THREE QUEENS VISIT WHEELING, WV the American, the Delta, and the Mississippi Queen Steamboats By John Bowman

American Queen 1994-

            The McDermott Shipyard built the stern-wheel tourist-excursion boat American Queen in 1994 for the Delta Queen Steamboat Co.  She was launched in 1995 at an approximate cost of $60 million.  Her steam engines were from the U.S. dredge Kennedy.  As the paddle wheels were too small to move the large boat in every situation, two additional propellers could be used if necessary.  The American Queen was the third ‘River Steamboat Queen’ and perhaps the largest steamboat-type ever built.  The American Queen is 418 feet long and 89 feet 4 inches high.  There are 222 staterooms and she has capacity for up to 436 passengers.  Specially built for the American Queen is a calliope with 37 gold-plated brass pipes.  Her smoke stacks could be lowered (tipped forward) to enable her to sail under low bridges. The American Queen went out of service in October 2001 and sat in a boatyard until the fall of 2011 when the newly formed Great American Steamboat Co. purchased and refurbished her.  The boat was re-launched on the Mississippi River in early April 2012.  

Here are photos of the American Queen when she visited Wheeling in 1996, and her return visit to Wheeling in 2018.

American Queen North Bound Approaching Wheeling 1996
American Queen Approaching Wheeling she begins to lower her stacks
American Queen lowering a stack
American Queen with a lowered stack
American Queen Paddlewheel
American Queen with stacks completely lowered 1996
This 2018 photo of the American Queen at Wheeling’s Heritage Port Amphitheater is courtesy of TripAdvisor

Delta Queen 1926-

Delta Queen, a stern-wheel excursion, steel hull and frame, wooden sheathed boat, was started in 1924 at Glasgow, Scotland.  She was built on the River Clyde at the Isherwood Boat Yard.  It was barged to Stockton, California in 1926 for reconstruction and completion.  Her oil burning machinery was built at Denny’s Shop, Dumbarton, California.  Her paddlewheel cranks and shafts were built at the Krupp Works, pre Nazi Germany.  Her upper cabins, four decks high, were constructed with oak, teak, mahogany and cedar.  Delta Queen was a sister to Delta King built at the same time and their original cost was $875,000 each.  The original owner was the San Francisco based, California Transportation Co.  The staterooms slept two hundred and accommodated the passengers with air-conditioned comfort.  Her staterooms (guest rooms) have since been reduced to one hundred and seventy-six.  The two boats were dedicated at the Banner Island shipyard, Stockton, California, Friday, May 20, 1927 and entered service June 1, 1927.  In 1940, both were sold to the Isbrandston Steamship Lines, New Orleans, Louisiana.  Then came the  attack at Pearl Harbor, December 7, 1940, both were conscripted by the U.S. Navy and painted drab gray and designated Yard Ferry Boats in the California, San Francisco-Oakland Bay area.  At the wars end they went to the U.S. Maritime Commission for public sale.  Capt. Tom R. Greene of Cincinnati, Ohio bought the Delta Queen December 17, 1946 and had her towed to the Fulton Shipyard, Antioch, California for preparation for towing on a sea voyage through the Panama Canal for delivery at Harvey, Louisiana.  The Avondale, Louisiana Shipyard put her into operating condition for the river voyage to the Dravo Corporation at Neville Island, Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania where she arrived August 10, 1947.  The complete voyage is described in “The Saga of the Delta Queen” authored by Frederick Way, Jr., 1951, Young & Klein, Inc., Cincinnati, Ohio.  The story tells the important 1947 journey of the Delta Queen from California to Cincinnati, Ohio.  Delta Queen underwent a complete renovation and steamed back to Cincinnati, Ohio arriving March 1, 1948.  The Greene Line Steamers operated Delta Queen until November 21, 1969, when she went to the Overseas National Airways Corp, Jamaica, New York for her management.  A sister, the Mississippi Queen joined her in 1977, and another sister, the American Queen, joined Delta Queen in 1995. Delaware North Companies, Inc., owner of our “Wheeling Island Hotel-Casino-and Racetrack”, owned once all three and placed all the Queens back in service in January 2003.  In 2006, Ambassadors International, Inc., a cruise, marine event and travel, company purchased the three Queens, the American, the Mississippi, and the Delta Queen.  Ambassadors International’s American Classical Voyages went into bankruptcy and the Delta Queen went out of service in October 2001.  The Delta Queen was docked in Chattanooga, Tennessee, for several years, where it was a hotel; it is now being rehabilitated to make it river-worthy again.

Here are photos of the Delta Queen at Wheeling, WV

Delta Queen North Bound at Bellaire
Delta Queen Near Wheeling
Delta Queen Paddlewheel
Delta Queen Port Side Down Bound Ohio River mile 87.6
Delta Queen Starboard Side at Wheeling’s Wharf
Delta Queen Starboard Side at Wheeling’s Heritage Port

Mississippi Queen 1973-

The stern-wheel tourist-cruise boat Mississippi Queen was started at Jeffersonville, Indiana in 1975, by Jeffboat, Inc. and completed there in 1977.  The Pine Tree Engineering Co. manufactured her engines.  The Mississippi Queen was designed to transport and sleep 400 passengers.  She was first owned and operated by the Delta Queen Steamboat Co.  In 2006, the Majestic American Line, Ambassadors International, Inc., (a cruise, marine event and travel company) purchased the three Queens, the American, the Mississippi, and the Delta Queen.  The American Classical Voyages went into bankruptcy and the Mississippi Queen went out of service in 2001, and was eventually sold for scrap.

Here are photos of the Mississippi Queen when she visited Wheeling in 1998

Mississippi Queen North Bound Approaching Wheeling 1998
Mississippi Queen Approaching Wheeling 1998 Her stacks have been lowered
Mississippi Queen at Wheeling’s Wharf in 1998
Mississippi Queen leaving Wheeling North Bound Double Paddlewheel
Mississippi Queen Down Bound at Ohio River mile 87.6

Sources:

2018 photo of the American Queen at Wheeling’s Heritage Port Amphitheater is courtesy of TripAdvisor

American Queen, Delta Queen, Mississippi Queen, Bowman, John: A Pictorial History of Wheeling and Ohio River Steamboats 2009

Delta Queen: Way, Frederick, Jr. Way’s Packet Directory, Delta Queen 1504 1926- Pg. 123-124 

Delta Queen Steamboat Co. American Queen Steamboat Co.

Mississippi Queen: Way, Frederick, Jr. Way’s Packet Directory, Mississippi Queen 3978 1973- Pg. 325-326.