There were two of these Excursion Steamers in the early fleet
and unlike the one on the pre-opening card
neither of them was named the Osceola.
They were named the Southern Seas, and the
Ports O' Call. and in the early "pictorial souvenir"
books it was often noted that they "have
"walking beam" engines unlike any built in 100 years"
Even though in the end none of the steamers ended up being named Osceola
they were called "Osceola Class" Here's Captain Matt with more:
There were actually two side-wheel steamers named the "Southern Seas"
The original "Southern Seas" was retired in 1975 and scrapped in 1977.
The "Ports of Call" was retired in 1982 and scrapped in 1984.
The second "Southern Seas" was built in 1977 after the scrapping of the first.
After the opening of Epcot in the 1980s the boat wasn't used as much.
It was used for midnight cruises, and for trips to and from the World Cruise
dock to Discovery Island. But in 1997, it was deemed unnecessary and was
taken out to a hill behind dry dock and scrapped after 20 years of service."
Also in closer views of these "Excursion Steamers" it looks like they have a much smaller capacity than the ferryboats. Still according to one source in the early days of the park they were so pressed for capacity in getting people to the park they were for a time pressed into service. David Koenig writes "Although they would eventually be used for "pleasure cruises," their initial use, starting with Opening Day, was to supplement the Monorail as transportation from the Transportation Center to the Magic Kingdom, until other ships and Monorail cars could be added." In reference to the pleasure cruises David mentions here's a description from one of the park "Information guides" :
"WORLD CRUISE. Sail the 650-acre Waters of the World aboard a colorful side wheel steamboat. Narrated tours describe Walt Disney Worlds history . . . and preview it's future. adults $1. Children (3-11), 50¢." (winter/Spring 1974 information guide compliments of GAF). In the resort section of the same guide The Polynesian, Contemporary, and Fort Wilderness resorts all list under Entertainment: "Moonlight Cruises aboard colorful side wheel steamers depart the"Polynesian Village Marina/ Contemporary Resort Marina/ Fort Wilderness Landing " for a full evening of fun afloat. Cocktails and soft drinks are sold on board." I also have a Summer/ Fall 1974 information guide in which the resort information on cruises is basically the same but in which the attraction listing for the World Cruise is limited to basically being listed as one of the possible ways to get to "TREASURE ISLAND!". Treasure Island was the Early name of Discovery Island and according to Disney A to Z it opened April 8, 1974 and changed its name to Discovery Island in 1977.
A VOYAGE ON THE PORTS O' CALL THROUGH THE EYES OF A LIVE STEAM ENTHUSIAST
I rode the Ports of Call as a little boy in 1979 or 1980. I knew about it in advance and specifically made the effort to plan our schedule. I spent most of the voyage standing at the engine room door, watching the engineer. Everything was as I expected. The most fascinating part of the engine is watching the engineer get under way. The walking beam engine has a single cylinder, like a lawn mower engine, BUT there is no such thing as an electric starter. The engine has to start itself by careful steam application. The engineer controls the steam with a "starting bar", a big lever attached to the valves. He watches the crankshaft and swings the bar up and down to shift the steam to each end of the cylinder. This bar was big, as tall as the engineer, and he did it while standing, if I recall. He had to keep doing this until the engine was rotating smoothly and then he could engage an automatic valve gear. When stopping he had to reverse the process, and make sure the engine stopped in a position that allowed starting. If he failed, the engine would be stuck on "dead center" and powerless. In the old days they had to pry the engine off center with a big timber pryed against the paddlewheel. Perhaps Disney had some jacking gear built into the ship. The trains and Liberty Belle boat do not have this problem because their engines have two cylinders synchronized on opposite cycles.
The whole experience was very unique and realistic. You could really tell the engine was authentic. The whole vessel squeaked and warped with the engine's movement, because there was only one cylinder you could feel the power surge with every stroke, similar to the surging of a scull when the rowers are synchronized.-- Steven Harrod (LINK TO EMAIL)
A FEW WORDS FROM AN OLD SAILOR OF THE SEVEN SEAS (AND BAY LAKE)
The original Southern Seas was scrapped in 1977 due to an unfortunate accident in Dry dock. The "Seas" sunk due to the removal of a stern thruster before the bilges were pumped. Needless to say when you remove a large piece of machinery from the hull, it doesn't take much to take on water. When Maintenance got back, the "Seas" port side was sitting on the bottom and the starboard side was still tied up at the dock. It was really strange to go on board a vessel that was listing at 45 degrees! The pieces that were saved from both steamships are used throughout the parks, most of them are at Typhoon Lagoon. The ships whistle, bell and brass steering wheel and binnacle are on top of the Typhoon Lagoon ticket booths. The steam engine gauges and front plate are on a wall near the gift shop. When Disney survived the "hostile takeover" events in the late 1970's, many of the authentic assets were discontinued for financial reasons. It was costly to run an authentic steamship that was slow, low in guest capacity and high in maintenance. When the "Seas" sank in Dry dock, the new "Seas" was built using diesel-electric paddlewheels and showing the action of an A-Frame, walking beam steam engine. The "Ports" was retired and then the new "Seas" retired in the late 90's.
As far as I know, all the large watercraft were designed by a naval architect and built by Disney in Drydock. The ferryboats did have a tendency to dive, especially when you had more than the official limit of 600 guests. On the first several years of Grad Nights, we used to double up with 1200 grads on board and see how far we could get the water to come onboard. One time I witnessed taking on water from the bow and leaving midship through the side gates. The grad guys really loved it since their dates would jump up into their arms to escape from the water!
There were other watercraft on Bay Lake and the Seven Seas Lagoon. The "East Wind" was a Chinese junk docked at the Polynesian resort and used only for charters. It took a crew of two to operate; a pilot and a deckhand. The steering wheel was very large and you had to stand on a platform to reach the top of the wheel and steer. The wheel was located in the stern and it was 22 turns from lock to lock. There was a complete galley on board for dining and a wet bar. Usually during a charter we would have a chef, a server, a bartender and a cocktail waitress. Eventually the East Wind was retired and sold to Joe Namath (New York Jets quarterback).
You may certainly use this information on your web site. You can credit me and my time at WDW Watercraft if that will help you authenticate the accuracy of this information. My hope is that some old Watercraft friends might see it and get in touch with me.
The photo below is from 1979 and is here courtesy of Martin Smith. If you click on it and view the larger version of it you will see that the two cast members at the gates and the driver all appear to be women. I know that's not particularly notable, but I think almost every time I have been on the ferries it has been a mix of men and women or more men than women.