Tuesday, March 14, 2017

The Hampton Roads

In the afternoon of my annual spring shakedown drive in the antique, I visited the marina where I'd previously spotted what appeared to be an old and dilapidated vessel in a riverside marina.

Being ever so curious as to antiquities, I dropped in to the office and spoke with the clerk there.  It was indeed the former car ferry "Hampton Roads" which ran out of Norfolk and Hampton Roads, VA.  I asked if I might get some pictures, and the response was "Yes ma'am, I don't see any reason why you can't.  Just walk to it, don't drive or take your car up on it."  Darn, that would been an interesting picture...

Upon getting close, I could see that it was backed into its slip, and permanently beached with rocks and rubble dumped against the hull.   The old girl isn't going anywhere, except perhaps someday to the scrapyard (in pieces, via truck.) 

The first view, from the side.

From the rear (presumably) apron,  a look up into the former car storage area, now being used as winter shelter for equipment.  I've seen some pictures of the Hampton Roads as delivered, and the steps you see appear to be original, well, except for the canopy.   The steps on the right side of the deck were gone.  (More about the history of the HR later.)  And yes, it was tempting to drive up on this deck...but I resisted.   Didn't want to end up like the ice fishermen who lost their trucks in the lake due to thin ice...

Drive on, then drive off the other end...

Below is a picture inside the car storage area...

Inside the main deck...

The above looks fairly depressing...how the mighty have fallen.  Notice the glass doors on the other end of the open car bay...a reminder of its days as a restaurant  Below is a picture of the steps, which appear to be originals, but the canopy supports are clearly not.   The bridge on each end, smokestack, and enclosed top deck (where back-in-the-day ferry passengers could sit, and eat breakfast enroute) have all been removed due to deterioration and unsightliness, not to mention rot...thus the stairs are chained off to discourage access. 

A close-up of the steps...

There was an opening in the hull (not sure if it was original or a recent addition), exposing the deck just below the main one...probably where the 1400 HP reciprocating steam engine is - or was.  I had intended to go back to the office and inquire about a behind-the-scenes tour of any other accessible decks, but seeing the amount of water in the hull eliminated that option.  Yuck.

No, it's not sinking...it's beached.

Mandy had a wonderful time out and about...hopefully it's a sign of good things to come this summer!

Mandy standing by the bow of the car ferry Hampton Roads

By the way, if you're interested in seeing pictures of the Hampton Roads from back when she was launched -  they exist on-line.  (Doesn't everything?)   Go to the Hagley Archives website: digital.Hagley.org/72350_3107a.   There you will look for the Pusey and Jones Corporation (Wiilmington, DE) builder's photos, for hull #393 on page 7.  They have many pictures from its construction, launch and final delivery to the Chesapeake Ferry Company on July 25, 1927.  Including a pic of the reciprocating steam engine used to power it.

This ship has changed a lot over the years....too bad those changes have not been for the better.  This once-mighty and useful vessel has fallen on hard times. There's a mixture of emotions, I guess - melancholy and happy.  The way I prefer to look at it is "happiness that it even still exists" about 90 years after its birth.

The Hampton Roads could have already become razor blades and automobiles - but she escaped that fate thus far.  For how much longer?  Nobody knows.

That's all for now...



  1. It looks like the old girl has seen better days. Haven't we all. For now it will likely just continue to sit and rot but at some point it will be taken apart for scrap. Sad.
    You look fine and it is clear that the person you spoke to identified you as a lady. Keep on truckin'.

    1. The lady in the office didn't postulate on it's future. But from the looks of things, if they lose the need for weather-resistant storage, Hampton Roads will be consigned to pictures in the history books...

      A scrapper will have a field day...until he gets to the part that's under water. Then, call in a crane.