Tourists and local residents waiting to see the W.P. Snyder Jr. docked in Marietta again will have to wait a little longer than expected, with the boat's return now slated for mid-September.
The Snyder, a 55-year fixture at Marietta's Ohio River Museum on Front Street, was taken to South Point, in November for a $1.5 million hull replacement and was expected to return in July.
Crews working on the Snyder, built in 1918, found an unexpected problem, said Kim Schuette, communications and media relations manager for the Ohio Historical Society.
Photo courtesy of Kim Schuette, Ohio Historical Society
The W.P. Snyder Jr. is in South Point for a hull replacement and isn’t expected to be back in Marietta until September.
"The Snyder is getting all new plating but we wanted to try to save most of the framing," she said. "But they found one section with just too much rust so the framing has to be replaced in that section. So now they're tackling the frame."
The workers had also been delayed slightly in January when frigid temperatures caused their respirators to stop working properly as they worked on the lead abatement process.
"That slowed us down a little bit," said Schuette.
About the W.P. Snyder Jr.
Built in 1918, the W.P. Snyder Jr. is the last remaining steam-powered sternwheel towboat in existence. The Snyder was the first Carnegie Steel Co. boat on the Ohio, Monongahela and Mississippi rivers, towing barges loaded with coal, iron ore and steel products during the nation's industrial expansion. The boat has been docked as a museum exhibit in Marietta since 1955.
To view a blog chronicling the restoration, snyderrestore.blogspot.com
The additional work should be able to be completed within the project's budget, she said.
The Snyder will likely return on Sept. 17, if the weather cooperates, Schuette said, and a public homecoming event is planned for Sept. 18.
"We're really anxious for it to come back," said Floyd Barmann, director of the Campus Martius and Ohio River museums. "A lot of people say they miss it. It's an icon in the community."
Barmann said he's heard several comments from people driving into town who notice a blank spot where the boat typically is.
Chris Becker, 38, of Marietta, who jogs several times a week on the River Trail, said he feels the same way.
"It just looks wrong," he said. "I'm used to seeing field trips there and people taking pictures with it. I think it adds a lot to the area."
The W.P. Snyder's absence has likely meant fewer visitors to the Ohio River Museum, said Barmann, although numbers overall are up from last summer, due to a new schedule that has the museum open about four times as often as previously.
"I think it's affected attendance quite considerably," he said. "People come to see the Snyder just as much as they come to see the museums."
The work on the boat is now expected to be complete in late August, but the mid-September return coincides with the annual meeting of the Sons and Daughters of the Pioneer Rivermen on Sept. 18, said Schuette.
"They've been such a vital part of this whole process so it's great to coincide with their meeting and a time when a lot of their members can see the boat," she said.
Fundraising for the repairs took several years, with the money ultimately coming from private donations, a state appropriation and a grant from the National Park Service's Save America's Treasures program.
Money is still being raised, said Schuette, so that repairs needed for the upper part of the boat can be completed in the future. The historical society has also applied for several grants.
"There's still a lot more work to do but this was a big step," she said. "The repairs won't be obvious because they'll mostly be underwater but this was the most necessary step to save the Snyder and keep it from sinking."