Monday, December 14, 2015

Wolf Point and St. Marys/Medusa Challenger

(Update: Neil Gale's blog concerning the Medusa Challenger. And his blog concerning Wolf Point (source))

The reason for including Wolf Point in a posting about this 562' boat is that it carried cement to Goose Island so it had to go around Wolf Point and head North. It was the longest ship to use the river (JinxShip). A link to skip to the Madusa/St. Marys Challenger if that is your interest.

Wolf Point is where the North and South branches join the main stem of the Chicago River. According to FriendsOfWolfPoint, this photo is 1875 and looking East. So heavy industry was not moved away from the main stem when they had to rebuild after the 1871 fire.
Glen Miller posted
Wolf Point in 1885

Raymond Kunst shared a post
Neil Gale My article

ChicagoLoopBridges posted

Jesse Williams comment on Glen's posting
Wolf Point circa 1976

William Russ posted two photos with the comment: "I came across a couple photos of Wolf Point so I'll pass them along. The first one is from 1870 and the second one is from 1875. (Chicago Tribune Photo Gallery)"
Nhat Quan V. Do That's some CRAZY fast development!!
[There are quite a few comments about whether or not they built it out and then later cut it back.]
1 [before fire]

2 [after the rebuilding frenzy caused by the fire]

Around the interesting turn of the century, Wolf Point was a freight facility for C&NW.

The most amazing thing about this photo is that you can see Wolf Point. Now there are so many tall buildings along the river that this view would be blocked. It looks like the Kinzie (Wells) Street RR Bridge is already kept in the open position. I wonder if by 1972 the only freight left on this route was newsprint for the Sun Times Building.
William Ritchie posted
Sears Tower under construction 1972. I worked for Motorola Schaumburg at the time and we were doing tests for VHF/UHF radio coverage from the roof. I took some aerials for contractors. I know it's Willis now but it sure was Sears then.
Xavier Quintana posted
Chicago's Wolf Point in an aerial view looking north, February 1977. Photo by John Bartley (Vintage Tribune)
Kevin R Doerksen My father would help to convert the North American Cold Storage building into condos, in the early 80's. Great photo!Jim Spizzo I wonder how long the deserted river bridge has been stuck in the up-position? It looks the same today as it did in this pic.Kevin R Doerksen It was still in use in the mid 80's. I worked at the Holiday Inn, on top of the Apparel Center, now Sun-Times, back then. When I had an early shift, it would be down gor, ironically, delivery to the old Sun-Times building. I wasn't suppose to, but I would walk across it. Haven't seen it down since late 80s.
Keith Weber commented on Xavier's posting
Keith Weber This is a different place now! [Dec 2016][Taken from 155 N. Wacker. And it is going to look even more different when the Kennedy family is done with it.]

In 2013 before the latest round of developments.
Jeff Bransky commented on William's post
ChicagoMag has photos of the proposed development
Patrick McBriarty shared William's post
David Daruszka commented on Patrick's share

The Medusa Challenger was converted to the barge St. Marys Challenger. BoatNerd has a lot more information and pictures. I followed some links and found six photos taken by Lou Gerard of the St. Marys version leaving Calumet Lake. One of the six photos catches the Torrence Avenue Bridge in a lifted position.

Chicago Tribune July 18, 1979 photo
The 562-foot Medusa Challenger headed towards the turn at Wolf Point.
[Note that this photo is in an album of several other photos of the Madusa Challenger and its later St. Marys Challenger configuration.]

Mike Harlan shared a Chicago Event of the Day post
July 13, 1973 – The curse of the Medusa Challenger continues as the Lake Shore Drive bridge across the Chicago River refuses to open to allow the bulk cement carrier to squeeze through. After waiting three hours off Navy Pier for tugboats to arrive, the 562-foot ship with 42,000 barrels of bulk cement aboard, squeezes through the river lock on her own. Then Captain John Bradley brings the ship to a halt as the first bridge on the river cannot be opened as a result of an electric failure that prevents the traffic gates from being lowered. It takes nearly 20 minutes to correct the situation. Finally, the gates are cranked down by hand, and the bridge is raised. The Medusa Challenger faced a challenge nearly every time she visited Chicago. This day she makes it to Goose Island to offload her cargo without further incident … good work, considering the date is Friday the Thirteenth. More information on the Medusa Challenger can be found in these Connecting the Windy City posts, here
and here ...

Erik Hillenmeyer posted five photos going under 95th Street Bridge after it was converted to a barge. Anne Alt provided a link to a Tribune article about the ship's history


Traffic on Lake Shore Drive backs up on April 3, 1969, while freighter Medusa Challenger passes through. Motorists sat for 40 minutes because the bridge jammed. Photo by Luigi Mendicino.

Grain elevators used to be all along the river, including Wolf Point back when some ships still had sails.

David Daruszka posted
I'm thinking this used to be the Medusa Challenger. Now its nothing more than a cement barge with a tug to push it around.
David M Laz posted
The Curse of the Medusa Challenger: It was a monster freighter in more ways than one. At 562 feet, it was the longest ship to use the river, appearing to fill up the waterway as it slowly wound its way inland. It was christened the Medusa Challenger, aptly named for the mythological Greek beast whose visage could turn people to stone.
And from 1968 to 1979, the Tribune reported at least 20 instances of the bridges malfunctioning when the frightful ship was nearby. That may understate the scope of the curse. On many occasions, multiple bridges refused to budge on a single round trip by the Medusa. Or one bridge refused to open, but the ship was so long that two other spans couldn't close while the Medusa was immobilized.
The bad luck was so regular that in March 1973, the Tribune reported when NO bridge got stuck.To pedestrians and motorists downtown, it was a major inconvenience. In some cases, the bridges were frozen for a couple of hours.

Carl Kroop posted
what trouble did this cause
Rich Banaszak That ship was owned by the Medusa cement company and for many years the largest ship on the great lakes.
Bob Colton Bill Maloney for many years(decades) it was moored in Lake Cal for the winter. For a few of those years I worked on the tugs in the area, and got to see it fired up in spring. Unfortunately I don't think it passed an inspection and was taken out of service. It ran strong for over a hundred years though.
Dennis DeBruler The hull should still be working. It was converted to an articulated tug-barge in 2014. The four-cylinder reciprocating steam engine was 107 years old when it was removed.

Ben Stalvey posted
[I don't know which city this was taken in.]

Nancy Santa posted
While sorting through some old pix, I came across this photo I took of the notorious Medusa Challenger as it made its way down the Chicago River.
interesting how all the waterline plates are bashed in...guess they were a little too thin.
badge icon
Watch from the 21st floor of Marina City one day is the Medusa waited for a stuck bridge to open. Every bridge stayed open from State Street West to LaSalle for hours in the middle of morning Rush Hour.
Steven Walsh
 non-Chicago native here...why are there no ships like this using the river now? Where’d they go? A friend asked and I don’t know the answer.
Cassie Wancata Wagner
 Starting in the 1870s, the federal government developed the Calumet River Harbor area. Industry was then encouraged to move down there. Some big ships still do use the Calumet River. Starting in the 1970s, all the remaining industry along the Chicago Main Stem was removed.

AJ Grigg shared
badge icon
It was the last steam powered lake freighter
safe_image for Today in 1906 the Medusa Challenger, a familiar Bay View sight, was launched
"The SNYDER has had a long working career, now going on 115 years.  Her names might ring a bell with many of you – WILLIAM P. SNYDER, renamed ELTON HOYT II in 1939, ALEX D. CHISHOLM in 1952, MEDUSA CHALLENGER in 1966, SOUTHDOWN CHALLENGER in 1999 and ST. MARYS CHALLENGER in 2005. Launched as a bulk carrier of 530 feet in length and 32 feet in beam for the Shenango Furnace Company, she was designed to haul primarily iron ore....[After she was cut down to a barge in 2013-14,] her pilot house was donated to the National Museum of the Great Lakes in Toledo and was proudly carried by the PAUL R. TREGURTHA."
[The article has several more photos.]

Matt McDonald posted two photos with the comment: "St. Marys Challenger/Prentiss Brown heading up the Manitowoc River on October 22, [2018,] in Manitowoc, Wi."


ProfessionalMariner, 2014
[New links: Jan, Jun]
After 107 years on steam, oldest laker converted to barge
Challenger’s pilothouse is lifted intact from the forward end. The structure and its contents will be displayed at the National Museum of the Great Lakes in Toledo, Ohio.
[Article includes history and many more photos.]
"The decision to convert the 551-foot cement carrier followed a series of upgrades spanning several decades, including extensive hull rebuilding, installation of a self-unloading cargo system and a myriad of other structural upgrades. In the end, the owner was left with a Skinner Marine Uniflow four-cylinder reciprocating steam engine burning heavy fuel oil, outdated DC electric and an aged mechanical propulsion system that made operating the boat an ever-increasing expense."
ProfessionalMariner, 2014
Demolition of Challenger’s lapped-and-riveted counter stern is nearly complete at Bay Shipbuilding in January. The process was necessary to prepare the vessel for service as part of an articulated tug-barge.
[As the article explains, they removed as much of the superstructure and stern as they could in a regular (wet) dock. Then they took it into their dry dock and finished cutting of the powered stern and added a stern that is designed to connected with a tubboat using and articulated hinge.]

Brian R. Wroblewski posted 24 photos with the comment: "Yesterday [Aug 14, 2020] I chased the tug-barge unit Petite Forte - St. Marys Cement up the Buffalo River to the LaFarge plant. Here's a photo essay of all the elevators they passed on the way in as I managed to work them into the backdrop at every chance I could. Captions on each."

Starter Marine Towing posted four photos without any comments. Fortunately, I noticed the "St. Marys Challenger" lettering and the blue gantry in Fincantieri Bay Shipbuilding. It looks like it is getting some much needed TLC (Tender Loving Care).




Bill Pohlmann commented on his post
[Note the St Marys Challenger barge on the east side of the Manitowoc peninsula on its way to the St. Marys Cement Terminal.]

Two of the photos posted by Gary Cihlar with the comment: "Prentiss Brown coming into Bay Ship to pick up her barge, St Marys Challenger which has a brand new paint job. 7-8-2020"
[I'm surprised they did maintenance on it during the shipping season. Maybe the rates are lower then to keep the shipbuilding workers busy.]


Michael J Curry posted
SS St. Marys Challenger in the Kinnickinnick River, somehow. Milwaukee.
[Note that the photo was taken in 2005, which is before she was converted to a barge in 2013.]
[I presume this is where it docks.]
Paul Rabenhorst shared

(new window)

A photo of St. Mary approaching the 8th Street Drawbridge in Manitowoc, WI.

A 15 second video of St. Marys Challenger approaching the 92nd Street Bridge.

2013 Art Gross Flickr after conversion to an articulated barge on the Calumet River

VintageTribune aerial of Lake Shore Drive Bridge raised for the Medusa Challenger

One of several photos posted by Connor Siemers of St. Marys Challenger and Prentiss Brown leaving the St Marys Cement - Manitowoc Terminal on 12/29/2020. The photo before this one shows that the barge has a bow thruster.

Free Eyes FM posted
Really cool thing happened today at Toledo, Ohio! As you know that St. Mary Challenger Cabin had been removed and hold it for new location at National Museum of the Great Lakes. Well it happened today. If you checked out Scott Tomlinson just happened he work on her currently and was at same time when putting her forward cabin at the Museum! Talk about perfect timing! Thank to Scott allowing me to used one photo with crane moving the cabin on the site. Very excited time looking forward to see it in person soon! Welcome home St. Mary Challenger!

Free Eyes RM shared

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