Tug Profiles II – Thomas E. and William J. Moran

3rd in our series of Historic Boat Profiles – Links to the others will be on the bottom of this posting.

New York City is home to one of the most recognizable towing companies in the world – Moran Towing & Transportation.  Moran was founded back in 1860 by Michael Moran.  The company would become one of the largest tugboat firms on the east coast.   But, this is not a history of Moran Towing – for that I defect to the company history on Tugboatinformation: https://tugboatinformation.com/company.cfm?id=59

In 1936, Moran was operating a fleet of around 40 tugboats, from small Canal tugs, to larger ocean going and everything in-between.   A new era opened in the fall of 1936 – The Marie S. Moran was launched.  She would become Moran’s very first diesel powered tug. 

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Winton publicity photo of the brand new Marie S. Moran. Courtesy of the Dave Boone Collection.

The Marie would be powered by a single direct reversing Winton 6-164 engine, a huge 15”x22” engine making a mere 550HP at 275RPM.  The 89’ tug was designed by Edmund J. Moran himself, and built at Pennsylvania Shipyards in Beaumont, Texas.  The low profile tug was designed for use in the New York State Barge canal, composed of the Erie, Champlain, Oswego, Cayuga & Seneca canals, all of which required the low profile due to numerous low bridges and whatnot.  When Marie S. Moran was constructed, Diesel engines were still being “figured out” so to speak, and companies would tend to try different engines and combinations.  Like many tugs of the era, the Marie would be retrofitted with a retractable wheelhouse later in her life (more on this later), and the original Winton would be replaced with a more reliable 12-567 engine.  The tug was sold foreign in 1961.  Two more similar tugs would be built in 1937, the Eugenia M. Moran and Elizabeth W. Moran, powered by Alco-Sulzer engines. Both of these would also be sold foreign in 1950’s as well.

 Skip ahead just a few more years to 1938.  Electro-Motive, under GM introduced the new 567 engines, and Moran was looking for some more canal tugs, so the two would become one with the introduction of Thomas E. and William J. Moran.  A new relationship would be born as well, Moran Towing working with Tam’s Inc. and General Motors. 

The Thomas E. Moran on is on the slipways in Bay City, Michigan. It looks like both tugs were launched the same day! Click for larger. Courtesy of the Dave Boone Collection

The tugs would mark another milestone – breaking Tam’s, Inc. into the world of tugboats. While I do not know if they were the very first ones, they would be the ones that really set the pace. Tam’s was well versed in yacht design, as well as being a broker and insurance company. Working with Winton on yacht design would start the relationship with GM as well, being that GM now owned Winton. Beginning in 1938, and lasting for only about a year, General Motors marketed all three engine divisions (Winton {soon to become Cleveland}, EMC and Detroit) under the single “General Motors Diesel Engine Division”, even though the three companies were still operating individually.

The Thomas & William were featured in the 1940’s booklet “Diesel-Electric Vessels Powered by Cleveland Diesel”. Click for larger.
The brand new Thomas E. Moran on her sea trials, likely somewhere in Saginaw Bay. Click for larger. Courtesy of the Dave Boone Collection.

I was first introduced to the Thomas & William in detail when my partner in Cleveland research Jay Boggess showed me a scan of a GM booklet he had: “A New Conception of Diesel-Electric Drive”, which featured the two tugs in depth. Designed under Richard Cook at Tam’s, the tugs were 94′ 4 1/2″ long, with a 25′ beam. The all welded tugs were built in Bay City, Michigan at Defoe Boat & Motor Works. Diesel-Electric drive was not a new concept by any means, however using it with newer, medium speed engines was. Electro-Motive developed the new 567 engine in 1937 for railroad use, having learned from the lessons of the Winton 201A. However, interestingly enough, the first production 567 engines would be used in the Thomas and William, as quoted in EMD’s WWII era book “Diesel War Power”. The tugs used a pair of V8 567 engines, rated at 660HP at 750RPM each.

Photos of the engines from the “New Conception of Diesel-Electric Drive” booklet. Note how the engines do not look anything like the 567 we all know. While they did have a welded block, they did use more cast pieces in their construction, as well as individual covers for each power assembly. Click for larger.

Build sheet date for the engines. More on the name change shortly..

Thomas & William at home in the NYS Canal System. Click for larger. Courtesy of the Dave Boone Collection.

Electrically, the tugs used General Electric 400kW, 250 volt shunt wound main generators behind each of the 567’s, with belt driven 24kW exciter/shaft generators. General Electric also supplied the pair of 500HP propulsion motors. A common arrangement of the era was using two smaller motors, feeding into one reduction gear, supplied by Farrel-Birmingham. The arrangement was used on numerous fleet tugs throughout WWII. After the Thomas and William, Moran (along with James McWilliams Blue Line) would build several more tugs in 1939-1941 to virtually the same design, however they would be powered with single EMC 12-567 engines (Sagamore, Sheila Moran) and the last ones with Cleveland 12-278 engines (William J. Moran, Agnes A. Moran, Mary Moran, Sheila Moran), the later ones having a more normal, single level deckhouse (more on that later).

Farrel-Birmingham catalog pages showing the tugs. Click for larger.

Along with the 24kW shaft generators, the tugs each had a single Detroit 3-71, which drove a 30kW generator. The 71 was also a newly introduced engine in 1938. Click for larger.

A small booklet produced by GM featuring the new 567 engine. Ironically only the Thomas had the 567! Click for larger.

With World War II looming in the distance, the US Navy would requisition these tugs in 1940. I have long since been told that the Thomas and William were the prototype design for the YTB series that would be built in mass throughout the war. Part of me wonders if the Navy financed these in some way, with an agreement that they would be used during the war. But these details are likely lost to history. The Thomas would become the Namontack, originally classed as a Yard Net Tender (YN-46), Net Yender (YNT-614) and finally Yard Tug, Big (YTB-738). The William received the same treatment, and was named Wapasa, and also did time as a Yard Net Tender (YN-45), Net Yender (YNT-613) and finally Yard Tug, Big (YTB-737). After the war, the tugs would be returned (resold? I am not sure how those requisitions worked, if anyone knows, please drop me a line!) to Moran, however would be renamed. Originally the Thomas E. Moran, her new name was now the Harriet Moran. The William J. Moran became the Anne Moran.

The Anne Moran at home in the canal, made up in push gear with a grain barge (which looks to be an old motorship). The tugs had 4 control stations, the wheelhouse, the upper deck, the aft deck, and the engine room. Note the “box” on top. This was the upper wheelhouse to gain a little more height to see over the barge. The primitive wooden box was installed in the fall/winter and would fold up in inclement weather. Click for larger. Courtesy of the Dave Boone Collection.

After the war, Cleveland Diesel went heavy on marketing, producing numerous booklets and brochures. These are from the late 1940’s book “Commercial Vessels Powered by Cleveland Diesel”. Note that they used older photos of the Thomas and William, and airbrushed the original names out in favor of the new, post war renaming’s. Not only that, but they incorrectly spelled the one! An interesting feature of these tugs is the sliding heavy weather portholes, that would slide up the cover the large glass windows. Click for larger.

In 1956, Moran embarked on a modernization program for the canal tugs. The Harriet and Anne would both be repowered with single war surplus (from PCE vessels, unfortunately the records do not note which) Cleveland 1000HP 12-278A engines and Allis-Chalmers 814kW main generators, however the original propulsion motors were kept. Along with the repowering, the tugs received a new retractable wheelhouse. Introduced in 1950 by Lake Tankers Corp. on their tug Canal Cities, the retractable wheelhouse was a revolutionary advancement for working in the canal.  A large air or hydraulic cylinder raised and lowered the wheelhouse to see over the barge, but to “duck” when a bridge or other obstruction was approached.  Virtually all “modern” diesel canal tugs would be retrofitted with these by the mid 1950’s, with all new tugs being built with them from then on out. 

Now with her new retractable house, the Harriet Moran would still work the canal, but by the 1970’s was regulated to doing assist and barge work in the harbor. The Harriet and Anne would keep their stepped deckhouses, and sliding “portholes”, however the other Moran canal tugs mentioned above would get more modernized single level deckhouses, and square retractable wheelhouses. Note that the new wheelhouse fits inside the profile of the original one. Even the original Marie S. Moran of 1936 was retrofitted with one! Click for larger. Courtesy of the Dave Boone Collection.

Unfortunately, working in the canal with a retractable wheelhouse had its downfalls. You need to pay attention! (To quote Buford T. Justice in Smokey and the Bandit: “Duck, or you’re gonna be talkin’ out yo ass!”) The wheelhouses essentially floated in a pocket, with some very basic guiderails. So when the captain forgets to drop the wheelhouse, the bridge is usually going to win, as what happened in 1965 to the Anne. Numerous canal tugs were decapitated over the years, but because they were so simple, the dents were pounded out, wires rerun, and back off to the races they went. I spent a few years working on a canal tug, and its an all hands on deck operation spotting for obstructions, especially high tension wires at night. Click for larger. VDD collection.

Typically a “last stop” for tugs working for Moran was to be put on the garbage barge run before being retired. The Anne is moving one of the DSNY scows in 1970. Click for larger. Courtesy of the Dave Boone Collection.

Moran would sell both of the tugs to Eklof Transportation in 1975/6 with the Harriet becoming the Viking, and the Anne the Yankee. Eklof would use the tugs for moving oil barges around the harbor for the next 15 or so years. Unfortunately, the road would end here for the Yankee (William J. Moran) and was scrapped in 1993. Our story does not end here though. Click for larger. Courtesy of the Dave Boone Collection.

Now the McAllisters Sharon Elizabeth in Georgetown, SC. Click for larger. Photo courtesy of Franz A. von Riedel.

A small towing company, Georgetown Towing, based in Georgetown, South Carolina purchased the Viking, and named her as the Georgetown, doing ship and barge work in the area. McAllister Towing would purchase the company in 1999, and renamed the tug as the Sharon Elizabeth. Zenith Tugboat of Duluth, MN purchased the tug in 2005, and brought it up to the Great Lakes via the Erie Canal – right at home, 67 years after being built.

Now sporting Zenith’s stack colors, the Sharon Elizabeth is laying over in Troy, New York on her way to Duluth. Click for larger. Photo courtesy of Franz A. von Riedel.
Photo courtesy of Franz A. von Riedel.

Lets take a quick walk through the Sharon Elizabeth, starting in the stern. I always wondered the reasoning behind the stepped deckhouse design. Entering in from the door, you head down a few steps into the galley, complete with giant cast iron Webb diesel stove that every tug and ship of the era had. Click for larger. Photos courtesy of Franz A. von Riedel.

Canal tug wheelhouses are usually pretty spartan, simply because they lack any extra space. The Sharon’s wheelhouse had the typical Lakeshore Diesel-Electric control stands, and Benson electric steering, likely all installed during the 1950’s rebuild. Along the back wall is the running light panel, and the field amp/prop shaft RPM gauge and steering changeover switch. At some point in her life, Moran welded the sliding window portholes in a fixed position, and removed the tracks. It was not uncommon for canal tug wheelhouses to be kept in a semi-lowered position (especially when they get older and the system fails). The one on the Sharon is not all the way down here. Click for larger. Photos courtesy of Franz A. von Riedel.

By the time smaller companies have these older boats, the staterooms are usually pretty tired – as often times the tugs are used as day boats, meaning no full time crews are living on the tug, which also means that maintenance starts to dwindle. For a canal tug however, these are some pretty big rooms! Click for larger. Photos courtesy of Franz A. von Riedel.

Photo courtesy of Franz A. von Riedel.

The Sharon had her twin 8-567 engines replaced in 1956 with a single Cleveland 12-278A removed from a Patrol Craft. An Allis-Chalmers main generator was utilized from a Destroyer-Escort, a common package used in Diesel-Electric tugs of the era. Click for larger. Photos courtesy of Franz A. von Riedel.

Electrically, the Sharon kept her original twin GE propulsion motors and Farrel-Birmingham reduction gear. A lakeshore propulsion panel connected the motors and generators. A Detroit 3-71 is seen in the forward end. Click for larger. Photos courtesy of Franz A. von Riedel.

Zenith renamed the Sharon Elizabeth as the Statesboro in Spring of 2006. For an almost 70 year old tug at the time, she still looked sharp. Photo courtesy of Franz A. von Riedel.
The tug was sold in the fall of 2006 to Busch Marine of in Carrollton, MI. The tug is being towed by their own tug, the Gregory J. Busch. Photo courtesy of Franz A. von Riedel.

Busch Marine renamed the tug as the Barbara Merry Busch. The tug was tied up at their dock in the Saginaw River, only a few miles up from where she began her life in 1938. Unfortunately, the tug was never used by Busch, and she sits tied up listing heavily, waiting for what is likely an inevitable date with a scrapper one day. Even Busch’s large tug – Gregory J. Busch is laid up. This is another tug I would love to see inside, as she is powered by Alco 12-244 main engines.

Click for larger. Photos courtesy Todd Shorkey

Thomas E. Moran was featured in numerous GM advertisement’s.

While just a footnote in history now, the Thomas E. Moran will go down in history as being the first use of the EMD 567 engine, the engine that went on to become one of the most successful diesel designs even built, and used in countless tugs, locomotive’s and stationary applications. Moran would wind up working almost exclusively with Tams (and successor GM Design and Marine Design Inc.) over the next 30+ years, building some of the most recognizable tugs on the east coast – all powered with General Motors Diesel-Electric Drive. Following the Thomas and William, several 567 stationary gensets would be built, as well as a bunch of 12-cylinder models used in Navy and USCG tugs in 1939.

Be sure to visit our other pages highlighting historic vessels – https://vintagedieseldesign.com/historic-vessels/


Many thanks to Franz A. von Riedel for sharing his photos of the Sharon/Statesboro. Thanks to Dave Boone for sharing numerous photos with me over the years, Todd Shorkey, Isaac Pennock & Jay Boggess as always for scanning and sharing more then I can recount.

More reading –
https://tugboatinformation.com/tug.cfm?id=798
https://tugboatinformation.com/tug.cfm?id=802
https://gltugs.wordpress.com/barbara-merry-busch/
http://www.navsource.org/archives/14/22046.htm
http://www.navsource.org/archives/14/22045.htm

One thought on “Tug Profiles II – Thomas E. and William J. Moran

  1. Wonderful work, Paul. You really bring these familiar names to life.

    For clarification of the Navy lives of these two, a YN was a net tender. But some net tenders could lay nets, while others just moved components like the barges that were the “gate vessels” Eventually the ones that worked primarily just to move gear were given a new designation, YNT, a “Net Tender Tug.” As the threats to our domestic ports became less real, the more-valuable tugs became YT’s and were reassigned away from the net tending fleets. The “B” in YTB meant “big” and presumably meaning high horsepower, but also reflected their longer range.

    Like

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