Steam Tug Seguin

by Hans | April 12th, 2014

The Seguin, because  of her longevity and stellar career, is today the best-known steam tugboat along the New Engeland coast. She appears here in her early years when she worked for the Knickerbocker Ice Company towing barges and schooners engaged in the ice trade.
The Seguin was built in 1884 at Bath, Maine, and served most of her years on the Kennebec River within sight of her birthplace. She measures 88 feet long. She was originally powered by a surface condenser engine, but it was replaced with a 350-horsepower compound engine, which was later re-bored to provide 400 horsepower. She was the first tug on the Kennebec with a standing-headroom fireroom, and the first tug east of San Fransico to have an independent air system and circulating pump. A true workhorse, the Seguin saw a great variety of service. She towed schooners and barges along Maine coast – even towing ice barges as far south as Norfolk, Virginia – and assisted with the launchings of scores of ships built at Bath and other Maine ports, She ended her career in 1969, after many years under the flag of Penobscot Bay’s Eastern Maine Towage Company.

In this photograph, taken in the late 188s, the Seguin has sheating along her cabin sides to protect them from damage from coal bunkers. She also has raised iron sheating on her bow to allow her to work in ice. Note the water barrel on her foredeck.
A typical decorative device on tugboats was a gilded eagle at top of the wheelhouse; the Seguin was unique in that her distinghuishing trademark was white rooster, which had not yet been fitted when this photo was taken.


The Seguin in 1969, on the day she was donated to Maine Maritime Museum, Bath, Maine, by the Eastern Maine Towage Company of Belfast. She still looks the part of the working tugboats, even though she has lost the jaunty sheer of her main and boat decks. After almost a century of hard use, her original keel, juniper knees, and most of her framing timbers are still solid and in place. Her white rooster stands proudly atop the wheelhouse.

The Maine Maritime Museum was undertaking a reconstruction program that will ultimately restore the Seguin to het 1915 appearance. That year was chosen because the museum has extensive documentation of the Seguin’s arrangement and profile at that time. Her engine, boilers, and deckhouse have been removed, her superstructure has been taken off, and rebuilding is underway. When completed, the museum intends the Seguin to be a working display, which will make her one of the few operable steam tugs on the East Coast.

Acquired by the museum in Bath in 1969, she was hauled in 1977 at Percy & Small’s north ways, where a ship-house facility was built over it, and the search for sound wood begun. None was to be found. Seguin was not to reach her 1984 centenary, as many had hoped. By 1988, defeated by the magnitude of the decay of the vessel, ironically and wrenchingly, the Museum had to dismantle its own ultimate artefact. The old tug was dissected into a sub-collection of over 350 separate items, ranging from coffe-cans of nuts up to the enormous compound engine. A program of documentation, publication, and exhibition of these was undertaken that continues to this day.

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