Daily Independent (Ashland, KY)

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February 22, 2010

Repair of historical towboat’s hull begins

For a related story and slide show see the link at right

SOUTH POINT --A series of mechanical clanking noises echoed down the shoreline of the Ohio River.

Shortly thereafter, the great vessel began to rise slowly, almost imperceptibly.

A few minutes later, the bottom of its massive 152-foot hull was suspended several feet about the surface of the water.

At that point, Fred Smith, one of those watching as the W.P. Snyder Jr. was placed in dry dock, breathed a sigh of relief.

“There’s no way she can sink now,” he said.

Smith is an architect with the Ohio Historical Society, which owns the Snyder and which commissioned McGinnis Inc. of South Point to refurbish the vessel’s steel hull.

The Snyder —the lone survivor among the steam-powered paddlewheel towboats that once moved coal, iron ore and other materials up and down the Ohio River — was towed from the city of Marietta, where it anchors a complex of museums and historical displays, to the McGinnis boatyards in November. The vessel was dry-docked on Monday to begin the repair process.

The first step, according to McGinnis Superintendent Dwain Harper, will be abating the lead paint that was used to finish the hull to ensure that it’s safe for workers to cut on.

“After that, we should be ready to lay the torches to her,” he said.

McGinnis workers will remove the steel plates that form the hull’s outer skin, inspect and repair the framework underneath and apply new hull plates, Harper said.

According to Smith, workers will actually have to remove two sets of plates. In 1969 — 24 years after the Snyder was taken out of service — a series of quarter-inch metal plates were overlaid onto the original hull surface to keep the vessel buoyant, he said.

However, what happened was that condensation formed between the two layers, which caused even more problems, Smith said.

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