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f/8 and Be There
Fred Lynch

Eddie Erlbacher builds towboat

Posted Wednesday, May 24, 2017, at 12:00 AM

Dec. 21, 1935 Southeast Missourian

Another 60 days will see completion of this $125,000 Mississippi River towboat which Eddie Erlbacher is building at his docks off North Main street south of the shoe factory. The picture shows the boat in its partial completion state. (G.D. Fronabarger photo)


Girardeau-Built Towboat, Costing $125,000, to be Ready in Sixty Days

If things go well at Cape Girardeau's "shipyard" on the Mississippi River at the north edge of the city, Eddie Erlbacher will soon have a 275-ton towboat ready for service. He has built the boat from "the water up" and it will be worth $125,000, the builder says.

A feature is that it has a pilot house built on a hydraulic lift. It can be dropped 6 1/2 feet and this construction was used so the boat can use the Cape Girardeau-to-Chicago waterway. Along streets in Chicago, spanning the canal there, boats have to go under 128 bridges to reach Lake Michigan. With the pilot house lowered, the tow can pass under these flattened bridges.

The craft, 110 feet long and 23 feet wide, has a depth of 6 1/2 feet and a water draft of 5 feet. The propellers are of 5 1/2-foot size.

Ready in 60 Days

The two Diesel engines to be used are being built at Springfield, Ohio and are ready to be sent here in about 30 days. Incidentally, the boat should be ready for traveling in about 60 days. Construction work was begun Dec. 1, 1934.

Each engine will weigh 24 1/2 tons. They are 560-horsepower units and are of 8-cylinder type. They had to be built since motors of that size are not kept in stock.

Six men are now working on the boat, building the cabin and hull. The hull is of steel and the cabin of wood. It will comfortably accommodate a crew of 16 men.

Tows of from 6 to 8 barges can be handled, according to the builder, with the barges of 600 to 800 tons each.

Erlbacher said he plans to use the boat himself, doing a general towing service. He will seek river transportation contracts, and will charter the tow to companies for handling materials, the boat owner supplying the crew.

Erlbacher is still boat-minded and now has two 100-horsepower boat motors in the Erlbacher machine shop on North Main street. He says he will build tow boats "to" each of these big motors when the 275-ton job is finished. These two motors were bought recently in Mississippi.

Previous blog:

Erlbacher Building: Edsel was first

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