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 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. 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.
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
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 removed.
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. 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
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.