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Preserving the tugboat Edna G
Two Harbors 

tugboat Edna G  Lake Superior News
#LSN_Outdoors  #LSN_Tourism   Photo by Christian Dalbec

TWO HARBORS, MINNESOTA  -  April 4, 2018  (LSN)  The tugboat Edna G is a retired, hand-fired coal burning tug, home ported in Two Harbors, Minnesota, USA. She was built by Cleveland Shipbuilding, in Cleveland, Ohio in 1896. Originally powered at 700 horsepower, she was re-boilered for 1000 horsepower in 1949. She spent her working years in Two Harbors, moving assorted types of iron ore carriers and other vessels into and out of the Lake Superior port in Agate Bay, except for the two year USA involvement in World War 1, when the government requisitioned her for service on the East Coast, moving military goods into and out of port.

With a registry tonnage of 154 tons, her dead weight is 300 tons (about 272.15 metric tons). She is 110 feet long, 23 foot beam and about 12 foot draft and has a single 4-bladed propeller of 9 feet in diameter (33.5 meters x 7 meters x 3.65 meters and 2.74 meter propeller). The engine is a reciprocating type, with a high pressure cylinder and a low pressure cylinder, to use the steam twice, for better efficiency. She made her last tow in 1981 and was retired by her owner, the DM&IR Railroad. She was then transferred to the City of Two Harbors and used as a floating museum, helping illustrate part of the shipping history of our town. The advent of ever larger ore carriers equipped with bow thrusters meant that the railroad no longer considered it cost-effective to provide and maintain an antique tug which was used less and less. A boat is an expensive thing to keep and maintain, if it is not earning its keep. 

Well, the water IS a terrible place to keep a boat, when Nature works to sink it from the moment it is launched until the moment it is no longer a boat. While nestled next to her dock, Lake Superior continues trying to sink the tug as it does every other vessel afloat. During the storms of November, the Lake gets up on its hind legs and kicks the tug back and forth straining the mooring lines and testing the dock fenders, trying to bash the hull in.

The deck scuppers were enlarged several years ago and that was a good thing, helping drain the decks which can get flooded in stormy weather. Luckily this is an all steel boat, from keel to pilot house, and fitted with watertight steel doors since 1917 (before this, the doors were ordinary wooden doors). Corrosion does its silent work to thin the hull, anywhere it may, and biological nodular corrosion bores tiny holes into the hull plates - a relatively recent phenomenon, apparently. While the tug has been ice-bound most winters, the entire lake seldom freezes over completely, so there is enough wave action to keep the tug pumping up and down even in her icy restraint. This is a riveted hull, so it is not an unknown thing for a rivet to sometimes just get plain tired and let go in one fashion or another. This, of course, is another opportunity for the lake to get inside the boat somewhat more quickly than ordinary leakage. A tug commission member regularly checks the bilge for water, pumping as needed. If there is an alarming increase in pumping needed, the city council is notified immediately for corrective action. The open hearth steel is more than 120 years old, and the constant pounding of the lake and subtle flexing of the hull means that some degree of work hardening is taking place in the hull. A catastrophic failure due to work hardening embrittlement will mean the end of this fine little tug, the icon of our city, and the unsung hero of the steel industry.

The city is once again taking steps to haul the tug out of the water and place her on dry land, out of reach of the Lake, to preserve her life for yet unseen generations. The greatest enemy of preservation is, of course, money or the lack of it, actually. The city has been collecting a modest sales tax on the hospitality industry to raise some funds for tug preservation, but much of this has been spent on stop-gap measures to keep the tug afloat. Rust removal in bilges, painting bilges and other areas, hull patching and placement of new sacrificial hull anodes, hull thickness gauging, new mooring lines and dock fenders, replacement of oak fender strakes on the hull, and new oak gunwales don't come cheaply.

tugboat Edna G  Two Harbors   Lake Superior News

The city will be searching for grant money from various sources in an effort to secure funds without additional taxes on the residents of our small town. In the end, the Edna G will be mounted on a suitable platform on dry land, for all to see and be amazed. An interpretive center will be at a discreet distance from the tug, to educate visitors and local folk alike, about this tough little boat that could get things done.

By: Thomas V. Koehler
Two Harbors, Minnesota



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