A Delta Queen
No, I'm not talking about some transvestite from Houma, but the real Delta Queen.
It's not often that she passes through the area, but I've been lucky enough to catch her on a few occasions, each time entirely by happenstance, as was this time when she passed through on Sunday the 8th.
Built in 1926, the 81 year old Delta Queen has a remarkable history, and is the last true steam powered sternwheeler in existence. The boat is 285 ft long and carries a crew of 80 to accommodate up to 174 guests.
A trip to her engine room is like a trip back in time, with plenty of heat, oil, and grease around the massive steam engines and a maze of pushrods, valves, and pipes.
When I visited the boat several years ago, I talked to a deckhand who took me on a quick tour. At the time, there was an elderly african-american gentleman who had lived nearly his entire life on board the Delta Queen having been taken on as an employee when he was a boy.
There's also tales of hauntings by Betty Blake, the woman who was president of the Delta Queen Steamboat Company for many years, and many other interesting tales regarding this national historic landmark's long history.
The Delta Queen was actually built near Glasgow Scotland, and shipped in pieces to Sacramento California where it and her sister ship, the Delta King, were assembled and put into service running the Sacramento River between San Fransisco and Sacramento.
When an Ohio man purchased the boat, the Delta Queen was towed from San Fransisco into the Pacific, through the Panama Canal, and up into the Gulf where it made it's way to New Orleans, then steamed up the Mississippi and Ohio Rivers before ending it's 5000 mile journey in Pittsburg where it underwent a refitting.
Sunday afternoon I heard the Queen's 1897 steam calliope playing (seen on the top deck above the paddlewheel) but couldn't see where it was coming from. I suspected it must be the Delta Queen, as you don't hear that distinctive sound too often. One of my favorite pictures is of my grandfather playing that very calliope. But it was only later that she appeared and glided past followed by the distinctive washboard wake produced by the sternwheel churning up the muddy water into crests several feet high.
It's always a thrill to me to catch a glimpse of this piece of history, especially one so intimately linked to the Mississippi herself.