RED HOT RACE DOWN THE RIVER Detroit Free Press
September 15, 1902
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STEAMERS KIRBY AND COLUMBIA
SHOW WHAT THEY CAN DO
           
THEY RUN FULL TILT DOWN TO THE
LIME KILN CROSSING
           
COLUMBIA HAD THE LEAD AND KEPT
IT DURING THE WHOLE COURSE
           
IT WAS THE PRETTIEST RACE EVER
SEEN IN THESE PARTS
          
SECOND ONLY TO BIG ONE BETWEEN
TASHMOO AND CITY OF ERIE

The steamer Frank E. Kirby waited yesterday morning and got what she has been looking for ever since the new steamer Columbia has been placed on the Bois Blanc island route. The two boats were stimulated with all the ginger in their makeup and the race which resulted is described by those who saw
it as second only to the memorable speed test between the Tashmoo and the City of Erie June 4, 1901.

In yesterday's affair, as in all races of this kind, there are two stories as to how it occurred. Those aboard the Columbia say she was taken unawares; that she had 100 tons of water in her ballast tanks, the trim tanks were partially full and the shelter cloths were down; in fact, that they had no idea there was to be a race until they saw the Kirby swing out from her dock and take after them.

The Columbia had a considerable of a start, over a half mile, but this was reduced to 200 feet by the time Smith's coal dock was reached. In the meantime the shelter cloths had been rolled up, the word had been passed to the engineers and firemen that the Kirby was coming, and from that point down to Amherstburg it was nip and tuck, neither side making gains, and
when it came time to check for Lime Kiln crossings the Kirby was about 200 feet behind the Columbia, which had shown a phenominal burst of speed and
demonstrated the statement of the builders that the

Columbia was a smarter boat than some people gave her credit for.

The crew of the Kirby claims they gained on the Columbia until compelled to check for an upbound steamer and the dredges on the Lime Kilns. The run from Mamajuda to the end of Ballard's reef course was one of the prettiest ever seen in these parts and, as a passenger aboard the Kirby said, the swells from the boats seemed to roll up mountain high.

When the Kirby passed the Columbia at the Amhersburg wharf, the latter's crew waved brooms and ropes and yelled to pull down the pennant "Flyer of the Lakes."

Upon returning from Put-in-Bay last evening, the mate of the Kirby announced that they would wager their salary for two months on beating the Columbia in another race. The running time of the Columbia was a little over fifty minutes. Her schedule is an hour and 10 minutes.

Yesterday was the end of the Columbia's season running to Bois Blanc park and she will be put into winter quarters.

  Note: The steamer COLUMBIA served as a "Bob-Lo Boat" for nearly nine decades and ferried hundreds of thousands of passengers to the Bois Blanc Island amusement park opposite Amherstburg in the lower Detroit River. She is now a national historic landmark and is in the process of restoration. For information and a lovely water color painting of the steamer, see
http://www.boatnerd.com/museums/columbia.
Both of the boats in the race were designed by Frank E. Kirby and represent two basic types of passenger day-steamers. They were of similar dimension. The Kirby, built in 1890, was a steel sidewheeler while the Columbia was a steel propeller. The KIRBY also had a long career, mostly on the Detroit River. She was later named SILVER SPRAY and finally DOVER, and burned at her layup dock at Ecorse, MI, in 1932.