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.
The “Grand Republic" was built for the New York and Rockaway Beach route and general excursion business, making not only regular trips to sea but also up the Hudson River and Long Island Sound. The “Grand Republic” was the largest steamboat ever constructed for excursion purposes exclusively at the port of New York, having a capacity for 4,000 passengers. The “Grand Republic” ran in line with the steamboat “Columbia” on the Rockaway Beach route until 1886.
The “Columbia” was then purchased by the Baltimore and Ohio Railroad Company and left New York on March 15, 1888, for her new home quarters to run between Baltimore and Bay Ridge on the Chesapeake Bay. In 1891 the “General Slocum” came out and ran in line with the “Grand Republic” until destroyed by fire on June 15, 1904, with a loss of one thousand and thirty lives.
The “Grand Republic” continued running on the Rockaway Beach route for several years. She was finally purchased by the McAllister Steamboat Co. of New York. She was then used almost exclusively for an excursion boat. Many political organizations used her for their picnics every summer on Long Island Sound and the Hudson River.
The “Grand Republic” and several other excursion boats were moored in winter quarters at the pier at the foot of West 156th Street, New York, caught fire and was totally destroyed with two other smaller excursion boats, the “Nassau” and the “Highlander” on April 26, 1924. The origin of the fire was undetermined. Some say it followed a small gasoline explosion and others thought it started from a cigarette or cigar dropped on the newly pained decks by some of the workmen who had been repainting and renovating the excursion steamers for the summer.
There was a strong north wind blowing and an attempt was made to cut off the “Nassau” and tow her to midstream, but it failed. Flames mounted high from the “Nassau” and spread to the “Highlander”, then to the “Grand Republic” and to minor crafts.
The “Grand Republic” came near being destroyed by fire on July 7, 1910. She left Rockaway Beach at 1:15 p.m. for the Battery. The captain said there were only 20 passengers aboard. Coming up through the Narrows off Fort Lafayette a fire broke out in the galley and it ate its way into the box of the starboard paddle, sweeping thence up to the top rising above the hurricane deck. The wooden box of the paddle wheel was burned away. The boat was landed at 85th street, Bay Ridge. Firemen chopped holes to get at the fire, which after an hour’s work they succeeded in extinguishing it. The “Grand Republic” was taken to Edgewater, N.J., for repairs and was put on her old route again in 1910.
Hull built of wood by John Englis & Son at Greenpoint, N.Y., 1878. Engine rebuilt by the Quintard Iron Works, N.Y.
Dimensions: Length of keel, 287’6”; over all, 300’; width of hull 41’6”; over guards, 72’; depth of hold, 13’. Gross tonnage, 1760. Net tonnage, 1308.
Vertical beam engine from the steamship “Morro Castle”, which had originally been built for the Lake Erie steamboat “City of Buffalo”. Diameter of cylinder was 76 inches by 12 foot stroke. Two iron boilers in the hold.
Wheels were 36 feet in diameter, 32 buckets h wheel, 10’6” in length by 24 in width.
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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