Car Ferry No. 2J.D. MarshallMaterial ServiceMuskegon
Type: Self-unloading barge
Builder: Leatham D. Smith for the Smith-Putnam Navigation Company
Built: 1929, Sturgeon Bay, WI
Length: 239.7 feet
Beam: 40.1 feet
Draft: 13.9 feet
Weight: 1077 gross tons
Date Sunk: 1936
Depth of Wreck: 35 feet
The Material Service barge was a steam-operated barge constructed for the Smith-Putnam Navigation Company; specifically built to transport sand and gravel to and from Lake Michigan and docks on the Chicago River. It was leased to the Material Service Company for ten years and was named in honor of that company. At the time of its construction, the Material Service barge combined inventive structural and functional design elements into its system of self-unloading levers, pulleys and a low superstructure which allowed it to travel through the Chicago River and canals without requiring bridge openings. Because of these innovative features, the Material Service barge was a unique 20th century motorship. Significant features of this shipwreck are the substantial intact mainframe; the remaining self-unloading levers, conveyors, and pulleys; the retractable A-frame and intact machine components.
The Material Service left the Lockport quarry with a cargo of 2000 tons of crushed rock for transport to a supply yard in South Chicago. It foundered under storm conditions on July 29, 1936, and 15 lives were lost. When the Material Service sunk, it was under the command of Captain Charlie D. Brown, who perished with the ship. It was reported that a large wave washed over the ship. It was reported that a large wave washed over the ship causing it to list sharply and quickly, before much of the crew could react and get free of their bunks. It seemed to right itself slightly for a moment but then was quickly swamped by waves. It took but a few minutes for the barge to sink completely and settle on the bottom of Lake Michigan. At the time of the disaster the ship had a cargo of 2,500 tons of sand or gravel. The Material Service was owned by Material Service Company of Chicago until 1936 when it was lost. The loss was estimated at $500,000; however, at least two salvage operations were conducted on the Material Service, one in late in 1936 and one in 1945, but specifically what was salvaged at either time was not detailed.
Deck Winch Bow
This deck winch was likely used to raise and lower the anchor at the bow.
Hatch and Ladder at the Bow
At the bow, there is one hatch with a ladder that goes below deck. The hatch is now partially obstructed and has become narrower over time because of the collapsed decking.
The long hull (240 feet) includes one large hold which made it possible to carry large amounts of sand or gravel. At the base of the peaks inside the cargo bays are numerous square openings that were semi-hoppers, allowing cargo to fall into the space above the hull bottom where the self-unloading conveyor system was located.
An archaeologist documented the air vent at the stern of the Material Service. Cowl vents such as this provided the proper ventilation that was important for both the maintenance of the vessel and crew comfort.
Self Un-loader Gears
Earlier vessels of this type used belt conveyors to remove cargo. The Material Service barge employed an innovative and patented self-unloading scraper system that was simpler and less expensive to remove cargo. These gears were part of that combination.
The eight compartmentalized hatches, each measuring 10 feet wide by 30 feet long, are still open and reveal the interior portion of the double-bottomed hull.
This is a view of one of the two boilers, from inside the hull. Two engines were serviced by two rudders and propellers, reflecting the move to more modern technology where each engine operated its own propeller. The total power of the engine was planned as 700 bhp (boiler horsepower).
Crack in Port side hull
The sidewalls are intact but with several cracks that penetrate through the hull to the interior of the hold. This is one of the larger cracks and this view is from the interior of the double-bottomed hull.
The bow once had a lightstaff that stood above the water after the vessel sunk. Later, the lightstaff was destroyed when the ship was partially dynamited as a navigational hazard.
Sidewall - Starboard side
The starboard side pilot house wall is still standing upright and shows portholes and a doorway. The ship’s engines were controlled by mechanisms in the pilot house.
Mooring Bits at Stern
One set of mooring bits (double bollards) exists at the stern. A mooring bit or bollard is typically a deck fitting of an iron post (in this case two posts) used to secure ropes for towing, mooring and other purposes.
Sidewall - Port side
There has been damage to the pilot house area but the cause of this damage has not been verified. It has been speculated that the damage was caused by minimal dynamiting done in the late 1930s to remove shallow hazards from the navigation channel.