Monday, February 03, 2020

Photos From Huck

Huck, long-time friend of the GDB, contacted me recently and included scans of some photos that he personally took back on October 9th, 1991. There's some good stuff! Take a look-see:

Wow, it is kind of shocking to see the Mark Twain in such a state of disrepair (or "mid-repair"?). By 1991 the venerable steamboat was 35 years old; I have no idea if it had undergone other significant overhauls in the meantime (though I do remember reading about how some stairs were relocated at some point). I suppose it only makes sense that some wood-rot and other issues would eventually need to be addressed.

I think the foreground might show part of the loading docks for the canoes, what do you think? Maybe the Columbia was being restored in Fowler's Harbor. We've seen more than a few photos of the drained river, but it's always interesting to me. That bulldozer must be scraping the bed of the river so that it's nice and flat.

Everything looks kind of forlorn and desolate. Castle Rock should be teeming with guests (though Tom Sawyer Island was closed of course). Hey, I just realized, the island doesn't float like I always thought!

There was a time when the sign shop would make custom signs for a particular renovation, but this one is generic. Looks like Mickey has a way to go before the Mark Twain (and the River) reopens to the public.

Many thanks to Huck for sharing these photos! There are more to come.


Andrew said...

Very unique! Just make these photos black and white, and you could pretend they were of the original construction of the Twain. Thanks to Huck! (Was Frontierland his or her favorite??)

Chuck said...

Was this also during the period where they terraced the NOS riverfront area and added the show structures on TSI in preparation for Fantasmic!, which premiered the next May?

Note the string of identically-sized blocks near the MT's stern in the 1st and 3rd pictures. They appear as though they were laid there as a set of "stepping stones" while the riverbed was still mud after it was initially drained. They look about the same size as the supports under the rail, although the design is different. I wonder if they are the same kind of blocks placed underneath the boat to keep it from resting its weight on the rail?

You can also clearly see the concrete roadbed that the rail is set in in both of those photos. It appears to be a completely different roadbed than what was originally there; compare with these 1970 photos at this link and this one.

Thanks a bunch, Huck & Major!

DrGoat said...

Really cool pics! Interesting that they would need all those 2x4's
for extra support during the reconstruction. I suppose after 35 years of service, it's better to be safe than sorry.
Chuck, it looks like in the first earlier shot of the rail bed, there were individual concrete piers under the rail. Then in the second a continuous roadbed.
Thanks Huck and Major. A real treat.

Stu29573 said...

I've seen it a hundred times, but I'm always shocked at how shallow the river is. The Castle Rock picture really makes the river look like a drainage ditch!Of course the actual Mississippi has huge sections that are just as shallow (hence the need for calling the "marks" while navigating it.) On an aside, I like next to a large man made lake. We had a drought a few years back that reveled huge sections are actually only about three feet deep. Houses that were on the lake were suddenly "on the field" instead. All has refilled now, but it was pretty weird at the time. I guess the mind just assumes a wide stretch of water is a deep stretch of water...

Major Pepperidge said...

Andrew, I think that Huck just saw that there were big changes brewing in Frontierland and that’s why he took the photos. Plus any Disneyland fan would have to take at least a few pictures of the empty river.

Chuck, yes, that is the same time period, and in fact we will see some of that very construction in a future Huck post. Good eye on the “stepping stones” - they are a strange shape! Notice near the paddle wheel at the stern, it looks like strings of Christmas lights are coming off - not sure if that’s what that pile of white things is at the very end. Thanks for all of your keen observations!

DrGoat, it only makes sense that decades out in the elements would have a big effect on a wooden boat, but I do wonder how often they needed to do major rehabs like this. I think they did a similar rehab just before the 50th anniversary.

Stu29573, the river really is shallow; not quite “stand on the bottom and still be able to breathe” shallow, necessarily, but still not that deep for those big boats. I’ve seen photos of other lakes that dried up during prolonged droughts, it’s always such a strange sight, especially if an old town that was beneath the water suddenly is visible!

Anonymous said...

Renovation photos are almost as much fun as new construction, and the dry river is a favorite topic.

Picking up on Chuck's post, the "stepping stones" look to me like wood blocks, maybe 6x12 etc, definitely set up as a temporary walkway over the wet bottom. It is likely that these are the same types of blocks used as temporary cribbing under the boat bottom, although for building relocation, pre-fabbed wood framed square cribbing is often used since they are lighter and easily shimmed up to level the structure.

The 2x wood framing visible against the side of the MT is a combination of temporary shoring and scaffolding for access to the sides of the river boat. You can see an access scaffold in photo 2 under the three windows. That horizontal framing is so a worker can walk along and paint or caulk the exterior.

It looks like part of the renovation is replacement of the arcade framing that holds up the perimeter edges of the decks and "roof". (Do boats have roofs?) This shoring is more closely spaced than the arcade that it is standing in for, since the framing to remain will tend to sag when the permanent support is removed. Having the shoring closer together will keep the edge line more rigid and hence, easier to reconstruct.

It is interesting to follow the changes in the railway supports. In the older pictures, the rail appears to sit on round concrete piers. In the later pics, even as early as 1970, the piers appear to be set into a concrete slab, like a sidewalk, with stabilizing blocks under the rails at each side of the pier. The rail must be subject to some pretty good lateral loads when the "wheels" of the boats pass over the piers, and the "sidewalk" and blocks are to stiffen the rail against twisting when that happens. The sidewalk could also be a place to walk the route when the river was drained but the bottom was still wet, not sure if anyone did that.

Major, I believe those are strings of lights rolled up near the stern wheel. These are probably the strings that hang from the exterior arcade framing that has been removed and shored up. If you look closely, the ends of the deck joists are visible at the edges of the upper deck, while the "roof" edge trim and lights are still in place (photo one).

The bottom of the river appears to still be a natural soil of some kind. Even the celebrated "clay cap" that keeps the River from leaking away into the native sandy loam will look like "dirt" when dry. The front-end loader (bulldozer) in photo one might be dressing the clay to be sure the edges are covered up. The shore margins are the places most likely to leak before a full concrete bottom was provided.

I'm not sure there is a full concrete bottom even now, concrete is visible at various points along the shore, but this might extend only down far enough to engage the clay layer at the bottom.

All that would be required to keep TSI open during this work would be a temporary bridge over the boat rail, think how cool it would be to walk to the island like the Israelites over the Red Sea. That would be an experience to remember!

I'm sure the island facilities need upkeep too, so there is no better time to do it than when the River is dry. I wonder if the River water was stored somewhere in the Dark Water system, or just run down the drain and replaced?

Very cool picture, Major. Please say thanks to Huck!


K. Martinez said...

Major, One of my favorite custom signs was for the Submarine Voyage 1980 refurbishment which featured a giant sea creature holding the submarine in it's tentacled arms above the sea.

These pics are great showing the Mark Twain refurbishment. Thanks Huck and Major.

Melissa said...

How comes Mickey wears a shirt with his overhauls but not with his regular trousers? Weirdo.

A bit more maintenance might have prevented the scuppering of the Admiral Joe Fowler. A stich in time is worth two in the bush.

Stu, I'm also always shocked by the shallow river!

"Lou and Sue" said...

It IS amazing what the Disney folks did with a large puddle of water, lots of trees and some wood. Probably the most creative and realistic-looking attraction at Disneyland (along with the Jungle Cruise).

An interesting thought crossed my [little] mind: The Rivers of America area was built to look bigger than it actually is (miles of real deep river) . . . and yet other attractions, like Haunted Mansion, were built/made to look smaller than the attraction actually is (you aren't supposed to see all the underground workings or back-stage building) -- you only see the mansion. As a little kid, I really never thought about the fact that we left the mansion building (I wasn't very swift, obviously).

In the last pic, I like the "bendy" wood used for the fence. Thank goodness they didn't use that for the Mark Twain or that boat would be in trouble.

Great pictures and information, thank you, Huck, Major and all!


Major Pepperidge said...

JG, thank you for all your building expertise re: the Mark Twain! You noticed about 20 things I never would have. I guess knowledge us useful *after all*. Go figure. I will have to leave it to Chuck (or some other smartie) to tell us if boats have roofs. Or arcades! I love Donkey Kong and Asteroids. It makes sense to me that they would eventually add a cement “sidewalk” for stability. I agree that the river does not appear to be coated with cement yet, I’m still unclear when that happened, though it might have been right around this time, with “Fantasmic” being cooked up right then. I am pretty sure that when they drained the river they just let it go down the drain, even though it seems like a terrible waste. Too bad they couldn’t pipe it to some nearby farm.

K. Martinez, I know that one - I have a few good pictures of it somewhere. I’ll never find it though! Glad you liked these.

Melissa, Mickey needed to keep some of his bits protected during the construction process! I *still* wonder if the story about how the Admiral Joe Fowler (the boat, not the person) was dropped by a crane. Seems fishy to me.

Lou and Sue, my appreciation for the river has grown over the years, especially seeing so many beautiful and convincing photos of it. You make a good point about how they made the river seen bigger while they made other things seem smaller. All part of the genius. Not sure if they are so careful nowadays, sadly. I’ve always wondered if the bendy wood you see in some queues is real wood, perhaps coated in some urethane or something like that, or is it fake wood?

"Lou and Sue" said...

Major, I’m very surprised that the Disney marketing people didn’t sell that ROA water in bottles so that guests would have a nice pricey souvenir to keep. Missed opportunity!

Chuck said...

I think that in the case of the MT, the only parts that technically have roofs are the pilot house and the texas. The "roof" that those structures sit on is the hurricane deck.

Those strings of lights reminded me that I read recently that all of the additional electrically-powered gizmos they've added to the MT over the years have created an electrical load that is now too great for the original steam-powered generator to handle, and an internal-combustion generator has been installed to do the job (although the steam-powered one is still on place, just not used).

I'm less of a smartie than a SweeTart. :-)

Melissa said...

Sue, some executive somewhere is reading your comment and slapping his forehead à la "I could've had a V-8!"

Anonymous said...

@Chuck, thank you for clarifying. Maritime terminology is mostly a closed book to me. I am fascinated by ship design, especially the bigger liners. It's like architecture plus.

I remember my Dad had a big car in the late 70's with two alternators since everything was electric; windows, sun roof, air conditioning, 8 track etc., and just one wasn't enough.

Makes sense that MT would need more, but I'm curious what all those items might be? Sonar? Missile tracking system? Proximity alarms for docking assist?