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 Downbound St. Marys River, May 17, 2011.

Roger LeLievre

-- Hon. James L. Oberstar --
(Shenango II 1959 - 1967, Charles M. Beeghly 1967 - 2011)

by George Wharton

This classic Great Lakes steamer 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 their aging bulk carrier Shenango (built in 1909) to American Steamship Co. who renamed the laker 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 as the 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. The Shenango II was named after her owner's corporate name (with the Roman numeral "II" added); their wish being to continue the tradition started in 1909 of the 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 the George M. Humphrey (1954) and the John Sherwin (1958). Considered large by 1959 standards, the new laker was exceeded in length only by the Cliffs Victory (716' / 218.24m), Edmund Fitzgerald (729' / 222.20m), T.R. McLagan (714' / 217.63m) and the Joseph H. Thompson (714' / 217.63m). 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 (and remains) 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.

While sailing for the Shenango Furnace Co., on September 29, 1960, the Shenango II was in collision with the 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 then ran aground in 24' (7.32m) of water being 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 then set a winter storage cargo record in December of 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 which was chartered back to Shenango for the 1967 and 1968 seasons. The Shenango II, however, 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' (29.26m) 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 5 trips what used to be carried in 6 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' 06" (8.69m). 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' / 261.52m). The Charles M. Beeghly then proceeded to set various cargo records. On July 28, 1973, the bulker set a Lorain, OH cargo record delivering 31,015 tons (31,513 mt) of taconite pellets from Taconite Harbor, MN. By the end of the 1973 season, the 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 1970's.

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 which was repaired at Superior's Fraser Shipyards, returning to service in June of 1979.

During the winter lay-up of 1980/81, the 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' 06" (8.69m) but her increased flexibility and reduced unloading time has 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 5 holds serviced by 25 hatches. The vessel is also equipped with both bow and stern thrusters.

With her conversion complete, The 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, the large self-unloader 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 4-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 2-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, the 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 Sturgeon Bay, WI.

In late February of 2007 at Sturgeon Bay, WI, the Charles M. Beeghly was renamed the Hon. James L. Oberstar. The self-unloader's new name was 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 repainted 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 50-year-old Beeghly. In addition, the new diesels meet 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, the 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.

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 Charles M. Beeghly, the John Sherwin was never converted to a self-unloader and the boilers of her steam turbine power plant remained coal-fired.

Overall Dimensions (metric)
 Length  806' 00" (245.67m)
 Beam  75' 00" (22.86m)
 Depth  37' 06" (11.43m)
 Displacement (lightweight)  9,700 tons (9,856 mt)
 Capacity (mid-summer)  31,000 tons (31,498 mt)
 at a draft of 28'06" (8.69m)
 Power (diesel)  8,158 b.h.p. (6,000 kw)


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Upbound into Lake Huron at buoys 1 & 2,
Apr. 10, 2011. Marc Dease
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Loading ore at sunset at Marquette, May 3, 2011.
Rod Burdick
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Stern view, May 17, 2011. Roger LeLievre
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Upbound St. Marys River at Mission Point on first trip under new name, Mar. 26, 2011. Roger LeLievre
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Close up of new name. Roger LeLievre

St. Marys River, another view, Mar. 26, 2011.
Herm Klein
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Upbound St. Clair River, June 24, 2010.
Marc Dease
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Upbound the Calumet River approaching 100th St.,
S. Chicago, IL, June 30, 2010. Lou Gerard
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Stern view approaching the KCBX dock.
Lou Gerard
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St. Clair River at Port Huron, MI, Mar. 25, 2010.
Galen Witham
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In ice at St. Clair, MI. Galen Witham
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Lower St. Clair River by Willow Point.
Galen Witham

Downbound lower Lake Huron approaching cut buoys 1 & 2, Aug. 13, 2009. George Wharton

Turning at the cut buoys. George Wharton

Entering the St. Clair River. George Wharton
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Upbound the Rouge River, July 24, 2009.
Ron Piskor
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Easing past the unloading Peter R. Cresswell.
Ron Piskor
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Clearing the Wabush Rail drawbridge.
Ron Piskor
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Upbound at Nine Mile, St. Marys River, 2009.
Rover LeLievre
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Stern close-up. Roger LeLievre
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Builder plates. Roger LeLievre
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Inbound at Duluth, MN, Aug. 20, 2008.
Ed Labernik
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Stern view bound for the Murphy Oil fuel dock.
Ed Labernik
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Upbound the St. Marys River, July 10, 2009.
Greg Barber

Waiting to load ore at Marquette, Apr. 14, 2007.
Rod Burdick

Marquette, MI, Apr. 14, 2007. Lee Rowe

Draft marks, Apr. 14, 2007. Lee Rowe

At Marquette, MI Dec. 5, 2006.
Lee Rowe

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

Another view. Jeff Rosenthall

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

Rouge River, Nov.2, 2006.
Mike Nicholls

Close up, Mike Nicholls

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

Rouge River, Aug. 13, 2006.
Roger LeLievre

Stern view. Roger LeLievre

Upbound the Rouge River, Nov. 2005.
Tom Welles

Stern view. Tom Welles

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

Unloading coal at Marquette, MI
Aug. 15, 2005. Rod Burdick

Marquette. Rod Burdick

Bow profile. Rod Burdick

Detroit River Aug. 30, 2004.
Mike Nicholls

Stern view. Mike Nicholls

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

Rouge River Jan. 14, 2003.
Mike Nicholls

Stern view, Rouge River Jan. 2003.
Mike Nicholls

Unloading at Lambton, June 1, 2003.
Don Coles

Detroit River, Dec. 12, 2002. N.S.

Close up. N.S.

Close up. N.S.

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

Rouge Steel, Aug. 6, 2002.
Wade P. Streeter

Detroit.  Photographer unknown, from the Wade P. Streeter collection

Toledo CSX Coal Dock, May 27, 2002.
Wade P. Streeter

Toledo close up. Wade Streeter

Stern view.  Wade P. Streeter

Conneaut, Jan. 14, 2002. Tom N.

Marquette, Apr. 1, 2002. Lee Rowe

Boom.  Wade Streeter

Pilothouse.  Wade Streeter

Wheel Stand.  Wade Streeter

Lounge.  Wade Streeter

As the Shenango II. Emory Massman
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St. Marys River, 1960's.
Tom Manse, Roger LeLievre collection
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Shenango II. Jon Paul Michaels

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

Close up. Jim Metzger
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At the Soo being serviced by supply boat Ojibway, prior to self-unloader conversion.
Roger LeLievre

Lake St. Clair in 1978.
Gregory S. Rudnick

Rouge River Detroit. MHSD

Aerial view. Don Coles

St. Marys River. Roger LeLievre

Unloading South Chicago, 1999.
Gary Clark

At Murphy Oil, Duluth, MN, Nov. 3, 2000.
Al Miller

Unloading coal at Marinette, WI 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

Soo with Ojibway along side, Jun 30, 2001. Roger LeLievre

Entering Duluth, July 14, 2001.
Steve Haverty

Detroit River, Aug. 11, 2001.
Mike Nicholls

Stern view. Mike Nicholls

Detroit River, Sept. 30, 2001.
Mike Nicholls

Detroit River. Mike Nicholls

Rouge Steel, Sept. 30, 2001.  Wade P. Streeter

Rouge Steel.  Wade Streeter

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

St. Clair River, 2001. John Meyland

I-94 billboard

Stack, Aug. 13, 2009. George Wharton

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