Steamboat Models



DELTA QUEEN CO. 1995 calendar

image for the month of NOVEMBER

head on view of a large scale model of the AMERICAN QUEEN with an insert lower left of the J.M. WHITE's cabin

The sky and river were probably composited with the model from digital resources

Scanned from the 12 x 18 inch calendar page

The second file is a photo of what is apparently the same steamboat model with Jeffrey D. Krida, Chief Executive Officer of the American Queen Steamboat Company


The model of the J.M. WHITE in the Smithsonian, Washington D.C.

Model Steamboat CASTLE ROCK diorama MO state capital Jeff City

Photo of a model of the steamer CASTLE ROCK in the Missouri State capital at Jefferson City.

Fred Way does not have a listing on this boat but I believe this is supposed to represent a locale somewhere along the Missouri River.

The smoke coming from the stacks looks like cotton candy that didn't get vacuumed often enough and was thus permeated with gray dust.

model boat photo

Above is a model in the Mark Twain Museum in Hannibal. I always liked it since it's so quaint and preserves its integrity as a home made piece done with a lot of TLC. The model must date back to perhaps the early 1900's since it's been an exhibit dating back to when it was in the relatively small stone museum next door to the Boyhood Home on Hill Street. Same old display case I'm sure also. Made in the same style nickel plated (?) framing to hold the glass together. Presently the model is at the top of the stairs near the replica pilot house.


Model of sternwheeler BIXBY in a diorama of a Louisiana bayou community

Photo of a detail from a charming and whimsical diorama entitled "Muskrat Ramble" created by model maker Geoff Nott of a Louisiana bayou village named Atchafalaya circa 1925 featuring the model of a "character" sternwheeler dubbed the "BIXBY," perhaps after Horace Bixby, the pilot who "learned" Sam Clemens the Mississippi River between St. Louis and New Orleans during the last half of the 1850's. Details of the boat, resin water, foliage and buildings are expertly done.

Armchair Modeller Down Under
Thinking about model railways and model railway layouts

Thursday, 13 June 2013
Geoff Nott
I am sad to report that noted Australian railway modeler, Geoff Nott, died today in Sydney. Geoff will be remembered for his skilled creative work on a number of classic model railroads including the famous Muskrat Ramble. Geoff's most recent layout, Smuggler's Cove, was built over the past two years with fellow modeler, Michael Flack.

Narrow Gauge Downunder Magazine
C/- 25 Dwyer Street
Clifton Hill Vic 3068

Back issues of Narrow Gauge Downunder are available at this link:

Issue 41
The paddle steam boat "Bixby"
Diorama, Plan
Muskrat Ramble
Geoff Nott

YouTube video link:
"Muskrat Ramble" diorama

Published on Sep 23, 2011
The Muskat Ramble modular On30 layout was on display at the 2011 Narrow Gauge Convention in Hickory North Carolina. The layout was moved from Australia to Florida to become part of the new Model Railroad Museum. It features many realistic scenery techniques for modeling the Louisiana swamp lands and a cotton plantation.

Wikipedia notes:

The Atchafalaya River is a 137-mile-long distributary of the Mississippi River and Red River in south central Louisiana in the United States. It flows south, just west of the Mississippi River, and is the fifth largest river in North America, by discharge. The name "Atchafalaya" comes from Choctaw for "long river", from hachcha, "river", and falaya, "long" "Muskrat Ramble" is a jazz composition composed in 1926 by jazz trombonist and band leader Kid Ory (1886-1983). The tune was first recorded on February 26, 1926, by Louis Armstrong and his Hot Five, and became the group's most frequently recorded piece. It was a prominent part of the Dixieland revival repertoire in the 1930s and 1940s, and was recorded by Bob Crosby, Roy Eldridge, Lionel Hampton, Woody Herman, Muggsy Spanier, Chet Atkins, Lu Watters, the Andrews Sisters, Harry James, and Al Hirt, among others. It is considered a part of the jazz standard repertoire.

Two related articles can be found in "Narrow Gauge Downunder" (July 2010 Issue 38)
Masterclass: Planning and Building the Muskrat Ramble
Tuesday Night Modellers Group
A Freelance Paddle Steamer Prototype, Plan



This is the biggest model in my collection at 5 feet long and the case must be at least 6 feet long, custom made with book shelves under it on both sides.

model boats

model DK and DQ

Photos of the Delta King and Delta Queen models on board the Delta King in Old Town Sacramento.

Dave says: "Last time is was in Sacramento I took this of the twin models of the D.Q. and D.K. The name plaque is a bit dark in the photo but believe it says that Arthur D. Buck of Carmichael, CA built these two in the mid '80's."

river room

These three models are in the Dave Thomson steamboat room. The Idlewild (which later became the Avalon and ultimately the Belle of Louisville) was built in HO (a model railroad scale) by a fellow who lives up near Sacramento, have misplaced his name. I bought the Rob't E. Lee model (made from a kit) from the widow of the man who built it. The gent who built the Idlewild customized the R.E. Lee for me to replace an inaccurate pilot house and clunky looking "feathers" on top of the stacks. I bought a different kit of the R.E. Lee and salvaged the "feathers," pennant and flags from it for use in the remodeling and the model maker rebuilt the pilot house from scratch. There are still things that could be done to make this a more presentable and accurate model if I could find another craftsman willing to tackle the project.

Ken Mlyniec of the Midwest Riverboat Buffs in Keokuk built the unpainted version of the Buckeye State which I bought from in the early '90's.

Buckeye State - The Buckeye State was built at Shousetown, Pa., south of Pittsburgh. In 1849 the hull was completed and hauled up the Ohio River to Pittsburgh to be finished. Under the supervision of David Holmes, the Buckeye State was completed in February 1850. It was owned and operated by the Pittsburgh & Cincinnati Packet Line, which ran it regularly on the Ohio River between Cincinnati and Pittsburgh. The company owned six or seven steamers at a time, and ran daily departures between the two cities. By the mid-1840s the Pittsburgh & Cincinnati Packet Line was praised by a Pittsburgh newspaper editor as "the greatest convenience . . . ever afforded the citizens on the banks of the Upper Ohio." On May 1, 1850 the Buckeye State left Cincinnati for Pittsburgh and completed the trip in a record 43 hours. Under Capt. Sam Dean, the steamer made 24 stops along the route, needing coal once and wood three times. One hundred years later, the Buckeye State still held the record for the fastest trip ever made by a steamboat between Cincinnati and Pittsburgh. In 1851, showman P. T. Barnum organized a race between the Buckeye State and the Messenger No. 2 as a publicity stunt to advertise Swedish opera singer Jenny Lind's American tour. Steamboat racing was growing in popularity, and so a race was the perfect promotion. Although Lind and Barnum were aboard the Messenger No. 2, the Buckeye State won the race. The Buckeye State continued its service up and down the Ohio for six more years until it was retired and dismantled in 1857.

steamboat model
steamboat model

These Robert E. Lee momma and baby models are housed in the Dave Thomson steamboat room.


The top photo is from the Murphy Library, (Courtesy of Murphy Library at the University of Wisconsin - La Crosse; Steamboat Collection Photographs) it was taken at Galena circa the ate 1850's, early 1860's. I took the photo of the model in Galena's History Museum in 2007. The stacks on the model look taller and thinner that the ones on the actual boat but it could be an optical illusion. The following is Fred Way's history of the Golden Era in his Packet Directory:

2368 GOLDEN ERA Sidewheel packet boat built Wheeling, Va. , 1852. 249 tons.178 x 29 x 5.1. In Galena, Dunleith & Minnesota Packet Co. , 1856. She was utilized as a troop transport by the U.S. during the Civil War, making at least three trips to Vicksburg in 1863. 178 x 29 x 5.1. Sold in December 1865 to M.W. Wetmore, New Orleans, with Capt. John R. Neeld, master. Sold September 1866 to Michael Purcell, New Orleans, with Capt. Volney Brown, master. Sold November 1866 to Capt. John Kaiser, New Orleans, also part-owner. He owned her entire in 1867. Dismantled 1868.


In 2007 during my trip to the Pacific Northwest I found some nice Columbia River models in museums there. Attached of the HARVEST QUEEN by Jim Oliver is as neat as a pin in a smaller than usual scale, probably HO (a favorite model railroad scale). The model is in The Columbia Gorge Discover Center at "The Dalles" in Washington state.

I've found varying dates on the HARVEST QUEEN spanning the 1890's to the period from 1900 to 1927. It's possible there were 2 boats by that name with the second replacing the first at the turn of the century.



From that same 2007 trip, a very clean model of the BAILEY GATZERT (referred to as the "Daily Bastard" by those who got swamped by the wake left behind by her paddlewheel). The BAILEY is probably the most famous Columbia River steamer of them all, operating from the 1890 to 1926. She was converted to a car ferry in 1920 and finished out her career in that capacity.

Portside view taken in the Columbia River Gorge Interpretive Center Museum in Stevenson, Oregon across the river from Cascade Locks, Washington.


Screen captures from "flickr" of 2 beautiful composites by "jmiba" of the CHAPERON on the river.

Fryant believes this is a "virtual" CHAPERON model. Jens Mittelbach sent a link for more information about the Virtual chaperon project: You can use anaglyph goggles in order to watch this in 3D. There is also a resource page with some downloads and a bibliography of literature that I used to virtually reconstruct the Chaperon:

These two images were apparently accomplished using photos of a completed kit of the CHAPERON, (the same one that John Fryant built and upgraded details for the pilot house to correct inaccuracies and other model builders seem to have followed the improvements that John described in the REFLECTOR.

The flickr contributor "jmiba" also created a 360 degree interior view of the cabin of the CHAPERON from stem to stern that appears to have been created digitally. It can be viewed at the the third link below.


My, my - - hadn't ever seen these. I think what we have here is a total digital creation and a darn good one. I can tell that the creator used the kit model for some of his research. The sides of the cabin skylights are black and that's what the kit instructions called for. (Should be white.) Also, the spacing of some of the boiler deck stanchions and trim correspond to the kit instructions. There are no known photos of Chaperon's interior but the artist has done a great job of creating a typical small steamboat cabin. Also he/she has shown the hull painted red with a white stripe. One of the Murphy Library photos shows her with a dark hull and light stripe.

While the virtual model is perfectly done it appears too clean. There's no cargo aboard, nor ropes laying on the deck and no mud or dirt anywhere. No crew or passengers either.

By: jmiba
Some rights reserved

finished (starboard profile)
Riverboat Chaperon (1904-1917)
September 19, 2017

pilot house Chaperon
June 25, 2017

cabin 360 The steamer Chaperon's cabin
April 2, 2017


The ModelExpo kit of the CHAPERON which John Fryant assembled for me, correcting the historical errors in the kit as he went along. Following is a transcript of his article about building the model.

S & D Reflector
December 2011
Small Stacks
A Closer Look at the CHAPERON - Part Three
Pages 32 & 33
by John Fryant

In September's column, mention was made of inaccuracies in the CHAPERON ModelExpo kit. Having recently completed one, there are some major shortcomings which I discovered.

The most obvious is the pilothouse which has windows all around and no interior detail, despite John Breynaert's plans (on which the model was based) that clearly show the typical pilothouse open front with breast board, visor, and interior details of pilotwheel, stove, lazy bench, etc. Also, the laser cut one-piece windows are a bit heavy looking, whereas there were actually three sliding windows on each side and two in back, in typical riverboat fashion. In my opinion, the windows would have been better done in photo-etched brass like the railings.

The laser cut sternwheel spoke units have omitted the outer ring of braces and are too thick. They should have been cut from 1/16" thick plywood instead of the 1/8" basswood supplied. The kit- supplied sternwheel spoke unit appears to the left in the previous photo, with a corrected version to the right. The cranks on the paddlewheel shaft are twice as long as they should be. As the CHAPERON had four foot-stroke engines, the cranks should be only 1/2 inch long center to center in 1/48th scale. The roof bell should be about twice the size of the one provided.

While the photo etched brass railings are very well done, they need cap and bottom rails. On my model I used tiny plastic channel for the top rail and plastic strips for the bottom. The plastic channel is available from Plastruct at their website ( and is product 090535. The finished railing appears in the photo below. The photo-etched brass turnbuckles look strange, as they are two-dimensional. There are many sizes of turnbuckles available from model railroad suppliers as metal or plastic castings which would have looked more realistic. The fittings that go atop the sampson posts for attachment of the hog chains are oversize. They have been cleverly designed, again in photo-etched brass, to be folded into their proper shapes, but they look too large. I omitted these entirely and ran the hog chain rods over the tops of the posts. The castings supplied for the whistles are very poorly done, having no recognizable shape. I scratch-built two whistles from brass rod and wire.

The kit box photo shows cabin doors painted red, whereas they were actually painted white, in typical steamboat fashion. The main deck is shown in natural wood, although it was probably painted with red lead or some shade of red, at least on the head of the boat and on the fantails. Some packets were done this way, with the mid portion of the deck left unpainted. The windowed sides of the skylight roof are shown painted black, as is the rub strake around the main deck. Both should be white.

There are other minor things that could be corrected, but they aren't as obvious, except to the die-hard steamboat researcher. Overall this is a nice kit that goes together almost flawlessly. Unfortunately, the above mentioned items weren't correctly done and I hope perhaps they can be corrected in future issues of the kit.

Link to the S&D Reflector - click here. # # #

Below: Proving that kittens like steamboat models too, here is Abby the kitten plotting how to get at the rigging of the CHAPERON. (Case is temporary from another model to keep boat safe until a case built to fit the cheery wood base is made.)

Lower photo: Kitten Abby gives cat blessings to a model of the Robert E. Lee.




CHAPERON virtual computer realized Steamboat! Link to images

Here are 8 beautiful images of Jens Mittlebach's brilliant re-creation of the steamboat CHAPERON that he achieved with the 3D modeling software BLENDER. In his bibliography Jens credited our collection along with 49 other references. Below that is John Fryant's thank you for bringing Jens' work to his attention.


Australian Sternwheel Scale Model

Scale model metal sternwheel bought from a dealer in Australia. The style of the wheel's construction appears to be similar to the Siberian sternwheeler that is at the top of the page in our photospostcards1.

The "paddles/buckets" were not included with the wheel, they had probably been made of wood. Utility Specialized Metals in Sun Valley made replacements for me out of sheet metal with perfect precision.

Dimensions of the wheel:
8.25 inches in diameter
9.35 inches overall width

There are slots for fourteen (14) paddles/buckets that each measure:
.10 inches thick
1.35 inches wide
4.55 inches long

Andrews Powder Coating in Chatsworth added the durable coat of brick red to the wheel and paddles, taking extra care so it will be capable of resisting water in case it is ever incorporated into an R.C. model. I enhanced/saturated the color in these photos of the completed wheel that I picked up today 22 March, 2019 from Scott Andrews and Chris Doll.



Steamboat Models of the G.W. HILL land the WASHINGTON made by Melvin "Mac" Frederickson

Photos by Peter Thomson of Models of G.W. HILL left, WASHINGTON right made by Melvin "Mac" Frederickson. Cyndy Schaper stands between them. Rescued steamboat models are stunning throwback to river's heyday

by Mike Tighe
La Crosse Tribune
Sept 8, 2018

Cyndy Schaper is up a creek with a paddle. Wheeler. A paddle wheeler.

Schaper is looking for a place to moor a 10-foot, hand-crafted paddle wheeler, which features details so accurate and intricate that it looks as if it could ply the Mississippi River with teensy-tiny passengers.

Its original, the full-size G.W. Hill, also had three decks, as well as a Texas deck, with a pilot house topping it all off and smoke curling from its smokestacks as the steam-powered paddle wheeler transported people and products up and down the river.

The model of the Hill, which is 3 feet tall and 2 feet wide, is more than 60 years old, the handiwork of Melvin "Mac" Frederickson.

A jack of many trades, Frederickson whittled and sawed and sanded the parts for the boats when he wasn't repairing upholstery and truck details at Robinson Transfer in La Crosse.

Rescued from blackening neglect

The G.W. Hill, along with another historic paddle wheeler, the Sidney—later named the Washington and so named on the model —

had sat in a Robinson office, neglected, for a couple of decades until Schaper got a hankering to restore them about three years ago.

Both are miniature versions of steamboats that traveled the Mississippi River in the early part of the 20th century.

"I saw them, and I just loved them, but they were just bad. They were black," said Schaper, who happened on the project by virtue of her friendship with Paul Robinson, who now has custody of the boats as a son of the late Ellsworth and Eleanor Robinson, who owned the freight carrier.

"I cleaned them off and on for three years," she said, also crediting others with helping with the restoration and education—especially Bob Taunt, a writer, photographer and local historian who also is a popular speaker because of his knowledge of days gone by.

Schaper's cleaning tools included cotton balls and swabs, dental floss and ear cleaners, and friends who would drop by on occasion to swab the decks and clean the minute filigree on the boats.

The 69-year-old Schaper came by her love of riverboats naturally, explaining, "I grew up near Trempealeau and ran down to the river to see the Delta Queen, and I rode the Delta Queen once."

Schaper, a teacher with a continuing interest in educating people, believes the models are ideal teaching tools about river lore and the Coulee Region's history as a hub of river transportation. Schaper has been fishing high and low for a public place or business that would be willing to display the boats, and she finally landed a spot for the Washington.

That model, which is 8 feet from bow to stern, 3 feet from the hull to the top of the smokestacks, and about 21 inches from port to starboard, will be anchored inside the south entrance of the La Crosse Public Library at 800 Main St., said Barry McKnight, the library's program coordinator. It also will feature a digital display of steamboats and river history, McKnight said.

That fits Schaper's overarching goals of letting people examine boats from the river's heyday and teaching the role the river played in settling the area, she said. "Both steamboats were based in La Crosse, principally for tour excursions," said Taunt, a longtime member of the La Crosse County Historical Society and its former president.

Neither has sleeping accommodations. The Washington's decks are open to the air, with areas for cargo and animals as well as human passengers. The Hill has windows but doesn't appear to have cabins, because there would have been more doors, Taunt said.

La Crosse holds record for landings

"Nobody remembers that La Crosse was the hub of steamboats," a pivotal year for river traffic, said Taunt, who also answers to Schaper's longer description of him as "kind of the Steamboat Guy" at the Riverside Museum and his own nickname as a "technical consultant" at the museum and to her.

"La Crosse has the permanent record of the most steamboat landings" in 1857, the peak year for such traffic, he said.

La Crosse recorded 1,469 landings that year, beating Winona's 1,300 and leaving St. Paul's 711 landings far in its wake, according to the Steamboat Guy. "It was called the hub because it was between Dubuque and St. Paul. Later, it was called the Gateway City," said Taunt, whose other roles in life have included being La Crosse County's personnel director and portraying George Byron Merrick, a Mark Twain contemporary who was a riverboat pilot in history pageants.

"There were a lot of guys around on paddle boats," he said. "The guys on the Ohio River wouldn't go on the Mississippi because of its 4 mph current" —apparently akin to warp speed back in the day.

After the Civil War and the development of the railroad, the iron horse nibbled away at river traffic as the main way to transport goods, Taunt said.

Taunt marveled at the size and details on the boats, both of which have hundreds of light bulbs and a couple of spotlights that Frederickson wired to glow. An electrician advised against trying to light them now because of possible wire deterioration, Schaper said.

The boats have virtually all of the bells and whistles that life-size craft had, including thousands of spindles on the railings that must have taken the patience of a saint, working pulleys threaded with rope-like string and lifeboats looking real enough to have been lifesavers on the Titanic.

Riverboats didn't need many lifeboats, Taunt said, because pilots could just beach them ashore to avoid sinking if problems arose.

Another facet that must have been painstaking for Frederickson is that windows on both boats are made from glass, with small pieces of wood delineating sections. Even the wear and tear on the boats, with scuffed railings here and there and smudges once in a while, appear as natural as if the weather and passengers had created such flaws.

Asked the value of the boats, Robinson said he never was able to establish that, saying the answer he often received was that they are worth whatever someone would pay—with the implication that the price could be cheap to one buyer one day and expensive to a real steamboat buff who might come by another day.

Even insurers were not comfortable evaluating the models, so they wouldn't sell policies, he said.

In Schaper's eyes, the boats are priceless, but she doesn't want people to have to pay to see them.

"The whole point is to have them in a store (or other location) where people could look at them for free, because they are beautiful boats," she said.'s Model Boat Center - click here


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