Steam Dredge Col. Gaillard

Steam Powered DredgeThe gods conspire to make my life complicated. Way too many interests. On the north end of Barker’s Island in Superior WI there is an old ore boat-museum, the Meteor. In 1983 the Corps. of Army Engineers decommissioned a dredge named Col. Gaillard and gave it to the city of Superior. The city was going to add this dredge to the museum’s collection near the old ore boat. The cost of making it presentable (lots of asbestos) and lack of interest (except mine) made it impractical. The thing sat untended until the city paid a scrap company $20,000 to remove it in 2002.

The dredge was built in 1916 and was in continuous service until 1981. It was originally powered with a coal fired boiler and had a 4-1/2 cubic yard bucket. Some time in the 1930’s it was re-fitted with an oil fired boiler and upgraded to a 6 yard capacity. It was used in digging the channels to establish the St. Lawrence Seaway. Its last use was in maintaining the shipping channels in the Duluth-Superior harbor. Its obsolete technology and large size finally made it impractical for continued use.

Of course the thing was powered by a steam engine and the loss of the only dipper dredge of that size on the great lakes was a personal one to me. I met the fellow that was removing the dredge and got a tour of it before it was moved. I thought it was fascinating. I asked about the engine and since they were just going to gut it he said that I could have it! Well he might as well have said I could have the Blatnik bridge. I couldn’t get it into the back of our Golf.

After the dredge was moved to a berth in Duluth I again toured the boat in 2004 and took several pictures. I still wish I could have the engine. The main engine has two cylinders of about 16 to 18 inches in diameter. The stroke is about 36″.

I again visited the dredge in the summer of 2010 and found it still pretty much intact in its berth in Duluth but had been subject to a lot of vandalism. Graffitti now graces its superstructure.

The historic photo of the Col. Gaillard taken around 1980 graced my computer screen for a long time but has recently been replaced by a photo of my 1930 Model A Ford.


  1. Mike Urseth says:

    You are, indeed, a sick person. Of course, that’s why we love you.

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