Shipping & Shipbuilding News -  2 August 2007 - The Brightest Maritime Daily

After 2008, DELTA QUEEN's passenger-carrying days are over

End of the shipping line for Dumbarton-built DELTA QUEEN
80 year old riverboat will sail no more after losing US Congress exemption

She spans not only the generations, but the Atlantic, linking the romance of the stern-wheelers on the Mississippi and the Clyde-built traditions of hundreds of years. After the end of the 2008 season she will retire, her great wheel to turn no more.

Dumbarton situated where the River Leven joins the Clyde has produced many ships that are or were historic, such as the CUTTY SARK and also some very unusual and surprising vessels have been born in the shadow of The Rock.

Two such were the DELTA KING and DELTA QUEEN. The former is now a static attraction and hotel at Sacramento, whilst the latter has been paddling in US waters right up until now. Six times she has been granted exemption from laws regarding ships with wooden superstructure, but now her time has run out and after the 2008 season she will sail no more.

The hulls, first two decks and steam engines of both ships were ordered from Wm Denny in 1924 and the sections were transported to California where they were assembled and locally produced wooden upper superstructure was added. There is some confusion over where exactly the hulls were built, with references to an 'Isherwood Shipyard' in Glasgow, but to the best of our knowledge (and others more connected with shipbuilding history) no such shipyard existed, not even in the whole of the UK. It may have been there was a fabrication works called Isherwood that Denny subcontracted to, but we find this unlikely as at no time have we came across this name in relation to either Denny or any other shipbuilder.  Except that the name Isherwood is known in shipbuilding through a naval architect of that name who devised a new system of construction, mainly for tankers, and it is possible he was involved in the novel designs of the DELTA hulls. Taking all of the above into account we are fairly sure the ships were indeed constructed by Denny at Dumbarton.

Initially they were built for service on the Sacramento River between San Francisco and Sacramento. Both vessels saw service during the war as hospitals and ferries. DELTA KING thereafter had a traumatic life, being towed here and there under a succession of owners with good intentions, sinking twice and generally ending up a less than happy old ship. She did see a period of glory when she was used as a Mississippi steamboat in the 1959 MGM film The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn. Eventually she was bought and converted into her current use as an hotel at Sacramento.

DELTA QUEEN however had a more glorious destiny. After being put into the Reserve Fleet after WW2 she was bought for service on the Mississippi which meant an epic voyage for her through the Panama Canal arriving at New Orleans after 5,261 days at sea.

Ever since 1966 she has battled for survival against rules that prohibit vessels from carrying passengers that have wooden construction such as her superstructure. And now the battle is over after being granted exemptions for over 20 years.

What the future will hold for her is uncertain, but it is highly unlikely she will be broken up: she has a place in the heart of America and will doubtless become a static attraction like her sister.

In a press release issued yesterday, her current owners, Majestic America Line said, "We are incredibly disappointed by this decision, but we are extremely grateful to those who worked tirelessly on behalf of the Delta Queen to preserve her place on the
Mississippi River. This includes many congressional leaders such as Congressman Lacy Clay (D-MO), who gathered the support of so many of his colleagues, thousands of loyal guests, our hard-working travel partners and Delta Queen enthusiasts like We appreciate their efforts and we will continue to keep them involved as we plan the best way to honour the Delta Queen.”

Majestic America Line say they will dedicate the 2008 season to celebrating the Delta Queen’s years of service and her fabled time on the river.

“A journey on board the Delta Queen is a true American experience, providing guests with an authentic glimpse of our country’s culture and a time in our history when steamboats ruled the rivers,” said David A. Giersdorf, President, Majestic America Line.
“We will make every sailing in 2008 a special event, allowing every guest, like so many before, the opportunity to share in the Delta Queen’s legacy and honour the last chapter in her service on the river.”

Majestic America Line is planning special commemorative events, exclusive departures for previous Delta Queen guests and commemorative gifts that will mark the farewell season. With just 24 departures on the Delta Queen during 2008, guests are
encouraged to reserve their place in history soon.

The company say it is continuing to evaluate the best way to preserve her legendary spirit and her esteemed place in American history for future generations.

From across the Atlantic we trust she will forever remain a living legend in one form or another, and a symbol of the links between a shipbuilding town on Clydeside and the great steamboats on the great US rivers.



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