Blaine’s own Steamboat Willie

Published on Thu, Jul 18, 2002 by Pat Grubb

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Blaine’s own Steamboat Willie

By Pat Grubb

If you’ve been hearing a steam whistle when you’ve been driving down Peace Portal, rest easy. Amtrak’s current budget woes haven’t forced a return to steam locomotives. If you look a little further past the railroad tracks, you might catch a glimpse of Mike Bowman, captaining his 19-foot long steam launch, Feeble. With a beam of just 42 inches, the launch was built in the 1960s, modeled after a steam launch dating back to 1890. The actual steam engine dates to the turn of the century and once drove a supply fan on a steamship stoker. Bowman, a sheet metal contractor from Custer, has long held a fascination with steam power. He says the launch can do six knots under full power and, while it’s a little tippy, can handle moderate waves. The steam engine runs on propane, holds 15 gallons of water and is rated at a nominal two horsepower.