Tuesday, September 27, 2005


This is "Champlain", a ferry operated by Lake Champlain Transportation serving the Burlington, VT/ Port Kent, NY route across Lake Champlain. Of all the ferries operated by the company, this is my favorite. Its not as old as the Adirondack, which serves the same route and is the oldest American double-ended ferry in operation. However, the Adirondack has been changed beyond recognition from its original 1913 appearance, while Champlain has remained essentially unchanged since it was built in 1930.

For some reason, Champlain has been sitting tied up at the dock like this for the entire summer, and it has me a little worried. Part of what makes Champlain my favorite is that it is still powered by its original Fairbanks Morse 6 cylinder diesel engine. This engine is a true working museum piece and there are few, if any, others of its type still making a living for themselves. It runs so slowly that you can see the individual puffs of smoke from the stack as each cylinder fires (I think 250 RPM is the max). Parts are obtained by traveling to abandoned mines throughout the country, and beyond, and other places where such engines may be sitting abandoned. It is well known by the mechanics that run this engine that someday replacement parts will no longer be available and the engine will have to be replaced. This will be a sad day, and seeing the ferry sit all summer makes me wonder if that day has come. I stopped in the office when I took these pictures to ask, but the receptionist declined to say anything beyond "the boat is being repaired". I'm keeping my fingers crossed! Lake Champlain will not be the same without the sound of the old Fairbanks Morse chugging away.

You can meet the entire ferry fleet, past and present, including Champlain here.



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