W.P. Snyder update

For those who enjoy gazing at the W.P Snyder Jr. as they pass by its Front Street location, there are only a couple more weeks to get a glimpse until next year.

In mid-October, the W.P. Snyder will be towed to Henderson, W.Va., shipyard of Charleston-based Amherst Madison, operated by the Jones family, to begin the second phase of the Snyder’s renovations.

“The Jones’ are a wonderful family,” said Jeff Spear, president of the Sons and Daughters of Pioneer Rivermen. “They are river through and through. It’s nice she’s going to somewhere where they understand. She going to a good yard operated by very capable people. They will take care of her.”

The focus of the first phase of work, completed in 2009 and 2010, was to replace the hull and do some repairs on the paddlewheel, at a cost of $1.4 million.

Phase II is estimated to cost $958,000. The project received $736,000 from the federal government administered by the Ohio Department of Transportation under the transportation enhancement program and $222,000 from the state. The remaining $158,000 will pay for project administration, a marine consultant and any construction contingencies. The project is expected to be completed and the boat back in town by April, in time for tourist season, said Fred Smith, architectural services department manager of the Ohio Historical Society.

“When people come to town, they want to see the W.P. Snyder,” said Le Ann Hendershot, director of the Campus Martius and Ohio River museums. “We are proud of the old girl, and we are anxious to get her cleaned up. It’s part of the river museum, and it’s actually what draws people to the river museum.”

The museum volunteers who give tours of the W.P. Snyder Jr., said they make sure every student that visits gets a tour on board. The volunteers help them to imagine what life would have been like on a boat back in the day, Hendershot said.

“We try to keep history alive, and this is one way to keep it alive by keeping the boat in good shape,” she said.

Once a date is firmly fixed, the Historic Harmar Railroad Bridge will be turned to allow the Snyder to pass through, said Smith. Crews from the shipyard will bring two tow boats to pull the Snyder out to the Ohio River. Then, the Snyder likely will be moored to two barges on the Kanawha River.

“The last time they took it all the way down to Southpoint,” Smith said. “They were under way before lunch, but heavy fog socked them in (making it an overnight trip). This will be a shorter trip. I hope the weather cooperates.”

Smith said the Phase II work will include replacing the metal decking on the main and boiler decks, painting the structure, carpentry work on the pilothouse and replacement of splashboards and the electrical system.

The metal decking is crucial because water was coming through to the new hull in 2010.

The W.P. Snyder was built in 1918 as the W.N. Clingerman for the Carnegie Steel Co. to take coal barges up and down the Monongahela River in Pennsylvania.

It’s been eight decades since the Sons and Daughters of Pioneer Rivermen first formed with the idea to establish a museum devoted to those pioneer rivermen, such as Capt. Fred Way.

In 1955, more than 200 of steamboats already had been scrapped, Spear said. Way and the early rover captains realized steamboats were in their twilight and if they did not acquire one, another chance might never come up again.

“It’s important to save a treasure like that,” Spear said. “Most of those boats were wooden hulls. Had that been a wooden hull, there probably would have been no way she would have survived. It’s the most intact example of a Mississippi-style steamboat there is.”

The Ohio River Museum season ends Oct. 27.