Class: Steel Electric Class Length: 256' Beam: 73' 10'' Draft: 12' 9'' Speed in Knots: 12 Max Passengers: 616 Propulsion: Diesel-Electric
Max Vehicles: 59 City Built: Oakland, Ca, as Redwood Empire Auto Deck Clearance: 13' 3'' Year Built/Re-built: 1927 /1958/1985 Official Number: D226738 Call Sign: WA9820
Meaning of Quinault: From the Quinault language: "river with a lake in the middle." It refers to both the river and lake on the Olympic Peninsula.
FINAL DISPOSITION: Scrapped, Ensenada, MX, 2009.
The Quinault seen here filling in the Kingston run with the Walla Walla in one of the last years she was in service. Photo courtesy of Matt Masuoka.
The M/V Redwood Empire arrived in 1927 for Northwestern Pacific
along with sisters Mendocino and Santa Rosa. At the time the
vessels were the most advanced type of ferry in the world. With
their steel hulls and diesel-electric power plants, they were known as
"Steel Electrics." This set them apart from a fleet of slightly smaller
vessels with the same type of power plant set up but with wooden
hulls. (The Wood Electrics would later become the Klahanie,
Kehloken, Chetzemoka and the first Elwha on Puget Sound and end
up working again with their steel-hulled counter parts.)
Later absorbed by Southern Pacific Railways, the ferries joined the
Southern Pacific-Golden Gate ferry fleet and worked steadily until
1938 when the bridges shut down nearly all auto ferry operation on
San Francisco Bay.
In 1940 Captain Alexander Peabody's Puget Sound Navigation
Company (Black Ball Line) bought all six Steel Electric ferries for
$300,001.00--less than half the cost it had taken to build just one
vessel 13 years earlier. The vessels were all towed north to start
their careers on Puget Sound.
Redwood Empire was renamed Quinault and went to work on the
Bremerton-Seattle run while the Santa Rosa and Fresno went under
an extensive conversion to single-ended vessels.
|Immortality of a sort: In 2002 the supernatural thriller The Ring was released. Certain elements from the Japanese original film (Ringu) wouldn't translate well to American auidences,
and one of the new scene written for the film involved a run away horse on a ferryboat. For the ferry sequence the film company rented the Quinault from Washington State Ferries.
While making a few changes to the boat--most notably a large steel gate at each end of the car deck--the ferry sequence is one of the most memorable in the film, particularly when the
CGI horse leaps over the side of the ferry--directly in front of the Quinault's name.
While somewhat out of scale, the ferry receives some nice coverage, and is likely the last footage of her shot. Photos courtesy of Dreamworks.
The ferry is real, but the sound of the horn in the film is not the Quinault's. Also, remarkably, the island does not exist , and the lighthouse is actually the Yaquina Head Lighthouse in
Newport, Oregon, demonstrating the magic of computers.
|Top Right: A rare color postcard of the Quinault in the brief period the Steel Electrics operated in WSF livery while still having the large car deck windows. By 1953 all six would have the
windows replaced with portholes. Author's collection. Above: Lacking the grace of her original lines, the rebuilt Quinault still ended up better off than the Klickitat. Photo courtesy of
After being refurbished, the Quinault went back to work at her old
route, but as time wore on she became too small for the route and was
placed in reserve status. By the late 1990's and into the 21st century
would find her filling in where needed for maintenance schedules at
Vashon, Port Townsend, and the inter-island vessel in the San Juans.
Occasionally she would work in as a third boat if one of the larger
vessels was not available at Edmonds-Kingston or even at Mukilteo.
When issues with the Klickitat's hull were revealed in the spring of
2007 and when it was discovered that the Illahee's stern tubes were in
poor condition, the Quinault was pulled from service. Her stern tubes
were replaced, but a more thorough inspection of the hull revealed
more corrosion than first expected. With all the layers of paint inside
and out removed, it was revealed that fully 60% of the hull would need
to be replated--and that was still with 30% of the paint left to be
WSF and the state were faced with a huge problem. Continue
dumping money into the 80 year old vessels, which had already
reached $7 million per vessel, or stop the work and scrap the vessels.
It was decided to retire the vessels.
The Steel Electrics were considered too slow for the route, which is why Peabody had the other two converted to single-enders with bigger engines. (As the
Willapa and Enetai they could sail about 15-16 knots, four or so knots over their diesel-electric sisters.)
After being relieved on the Bremerton run, the Quinault went over to the Seattle-Manchester and Seattle-Bainbridge runs, then over to the Harper (later
The State of Washington took over ferry operations in 1951, and but for a brief stint on the Seattle-Winslow run in 1951-53, kept the Quinault working at
Vashon where she remained mainly until she was secheduled to be refurbished in 1985.
Vashon Island residents actually formed a committee to prevent the state from changing the wooden cabin of the Quinault, feeling it would ruin the vessel's
historic status. In the end, the cabin was replaced--but kept to a much more original cabin foot print than the Klickitat had ended up with. The forward
observation rooms, while modified, were left intact and the crews quarters we placed aft of the wheelhouses as they had originally been.
While still at Todd Shipyard on 13 December 2007 it was announced by the governor that the Steel Electrics would never carry another car or passenger again.
Work on the Quinault was stopped. She was given a quick coat of bottom paint and sealed up to make her suitable for mothballing. She was towed to Eagle
Harbor, while the state made attempts to sell all four vessels.
In September of 2008 all four Steel Electrics were to be sold to Environmental Recycling Systems. The boats were be towed to Mexico for scrapping, but the
deal fell through. A local buyer came forward and wanted to purchase the boats to reuse them in some capacity, but was unable to find moorage.
On June 19th, 2009, the sale of the four ferries for $200,000.00 was completed to Eco Planet Recycling, Inc. of Chula Vista, California. In August 2009 the
ferry was towed out of Eagle Harbor for the last time. The Quinault made the trip to Mexico uneventfully and was scrapped as planned.