Lurline (sternwheeler 1878)

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Lurline, drawn by Samuel Ward Stanton
Name: Lurline
Owner: Vancouver Transportation Co.[1] others later, including Harkins Transportation Co.
Route: Columbia River
Builder: Designed by Jacob Kamm; joiner work by James Reed
Cost: $40,000
In service: 1878
Out of service: about 1930
Fate: Dismantled, upper works to L.P. Hosford, hull abandoned near Government Island on Columbia River
General characteristics
Type: inland steamship
Tonnage: 481 gross tonnage; 338 registered tonnage[1]
Length: 155 ft (47 m) length of keel, 175 ft (53 m) overall
Beam: 30 ft (9 m)
Draft: 3.0 ft (1 m)
Depth: 6.5 ft (2 m) depth of hold
Decks: three (freight/engines, passenger, hurricane)
Installed power: twin horizontal steam engines, 18" bore by 72" stroke, constructed by Marlan & Hollingsworth. Locomotive-type tubular boiler, constructed by Ward, Stanton & Co, Newburgh, NY.
Propulsion: sternwheel, 18 ft (5 m) , 17 buckets, each bucket 16.0 ft (5 m) long, 24 inches wide, with 26 inch dip.[1]
Speed: about 17 miles per hour maximum[1]

Lurline was a steamboat that served from 1878 to 1930 on the Columbia and Willamette rivers. Lurline was a classic example of the Columbia river type of steamboat.


Lurline was launched was launched September 30, 1878 by Jacob Kamm, who with John C. Ainsworth had designed and built the first sternwheelers[2] in the Northwest, Jennie Clark and Carrie Ladd, nearly a quarter of a century before.

Operations on the Columbia

File:Steamboat Lurline (drawing by Stanton).jpg
Lurline drawing by Samuel Ward Stanton, circa 1893
File:Charles T. Kamm (steamboat captain).jpg
Charles T. Kamm, an early captain of the Lurline

Capt. James T. Gray took charge of the Lurline and handled her on the Vancouver route for the first ten years of her career. During the summer season she made one trip a week in the seaside traffic, and occasionally towed ships, competing with the Oregon Railway & Navigation Company's steamers. Competition from the Lurline was said to have cost the Oregon Railway & Navigation Company over half a million dollars. In 1889 that company leased her, and, in command of Captain Pillsbury, she was operated on the Cascade route until ?1892 when Kamm again commenced regular trips to Astoria. Among her many captains was Charles T. Kamm, son of her designer.[3]

Hassalo excursion 1888

Lurline was used to carry some of the 3,000 excursionists who gathered to witness Hassalo run the Cascades of the Columbia on Saturday, May 26, 1888, making the run up from Portland in the company of another famous sternwheeler, the R.R. Thompson, the Lurline having also embarked an army band from the Fort Vancouver barracks. The Sunday Oregonian's correspondent described the trip up the river on that historic day:

Promptly at 8 o'clock the R.R. Thompson gave the departing whistle, cast off lines and started down the river, leaving the Lurline to remain for a short time at the wharf to bring those who came a little late. However the Lurline did not stop long, but soon came steaming in the wake of the Thompson. ... Lively airs were discoursed by the military band, which lent additional interest to the occasion, and caused the time to pass rapidly. ... Less than an hour's steaming brought the boat to Vancouver. Here a few more excursionists joined the crowd. A few minutes after 9 o'clock the Thompson turned her prow toward the great gorge of the Columbia. Soon after leaving Vancouver the Lurline came alongside, with colors gaily streaming in the wind. The two steamers were lashed together and proceeded for several miles side by side. Finding better time could be made separately, the steamers were unloosened, and each steamed ahead, keeping most of the time within easy hailing distance. Fully 1500 persons were on the two boats.[4]

Later years

Lurline served for over 50 years, a very long time for a wooden steamboat. in later years she came to be owned by the Harkins Transportation Company of Portland, Oregon. Lurline was rebuilt several times, and survived being rammed and sunk, at Rainier, Oregon on November 21, 1906, by the steam schooner Cascade.[5][6] Lurline never acquired the reputation of a speedy boat like the Bailey Gatzert, but she did valuable service just the same:

The Lurline and Undine of the Harkins Transportation Company let the racers like the T.J. Potter, Telephone, and Bailey Gatzert burn grooves on the river route between Portland and Astoria. The ambled along at an easier pace, made more frequent stops, and were the favorites of isolated villagers and farmers along the way.[6]

Out of service

Lurline was dismantled in about 1930. Her upper works were still in good condition despite having been built some 52 years before. The cabins and other above deck structures were transferred to a new vessel, the diesel-powered L.P. Hosford which was still in operation as late as 1966.[5]


  1. 1.0 1.1 1.2 1.3 Stanton, Samuel Ward, American Steam Vessels, page 399, Smith and Stanton, New York, NY 1895 (accessed 3-14-2008)
  2. There were earlier steamboats in the Northwest, but these were mostly sidewheelers which proved unsuitable to the conditions on the Northwest rivers and inland waterways
  3. Wright, E.W., ed. Lewis and Dryden Marine History of the Pacific Northwest, at 257-58, Lewis & Dryden Publishing, Portland, OR 1895
  4. ”Shot the Rapids – The Steamer Hassalo Accomplishes its Perilous Passage Safely – Three Thousand People Witness the Thrilling Sight – Successful Excursion – Six Mile Run Made in Seven Minutes”, Sunday Oregonian, May 27, 1888
  5. 5.0 5.1 Newell, Gordon, R, ed., H.W. McCurdy Marine History of the Pacific Northwest, at 119, 120, 127, 308, 324, 348, 410, and 567, Superior Publishing, Seattle, WA 1966
  6. 6.0 6.1 Newell, Gordon R., and Williamson, Jim, Pacific Steamboats, at 40, Bonanza Books, New York, NY 1958

Further reading

  • Faber, Jim, Steamer's Wake, Enetai Press, Seattle, WA 1985 ISBN 0-9615811-0-7
  • Mills, Randall V., Sternwheelers up Columbia, at 67-79, 195, University of Nebraska Press (1977 reprint of 1947 edition) ISBN 0-8032-5874-7
  • Timmen, Fritz, Blow for the Landing - A Hundred Years of Steam Navigation on the Waters of the West, Caxton Printers, Caldwell, ID 1973 ISBN 0-87004-221-1

See also

Harkins Transportation Company