Tugboat Restoration

Updated 12 months ago

For close to a decade, volunteers have worked to restore an old railroad tug docked in Brewer.

The saturn, as she’s called, is slowly but surely being brought back to life.

Joy Hollowell updates us on this living piece of history.

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Rob Crone was among those watching WABI back in 2009 when we aired A story on the restoration of the tugboat, Saturn.

“I actually got involved in this project because of that,” says Crone. “I thought it was the coolest thing I’d ever seen.”

Built in 1907, this 117-foot railroad tug is one of only a handful left. It originally ran on steam power then was later converted to diesel.

“And what they did is they took barges like the one we’re standing on that had railroad tracks on them, and that’s how before bridges were built,” explains Crone. “They got the trains across the river.”

Crone is a Merchant Marine. He’s among 8 men donating their expertise and time to the project.

“What doesn’t show very well is the fact that this is a restoration,” says Crone. “So everything had to be ground down to the bare steel.”

Fred Pierce is a retired cabinet maker. He’s restoring the Captain’s Quarters.

“It started with we’re just going to replace this and that and now we’ve stripped it right bare,” says Pierce, smiling.

Pierce has an extra special bond with the boat.

“It was commissioned on my birthday, August 20th,” says Pierce. “So that really enlightened me.”

Like Crone, Tom Lambert worked for the Coast Guard Auxiliary. When his former colleague told him about the restoration, Lambert admits he had no idea what he was getting into.

“Well, when I first got onboard, I realized it was going to be a long drawn-out project,” says Lambert, with a chuckle. “But we’ve see great progress.”

Like the railings and the conversion of power from DC to AC.

“You know, there’s no replacement parts,” says Crone, “so we’ve had to re-engineer cooling systems and electrical systems.”

And like any labor of love, the payoff comes in pieces.

“Particularly when we have a little break though on something,” says Crone. “The first time I lit one of the engines off, it was like bringing the ship to life. I mean, it was really goose bumps kind of exciting.”

The long term goal for the Saturn is to turn her into a moving museum. Donations help pay for dock fees and paint but the group is hoping they’ll find more money and manpower to save the ship from becoming scrap metal.

“Think of the great men that lived on this vessel and the hardships they’ve gone through,” says Pierce, pausing as he gets emotional. “Children don’t know, need to know. And I believe history is the most important thing in our life.”

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The group of volunteers gets together Tuesday afternoons to work on the tug boat.

They welcome anyone, with any skill level to join them.

For more information, you can email them at tugboatsaturn@gmail.com

You can also check out their Facebook page, just type in Saturn tugboat.


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