SS St. Marys Challenger

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William P. Snyder.jpg
The William P. Snyder, between 1907 and 1910
Name: St. Marys Challenger
Builder: Great Lakes Engineering Works
Yard number: 00017
Launched: 1906
Out of service: 2013
Fate: Cut down to barge
Status: In operation, same capacity, as pushed barge.
General characteristics
Class and type: Conventional dry bulk Lake freighter
Length: 551 ft (168 m)
Beam: 56 ft (17 m)
Capacity: 10,250 tons
St. Marys Challenger in 2012

The SS St. Marys Challenger was a working lake freighter operating on the North American Great Lakes from 1906 until 2013. As she approached the end of her 107-year-long working career as a self-propelled boat, she was the oldest operating self-propelled lake freighter on the Great Lakes, as well as being one of the last freight-carrying vessels on the Great Lakes to be powered by steam engine. The owner has taken steps to refit the vessel as an articulated barge, and the barge has returned to service as a cement carrier.[1]

Operating history[edit]


The vessel was launched on February 7, 1906, by Great Lakes Engineering Works in Ecorse, Michigan. The shipyard had received an order to rivet together the plates of a 551-foot (168 m) hull for what was then the booming Minnesota iron ore trade. Soon the large boat, christened William P. Snyder, was shuttling hematite for the Shenango Furnace Company. William P. Snyder was beginning her working life at the same time as the development of the assembly line for bolting together consumer goods made with steel, such as automobiles. Iron ore boats would have plenty of work to do. William P. Snyder also carried iron ore to furnaces to make munitions used in World War I and World War II.[1]

Originally powered by two Scotch boilers, the vessel, by now renamed Elton Hoyt II, was repowered in 1950 with a Skinner Marine Uniflow steam engine and two watertube boilers. This would be the first of five separate renamings as the vessel repeatedly changed owners. Too stubby by the 1960s to serve as a profitable ore boat, the vessel was laid up and then, in 1966, plucked out of a freshwater boneyard for reconversion and new life as a cement carrier. Now based in Charlevoix, Michigan, the aging steamship shuttled powdered cement from Northern Michigan to a wide variety of roadbuilding contractors in various port locations on the Great Lakes.[1]

During her second half-century of life the vessel, which took on the final name of St. Marys Challenger, became a favorite of boatwatchers up and down the Great Lakes as a final example of the riveted steamships of the Second Industrial Revolution.[1]


In November 2013 St. Marys Challenger reached the end of her working life as a self-propelled vessel. She steamed to the Bay Shipbuilding Co. in Sturgeon Bay, Wisconsin, to be cut down to an articulated lake barge. It was expected that as a barge, the vessel would be pushed by a dedicated tugboat and would resume the dedicated transport of powdered cement on the Great Lakes.[1] The lake vessel's now-redundant pilothouse was conserved and, in spring 2015, was donated to the National Museum of the Great Lakes for display in Toledo, Ohio.[2]

See also[edit]

  • SS Badger, a passenger ferry, still operating under steam


  1. ^ a b c d e "Great Lakes Fleet Page Vessel Feature: St. Marys Challenger". Retrieved November 20, 2013. 
  2. ^ "Toledo museum adds piece of Great Lakes history". The Blade. Toledo, OH. April 4, 2015. Retrieved April 6, 2015. 

External links[edit]