Hon. James L. Oberstar
IMO 5322518

Downbound St. Marys River, May 17, 2011.
(Roger LeLievre)


This classic Great Lakes self-unloader was originally built as a straight deck bulk carrier. The Shenango Furnace Co. of Pittsburgh, PA, announced in 1957 that a contract had been granted to the American Ship Building Co. of Toledo, OH, to build a new freighter for delivery in 1959. With construction of the new carrier under way, the Shenango Furnace Co. decided in 1958 to sell its aging bulk carrier Shenango (built in 1909) to American Steamship Co., which renamed it B. W. Druckenmiller.

Built as the ship yard's hull #193 at a cost of approximately $8 million, the new lake boat was launched on November 22, 1958, and was christened Shenango II on May 14, 1959 at Cleveland, OH, after having completed her sea trials on April 16. She was commissioned and entered service on May 16. Shenango II was named after the company that owned her (with the Roman numeral "II" added), their wish being to continue the tradition started in 1909 of the company name being carried by one of the vessels in their fleet.

The Shenango II was the last of three 710-footers (216.41m) built to similar plans to enter service; the other two being George M. Humphrey (1954) and John Sherwin (1958). Considered large by 1959 standards, the new laker was exceeded in length only by the Cliffs Victory (716' / 218.39m), Edmund Fitzgerald (729' / 222.41m), T. R. McLagan (714' / 217.66m) and Joseph H. Thompson (714' / 217.66m). The Shenango II's dimensions as built were 710' 00" (216.41m) loa x 75' 00" (22.86m) beam x 37' 06" (11.43m) depth with a capacity of 25,400 tons (25,808 mt) at a mid-summer draft of 26' 07" (8.10m). She was powered by a General Electric 9,350 s.h.p. (6,975 kW) cross-compound steam turbine engine with two heavy fuel oil-fired Babcock & Wilcox water tube boilers, the power being fed to a single fixed pitch propeller.

On September 29, 1960, Shenango II was in collision with the small laker Chicago Tribune in fog on the St. Clair River opposite Marysville, MI, causing damage to the superstructures of both vessels. As a result, the Shenango II ran aground in 24' (7.32m) of water but was freed the same day with tug assistance. On May 9, 1962, the laker established a wheat record for U.S.-flagged vessels when 689,000 bushels were loaded on board at Chicago, IL, bound for Trois-Rivieres, QC. The bulker set a winter storage cargo record in December 1965 with 910.340 bushels of oats loaded on board at Duluth, MN, for storage at Buffalo, NY. This same cargo also set a current record as being the largest bushelage brought into the Port of Buffalo as well as the largest bushelage ever being loaded on a U.S.-flagged Great Lakes vessel.

Becoming more capacity than the Shenango Furnace Co. could use, the Shenango II was sold on March 1, 1967 to Pickands Mather's Cleveland-based Interlake Steamship Co. Also included as part of this transaction was the William P. Snyder Jr., which was chartered back to Shenango for the 1967 and 1968 seasons. The Shenango II was quickly renamed Charles M. Beeghly before entering service in 1967. The laker's namesake was Mr. Charles Milton Beeghly, who was born October 6th, 1908 and served as Chairman of the Board and Chief Executive Officer for Jones & Laughlin Steel Corp. (an important Interlake customer) until retiring on December 31, 1968. Mr. Beeghly died February 18, 1999.

The Charles M. Beeghly was lengthened 96' (29.44m) with the addition of a new # 4 hold during her 1971/72 winter lay-up at Fraser Shipyards, Superior, WI. This lengthening allowed her to carry in five trips what used to be carried in six trips with very little increase in overhead. At the new 806' (245.67m) length, the laker could now carry 32,500 tons (33,022 mt) at a new mid-summer draft of 28' 10" (8.79m). With the lengthening, she became the third largest carrier on the Great Lakes, exceeded only by the Stewart J. Cort (1,000' / 304.8m) and the Roger Blough (858' / 261.70m). Charles M. Beeghly proceeded to set various cargo records. On July 28, 1973, the bulker set a Lorain, OH, cargo record by delivering 31,015 tons (31,513 mt) of taconite pellets from Taconite Harbor, MN. By the end of the 1973 season, Charles M. Beeghly and her fleet mate John Sherwin (also lengthened to 806') carried 1/3 of Interlake's total tonnage for that year. The large bulker continued to set various annual records throughout the mid and late 1970s.

On January 26, 1978, the Charles M. Beeghly grounded at Johnson's Point in the St. Marys River. She was assisted out of the shipping channel by the U.S. Coast Guard and proceeded to DeTour for lightering after which she proceeded to Superior, WI, for bottom damage repair. Later that year, on December 22, the large bulker hit the pierhead while entering the Duluth / Superior harbor in bad visibility. The vessel received plate damage that was repaired at Superior's Fraser Shipyards, returning to service in June of 1979.

During the winter lay-up of 1980/81, Charles M. Beeghly was converted to a self-unloader by Fraser Shipyard in Superior, WI, at a cost of $13 million. Her available capacity dropped slightly from 32,500 tons (33,022 mt) to 31,000 tons (31,498 mt) at a mid-summer draft of 28' 10" (8.79m), but her increased flexibility and reduced unloading time more than compensated for the drop in tonnage. The unloading system consists of gravity-fed conveyors feeding a stern-mounted 250' (76.2m) discharge boom. The cargo itself is contained in five holds serviced by 25 hatches. The vessel is also equipped with both bow and stern thrusters.

With her conversion complete, Charles M. Beeghly sailed at the end of April 1981 with her first cargo as a self-unloader: 26,751 tons (27,181 mt) of iron ore delivered on May 3 to Bethlehem Steel's Lackawanna Dock at Buffalo, NY. Due to a downturn in the economy, the Charles M. Beeghly remained in lay-up at Superior, WI through the 1982 and 1983 seasons*. Attempting to return to service on April 17th, 1984, she became caught in heavy ice and, with the unwanted assistance of some unusual currents, was driven crossways in the shipping channel with her stern hitting the breakwall. The stern was extensively damaged above the water line and after many hours of hard work, tugs finally freed the laker returning her to the Fraser Shipyard for repair. The Beeghly returned to service on May 14.

More recently, the Charles M. Beeghly allided with the lock wall at Sault Ste. Marie, MI, resulting in some buckled frames and brackets on the port side. On August 21, 2001, the self-unloader loaded the final cargo from Taconite Harbor, MN, a partial load of chips (broken taconite pellets), after which the dock closed. The load was topped up at Silver Bay, MN and then delivered to Burns Harbor, IN. The Beeghly's fleet mate, Lee A. Tregurtha, had previously taken the final load of taconite pellets from the dock on June 23, 2001.

A significant achievement of the crew of the Charles M. Beeghly was rewarded when on June 10, 2004 the vessel was awarded a special four-year Chamber of Shipping of America's Jones F. Devlin Award for 1,398 consecutive days without a lost-time accident. This was a fleet best. Receiving two-year awards were the Paul R. Tregurtha for 821 consecutive days and the Lee A. Tregurtha for 579 consecutive safe days. On September 29, 2006, Charles M. Beeghly became the largest steam ship in active service on the Great Lakes following the return to service of her fleetmate Lee A. Tregurtha as a diesel powered vessel. (Of note, the steam-powered John Sherwin is the same length but is laid up at DeTour, MI.)

In late February 2007 at Sturgeon Bay, WI, the Charles M. Beeghly was renamed Hon. James L. Oberstar to honor the Democratic U.S. Representative from Minnesota who had promoted the Great Lakes shipping industry. A few days later, Charles M. Beeghly was painted back onto her hull following Congressman Oberstar's wish that it was not appropriate for a vessel to be named in his honor at that time.

On November 25, 2008, the Charles M. Beeghly arrived at Bay Shipbuilding, Sturgeon Bay, WI for engine replacement. The repowering project included removal of her 8,500 s.h.p. steam power plant and its replacement with 2 Rolls-Royce Marine Bergen 6-cylinder B32:40L6P diesel engines each rated at 4,079 b.h.p.(3,000 kw) and associated machinery. The new propulsion machinery extends the life and maintains the efficiency of the vessel. In addition, the new diesels met the latest EPA marine diesel engine standards. She departed Sturgeon Bay on June 16, 2009, as Motor Vessel Charles M. Beeghly.

On March 7, 2011, Charles M. Beeghly was officially renamed Hon. James L. Oberstar at Detroit, MI. From the Interlake press release: "Interlake is honored to be able to recognize Congressman Oberstar’s service and dedication to our country by naming a vessel after him," said Mark Barker, Interlake’s president. "Few legislators have made more contributions to Great Lakes shipping and the United States maritime industry." On March 25, 2011, the Hon. James L. Oberstar departed Detroit in ballast on her first trip bound for Two Harbors, MN, passing upbound at the Soo the next day. On May 4, 2011, the Oberstar was officially rechristened in a ceremony at Duluth, MN, with the former congressman’s wife Jean breaking a bottle of champagne on the bow.

The veteran self-unloader continues to actively sail under the Interlake Steamship Co. banner with the majority of her cargoes focused in the taconite pellet (iron ore) and coal trades. Cargoes of stone products could also be carried.

*Of note, the Charles M. Beeghly's fleet mate and sister ship John Sherwin was also laid up at the end of the 1981 season but, unlike the Beeghly, remains in long term lay-up. Although lengthened like the Beeghly, the Sherwin was never converted to a self-unloader and the boilers of her steam turbine power plant remained coal-fired. In 2007, it was announced that the Sherwin would be rebuilt for future service and her steam engines and boilers were removed at Bay Ship Building Co. in Sturgeon Bay, WI. That project was shelved during the 2008 economic downturn and the hull was taken to DeTour, MI, for further storage.


Written by George Wharton.



Ship Particulars
Length 806' 00" (245.67m)
Beam 75' 00" (22.86m)
Depth 37' 06" (11.43m)
Midsummer Draft 28' 10" (8.79m)
Unloading Boom Length 250' (76.2m)
Capacity 31,000 tons
Engine Power 8,158 bhp diesel
Previous Names
Shenango II 1958 - 1967
Charles M. Beeghly 1967 - 2011
Hon. James L. Oberstar 2011 - Today

 


Shenango II 1958 - 1967
(Shenango Furnace Co.)

Shenango II at the Soo Locks, June 1960.
(Jim Metzger)

Close up.
(Jim Metzger)

St. Marys River, 1960's.
(Tom Manse, Roger LeLievre collection)

As the Shenango II.
(Emory Massman)

Shenango II.
(Jon Paul Michaels)

Charles M. Beeghly 1967 - 2011
(Interlake Steamship Co.)

Passing Port Lambton Generating Station on the St. Clair River.
(Peter Worden collection)

Downbound in the St. Marys River.
(Peter Worden collection)

At the Soo being serviced by supply boat Ojibway, prior to self-unloader conversion.
(Roger LeLievre)

Shortly after going aground off Johnson's Point, Jan. 26, 1978.
(Peter Worden collection)

Lake St. Clair in 1978.
(Greg Rudnick)

Crossing Duluth Harbor.
(Peter Worden collection)

Damaged steel cut away after hitting the Superior entry breakwall, April 19, 1984.
(Glenn Blaszkiewicz)

Unloading South Chicago, 1999.
(Gary Clark)

At Murphy Oil, Duluth, Nov. 3, 2000.
(Al Miller)

Unloading coal at Marinette during a snow storm, Nov. 16, 2000.
(Scott Best)

Bow along side the William H. Donner.
(Scott Best)

Close up.
(Scott Best)

Escanaba, May 20, 2001.
(Eric & Sandy Chapman)

 

Duluth, June 5, 2001.
(Rob Farrow)

 

St. Clair River, 2001.
(John Meyland)

 

Soo with Ojibway along side, June 30, 2001.
(Roger LeLievre)

Entering Duluth, July 14, 2001.
(Steve Haverty)

Conneaut, Jan. 14, 2002.
(Tom N.)

 

Detroit River, Aug. 11, 2001.
(Mike Nicholls)

Stern view.
(Mike Nicholls)

Detroit River, Sept. 30, 2001.
(Mike Nicholls)

Detroit River.
(Mike Nicholls)

Marquette, Apr. 1, 2002.
(Lee Rowe)

 

Detroit River, Nov. 17, 2001.
(Mike Nicholls)

Stern view.
(Mike Nicholls)

Rouge River, Dec. 28, 2001.
(Mike Nicholls)

With escort.
(Mike Nicholls)

Stern view.
(Mike Nicholls)

At Marquette with the Kaye E. Barker, July 12, 2002.
(Lee Rowe)

 

 

Detroit River, Dec. 12, 2002.
(Neil Schultheiss)

Close up.
(Neil Schultheiss)

Close up.
(Neil Schultheiss)

Rouge River Jan. 14, 2003.
(Mike Nicholls)

Stern view.
(Mike Nicholls)

Unloading at Lambton, June 1, 2003.
(Don Coles)

Backing out of the DMIR dock at Two Harbors 2004. (From the Edgar B. Speer).
(Steve Haverty)

Detroit River Aug. 30, 2004.
(Mike Nicholls)

Stern view.
(Mike Nicholls)

Unloading coal at Marquette, June 15, 2005.
(Rod Burdick)

Marquette, Aug. 16, 2005.
(Rod Burdick)

Bow profile.
(Rod Burdick)

Upbound the Rouge River, Nov. 2005.
(Tom Welles)

Stern view.
(Tom Welles)

Marquette in the snow, Dec. 21, 2005.
(Lee Rowe)

Departing the Rouge River, Aug. 13, 2006.
(Kevin Davis)

Rouge River, Aug. 13, 2006.
(Roger LeLievre)

Stern view.
(Roger LeLievre)

Night at Marquette, Sept. 23, 2006.
(Lee Rowe)

Rouge River, Nov.2, 2006.
(Mike Nicholls)

Close up.
(Mike Nicholls)

At Marquette, Dec. 5, 2006.
(Lee Rowe)

New name being applied to the hull, Feb. 25, 2007.
(Jeff Rosenthall)

Another view.
(Jeff Rosenthall)

Making the turn below the Blue Water Bridge, April 21, 2007.
(Matt Miner)

Full length veiw.
(Matt Miner)

Stern veiw.
(Matt Miner)

Below Mission Pt. on the St. Marys River, Aug. 13, 2009.
(Herm Phillips)

Stack, Aug. 13, 2009.
(George Wharton)

I-94 billboard.

Hon. Jame L. Oberstar 2011 - Today
(Interlake Steamship Co.)

Pen & ink drawing.
(Paul LaMarre)

Cong. James L. Oberstar poses in front of the vessel that is about to be christened in his honor, May 24, 2011.
(Roger LeLievre)

Mrs. Jean Oberstar smashes the traditional champagne bottle agant the hull as he husband looks on.
(Roger LeLievre)

Christening plaques.
(Roger LeLievre)

Close up of the name board.
(Roger LeLievre)

The wheel stand.
(Roger LeLievre)

Guest lounge.
(Roger LeLievre)

Another view.
(Roger LeLievre)

Looking down on the engines.
(Roger LeLievre)

Downbound St. Marys River, May 17, 2011.
(Roger LeLievre)

Upbound at Mission Pt., June 25, 2011.
(Matt Miner)

Close up of the bow.
(Matt Miner)

Close up of the stern.
(Matt Miner)

Stern view.
(Matt Miner)

Getting supplies from the Ojibway in Soo Harbor, Sept. 2, 2011.
(Chuck Wagner)

Coming off Lake Huron into the St. Clair River, April 8, 2012.
(Marc Dease)

Heading up Lake Huron for another load, April 9, 2012.
(Marc Dease)

Downbound at Mission Pt., June 26, 2015.
(Matt Miner)

Close up of the bow.
(Matt Miner)

Close up of the stern.
(Matt Miner)

Stern view.
(Matt Miner)

Aerial view above the Blue Water Bridge, April 30, 2016.
(Marc Dease)

Stern view.
(Marc Dease)

Upbound below the Blue Water Bridge, May 15, 2016.
(Lorraine Morrill)

 

 


More pictures from our archives

Click here for
Shenango II
  Click here for
Charles M. Beeghly
  Click here for
Hon. James L. Oberstar

 


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