Funter Bay Mystery Engine Part II

June 27, 2013

Funter Bay resident Gordon Harrison sent me some additional photos of the mystery engine at the cannery. He has marked it with a steel pipe and buoy so it’s more visible to boaters, being located close to the dock it’s something of a hazard to navigation.

Gordon - Engine 1

Gordon - Engine 2

Looking closely, it seems there are two cylinders and maybe two valve chests (one on each end). There also seems to be a round flywheel and rectangular tank at the base of the engine, with a pipe leading to the tank, although it’s hard to tell what’s metal and what’s rock under all the kelp and barnacles!

If anyone happens to recognize the specific type, model, or even just approximate age of this engine, I would love to hear about it! John Taubeneck reports that it looks like a “Fore & Aft” compound design.

As mentioned, I’m not sure if the engine reached its current home via a sunken boat at the cannery wharf, or if it was used or stored on the wharf and fell through as the structure rotted. Aside from potential salvage, there was another reason that engines and other equipment were sometimes moved around: Even if obsolete for propulsion, a big chunk of cast iron makes a nice anchor for a mooring buoy! Someone could tie a raft of logs to part of a wreck, float if off at high tide, and then drop it where they wanted to moor their boat. Various things around the bay probably are or were tied to rusty engines on the bottom. Maybe this one was in transit and got left where it now sits?

Here’s a diagram of a steamboat boiler and engine layout from around 1905:

(From Rankin Kennedy, Modern Engines, Vol V via Wikimedia commons).

On a side note, in the background of the 2nd picture above, you can see the small yellow sailboat that my sister used to have (now owned by Del Carnes), I had previously put some photos of it on my project page.

Coincidentally, I happened to be in the Lake Tahoe area last week, and stopped at the Tallac Historic Site. They happened to have a compound engine from a local steam boat, laid out on display with drive shaft and propeller. The valve chests and support frame look a little different, but this shows how such an engine would have been set up.

2013-06-21_12-54-45_511 2013-06-21_12-55-00_191  2013-06-21_12-54-11_469

This engine and drive train came from the steamer Tod Goodwin, which operated on Lake Tahoe from 1884 to 1898. More information is available in this book.


Funter Bay History: Mystery Engine

June 13, 2013

While digging through my photos I came across one showing a mysterious piece of machinery in Funter Bay. That’s me standing on top of it, I’m going to guess it’s around the year 2000.


After visiting the Lake Superior Marine Museum in Duluth (actually for the 3rd or 4th time, it’s great!) I realized that this thing looks a lot like a compound marine steam engine. Some examples are here. Unfortunately I don’t seem to have any other photos of this one.

This thing is only visible at extreme low-water (a minus tide), at other times it is mostly submerged. It lies off the former end of the pier at the Funter Bay cannery, leading me to believe that it’s either from a sunken fish trap tender, or equipment which was mounted on the pier at the cannery.I do not recall seeing obvious boat wreckage around the engine, but things decay so fast underwater that any wood is likely long gone, and any metal is mixed in with general trash and debris from the cannery, making it harder to identify. Large ships are shown docking at the cannery pier in the 1940s, so it’s unlikely that anything sank and was left there prior to that time. The engine and any remaining hull structure would have been a hazard at low tide.

The pier-mounted origin seems a little far fetched, the cannery mostly used mechanical power take-offs from large low-horsepower gas engines, so why would they have a steam engine mounted on their dock? The main dock-end equipment would have been a “Fish Elevator” (basically a conveyor belt) to unload salmon from scows. This image is labeled “Funter Bay… Indians Pitching Fish in Elevator”. This image shows another view of such an elevator, as does this one. This photo shows the upper end of a fish elevator, obviously powered by overhead pulleys and belt drives (as was most of the cannery equipment at Funter). I would not expect a steam engine to be used just for the elevator (and in fact, the elevator seems to have been in a different building from the spot where the steam engine lies).

Cannery site ca 2008, with steam engine circled in red:
From the Alaska Shorezone Mapping project.

The same location in 1948, approximately at the end of the cannery pier:

Cannery pier in 1907 showing tender tied up about where the engine is now, and the fish elevator with scows docked next to it.

The cannery area in 1979, showing how the buildings had begun collapsing (there’s not as much structure overhanging the bay as there was in ’48). Approximate steam engine location is circled: 1979

Another explanation could be that this was salvaged from a wrecked cannery tender elsewhere, left on the pier when the cannery was abandoned, and fell into the water when the structure started collapsing around the late 1950s/early 1960s. If so, it’s surprising that it landed basically upright. A candidate for this possible origin could be the mystery wreck on Highwater Island, which seems to have had a boiler but has no sign of an engine. It could also have been removed from a tender during a refit to gas or diesel, and left lying around on the pier, but this seems like a stretch as well (it would be more likely they would have refitted in a marine yard in Seattle or Astoria, the Anna Barron is sometimes mentioned in publications like Pacific Motorboat as undergoing maintenance in Astoria.

None of the cannery tenders that I’ve previously discussed seem to match. Of the original T.P. Co. boats I know of, only the Anna Barron and the Buster had steam engines, Buster‘s was replaced with a gas engine prior to 1926. The captain of the Anna Barron was reported as saying the vessel could be raised, but I am not sure if they salvaged the engine or anything else from it. (Oddly, this document gives a different story of the Anna Barron‘s sinking than this page, which I previously quoted, although both seem to be using similar source documents. The BOEM page seems to be saying Albert Michaelsen was the captain (vs George Black), that they were coming from Hoonah (vs Funter), that the engine head burst, and that the vessel drifted towards Point Howard before grounding at Pt. Ainsley, and the crew swam 20ft to shore).

Later cannery owner P.E. Harris Co had quite a few boats, in 1956 these included the Amelie, Cape Douglas, Health, Jim B, Kathy B, Marina G, Morzhovoi, Norse Maid, Orcas, Thrasher, Trojan, Glasenap, Izembek, Fairweather, Moha, Pat B, and Seakist.  However, none of these seem to be steam-powered (steam was largely obsolete by the mid 20th century). By 1962 the company had become Peter Pan Seafoods, and vessels included the Carmen B, Denis N, Dream Girl, Mariner, Reliance, Alf, and Western Sea. Again, none of these appear to be steam powered.

At this point I’m still stumped on both those mysteries (what boat sank at Highwater Island, and what boat (if any) was the source of the compound steam engine at the cannery?

If anyone reading this knows steam engines or has any ideas for tracking down these mysteries, please let me know! You can leave a comment below, or email me at gabe<at>saveitforparts<dot>com.

Funter Bay History: Assorted Cannery Things

May 24, 2013

During my research on Funter Bay, I’ve come across a few bits and pieces that slipped through the cracks of earlier posts. Rather than going back and shoehorning them in, I figured I’d combine some of them into a mini-update. I’ll probably have more of these as more stuff shows up.

Here is a can of Peasant Brand pink salmon, packed at Funter Bay around 1909. This was found in an attic. Much thanks to Brian Mahaney for giving me permission to post his photos! His flickr page can be found here.
Peasant Can 1 medium Peasant Can 2 medium

Note that the label art has changed slightly since the 1906 trademark filing (mentioned in an earlier post):
Peasant Brand 1906

An advertisement for the Thlinket Packing Co’s brands from 1906, which appeared in various magazines such as Pacific Fisherman:

ad 1909

An advertisement from 1918, only slightly changed from the above:TP Co Ad 1918

As posted before, here is the 1907 can label for the “Buster” Brand, featuring Cannery owner Barron’s son Robert:

By the 1950s, the new owners (P.E. Harris Co) were still carrying the Buster brand, but the label had changed (Red, often with blue, seems to have been the standard color for most canned salmon of that time period:

The Suwanee brand seems to have gone to the New England Packing Co. Here’s a mid-century example of that label.

Here’s a great write-up on Alaska salmon cans, from the Alaska State Musem.

Moving away from cans and back to land ownership, below is an early draft of the survey for J. T. Barron’s “Mining Claim”. In 1901 he already had a water line and pipe at the property which was to become the cannery. He also had a small “Open Cut” prospect which was the basis of the mineral claim (although as mentioned, no actual mining was ever done).
1901 Irvington

And finally, here are some more bits and pieces of Funter cannery trivia:

The cannery tender Anna Barron had a new tail shaft (prop shaft) installed in August of 1916. James Murphy was the chief engineer on the steamer.

A 1918 news article reported that the first “C-O Engine” (Crude Oil engine) in Alaska had been installed in the cannery tender Barron F of Funter Bay. C-O engines predated diesel and could run on anything from used motor oil to butter!  More on the Barron F is here.

The cannery tender Fairweather, belonging to the P.E. Harris Co, sank at Cordwood Creek on July 18, 1930. Captain C. Nesset was in command, but one of the deckhands was steering, and the vessel hit a rock when he fell asleep at the wheel. Captain J.V. Davis refloated the vessel and towed it to Funter Bay for repairs the next day. (P.E. Harris bought the Funter Bay cannery in 1941).

The Anna Barron rammed the tug Henry Finch while docking at Douglas near midnight on July 22, 1930. There was some damage to the tug.

A 1932 report mentioned that there were two canneries at Funter Bay. They may have been referring to the fish buying station as a cannery, or they could have meant the saltery.

Funter Bay History – Steam Power & Internal Combustion

April 23, 2013

Most of the industry in Funter Bay required power of some kind, steam was the major power source prior to cheap and reliable internal combustion engines, but early gas and diesel engines began arriving around the turn of the century.

You would think that in the middle of a forest, the best fuel for steam engines would be locally-cut wood, but coal seems to have been used instead (you can still find chunks of coal on the beach in a few places). Whether this was due to the design of the boilers, the thermal properties of spruce, or due to lumber harvesting restrictions, I’m not sure. Oil was also an option for fueling boilers (there was a whale oil plant at Tyee, and early petroleum wells in Southcentral Alaska). One document from the 1920s mentions that Killisnoo coal was preferable to oil as a fuel for steam boilers at Funter Bay. Coal was mined at Harkrader on southern Admiralty Island, near the fish processing plant at Killisnoo (now part of the village of Angoon). Discovered by Russian explorers, used by early Russian and American steam vessels, and mined intermittently until 1929 , this deposit was planned to supply Inside Passage steamships, but seems mostly to have been sold in local communities.

Edit: The main engines at the cannery appear to be gasoline, rather than steam, see below.

Large operations like the Funter Bay cannery had a large central boiler which provided steam for cooking and sterilizing, as well as heat and hot water for the sites.

Cannery power house in the 1980s:

Cannery 4

Some close-ups of the two horizontal stationary gas engines at the cannery. The name plates have wandered away, so I don’t know much about these (Update: Local resident Gordon Harrison has informed me these were Fairbanks-Morse gasoline engines, an early type of low-horsepower (5-10hp) internal combustion engine. These seem to resemble the 1898 designs, so it’s likely that they were original equipment for the cannery when it started in 1902. Some diagrams of similar engines can be seen here):




The two engines would have been located in the machine shop, with the boiler located in the power house.


Two large tanks such as this held water for the boiler. On the map above, you can see the tanks located behind the power house. Update: The tank below is in fact the one located behind the pump house on the above map, and was used for oil. The two tanks behind the power house were nearly identical in design.


Mechanical power from the Fairbanks-Morse engines would be transferred via belts from the engine flywheels to overhead pulleys and shafts (rods), which distributed the power out to various machines (run from other pulleys and belts with a clutch system). Below is a surviving example of some of this overhead equipment in the carpentry shop attic, as viewed from above:


And below is some of the equipment which would have been operated by this arrangement (I’m not sure specifically what the devices below were, they’re rusted pretty badly and missing a lot of parts):




Away from the main site, there would be smaller gas, diesel, or steam engines with “portable” boilers set up to operate things like winches, hoists, and tools. In this case, “Portable” means something like “You can drag it to a new location in about a week with 20 men and a team of mules”. (I’ll try to come back to the mules in a later post). The following shows a boiler for one of these smaller steam plants:


And a winch with small steam piston:


A more packaged power unit was the “Steam Donkey“, a somewhat standardized portable boiler, steam engine, and winch on skids. These could be moved by clearing a road or trail, hauling a cable to a tree or other anchor, and then letting the unit winch itself towards the anchor. Here is a steam donkey that ran a mine tramway:


Note that there seem to be two piston units associated with this donkey, the heavily-geared one at front, and another unit with a large cable winding drum at the rear. Below is a closeup of the rear unit, which had a steam piston on each side of the central drum:


Update: after looking closely at my photos, I can make out what appears to be “Vulcan Iron Works” of Seattle. Here are some photos of a very similar Vulcan steam donkey, built in 1901.

Here is an early low-horsepower gas engine in the woods near the cannery:


A smaller and slightly newer (3hp?) gas engine, similar to the ones shown here.


Thanks to Gordon Harrison for providing some additional details!

Funter Bay History – Mansfield Mine & Other Small Mines

April 17, 2013


The Mansfield mine (also listed as the Seattle mine) is located at 500ft elevation about 3/4 of a mile from the head of Funter Bay. Discovered in 1908, the claim showed promise of gold, copper, zinc, and lead. A beach camp at the head of the bay still has some barely-visible cabin foundations, locally known as a blacksmith and/or mule-skinner’s cabin. A blazed trail leads up through the woods to the mine site and the ruins of another log cabin.

The prospect has two short tunnels (less than 100′ long), a small amount of railroad track, and one ore car. Transporting the ore car up to the site probably involved disassembling it and using mules to pack the parts to the mine. Inside the cart you can still find an intact pick and drill steels, it’s almost like a history exhibit! More rusty tools were found inside the mine adits. Several open cuts were also in the same area, a narrow ridge of granite with quartz veins cutting through it.

Apparently the claim was promising enough to pack in equipment, but not profitable enough to mechanize or exploit it beyond the small workings.

John at the upper cabin site, one of the cut logs is barely identifiable.:


The ore cart outside the first adit:OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

Inside the ore cart, a collection of mining tools:OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

The first, and longest, adit. The tunnel featured rails along most of its length, and was flooded with about a foot of water:



Chris poses at the end of the tunnel. We suspected it might be flooded and didn’t feel like packing waders along, so we used the latest in Alaska fashion accessories: Trash bags and duct tape:


Iron and calcium deposits on the floor, and the exposed quartz vein in the granite tunnel:



The second adit was partly collapsed and much shorter (about 20ft, probably dug around 1916 according to USGS data). This one featured an intact pickaxe (shown in the top photo), and some kind of clamping or plier tool, seen below:  OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

The mine claim was marked with corners like this: A metal can containing paper with claim information, jammed into a blaze in a tree. The can was pretty well stuck in there, the tree had grown around it a little since it was placed.


Finding this mine was pretty interesting. Despite having hiked and hunted around the area extensively, I’d never stumbled across it. The trails are overgrown and the tunnels and mine cart are covered with thick brush, so there’s not much to see until you get right on top of it. I first heard of this mine while perusing some old survey documents relating to claims. I was able to locate the original USGS survey monument and derive GPS coordinats for the claim site based on the surveys. We then set out with a PDA running digital topo maps to try to locate the mine. Even with coordinates, it took us some time to find the two tunnels, and we still missed finding some of the open cuts. The GPS also required an external antenna to get a signal through the thick tree coverage.


Some scenery on the way to the mine:


View out over Funter Bay from the mine site:


There were several other small mines near the head of the bay. The Portage prospect, across Bear Breek, was started in 1900 and had a small shaft, tunnel, and trenches, but did not reach profitable ore. I have heard there is some machinery still visible at this site. The “Bear Creek” placer claim of 1967 was just downstream of this, and was probably a local resident’s gold-panning spot.

On the back side of the pass, facing Juneau, was another “Bear Creek” claim, this one for Tremolite asbestos. Around 1928, a Juneau resident named Augustus DeRoux discovered asbestos while searching for gold and copper. The Alaska Asbestos Co built a road from the beach around 1930 and apparently started a “rail tram”, but abandoned it when the USGS found the deposit not worthwhile.

asbestos asbestos2