Minnehaha’s Connection To History (3/4)

By George Kissinger

Research recently turned up an MIT engineering study on White Bear, one of TCRT’s Lake Minnetonka “Express Boats” (and sister of Minnehaha). The 1910 engineering study was written and based on scientific observations made in July of 1909, when a “Service Trial” and “Progressive Speed Trials” of the “Steam Passenger Boat Whitebear [sic]” were conducted.

White Bear was virtually identical in overall design, dimensions, weight, and propulsion to Minnehaha. As a result, the detailed study of White Bear provides key insights and confirmation of how nearly exact the historic restoration of Minnehaha truly is. Several revealing 1909 photos of White Bear were also part of the thesis.

From the study, it is now known that Marine Iron Works of Chicago, Illinois built White Bear’s steam engine. The engine is described as a vertical, condensing, triple-expansion steam engine. Although Minnehaha’s original engine was removed before the vessel was scuttled in 1926, today’s engine is of the same type, size, and style as the engine described and pictured on board White Bear.

The study further reveals that White Bear had a Roberts Marine Boiler (also made by Marine Iron Works) and that the engine and boiler were located in the same compartment with the boiler located forward of the engine – the same layout found on board Minnehaha today.

Trials were run in July of 1909 over a “measured course of .828 of a knot in length”, (meaning 0.828 nautical miles or 1.0 statute mile). The measured course is stated as being a straight line between Big Island and Ferndale with an average depth of water given as eighty feet. Ironically, under this strip of water is where Minnehaha was discovered in 1979 and where White Bear rests today. During her trials, White Bear achieved a mean speed of 10.28 knots with a main line steam pressure of 240 pounds. The safety valve is said to have blown when run at 250 pounds. Today Minnehaha typically cruises with main line steam pressure at 180 pounds, so as not to put undue stress and wear on the machinery.

Much posthumous thanks must be given to Clifford C. Hield, the MIT engineering student who wrote this report on White Bear. Hield (1888-1958) was born in Minneapolis and had attended the University of Minnesota from 1905 to 1906. He graduated from Massachusetts Institute of Technology in 1910 with a Bachelor’s degree of Science in Mechanical Engineering (Marine Option) with a thesis entitled “Speed Trials and Service Test on the Steamboat Whitebear.”

(Editor’s note: A PDF version of Clifford C. Hield’s original thesis can be found at DSpace@MIT, an online collection of selected theses and dissertations from all MIT departments.)

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