On the Water

Rigged Model, Towboat Jack D. Wofford

Built in Jeffersonville, Ind. in 1966, the 157’-6” long Jack D. Wofford works as a towboat on the Mississippi River. Unlike earlier towboats, the Jack D. Wofford has 5,000 horsepower turning twin screw propellers instead of a paddle wheel for propulsion. To avoid running aground on sandbars in the Mississippi, it was built with a very shallow hull.

River towboats on the Mississippi transport cargo. Before the railroads, river towboats were the fastest means of moving freight. Today, towboats are used to move cargo that is too heavy or expensive to send by rail. Although they are called towboats, these vessels don’t actually tow the cargo barges. Instead, towboats push them—sometimes up to fifteen at once—up and down the river. Workers attach cables to the stern of the towboat from the corners of the barge. Once the towboat and the cargo set sail, the towboat acts as a rudder, carefully steering the barges along the river.

When pushing freight, the Jack D. Wofford pushes two steel “knees” up against the sterns of the barges to steer and stabilize them. In 2007, the Wofford was still in service between St. Louis, Mo. and Minneapolis, Minn.

ID Number:
15 x 42 x 10 in.; 38.1 x 106.68 x 25.4 cm
Gift of Jack D. Wofford

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