Funter Bay History: Tugboat “Nimrod”

June 15, 2018

I’ve mentioned this boat in a few prior posts (here, and more detail here). Most of my photos have shown the boat in various stages of decay as an abandoned derelict on the beach. When I was in Juneau researching Alaska history last summer, I found a photo of the boat in better days.

‘ Nimrod, Waterman T.B. Co. Small diesel tug. Port bow, speed, racing “Ben Hur” ‘. From Lloyd Bayers collection, album 9, MS 10, Alaska State Library Historical Collection.

Close-up of the above photo.

As mentioned before, the Nimrod was built in 1903 and served a variety of towing companies in Washington State, including the Waterman Co. It showed up in Funter Bay sometime in the 1960s as a fishing boat owned by local resident Elmer P. Loose. It’s been pulled up on the beach since approximately 1965, evolving from a boat shape into a more relaxed pile of wood and metal, slowly returning to the soil.

It’s always nice to see the “before” photos for something that’s well into the “after” stages! Plus it adds a special extra dimension to a familiar object or site from childhood.

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Monorail Museum Updates

May 10, 2018

I’ve added some “artifacts” to my miniature monorail museum, located in the head car of the former MN Zoo Monorail that I bought a couple years ago.

While I’m trying to keep the monorail mostly original, that big hulking power box in the back of the driver’s cab was just begging to be turned into a display case. A little dremel work and a plexiglass window and it’s much nicer than before! Plus the mice don’t chew on my toy trains now! (Keeping mice out of this thing might be impossible, it even came with some free zoo mice when I first got it 😛 )

The Baron, as a former monorail driver, has moved up to my upper shelf of MN Zoo-related memorabilia. The lower shelf is more general monorail “stuff”, since people keep giving me monorail toys and whatnot that they come across. In addition to the obvious Disney monorail, I managed to find an HO scale Von Roll MkIII model that’s pretty darn close to this one! The MkIII was in the same family as the zoo’s UMI Tourister, just a little more developed and streamlined.

The wall displays document monorail tech, MN zoo history, and other monorail-related tidbits.

And outside the monorail I’ve stuck a “historic marker” for random visitors. Although the train is on private property and not open to the public, we do get some friends and acquaintances stopping by who are curious about it!

 


Railbiking

March 27, 2018

I’ve been mildly interested in rail bikes for a while, but too lazy / busy to build one myself. However, when one popped up at a local estate sale I couldn’t pass it up.

Before the safety-conscious railfans jump on me, the track I’m testing this on is fully disconnected from any live rail and is on public land in a city park (The Trout Brook Nature Sanctuary). It’s part of a former industrial spur and was incorporated into the park as a bit of decoration by the designers.

I’m not sure of the origin of this contraption. It’s obviously homemade, but when and by whom are a mystery. The bike has a little side saddle “sidecar” on the outrigger, suitable for a passenger or cargo. The bike itself seems to have been built in England, or at least parts of it were. The nameplate is worn off and everything is pretty rusty! I’m guessing it’s from the 1950s or 60s, but whether it was a hobbyist or a railroad employee who built it, I don’t know.

The bike required a little work to get it going. Namely a new rear wheel, new crank and pedals, reinforced weld, new chain, and some minor adjustments.

It barely fits in the car, and requires the rear hatch to be open. This could get annoying if I want to transport it very far!

My initial tests showed that it does pretty well on abandoned track in decent condition. However, any bends, dents, large gaps, or major bushes on the rail will derail it. It kind of goes through switches in one direction, but tends to fall off the frog going through the other way.

A short (<1min) video of my early test runs can be found here:


Forgotten Railroad Updates

June 27, 2017

I recently traveled to Juneau, AK for some research on obscure Alaskan railroads. The Alaska State Library and Archives were incredibly helpful in pulling materials for me. I found enough material in their catalog that I estimated I’d need a week to go through it all, but they had it so streamlined I was able to get through my list in only 4 days! Of course in the meantime I generated another list just as long of related collections, additional sources, and expanded lines of inquiry! Hopefully I can get back to Juneau again for further research. I’m almost ready to turn this into a book, although I’m still hoping to find a way to visit some of these remote locations in person for photo documentation.

I’m slowly updating my railroad page with details, photos, maps, and other documents from this archival visit as I sort through the material. In the meantime, here are a few interesting tidbits!

t7

Courtesy of Alaska State Archives, PCA 12

jualpa1

t1

Courtesy of Alaska State Archives, MS 999

t2

Courtesy of Alaska State Archives, PCA 119

 

t3

Courtesy of Alaska State Archives, PCA 119

t4

Courtesy of Alaska State Archives, MS 39

 

t6

Courtesy of Alaska State Archives, MS 999


Funter Bay History: Fire on the Morzhovoi

June 22, 2017

Fire is something wooden boat owners respect and fear. Between the fuel and the varnish-soaked hull, an overturned lamp or loose electrical wire can get out of hand rapidly. In June of 1955, things got very out of hand on the cannery tender Morzhovoi.

Photo from Alaska State Archives, MS 10, Postcard Album 7.

Built in Seattle in 1917, the Morzhovoi was first owned by the Sockeye Salmon Co of Morzhovoi Bay, AK. It was later sold to the P.E. Harris Company, which operated the Funter Bay cannery after 1941. The vessel originally had a 110hp gas engine, changed to 165hp diesel by the 1950s. It is described in various documents as between 80 and 86ft in length. The vessel was of a fairly standard design used for freight service in the Pacific Northwest.

From Pacific Motorboat, Vol 12, No 9, June 1920 (date in caption likely a typo)

 

From Pacific Motorboat, Vol 8, No 3, December 1915.

I have yet to find details of what transpired in June of 1955, but there are a number of photos in Captain “Kinky” Bayers’ files in the Alaska State Archives. Official wreck reports state that the ship burned on June 10th, but the photos are dated June 15th.

Photo from Alaska State Archives, MS 10, Postcard Album 7.

 

Photo from Alaska State Archives, MS 10, Postcard Album 7.

 

Photo from Alaska State Archives, PCA 127

In some of these photos you can see small rowboats around the burning hull. These may have been curious sightseers like the person who took the photos, or they could have been cannery personnel guiding the boat away from other vessels and docks.

The Morzhovoi is a good candidate for the identity of a burned-out wreck found on the beach of Funter Bay today. The wreck is about the right size and features about the right type of engine, but is in such poor condition that verifying its identity would be difficult.

More photos are in my previous post about local shipwrecks.


Historic Juneau Photos

June 19, 2017

I recently returned from a trip to Juneau, Alaska, where I spent quite a bit of time in the state archives. Most of my research focused on the history of small railroads in the state, as well as some Funter Bay history. However, I also came across a few photos that were unrelated but just too cool to ignore. I’ve uploaded the high-res scans of some of these here to share with interested people. Click the previews below for the full size pictures, but be aware they are large files and may take a while to download if you have a slow internet connection!

Treadwell Mine:

Douglas, 1915:

Downtown Juneau, 1915(?)

Downtown Juneau from Mt. Juneau, showing Last Chance Basin at left. Date uncertain:

All of these are courtesy of the Alaska State Archives, Henson Family Photograph Collection, PCA 310


Juneau’s Hidden History

August 29, 2016

I’ve been invited to contribute some of my Alaska history research to Juneau’s Hidden History, a Facebook group run by local historian and explorer Brian Weed. Brian and his co-contributors have been posting some great photos and stories of their adventures and discoveries around town. These include old mines, historic vehicles and machines, Native petroglyphs, hidden waterfalls, glacial ice caves, and much more! If you live in or are interested in the Juneau area, I highly recommend visiting the page and checking out their great photos! They take you well off (and sometimes under) the beaten path to see the things that don’t make it into tourist brochures!

The group page can be viewed (and joined/followed) here: https://www.facebook.com/groups/JuneauHiddenHistory/

And their photo galleries can be seen here: https://www.facebook.com/groups/JuneauHiddenHistory/photos/

Brian Weed has also written a number of articles for the Capital City Weekly, some of which can be found here.