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. See more of Murdock's articles in "Steamboat Biographies".
No. 100- Homer Ramsdell
Although she left the waters of the Hudson- the river where she was launched- nine years ago, the memory of the steamer “Homer Ramsdell” is still a vivid picture to many of the present generation, and the vessel which once plowed the waters of the Hudson river, is still in service although the name “Homer Ramsdell” no longer appears on her bow.
The steel hull of the “Homer Ramsdell” was built by the T.S. Marvel & Company at Newburgh in 1887, and her engine was the product of William Wright, also of Newburgh. Her dimensions are listed: Length of hull, 225 feet, 8 inches, breadth of hull 32 feet, 6 inches (over guards, 37 feet, 6 inches), depth of hold 11 feet, 9 inches; engine compound fore and aft, diameter of cylinders, high pressure 28 inches, low pressure 52 inches by 36 inch stroke. She had two steel boilers of the lobster-back type which were constructed by W. & A. Fletcher Company at Hoboken, New Jersey. Her gross tonnage was 1181, and her net tonnage 822.
The “Homer Ramsdell” was built for the night line between Newburgh and New York, and was launched on February 24, 1887. She was owned by the Homer Ramsdell Transportation Company of Newburgh, and was a large, speedy, first class propellor steamboat of the most modern design. Her speed was rated at 16 miles per hour and she cost $115,000 when she was completed.
Two fast trips recorded in the history of the “Homer Ramsdell,” one on August 21, 1887, and the other on July 28, 1889, (from New York to Newburgh), give a good indication of the speed of the steamboat, when she completed the trip in three hours and nine minutes, and three hours and seven minutes respectively.
One year before the launching of the “Homer Ramsdell,” the Homer Ramsdell Transportation Company had the propeller steamboat “Newburgh” built at Philadelphia. The “Newburgh” was launched at the Quaker city on April 1, 1886, and the steamer “Homer Ramsdell” was constructed as a consort for the “Newburgh” on the New York line. These two vessels plied this route until 1899 when a new company was formed. This new company, the Central Hudson Steamboat Company, was formed out of the former Poughkeepsie Transportation Company and the Romer & Tremper Line of Rondout.
On Sunday evening, May 21, 1911, after 24 years of service on the Hudson river, the steamer “Homer Ramsdell” burned to the water’s edge at her wharf at Newburgh. Michael Boyle, a deckhand, was drowned when he jumped overboard to escape the flames. The fire was caused by the explosion of a lamp, and four of the crew were on board when the fire started. Three escaped to the dock while Boyle remained behind in an endeavor to start the pumps. The deckhand, believing his escape to the dock to be cut off by the fire, leaped overboard and was drowned. The owners of the “Homer Ramsdell” estimated their loss to be $250,000.
The hull of the burned steamboat was rebuilt- part of the wood for the joiner works coming from the steamboat “Central Hudson.” (formerly the “James W. Baldwin”), which had been abandoned. The rebuilt “Homer Ramsdell” made her first trip on December 2, 1911, and continued in the service of the Central Hudson Steamboat Company until May 1929 when the Hudson River Night Line and the Hudson River Dayline jointly purchased the assets of the Central Hudson Steamboat Company at a receiver’s sale. Five steamboats were included in the transaction. These were the “Jacob H. Tremper,” “Homer Ramsdell,” “Newburgh,” “Benjamin B. Odell,” and the “Poughkeepsie.” The “Jacob H. Tremper” was of little use and was broken up at Newburgh in 1929, but the other four vessels were placed in service on the Hudson river.
On November 28, 1929, the Nantasket Beach excursion fleet was burned. The destroyed vessels (all sidewheelers) included the “Old Colony,” “Mary Chilton,” “Rose Standish,” “Betty Alden,” and “Nantasket,” and this event marked what is probably the end of the “Homer Ramsdell’s” service on the Hudson river. In the spring of 1930 the “Homer Ramsdell” and the “Newburgh” were sold to the Nantasket Steamboat Company and were converted into excursion steamboats. May 1, 1930, saw the name “Homer Ramsdell” disappear from the bow of the former Hudson river vessel and the name “Alleston” take its place. The “Newburgh" was renamed the “Nantasket” on the same date, and the two vessels were taken east to run from Boston to Nantasket Beach where they are still in service.
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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