Built: 1913 by Seattle Construction and Drydock Company; Length: 221; feet Beam: 30 feet; 1000 passengers
4 cylinder triple expansion steam engine, 3750 HP. 20 + knots in speed.
FINAL DISPOSITION: Scrapped, 1938
The crown jewel of the PSN steel steamers was undoubtedly the S.S. Tacoma.
Launched on May 3, 1913, the vessel had an arrow-like hull and long, sleek profile capped with two oval funnels painted crimson and capped with black. The
ship would spend the rest of her career as the fastest vessel on Puget Sound, routinely topping her rated 21 knot speed. Lloyds of London was so impressed
by the steamer that they deemed her the fastest single-propeller vessel in the world.
Fitted with comfortable wicker seats upholstered with tan leather cushions and real wood paneling throughout, the touches of elegance set the steamer apart
from her near sisters.
The vessel sailed the Seattle-Tacoma route in about an hour. At the time the only road between the two cities was a narrow, muddy lane that required nearly
four times that time to travel via land.
Her master Everett Coffin joined her in 1914 and remained her captain for the rest of her career. Coffin would speak fondly of the vessel his entire life.
Said Captain Coffin, "Day in and day out, her time between two points allowing for tidal conditions, was the same, and in making landings at different piers, it
was like landing a row boat. Her reversing power was wonderful and from full ahead to a dead stop required seventeen seconds, a feat that was tried several
times. Going astern, she was almost as fast as ahead until she gained headway going ahead when she would gain speed...When she was put in the excursion
business, I got a great surprise as to her sea going abilities in the Straits between Point Wilson and Victoria."
For 17 years the Tacoma would sail between her namesake city and Seattle. Then in 1928, after logging 1 million miles and carrying six million passengers, the
Seattle-Tacoma highway opened up. It wasn’t long before the new highway was pulling the lion’s share of traffic, and the numbers of passengers on the
steamer began to drop. The Tacoma continued on the route until 1930 when it became apparent that the route was no longer profitable. The highway had
After the discontinuation of the Tacoma-Seattle run, Black Ball rebuilt the steamer for excursions. Her larger, lower windows were replaced with portholes,
making her hull one long, unbroken line, improving her looks. She sailed from Seattle to Victoria and Vancouver, British Columbia, and various points across
The Tacoma accompanied the Kalakala on her maiden voyage across Puget Sound. Captain Peabody, head of Puget Sound Navigation, instructed Captain
Coffin that the Tacoma was not to pass the Kalakala. While touted as a 17.5 knot vessel, the truth was the Kalakala could barely muster 15. Captain Peabody
was not about to have his shiny new flagship humiliated by a 22-year-old antique, and all the way to Bremerton the Tacoma limped behind the streamlined new
On the return trip, however, Captain Coffin undid all the stops and the Tacoma set the record for the shortest time crossing from Bremerton to Seattle.
The fall of 1935 saw the Tacoma withdrawn from service. She was tied up with the other old steamers, Kulshan, Sol Duc and the steam ferries City of Angeles
and City of Bremerton.
After several years in layup, the beautiful steamer was sold and cut up for scrap in 1938.
Washington State Ferries honored both the City of Tacoma and paid homage to the sleek Black Ball steamer of the same name when they christened the first
of the new class of Jumbo Mark II ferries Tacoma in 1997.