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The Aquila Pilot House


steamboat pilot houses


Attached is my conventional view of the Aquila pilot house from the opposite angle. I evidently clicked the shutter in the first photo I sent you before I had a chance to flip up the flash unit and a short time exposure ensued while I rotated the camera in my hand. Why the stairs are relatively normal-looking is the strange part. I rotated the "vortex" picture in photo shop so the stairs were plumbed up, cropped the picture down to the proportions I sent it to you at and then cooled off the color from the orange shade that it had to something closer to what the actual colors were. Looks better in cool values like this, more otherworldly.

Glad you enjoyed it. Can think of worse places to spend eternity than behind a pilot wheel in a pilot house steering through infinity with Sam Clemens. It does make a nice Twilight Zone illustration of a parallel universe reached by entering the door of the a steamboat's pilot house. The shard like triangles that emanated from the window sashes on the back of the pilot house reminded me of Lyonel Feininger's cubist/expressionist paintings.



steamboat pilot houses


Here's the pilot wheel in the magical Aquila pilot house. I clone one of the handles and used it to replace one that had been busted off by a souvenir hunter perhaps, you can't even tell which one it was now. The glare and reflection from the flash couldn't be avoided here. The mural "outside" the window leaves a bit to be desired, needed an accomplished landscape painter to pull it off.



steamboat pilot houses


Inside the "haunted (pilot) house" - neat color and atmosphere. The "bisected" giant boat model is outside there, it's only the portside of the boat. I suggested to them that they put a mirror behind it which would visually simulate a complete boat.


Aquila pilot house





steamboat pilot houses


While taking photos of the Aquila's old pilot house in the Dubuque museum I inadvertently took this bizarre photo where the stairs look fairly reasonable but the windows etc. are rotated and a vortex is simulated. Surrealism ahoy!

vor-tex (vôrtks) n. pl. vor·tex·es or vor·ti·ces (-t-sz) 1. A spiral motion of fluid within a limited area, especially a whirling mass of water or air that sucks everything near it toward its center. 2. A place or situation regarded as drawing into its center all that surrounds it.





The Golden Eagle Pilothouse


steamboat pilot houses

steamboat pilot houses

steamboat pilot houses


In 1935 the Eagle Packet Co. remodeled the Wm. GARIG and rechristened her the GOLDEN EAGLE, the last overnight passenger vessel wooden hull on the Mississippi, Ohio Rivers and tributaries. In June, 1941 the GOLDEN EAGLE ran aground on Tower Island and sank. Ruth Ferris salvaged the pilot house and moved it to the playground of the school where she taught young John Hartford among others.

Eventually the GOLDEN EAGLE's pilot house was proudly on display at the Missouri Historical Society in the Jefferson Memorial, St. Louis for many years UNTIL a change in administration put it in storage. The excuse given was that the pilot house was NOT AUTHENTIC ENOUGH (?!) and would not be put back on display.

Awhile back a group raised $10,000 or so to donate to the Society with the understanding that the money would go to reassembling the pilot house and putting it back on display. So far that hasn't happened although the pilot wheel from the pilot house is on display. All of us who made pilgrimages to see the pilot house and thrill to the patina of the past and all the history associated with it miss her it dearly.

Attached some photos I took in the early '80's there, all time exposures with a tripod including the one of myself where I set up the tripod below the front window, lined it up through the view finder and asked a visitor to press the cable release while I stood at the pilot wheel.


Golden Eagle pilot house

Detail of GOLDEN EAGLE's pilot house with her 3 chime whistle sounding off courtesy of much steam as it could handle.



steamboat photo


Here's a good photo of the interior of the SPRAGUE's pilot house. She had the biggest pilot wheel of them all (13 1/2 feet!). Wish I could have visited the boat before she was burned in '74. She must have been an awesome sight to behold in person.

Photo Courtesy of Murphy Library at the University of Wisconsin - La Crosse
Steamboat Collection Photographs





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