Self-unloading Ore Carrier James R. Barker

The James R. Barker was built in 1976 by the American Shipbuilding Co. at Lorain, OH for the Interlake Steamship Co. It was named after the head of the Moore-McCormack Steamship Company, which owned Interlake. Costing over $43 million, Barker was the third 1000-footer to sail the Great Lakes, and the first built entirely on the Lakes. These big bulk coal and ore carriers were constructed to fit the largest locks connecting the Great Lakes.
Barker's two big 8,000-hp engines turn two 17-1/2-foot propellers, pushing the vessel at a speed of 15.75 knots (18 mph). The ship can transport 59,000 tons of iron ore pellets or 52,000 tons of coal. The self-unloading rig has a 250-foot-long boom that can unload 10,000 tons of ore or 6,000 net tons of coal per hour. By contrast, Interlake’s first bulk carrier, the 1874 wooden-hulled steamer V.H. Ketchum, could carry only 1,700 tons of ore and took nearly twelve days to unload using manual wheelbarrows.
The Barker was still in service in 2009.
Object Name
Object Type
Date made
year the James R. Barker was built
built James R. Barker
American Shipbuilding Co.
bought the James R. Barker
Interlake Steamship Co.
Boucher-Lewis Precision Models, Inc.
overall: 8 in x 63 in x 6 in; 20.32 cm x 160.02 cm x 15.24 cm
Associated Place
Great Lakes
ID Number
catalog number
accession number
Energy & Power
Industry & Manufacturing
On the Water exhibit
Contemporary United States
See more items in
Work and Industry: Maritime
On the Water exhibit
On the Water
Data Source
National Museum of American History, Kenneth E. Behring Center
Credit Line
Gift of Lake Carriers' Association (through Vice Adm. Paul E. Trimble, USCG Ret.)
Publication title
On the Water online exhibition
Publication URL

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