Food and Culture

A Review of the Steamboat Industry

A steamboat is typically a smaller, personal, less seaworthy craft powered primarily by steam propulsion, generally driving paddlewheels or propellers. In some cases, steamboats may use the term SS, S, or PS; but these term designations are more commonly applied to large steamboat-class boats. Steamboat racing was very popular in New England during the late 1800s and early 1900s, with more than one-third of all boats being powered by steam. The very early boats could achieve speeds of twenty-eight miles per hour, and new technology and materials allowed continued improvements through the decades.

Some early models were powered by wood and had a flat bottom, whereas more modern steamboats have flat-bottomed vessels with up-to-date ventilation systems and fuel tanks. Steamboat design has continued to evolve, with new technologies allowing for superstructure, masts, decks, drive ins, water lines and many other features. As the world around us continues to become more advanced, steamboat technology continues to improve as well, with new steaming equipment and material being introduced to the market on a fairly consistent basis. Advances in engineering have also allowed steamboat manufacturers to produce steam engines that are much more robust and durable than they were once able to produce. Today’s steamboat can travel longer distances between fuel stops than ever before, and newer techniques have even allowed them to run with much less fuel than their predecessors.

One of the most interesting and popular parts of any steamboat vacation is the chance to meet the passengers of the vessel themselves, and an evening out at one of the many New England steamboat tours is the perfect opportunity to do just that. With the advent of modern passenger cars and SUVs, steamboat tours have taken their trade to a new level, and many of the historic steamboat rides can be accompanied by a driver who will discuss the history and culture of steamboat vacations with the group, as well as offer information about SUVs and other modern steam powered vehicles that may be driving on your journey. If you happen to be traveling aboard a steamboat tour at any time during the year, don’t miss an opportunity to get up close and personal with this unique culture and hobby!