Touring the 418’ American Queen

In early April, WorkBoat editor in chief David Krapf toured the recently refurbished paddlewheeler American Queen. It has been a long road back for the Queen, which halted cruising four years after its former company ceased operations.

The passenger vessel was originally built at McDermott Shipyards in Amelia, La., for a reported $65 million and was delivered in late April 1995 to its original owner, Delta Queen Steamboat. Today, it’s estimated that it would have cost Memphis, Tenn.-based Great American Steamboat Co. at least $100 million to build a similar vessel.

The 418’x85’x13’6” steamboat underwent a $6.5 million refurbishment and was drydocked at Bollinger Shipyards in Sulphur, La. About $3.5 million was spent on mechanical upgrades – such items as the circa-1932 steam engine, Z-drives, paddlewheel, HVAC system and more.

On the propulsion side, Great American Steamboat workers began by rebuilding the 3516 Cats and its generator ends. From there the AC switchboard was rebuilt. The SCR units were replaced with a modern ABB electric drive, the 1,000-hp GE DC motors were removed, dipped and reworked, and the Aquamaster Z-drives were removed and completely rebuilt.

The old analog control system was also replaced with a $250,000 custom-built Ramtech/Praxis digital PC-based control system.

The Queen’s 30’6”x30’ paddlewheel, one of the largest ever built, was completely stripped down to the hub and rebuilt. All new oak and fir timbers were manufactured at a log cabin company for the wooden pieces. The crew assembled it by hand with 6,000 bolts. American Queen then added 18” to the 19’ steering rudders to improve her rudder handling capability and be less reliant on the Z-drives. 

The 65-ton paddlewheel is powered by the Queen’s antique Nordberg Machine Works twin 750-hp horizontal tandem compound condensing steam engines. The engines, which were taken off the circa-1932 Army Corps of Engineers dredge Kennedy, were completely overhauled. 

Among the improvements in the passenger spaces was the facelift of the J.M. White dining room, which received new china, stemware, silverware and salt and pepper holders. The room was repainted and all the chairs were reupholstered.

Check out the video tour of the newly refurbished Queen below:


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