This model is adapted from plans by James Hale, circa 1975 . His plans were conjectural, an attempt to imagine a small steam packet (173 ft., sternwheeler) from about 1880, one which may have worked the tributaries of the Mississippi, carrying a mix of local freight and passengers and passing up and down the smaller river(s) to connect with a larger city on the Mississippi on one end of the cycle. He stated that he based the design on the much larger steamboat, the America, which was about 250+ feet long.
There was a steamboat known as the “City of Monroe”, but it was a much larger (over 300 feet long) side wheeler, said at the time of its construction (1890) to be the largest steamboat on the river. It was one of the approximately ten large and luxurious steamboats built for the Anchor Line, which was perhaps the dominant company operating multiple steamboats on the Mississippi from just after the Civil War until the collapse of the steamboat industry in the latter 1890s. Anchor Line named its vessels for cities and had the City of New Orleans, City of Vicksburg, Belle Memphis, City of Cairo, City of Baton Rouge, and more. This is most definitely not a model of the “real” City of Monroe.
The actual Louisiana city, Monroe, located on the Ouachita River, a tributary of the Mississippi was named for a steamboat, the James Monroe, which was the first to call on the city, then named Fort Miro, sometime in the 1840s. The populace was so impressed by the new-fangled boat, and the promise that the small settlement would thenceforth be connected to the world at large that they re-named the town Monroe.
This model is in 1:64 scale. Since the original Hale plans were conjectural, I did not hesitate to have some fun and make some changes as I built her.
I imagined the vessel as she might have looked with a mixed cargo of cotton from small producers, general freight, baggage, livestock, and passengers.
The plans called for two boilers providing steam to two engines driving a single stern wheel. The cylinders of the engines were much smaller diameter than on the Natchez (1869) or the Mount Washington (1872) although the stroke remained long (about 10 feet). The smaller cylinders may reflect the improvements in steam engine design related to the railroad locomotive development of the era, and are similar in size to those of the Destrehan (1921).
Here’s a shot of the finished model. Below are more detailed pictures of the completed model followed by some work-in-progress photos. At the bottom is a photo of the model of the Destrehan hull and power train beside the City of Monroe at the same stage to illustrate how much more robust the towboat drive train was, with more boilers (4) and a much heavier built paddle wheel.
Below, the two drive chains compared. City of Monroe on left. Destrehan on the right.
The two paddle wheels compared. Note the similar sized engines but the much heavier-built wheel of the Destrehan, below.