San Francisco Maritime National Historic Park
Lower Fort Mason, Bldg. E
San Francisco, CA 94123
WELCOME to Hercules
The steam tug Hercules, built in 1907.
- Length: 151 feet
- Fuel type: Bunker C
- Beam: 26 feet
- Draft: 18 feet aft, 10 feet forward
- Gross tonnage: 409
- Engine: 3 cylinder, triple expansion
- Cylinders: 17", 24", and 41"
with 30" stroke. 500 Indicated Horsepower(ihp)
- Boiler: Scotch marine fire tube. 16'
diameter, 11�9" long. Four, oil-burning furnaces
Hercules is a
steam powered tug built for ocean towing The 151-foot ship, of
riveted steel construction, still contains her original triple
expansion steam engine Built on the East Coast in 1907, she towed
her sister ship from Camden, New Jersey around South America to San
Francisco Hercules also towed sailing ships, disabled
vessels, barges, log rafts, a cassion (a steel structure used for
closing the entrance to locks) for a dry dock at Pearl Harbor, and a
cassion to help build a Panama Canal lock. The tug usually carried a
crew of three firemen, three oilmen, a chief and two assistant
engineers, three deckhands, cook, two mates and a captain.
Long Tows on the Open Ocean
John H. Dialogue and Son, of Camden, New
Jersey, built Hercules in 1907. She had been ordered by the
San Francisco-based Shipowners� and Merchants� Tugboat Company,
to join their Red Stack fleet (named for their red-painted smoke
When completed, Hercules towed her
sister ship, the Goliah, through the Strait of Magellan to
San Francisco. Both vessels were oil-burners; Goliah carried
fuel, water and supplies for her sister.
barges, sailing ships and log rafts between Pacific ports. Because
prevailing north-west winds generally made travel up the coast by
sail both difficult and circuitous, tugs often towed large sailing
vessels to points north of San Francisco.
In 1916, Hercules
towed the C. A. Thayer (another of San Francisco Maritime
National Historical Park�s historic fleet) to Port Townsend,
Washington. The trip took six days. She also towed the Falls of
Clyde, now a museum ship in Hawaii.
On trips back down the coast, Hercules
often towed huge log rafts, laden with millions of board feet of
Northwest timber, to Southern California mills. At other times, Hercules
towed barges of bulk cargoes between other West Coast Ports, and to
Hawaii. During the construction of the Panama Canal, she towed a
huge floating caisson (a steel structure used for closing the
entrance to locks) to the Canal Zone.
In her deep-sea days, Hercules usually
carried a crew of fifteen-enough manpower for her Engine Department
to stand three watches while underway. The deep, narrow hull made
life uncomfortable at times, because it rode low in the water, and
the main deck was often awash.
However, the food was good and, for an
experienced hand, the work was steady. Tugboat captains were
generally well-paid and highly respected, for it took considerable
experience to bring a tug and a heavy tow through high seas in bad
weather--and good judgment to navigate the shallow bars and narrow
entrances of West Coast ports.
eventually acquired by the Western Pacific Railroad Company. Her
career changed significantly; she no longer served as
an ocean-going tug, but shuttled railroad car barges back and forth
across San Francisco Bay. She worked until 1962, when changing
transportation patterns (the decline of the railroads) and the
introduction of diesel-powered tugs sealed her fate.
the scrap yard, but languished until the California State Park
Foundation acquired her for the San Francisco Maritime State
Historic Park, in 1975. The National Park Service took over the task
of her restoration in 1977, and in 1986 she was designated a
National Historic Landmark. Hercules has been documented as
part of the Historic American Engineering Record's Maritime Project.
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