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 tale of the steamboat “Poughkeepsie” is the story of a vessel that is still in service- although today the name “Westchester” has replaced “Poughkeepsie" and she is no longer a familiar figure on the Hudson river.
The steel hull of the “Poughkeepsie” was built by the Tampa Foundry and Machine Company at Tampa, Florida, in 1916. Her hull was 206 feet 8 inches long, with an overall length of 215 feet; breadth of beam 47 feet; depth of hold 14 feet 2 inches; gross tonnage 1,366; net tonnage 948. She carried a triple expansion engine with cylinder diameters of 18 1/2, 28, and 46 inches, with a stroke of 30 inches.
The “Poughkeepsie” was built for the Central Hudson Steamboat Company of Newburgh, and was the largest steel steamboat built south of Virginia yards up to that time. She was launched on September 25, 1916, and was delivered to the Central Hudson Company at New York in April 1917. The hull of the “Poughkeepsie” was or extra heavy steel construction with reinforced frame below the water line for the purpose of battling river ice during the winter months. The first deck was used exclusively for freight, the second deck containing staterooms which would accommodate 32 passengers, aft of the pilot house. The new steamboat represented an investment of a quarter of a million dollars at the time she joined the fleet consisting of the “Benjamin B. Odell,” “Homer Ramsdell,” and “Newburgh.”
The first route of the “Poughkeepsie,” under the banner of the Central Hudson Steamboat Company, was between Rondout and New York, running in line with the “Benjamin B. Odell.” She was under the command of Captain Amos Cooper, with William Ross, pilot, and Howard Caniff, chief engineer. During the period in her career she became very popular with the traveling public, especially as an excursion vessel during the summer months.
In May 1929 the Hudson River Night Line and the Hudson River Dayline jointly purchased the Central Hudson Company’s steamboats, and then the “Poughkeepsie” and the “Benjamin B. Odell” were placed on the night line between New York and Albany. These two steamboats made their last trip on the night line late in November 1936, and were then withdrawn from service.
Measurements were taken of the “Poughkeepsie" for the purpose of conversion into an excursion vessel, and on January 13, 1937 she was transferred to the Meseck Steamboat Company who immediately solicited bids for her conversion. On February 4, John A. Meseck, president of the new owners of the “Poughkeepsie,” announced that the Tietjan and Lang yards had been awarded the contract for the re-construction at a cost of $169,780.
The name “Westchester” replaced “Poughkeepsie”, and the re-vamped vessel made a trial trip on May 15, 1937 with a thousand guests aboard. On Memorial Day, 1937, the “Westchester” entered regular service between Jersey City, New York, and Rye Beach.
Today the “Westchester” is considered to be the finest equipped excursion vessel in New York harbor, with a licensed carrying-capacity of 2,000. She still carries the deep, booming whistle which echoed from the Highlands of the Hudson when she sailed on the river under the name “Poughkeepsie,” but she rarely plows the waters of the Hudson. Occasionally she appears on a moonlight excursion on the Hudson river, but her regular service keeps her in and around New York harbor, and the steamboat “Poughkeepsie” no longer exists in the pages of Hudson river history.
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.
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