Ferryboat "Air Line"
Editor's Note: The following text is a verbatim transcription of an article written by George W. Murdock, for the Kingston (NY) Daily Freeman newspaper in the 1930s. Murdock, a veteran marine engineer, wrote a regular column. Articles transcribed by HRMM volunteer Adam Kaplan. For more of Murdock's articles, see the "Steamboat Biographies" category
No. 72- Air Line
Today we delve into the archives of Mr. Murdock’s steamboat collection to learn of the history of a ferryboat which ceased operating between Saugerties and Tivoli just 23 years ago. Many of our readers will well remember this vessel as she was somewhat of a curiosity as far as her type was concerned.
The “Air Line” was a wooden hull vessel built at Philadelphia in 1857. She was 73 feet long, breadth of beam 20 feet, depth of hold six feet, five inches, gross tonnage 71, net tonnage 52, and she was powered with a vertical engine.
Originally this odd ferryboat was constructed for the Air Line Railroad Company of Pennsylvania and was one of the first of the walking beam type ferryboats ever constructed in this country. Her great bar walking beam coupled with the fact that she had only one bow instead of the customary two which are the rule for ferryboats, labeled the “Air Line” as a distinct curiosity.
The “Air Line” also holds a doubtful record of having made the trip from Philadelphia to Sandy Hook via the Atlantic Ocean; her owner refusing to pay toll charges to the New Jersey canals.
A photograph in the Murdock collection shows the “Air Line” with her one bow, long narrow alleyways separated by the engine house down the center of the vessel. An octagon-shaped pilot house stands atop the engine house with the great bar walking beam directly behind and a high smokestack rising from the middle of the steamboat. Lifeboats were mounted on the roofs of the side cabins.
John N. Snyder operated the “Air Line” when she plied the waters of the Hudson river between Saugerties and Tivoli, and because of her single bow, the vessel had to be turned completely after each crossing. For this reason the fare on the “Air Line” was the largest charged on any ferryboat on the Hudson river - a situation which would make a New Jersey commuter rise up in wrath if he had to pay the of 25 cents each time he crossed the river.
The “Air Line” served the public between the two upriver towns for almost 58 years, continuing in service until 1915, when she was deemed worn out and sold to John Fisher, who took her to Rondout and dismantled her.
George W. Murdock, (b. 1853-d. 1940) was a veteran marine engineer who served on the steamboats "Utica", "Sunnyside", "City of Troy", and "Mary Powell". He also helped dismantle engines in scrapped steamboats in the winter months and later in his career worked as an engineer at the brickyards in Port Ewen. In 1883 he moved to Brooklyn, NY and operated several private yachts. He ended his career working in power houses in the outer boroughs of New York City. His mother Catherine Murdock was the keeper of the Rondout Lighthouse for 50 years.
This blog is written by Hudson River Maritime Museum staff, volunteers and guest contributors.
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