Save the Queen
Congress is on the verge of scuttling the Delta Queen. But Pittsburghers can do something to help this historic paddle-wheel steamboat remain afloat. A lot of things, actually.
Built in 1926 on the Clyde River in Scotland and refitted in 1947 in Pittsburgh by Dravo Corp., the Delta Queen is a registered historic treasure of the Department of the Interior and the National Trust for Historic Preservation, a National Historic Landmark, and a member of the National Maritime Hall of Fame. It's the last original paddle-wheel steamboat offering overnight cruises.
The Delta Queen has a steel hull and a wooden top structure that includes 87 charming staterooms with sprinklers and other fire-prevention and -suppression features. And let's not forget the calliope, a big treat for passengers and residents at its many ports of call.
Since 1968, Congress has authorized fire-safety exemptions from an arbitrary law prohibiting vessels with wooden superstructures from carrying more than 50 overnight passengers.
The Delta Queen always has passed its fire inspections with flying colors, says Vicki Webster, a 1969 Duquesne University grad raised in White Oak and now living downriver in Cincinnati who heads the Save the Delta Queen Campaign.
Without that exemption, the Queen can't earn her keep. Alas, in what clearly seems to be a sop to Big Labor, the Democrat-controlled House Transportation Committee is bottling up the vessel's exemption.
Some think Democrats oppose another waiver because current ownership did not accept the collective bargaining contract with the Seafarers International Union when the company bought the Delta Queen.
"This remains more a labor issue than anything to do with safety and efforts will continue to keep the Delta Queen a working, living piece of American history," says Jeff Urbanchuk, a spokesman for U.S. Rep. Bill Shuster, R-Pa.
In a written statement, the union takes exception:
"Despite occasional newspaper reports and Internet chatter to the contrary, the SIU no longer has any stake in the Delta Queen and is not involved in efforts concerning the proposed waiver extension.
"Although many SIU members and their families were a critical part of the vessel's success for more than 30 years, the union does not have a contract with Majestic America Line -- not for the Delta Queen, nor any other Majestic vessel."
The House Rules Committee last week rejected a vote on a bill to renew the Queen's exemption. Rep. Steve Chabot, R-Ohio, has another bill to save her (with 30 co-sponsors, including 12 Democrats) floating around the House.
To its credit, Webster's group and other defenders of the Delta Queen are rallying their forces to put pressure on the House and Senate to stop this outrageous abuse of power by Big Government.
A Save the Delta Queen rally will be in Cincinnati on Monday. And a Pittsburgh rally will be at 5 p.m. on May 10, where she docks, perhaps for the last time, when she comes to the 'Burgh at the North Shore Riverfront Park, near the Fort Duquesne Bridge by the water steps fountain.
Come one, come all. Save the Queen!
Webster has about 10,000 signatures on petitions to save this grand piece of Americana. With enough outraged calls, letters, faxes and e-mails to each member of Congress, the Delta Queen still may be allowed to reign.
Show commenting policy
TribLive commenting policy
You are solely responsible for your comments and by using TribLive.com you agree to our Terms of Service.
We moderate comments. Our goal is to provide substantive commentary for a general readership. By screening submissions, we provide a space where readers can share intelligent and informed commentary that enhances the quality of our news and information.
While most comments will be posted if they are on-topic and not abusive, moderating decisions are subjective. We will make them as carefully and consistently as we can. Because of the volume of reader comments, we cannot review individual moderation decisions with readers.
We value thoughtful comments representing a range of views that make their point quickly and politely. We make an effort to protect discussions from repeated comments either by the same reader or different readers.
We follow the same standards for taste as the daily newspaper. A few things we won't tolerate: personal attacks, obscenity, vulgarity, profanity (including expletives and letters followed by dashes), commercial promotion, impersonations, incoherence, proselytizing and SHOUTING. Don't include URLs to Web sites.
We do not edit comments. They are either approved or deleted. We reserve the right to edit a comment that is quoted or excerpted in an article. In this case, we may fix spelling and punctuation.
We welcome strong opinions and criticism of our work, but we don't want comments to become bogged down with discussions of our policies and we will moderate accordingly.
We appreciate it when readers and people quoted in articles or blog posts point out errors of fact or emphasis and will investigate all assertions. But these suggestions should be sent via e-mail. To avoid distracting other readers, we won't publish comments that suggest a correction. Instead, corrections will be made in a blog post or in an article.
- Rossi: Looking at the next great Steeler
- Steelers swap draft pick for Eagles cornerback
- McCullers’, McLendon’s prowess in clogging trenches crucial to Steelers defense
- Reds solve Cole, stave off Pirates’ 9th-inning rally
- After early criticism, Haley has Steelers offense poised to be even better
- Penguins not alone in top-heavy approach to salary cap
- Shell shovels millions into proposed Beaver County plant site
- Roman Catholic Church in midst of culture clash over gays
- Pirates notebook: New acquisition Happ more than happy to fill spot in rotation
- Starting 9: Examining Pirates’ deadline decisions
- Steelers notebook: Injuries finally become issue at training camp