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|At the Soo, July 1972.
Great Lakes Fleet
Page Vessel Feature -- L. E. Block
This classic Great Lakes bulk carrier was built in 1927 by American Ship
Building Co. of Lorain, OH as their hull # 795. Launched February 1,
1927 and completed in March of that year, the new vessel was christened L.E.
Block for Chicago's Inland Steel Company's subsidiary Inland Steamship
Company. The laker takes its name from Mr. Leopold Emanuel Block born on
January 13, 1869 as the oldest son of Mr. Joseph Block, founder of the Inland
Steel Co. He, too, became involved with his father's company rising to
chairmanship before 1920; serving in that capacity until retiring in 1940.
The L.E. Block was originally powered by a 2,500 i.h.p. (1,861 kw) triple expansion steam engine with
3 coal-fired scotch boilers. In 1953, she was repowered with a
Westinghouse 4,950 s.h.p. (3,684 kw) steam turbine engine built by
Westinghouse Electric Corp., Pittsburgh, PA with 2 Babcock & Wilcox oil-fired water tube
boilers. The power was fed to a single, geared, fixed pitch propeller.
The laker's 18 hatches serviced 3 holds where the vessel could carry 15,900
tons (16,155 mt) of iron ore at a mid-summer draft of 22' 10 1/2" (6.97m).
She was equipped with a diesel-powered bow thruster.
The L.E. Block entered service in April, 1927 under the management of
Hutchinson & Company, sailing on her maiden voyage April 14, 1927 with coal
from Toledo, OH to the Inland Steel facility at Indiana Harbor, IN. She
instantly became the largest vessel ever managed by Hutchinson and Co.
Inland Steel Co. liquidated its subsidiary Inland Steamship Co. on April 16,
1936 assuming direct ownership of the 3 vessels in that fleet, the Joseph
Block, L.E. Block and N.F. Leopold. Hutchinson and Company was retained
as ship managers until the end of the 1956 navigation season.
On July 13, 1936, the laker set a Great Lakes ore record with 14,651 tons
(14,886 mt) from the ore docks at Superior, WI to Indiana Harbor. This
record was reset on June 14, 1937 when she loaded 15,564 tons (15,814 mt) at
Superior again for Indiana Harbor. She continued to set and share
records with Interlake Steamship's slightly larger Harry Coulby (631' 00" /
192.33m) until World War II when changes in the Jones Act to accommodate the
wartime demand for iron ore allowed Canadian boats to enter the U.S. iron ore
trade. Consequently, in 1942, the Canada Steamship Lines 633' (192.94m)
carrier Lemoyne set a new iron ore Great Lakes iron ore record carrying 17,253
tons (17,530 mt) from Superior, WI. The L.E. Block continued to be a
contender for iron ore records until the launch of her 678' (206.65m)
fleetmate Wilfred Sykes in 1949. Additional iron ore records for the
carrier include 15,726 tons (15,979 mt) from Marquette, MI to Indiana Harbor
on August 2, 1938 and 15,778 tons (16,031 mt) from Superior to Indiana Harbor
on July 22, 1939.
The L.E. Block had only a couple of incidents
during her career serious enough to be noted. While backing from the
loading dock at Escanaba, MI with a load of iron ore for Indiana Harbor, the
vessel grounded near the outer end of the dock causing damage to some bottom
and bilge plates to the sum of $19,311.47. On November 26, 1942, she ran
aground in the Straits of Mackinac during a snow storm with no noted damages.
The L.E. Block remained in active service for
Inland Steel until laying up in Milwaukee, WI on October 30, 1981. The
laker remained in Milwaukee until she was sold to Basic Marine Inc. of
Escanaba, MI and towed from Milwaukee on November 11, 1986 to Escanaba by tugs
Daryl C. Hannah and Carla Anne Selvick. In August of 1987, she was towed
to Lake Calumet (Chicago, IL) to be used as a storage hull for cement.
After receiving some hull damage, the laker was towed back to Escanaba in
October of 1988 by the tug Chippewa.
The L.E. Block remained in Escanaba under the
ownership of Basic Marine until she was purchased for scrap June 29, 2006 by
International Marine Salvage of Port Colborne, ON. In the early hours of
July 9, 2006, the L.E. Block left Escanaba under tow of Gaelic Tugboat
Company's tug Shannon bound for Port Colborne. The "dead ship" tow
passed downbound the St. Clair River, Lake St. Clair and Detroit River on July
9 assisted by Shannon's fleetmate Carolyn Hoey on the stern. The Shannon
and her tow arrived at Port Colborne on July 10 with the L.E. Block secured at
its final destination slip with the assistance of Nadro tugs Vac and Seahound.
|| 621' 00"
|| 64' 00"
tons (16,155 mt)
at draft of 22' 10 1/2" (6.97m)
s.h.p. (3,684 kw)
Masters of the L. E. Block
1927 - 1939 Joseph Matthews
1939 - 1941 Alexander A. Clarke
1941 - 1945 Howard H. Keyser
1946 - 1947 George W. Fisher
1948 - 1952 Alfred F. Hoel
1953 - 1962 William Sherman Walsh
1963 David J. Kinnear
1964 - 1968 Clyde H. Johnson
1969 C. F. Miller
1969 - 1971 Dudley J. Paquette
1972 - 1976 P. J. MacMahon Jr.
1977 -1979 Clyde H. Johnson
1979 - 1980 Larry E. Wallace
1980 R. Lundquist
1981 - 1983 Larry E. Wallace
Chief Engineers of the
L. E. Block
1927 - 1928 Fred N. Lang
1929 - 1931 Wilbert R. Rowe
1933 - 1941 Wilbert R. Rowe
1942 - 1945 Alan Seeyle
1946 - 1960 Alexander Donald
1961 N. O. Bowe
1962 - 1964 Ben L. Wentworth
1965 - 1968 N. Norbeck
1968 Axel E. Nordbeck
1969 - 1980 J. P. "Pat" Mee
1981 - 1983 R. Livingston
Tables courtesy of Russ Plumb