Wheeling Intelligencer, July 10, 1883 --
Yesterday morning at 9 o'clock the new Chesapeake backed out from the levee and started on its trial trip, not returning until noon. Soon after she had been made fast at her new mooring, under the bridge, being taken there to make room at the lower landing for the hulls of two new boats that are to arrive this week, and INTELLIGENCER man boarded the Chesapeake and meeting Mr. John Sweeney, who has superintended the building, asked him how he was pleased with his work. “I'm perfectly satisfied,” said he, “that the Chesapeake is the fastest boat on the Ohio river. She can beat the Minnie Bay, and she, you know, has been passing almost everything. You can safely say she is the fastest steamer afloat on the Ohio.”
The building of the Chesapeake was contracted for by A. J. Sweeney & Son, of this city, who have been busily engaged during the past two years building steamers. They have acquired a splendid reputation all along the river and down on the Mississippi even; the boats turned out by them have all been good ones, but the Chesapeake leads them all, both as to speed and style and finish. She is being built for the Chesapeake Packet Co., of Gallipolis, of which Capts. Ed and Lou Maddy are large stockholders, and they will have charge of the new boat. Her hull was built at Harmar by Knox, and is a little out of the usual shape. To all appearances, as she lies in the water, she has a hollow water line, and many unfavorable comments have been made about this by old river men, who predicted that she would make too big a break in the water to make any speed. But this is not the case; she is pinched in very sharp at the stem and gradually swells out and down. The result is, she make no perceptible break until the wheels are reached. Instead, she cuts the water and climbs or rides on top as smoothly as though she were greased.
The dimensions of the boat are, 188 feet long over all; beam 26 feet; hold 5 feet; engines, 16 inches diameter cylinders with 5 foot stroke; three boilers with two flues each, 24 feet long and 40 inches in diameter, constructed of 70,000 tensile strength steel; she is a sidewheeler, the wheels being 20 feet in diameter, with 15 arms and 10 foot buckets. The cabin is full length, with thirty-six staterooms and a handsome office and a spacious ladies' cabin, and furnished in hard woods. The retiring rooms, pantry, etc. are on the guards. From the ladies' cabin a good view can be obtained the full length of the cabin and out the stern windows, which cannot be done on other boats; this allows of better ventilation. The Texas has sixteen berths and two small sitting rooms. The pilot house is a roomy one. From the hurricane deck to the hull deck there are four staircases, making escape easy in case of a panic. The carpets, furniture, etc., will be put on at Gallipolis. Everything else will be done here.
The tiller-ropes run down under the hull-deck, and this allows a swinging stage at stem and stern, thus avoiding turning when making a landing when going down stream. She is lighted by 40 electric lights. There is no coal-box, but instead ten large coal-cars that are stowed in the hold except when wanted. In addition to the battery of boilers there is a small upright boiler than can be used to run the donkey, doctor or electric light. In going down yesterday the boat just boomed along. In returning, big 12 miles an hour was made against a heavy headway (the river was rising fast) on 160 pounds of steam; 175 is allowed. Steam was made very fast, and the boat steered beautifully. The growlers predicted that the shape of the bull would make it difficult to handle the boat, but she went down over Captina bar under full head and minded the slightest turn of the wheel. George Knox, who is to be head engineer, was immensely pleased and could not say things nice enough.
“Another thing about this boat,” said Mr. Sweeney, “it don't shake any more than the Bay, although it hasn't the 'staggered' wheel. In place of that style of wheel, we have the old fashioned one, thus gaining power, but to steady things there are heavy braces from the outer end of the water wheel beam to the other head of the thwarship chain brace. That's another innovation in sidewheelers.”
Captains Ed and Lou Maddy were on board during the trip and were charmed with everything. They spoke very highly of the work of the Sweeneys. It will take about two weeks longer to complete the boat. Before she leaves for her trade there will be an electric light trial trip.
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