Nori art photography

Nori art photography

Inside the Delta Queen pilothouse.

Nori art photography

Layers of communication equipment.

Nori art photography

More equipment.

The Inner Workings of the Delta Queen

Since the Delta Queen is a historic vessel, passengers are invited for a free tour of the pilothouse at scheduled times when the boat is tied up to shore. This is the room at the front of the boat, atop the Sun Deck, which offers the captain panoramic views of the river. The pilothouse once had a nine-foot wooden steering wheel, where three feet were below the floor. Cables connected the wheel through the boat to the rudders behind the paddlewheel. However, in the 1950s, when one of the cables broke and the boat ended up on a sandbar, the Greene family replaced the wheel with modern steering equipment.

The captain navigates, but to use the gears and speed controls, he must communicate with the chief engineer, stationed at the stern. The engineering crew controls the speed and direction of the paddlewheel. When the captain turns his navigation levers in the pilothouse, identical equipment in the engine room registers his commands, and the engineers respond. If that system fails, the captain has about a dozen more options for communication.

At the back of the boat, passengers have a good view of the paddlewheel. The wheel is half immersed in the river and reaches up to the middle of the first cabin deck. Watching the large pitman arms crank the wheel is an awe-inspiring sight. Passengers are also encouraged to visit the engine room to see the wheel's inner workings. The engine room is a marvel of nineteenth century technology, perfected in this early twentieth century vessel. You stand on the bare steel hull, with walls and ceiling, but the back wall is open in places to allow the steel pistons to thrust back and forth, turning the Pitman arms, which drive the shaft at the center of the wheel. Despite its indoor/outdoor feeling, the engine room is always warm because of the heat from the steam boilers. Steel doors on the floor open into the hull, but passengers are not allowed down there. The temperature in the boiler rooms can reach 140 degrees.


Paddlewheel turning I
Paddlewheel turning II
Paddlewheel turning and wake
Rain on the river and paddlewheel

Inside the engine room

Letting off steam in a lock

Rising in a lock
Delta Queen idles in a lock

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