Duluth during the past few years can’t help but notice a particularly striking Laker tied up near the Blatnik Bridge.  The boat is the Edward L Ryerson, once labeled the “Queen of the Lake”.

Since today was a bright beautiful winter day, it was a perfect time to stop by the old girl and see how she was doing. Winter is a great time to walk across the frozen slips and get a better look at many of the boats layed up for the season.

The Edward L. Ryerson, is one of only two remaining straight-deck bulk carriers still part of the American fleet on the Great Lakes.  Built by Manitowoc Shipbuilding Co., the new boat was launched January 21, 1960, and christened Edward L. Ryerson for the Inland Steel Co. of Chicago, IL. The new laker was the first of five American-flagged ships to be added to the "730-class" of lake boats in the early 1960's.  The Ryerson became the third of thirteen 730' carriers to eventually share in the "Queen of the Lakes" title for being the longest ships on the Great Lakes.  

The boat's namesake, Mr. Edward Larned Ryerson, was born in Chicago on December 3rd, 1886.  He had been president of the steel service center Joseph T. Ryerson and Son, Inc. until 1935 when it was merged with Inland Steel.  Mr. Ryerson was chairman of the board from 1940 until his retirement in 1953 of both Inland Steel and his original company.  Mr. Ryerson died in Chicago on August 2nd, 1971.

The Edward L. Ryerson is among the most beautiful of all lakers, from her beautifully flared bow and the top of her pilot house to her significant but streamlined stack to her curved and tapered stern as well as her striking paint job, no expense or effort was spared during her building to achieve this goal.  Over $8 million was reported to have been spent on the actual accommodations alone.   The Ryerson was built to transport iron ore, fast at the expense of poor capabilities to haul other cargo. A conversion to a self-unloader was deferred because of excessive cost to retrofit the square holds.

The Ryerson is a fast boat and is able to reach speeds up to 19 mph earning her the nickname "Fast Eddie" as one of the quickest ships on the Great Lakes. She can carry approximately 24,869 tons, one third of today’s 1000ft lakers.

The Ryerson’s  working career was placed on hold in 2009 when she laid up at Superior's Fraser Shipyard and has been on hold ever since. Economic conditions are still keeping this beautiful vessel from a return to service, but, someday, the lady may once again become a subject of delight for photographers and boatwatchers alike.

To learn more about the Ryerson: visit

Tuesday, February 12, 2013

Jay Cooke Swinging Bridge

It has been nearly eight months since to devastating floods that swept through the Northland last June.
Today I had a chance to visit Jay Cooke State Park and the famous swinging bridge.  While the bridge walkway is still somewhat crumpled, the beauty of the park has not changes.

The muffled sound of the St. Louis River running under the ice and the chickadees chirping on the snow covered branches is an indication that springtime is not far off.

Saturday, February 9, 2013

Harbor History - Minnesota Point Lighthouse

The other day I hiked down to the end of Park Point and upon seeing the ruins of the old Minnesota Point Lighthouse I was inspired to do a quick historical video on this once important lighthouse. I hope you find this 23 minute presentation interesting and informative.

Friday, February 8, 2013

February 8, 1910 Beer wagon goes through Ice on St. Louis River

February 8, 1910 Beer wagon goes through Ice on St. Louis River
By Tony Dierckins Zenith City Online

On this day in Duluth in 1910, former Third Ward alderman Maurice McGinnis was driving a rig for Superior’s Northern Brewery over the frozen St. Louis River when the ice gave way. Horses, wagon, driver, and beer all plunged into the river. McGinniss manager to pull himself out of the frigid waters and “suffered no ill effects from his icy bath.” The horses did not fair as well—all drowned. McGinnis was on his way to deliver beer to Henry Ward’s saloon “near the steel plant,” which was under construction next to what would become Morgan Park. The beer got away as well. Despite the deaths of the “valuable team,” the Duluth News Tribune seemed more concerned with the loss of beer. Two days after the accident the newspaper printed a story under the bold headline “NO EFFORT TO RECOVER BEER KEGS FROM RIVER.” The paper reported that there was little chance of finding the kegs under the ice, and that they were likely already carried away downstream by the river’s current. It then pondered the upcoming thaw: “In the spring, the time the poet says a young man’s fancy lightly turns to thoughts of love, there are expected to be a large number of lovers of the amber fluid scattered along the St. Louis searching for the missing kegs.

Read More at Zenith City Press

Wednesday, February 6, 2013

Bridge Lights Outage Update!

There have been some questions as to why the bridge lights have been off the past couple night.
Ryan Beamer, the Bridge Supervisor, indicated that they are switching out the photo cells that automatically turned on/off the lights. The new controls will be activated by astrological clock timers. This should be more accurate and not susceptible to weather.
The lights should be back on tonight!

Essayons Update

A while back I did a post about the Tug Essayons that had sunk in the harbor. Today, I turned one of the harbor cams for a closer look. Sadly, the mighty tug remains sitting on the bottom of the harbor in one of the slips near Duluth Timber.
Hopefully, someday, it may be raised and restored.  I have posted the original post at the bottom of this one.

Here is the old post! If anyone has any old photos of the Esayons, I would love to post them the the blog.

The other day when I happened to be out taking pictures, I ran across the remains of the old Essayons tugboat resting on the bottom of the harbor with only the pilot house and smokestack sticking out of the surface like a grave marker.

Once the pride of the fleet, the Essayons was the historic retired Army Corps of Engineers tugboat that had been a Twin Ports fixture since 1908. The tug's engine is on display at the Marine Museum in Canal Park. 
The tug's owner was hoping to turn the boat into a floating bed and breakfast. However, vandal damage postponed the plan in 2004 and the tug was than docked near the Duluth Timber Company.
In 2009, shifting harbor ice pushed by a strong northeast wind, punctured the hull and the boat sank the the bottom, where it still rests today.
Perhaps someday it will be raised, but, for now, it quietly rests in peace, out of sight, and unnoticed.
"ESSAYONS" means - "Let Us Try" and is the branch song of the Army Corps of Engineers.

Essayons, sound out the battle cry
Essayons, we'll win or we'll die
Essayons, there's nothing we won't try
We're the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers
Pin the castle on my collar
I've done my training for the team
You can call me an engineer soldier
The warrior spirit has been my dream
We are builders, we are fighters
We are destroyers just as well
There've been doubters who met with the sappers
1 - We know our sappers will never fail
2 - And then we blew them all straight to hell
Our brothers fighting on the battlefield
Look to us to point the way
We get there first and then we take the risks
To build the roads and the air strips
And bridge the mighty river streams
We don't care who gets the glory
We're sure of one thing, this we know
Somewhere out there an engineer soldier
Designed the plan for the whole darn show
Essayons whether in war or peace
We will bear our red and our white
Essayons we serve America
And the U.S. Army Corps of engineers
Essayons! Essayons!

Tuesday, February 5, 2013

Return to the old site format

Through trial and error, I have decided that the original website is preferable to the new formatting.
Sometimes new, isn't always better.
Thanks for your patience and support over the past several weeks as I tried some different designs -- maybe I will try again during the off season next year.


Monday, February 4, 2013

Heritage Marine - Helen H at work

The Helen H. was built in 1967, and initially named the W. Douglas Masterson. The Hellen H was the 3rd tug included with the Heritage Marine fleet belonging to Mike Ojard in 2011. She joined up with the Nels J. and Edward H. inside the Heritage Underwater fleet of pulls. This mighty tug pushes its 82 foot lengthy steel hull through the waters of St. Louis Bay in all types of climate and ice conditions.

This particular picture of the Helen H was taken the last day of shipping in January of this year as it assisted the John G Munson into port .


John Munson Arrival 1/25/2013