American Cruise Lines purchases historic 1880s steam calliope

American Cruise Lines has acquired a 132-year-old Nichol steam calliope to be placed aboard its brand new 150-guest paddlewheeler, Queen of the MississippiThe historic instrument, which originated from the Washington, a paddlewheel steamboat that operated on the Mississippi and Ohio River from 1880 to 1938, is being restored to full operation and will then be installed aboard the Queen of the Mississippi. 

The calliope will not only serve as a reminder of the golden era of steamboating and the grandeur of the historic steamboats of the late 1880s, the riverboat and small cruise ships operator says, but also as a fully-functioning steam-powered instrument that will play familiar melodies and sounds as Queen of the Mississippi makes her way up and down the Mississippi River.

Once owned by the St. Louis-based Streekfus Line, the Washington was built in Wheeling, W. Va., in 1880. Originally named Sidney, the historic steamboat was renamed the Washington, the name it operated under until it was dismantled in 1938.

The purchase of its calliope includes all its original brass whistles and valves, keyboard, recordings and books, which have all been preserved, and will soon be aboard Queen of the Mississippi. Unique to this steam calliope only, is one elevated whistle that sits above the rest, an uncommon feature that American Cruise Lines says is not known to be on any other existing calliope.

“The instrument perfectly suits our new paddlewheeler,” says Timothy Beebe, Vice President, American Cruise Lines, in a company press release. “Blending both old and new, Queen of the Mississippi provides a truly authentic and nostalgic cruise experience, while offering the best and most comfortable accommodations ever available on the Mississippi River. Guests will be truly delighted with the addition of this impressive piece of history."