Lurline (sternwheeler 1878)

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 at Cathlamet, Washington circa 1903
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 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

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 Vancouver Barracks. The Sunday Oregonian's correspondent described the trip up the river on that historic day:

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.

On November 9, 1894, Lurline, under Captain James T. Gray, collided with the sternwheeler Sarah Dixon, under Captain George M. Shaver, in a thick fog near Kalama, Washington. Damage to both vessels was minor, $50 worth to Lurline and $150 to Sarah Dixon. Even so, following a hearing on December 10, 1894, both captains, who were prominent steamboat men, were found to be at fault for violating the navigation rules, and their licenses were suspended for seven days.[5]

Lurline was rebuilt several times, and survived being rammed and sunk at Rainier, Oregon on November 21, 1906, by the steam schooner Cascade.[6][7] Lurline never acquired the reputation of a speedy boat like the Bailey Gatzert, but she did valuable service just the same:

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.[6]

In 1983, a new diesel-powered sternwheeler built for tourism purposes was given the name Lurdine – a union of Lurline and Undine – as a tribute to those two past vessels. However, Lurdine was renamed Rose less than two years later, after a change of ownership and location.


  1. Stanton, Samuel Ward, American Steam Vessels, page 245, 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. Annual report of the Supervising Inspector General, Steamboat Inspection Service (1904) (accessed 07-13-11).
  6. 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
  7. 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

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