The M/S Mount Washington was launched at Lakeport in August of 1940. Built by Boston General Ship & Engine Works, this vessel was constructed from the iron hull of another ship, the S.S. Chateaugay, which was purchased from the Shelburne Shipyard located on the Vermont side of Lake Champlain.
It was a phenomenal feat; cutting the Chateaugay hull into twenty sections, transporting it from Vermont to New Hampshire, reconstructing the pieces and adding a super structure to create the new Mount. Most amazing is the fact this was all done in about six months time.
Since the launching in 1940, the Mount Washington has undergone many physical changes including the addition of twin diesel engines in 1946 and the addition of 25 feet to her length in 1982.
The Legacy of the M/S Mount Washington
The Chateaugay was designed and built in 1888 in Shelburne, Vermont by the Harlan and Hollingsworth Company of Wilmington, Delaware at a reported cost of $101,000. It was to be used as a passenger excursion boat. The vessel was made of iron mined from Mt. Chateaugay in upstate New York and was the first iron-hulled steamboat on Lake Champlain. It was 203 feet long and was powered by a 1,000 horsepower Fletcher steam engine that could propel her along at about 20 mph. Chateaugay served Champlain Transportation Company’s fleet on and off for 51 years.
Eventually Chateaugay was replaced by the famous Ticonderoga and was reserved only for special excursions. In 1917 she was taken out of service during World War I.
Ticonderoga runs aground in 1919 on a reef off the north end of Isle La Motte. The Chateaugay returned to service for one season while the Ticonderoga is repaired.
Chateaugay was pulled out of storage and converted into automobile ferry in 1925.
She was pressed into flood disaster work in November 1927 during The New England Flood. Roads and railways had received a huge amount of damage and could not be used and the lake was the only way to reach people.
Chateaugay was loaded down with food, medical supplies, building materials, clothing, refugees, mail and what ever else they could put on her. She navigated the lake without hitting any debris from the flood.
Chateaugay with paddlewheel decoration and later decorated to disguise the fact she was a sidewheeler.
Her machinery was removed in 1939 and sold for scrap. The Lake Champlain Yacht Club rented the steamer Chateaugay for $300 to use as their clubhouse.
It was moored at the foot of King Street in Burlington, Vermont.
December 23, 1939 a fire broke out in the railroad station and destroys the S.S. Mt. Washington, which was moored at The Weirs pier for repairs.
Ending her 67-year rein on Lake Winnipesaukee.
Within days, the owner, Leander Lavallee started the search for a new ship to replace the original Mt. Washington.
On December 28, 1939, he purchased the side-wheel steamboat, Chateaugay from the Vermont Transportation Company for $20,000.
April 1940 the replacement ship was stripped down and the hull was cut into 20 pieces, like a loaf of bread, put on railroad flatcars and shipped to Lakeport, NH. General Ship and Engine Works of East Boston, MA did the moving of the new Mt. Washington II and the rebuilding. The new deckhouse would be manufactured entirely of steel to conform to American Bureau of Shipping standards for fireproofing.
August 12, 1940, the steamer Mt. Washington II was launched in Lakeport with a large, enthusiastic crowd on hand to wish her well. After the launching the Mt. Washington II was ballasted down and was ready to be towed to The Weirs for final outfitting. When the vessel reached The Weirs Channel Bridge it was realized that she lacked about 6 inches of clearance. A large number of people gathered on the bridge were invited to board the boat by dropping down onto the upper deck. Some 500 people accepted the invitation and the Mt. Washington II settled down and was able to proceed under the bridge without further trouble.
The remaining work was done at The Weirs, which was mostly painting and installing the stack. Work was quickly finished and a few days later the new S.S. Mt. Washington II, which had by now cost $150,000, embarked on her maiden voyage.
Things did not go smoothly for the new ship. She took nearly twice as long to complete the normal route than the first Mt. Washington did. Part of the problem was the oil burners were not adjusted correctly and the propellers were not immersed far enough into the water. The Chateaugay was a typical shallow-draft side-wheeler and the newly fitted screw propellers were continually breaking water, dissipating the engine power, making foam instead of providing thrust. This problem was overcome by installing plates over each propeller to prevent the water surface from breaking. These measures helped, but problems continued to plague the new ship.
By 1941, World War II and the cost of fuel oil, supplies and their limited availability and the inadequate income of the very short first season took its toll. The company went into bankruptcy April of 1942. After the bankruptcy, the steam engines were commandeered for the war, laying up the Mt. Washington II for the duration of the war.
The Mt. Washington II was valued at $64,000 at the time of the bankruptcy. It was then sold to General Ship and Engine Works for $30,000.
In 1946 after World War II ended the new owners of the Mt. Washington II, Carl and Byron Hedblom, who were also the principal owners of General Ship and Engine Works, rebuilt the vessel adding two Enterprise diesel engines with 615 horsepower each. They upgraded her with electrically powered auxiliaries. A new pilothouse was built one deck higher to improve visibility and passenger space.
Finally there was a slight name change from S.S. Mt. Washington II to M.V. Mount Washington. The II was dropped and the full spelling of Mount was implemented.
Since resuming operations a few other changes have been made to the ships appearance.
In 1951 a canopy was added over the third deck, which opened this area for the first time to passengers.
The stack was also raised to accommodate the new canopy.
Byron Hedblom retires in 1972, selling the company to the Winnipesaukee Flagship Corporation.
At the age of 78, Byron Hedblom comes out of retirement to oversee a project to lengthen the Mount Washington. On October 31, 1982 the Winnipesaukee Flagship Corporation had the vessel cut into two sections at the Center Harbor dry dock, then added a 100 ton, 24’ new section to extend The Mount Washington’s length to 230’. This increased interior seating capacity by 100.
April 30, 1983 the Mount was re-commissioned the M.S. Mount Washington at the shipyard in Center Harbor. With the new length of the Mount all the docks had to be lengthened to accommodate the larger vessel.
To this day, The M/S Mount Washington continues to be an iconic attraction for Lake Winnipesaukee and New Hampshire. Continuing the tradition that started with the first steamship, S. S. Mt. Washington in Alton Bay in the spring of 1882.
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