The TTC Ferryboat Docks, in 2007. There's another ramp inbetween the original dock ramp, and where the ferryboats sit in the slip, today.
- "Admiral Joe Fowler " - ( Green panels ) ( Originally named the "Magic Kingdom I" )
- "Richard F. Irvine" - ( Red panels ) ( Originally named the "Magic Kingdom II" )
- "General Joe Potter" - ( Blue panels ) ( Originally named the "Kingdom Queen" )
Note: In honor of Walt Disney World's 30th Birthday, someone decided to rename the Ferryboats, in honor of the 3 men who oversaw the construction of Walt Disney World from 1967 to its grand opening on October 1st, 1971. The names of the men, "Admiral Joe Fowler" and "Richard F. Irvine" were taken from the two riverboats that were in Magic Kingdom's Frontierland area, The Rivers of America.
Chronicled by former Watercraft Pilot, and long-time Disney Cast Member: Greg Chin - (Gregory M. Chin)
Way back on October 1st, 1971, during the opening of Walt Disney World, the 2 primary modes of guest transportation to the Magic Kingdom were either by Monorails or by Steamships (by sky or by sea). Disney had two Osceola-class steamships built especially for Walt Disney World's Seven Seas Lagoon and Bay Lake watercraft transportation. Though the steamships delivered a truly unique guest experience, unlike anything seen on the water in 40 years or so, it became obvious that the two Osceola-class steamships were slow, and required a lot of tender loving care to maintain them. In times of foul weather emergencies, like thick fog or early rain, a reserve fleet of Parking Lot Trams, and Disney Resort Buses are often used. This required a lot of Cast Members and Teamwork to make it practical.
The need for something bigger and faster:
The need to increase speed and guest capacity, resulted in WED Enterprises (now Walt Disney Imagineering, or WDI ) immediately commissioning the designs for a new class of doubledecker Ferryboats, modeled after the familiar Staton Island Ferryboats as seen in New York Harbor. It's a piece of Americana that would fit in nicely at Walt Disney World. The first two ferryboats, christened "Magic Kingdom I" and "Magic Kingdom II", were designed and built in sections at the Tampa Bay Drydock Co. in nearby Tampa, Florida.
Left: The "Magic Kingdom I", or the "Admiral Joe Fowler", as she is called today. In this photo, during late 2001, the ferryboat can be seen leaving the Magic Kingdom Ferryboat Dock. She has a newly built pilothouse, with a bigger roof, and the old upperdeck side nameplates, above the gates are gone. This new pilothouse gives the pilots a better view around and in front of the boat, especially during docking maneuvers in the slip. New side gate doors have been added. These new gates slide open sideways, instead of the older gates, which swung open. Because of the newer "slip" built at the TTC Ferrydock, the ferryboats are seldomly "side- docked" anymore, other than back in Drydock.
These ferryboats are 120' in length, and 34'-10" in beam width. The MK I and MK II both have flat bottomed steel hulls and steel superstructures, and weighs 190 tons each. The Kingdom Queen is lighter at 180 tons. Typical hull draft is 5'- 6" below the waterline. While the Kingdom Queen also has a flat bottomed steel hull, it also dips down in the middle, but still keeps a draft of 5'-6" at the deepest part, under the waterline. That's the maximum size that permits the Ferryboats and the smaller steamships to traverse through the zig-zag course of the Waterbridge Channel that connects the Seven Seas Lagoon into Bay Lake. All of the colored sidepanels where the window panes are set in, are molded fiberglass. Unlike the Frontierland Riverboats in the park, these 3 ferryboats are not on any track, and are completely "free-floating". They can be used for charters, and have to go over to our Drydock facility, up in the North Service Area of Bay Lake, for refueling about twice a week. The normal capacity of each ferryboat is about 600 to 650 passengers. A very big improvement over the two smaller Osceola-class steamships' capacity of 250 passengers each. The time required to dock a double-ended ferryboat is also less, using a slip-dock and swing-down loading ramp, which has counterweights attached to it.
So, the ferryboats were a big success, for both their speed and increased guest capacity. For the moment, it appeared that the demand for fast boat transportation, across the Seven Seas Lagoon, as well as a backup system for the monorails, seemed to have been met. But not for long. As Walt Disney World became a greater tourism vacation destination, in 1972, attendence continued to rise. Disney has a staff of efficient surveyors to gather statistical data on guest/audience crowd flow, especially during opening hours, and to keep track of the attendence numbers. Six more Disney Mark V Monorail trains were added in 1972. But in a few years, it was still necessary to begin planning the designs for a third ferryboat.
Getting Across By Ferryboat:
I'll affectionately refer to my old ferryboats under the names that I knew them to be. The "Magic Kingdom I" (in back), and the "Magic Kingdom II" in the foreground. The two ferryboats, ( as seen above ), in the "nose-docked position", in relation to the "sidedock" ramp or "wharf" area.. This is at the Transportation and Ticket Center (TTC) Ferryboat Dock. If these two ferryboats are referred to as "10-7", "off line", or "shutdown". Then the third ferryboat, "The Kingdom Queen" (now the "General Joe Potter") is operating, and referred to as "10-8", or "on line", carrying guests from TTC, to the front entrance of The Magic Kingdom theme park. Usually, there are three Watercraft crewmembers, assigned to a ferryboat, while it is operating. They switch off with other pilots for lunches and breaks.
The distance across the Seven Seas Lagoon to the Magic Kingdom theme park is about one mile, and takes only 5 minutes to get there. One great thing about working on Ferryboats, aside from the amount of piloting that we get to do, is that it really doesn't take anymore work to load one guest on board, in the non-busy hours, than it does to board a full load of 600 people on board, during the very busy hours. It's just a matter of getting the eager crowds of guests to move forward, under the Ferryboat Dock's canopy, and standby for the moment to go aboard. The overall water level of the two lakes tends to fluctuate during the hot Summers. After 1984, a hand-lever control switch, and a pnuematic cylinder system were added to the ferrydock loading ramps, to make things easier for the Deckhands ( the ones who handle the guest disembarking and new loading operations, upon docking ), to raise and lower the ramps onto the deck, after tying up the boat first. New extension bridges were built in 2004, to negate the problems caused by the fluctuating waterlevels, near the ferryboat docks, and at the resort docks.
Walt Disney World runs a very efficient transportation system. Ferryboats can definitely get more people across to the Magic Kingdom, in less time, than the Monorails. A fleet of Disney Buses handles guest transportation back and forth to the newer Disney resort hotels elsewhere on the vast expanse of the WDW property. That's 27,443 acres, or about 43 square miles of family resort. It's equal to the size of the island of Manhattan.
The "Kingdom Queen" Joins the Fleet:
In 1976, the third ferryboat, the "Kingdom Queen" had joined the Watercraft fleet. This one was designed by noted naval architect, Ben Ostlund, based in Newport Beach, CA. Ben Ostlund had been part of the team which designed the modernizations to one of the U.S. Navy's aircraft carriers, the USS Midway (CVA-41), way back in the 1960's. For 1976, he was excited to be designing vessels for the Walt Disney Company, (known then as Walt Disney Productions). The construction of the "Kingdom Queen" was to be handled differently, and it was built in the Drydock area at Walt Disney World's Central Shops. In 1976, the new ship cost the company $1,250,000 dollars to build it. She has a steel hull, and an aluminum superstructure for the two decks, which is why she weighs less at 180 tons. Both the Magic Kingdom I and II ferryboats are all-steel beam and plate contruction, and each weigh in at 190 tons.
At a glance, The Kingdom Queen has the same external horizontal lines and basic shapes as the MK I and II, but internally she is totally different on both decks, especially in the layout of her engine rooms. Any of the pilots will tell you, she is much more of a luxury ship, since she was designed to accommodate charter cruises around the Disney lakes. The Kingdom Queen has no seating at all, on the upper deck, but there are two wet bars behind each of the pilothouses. Because of this, the pilothouses had their doors along their righthand sides, instead of the backside, where the wet bars are, and the piloting would be in plain view of the guests on a charter cruise . The Kingdom Queen also has a flat area dance floor in the middle of the upperdeck. In case any fire emergencies should arise, whether it's on the ship itself, or another boat on the lake, or something else along the shoreline (like a wooden dock), the Kingdom Queen is also equipped with an advanced water-pumping apparatus design to ensure maximum volume of water to all the fire boxes and their fire hoses within. They can be deployed in a matter of seconds. The ample supply of passenger life vests are stowed in easy to reach overhead racks on the lower deck ceiling, as well as the compartmented stowage areas under the seating benches. The tops of the seating benches on the Kingdom Queen are hinged for added convenience.
Since the ship was frequently used for charter excursions, at night, out on The Seven Seas Lagoon, and Bay Lake, The Kingdom Queen also has a full set of Men's Restrooms, and Women's Restrooms, which are unlocked only during the charter cruises, for public use. The Charter excursions usually lasted about 1 to 2 hours, at the most. It was always great to work with the Resorts Banquet Staff, and Resorts Entertainment Divisions.
A Name Game for the Ferryboats:
During 1999, the ferryboats were renamed for the upcoming Walt Disney World 30th Anniversary and Walt Disney's 100th "Birthday" celebration during 2001 and so on.
The "Magic Kingdom I " became the "Admiral Joe Fowler" in honor of the man that Walt Disney chose to be the Construction Manager (Boss) of Disneyland in 1954, and Walt Disney World, during 1968 through 1971.
The "Kingdom Queen " was renamed as the "General Joe Potter", in honor of the man that supervised the field construction crews of Disneyland and Walt Disney World.
The "Magic Kingdom II " would become the "Richard F. Irvine" in honor of the man that was the President of WED Enterprises (now WDI) during the design days of Disneyland and Walt Disney World.
However, since the last riverboat in Frontierland was also currently named for "Richard F. Irvine", it was decided that the riverboat would have to be renamed, effective immediately, with another name. Something that would still be appropriate for a riverboat, in Liberty Square and Frontierland, such as the "Liberty Belle". And so it was decided, and carried out.
In 2001, the ferryboats received a refit on some basic equipment. New pilothouses were built, with forward sloping windows to increase visibility, during docking procedures. Behind each of the 2 new pilothouses, the wet bars on the General Joe Potter were removed, and the benches on the lower deck, were also replaced with the new flat-styled benches. They were lighter, and had no seat-backs, so more passengers could sit all around the edges of these new benches. The Life Jackets had been stowed away on the ceiling, but now they were stowed away, in the blue aluminum box compartments under the new benches. Since the seats benches were lighter, and hinged, this makes it easier to access the life jackets, in the event they are ever needed.
Ben Ostlund designs more vessels for Walt Disney World:
Ben Ostlund went on to design many other vessels for the Disney Transportation Division. The next ones were the first 2 Motor Cruisers, and then the new Southern Seas cruiseship. The most recent ones, were the Friendship-class watertaxis used at EPCOT's World Showcase Lagoon in 1982. In fact, the first three watertaxis underwent their "sea trial" validation tests in the Seven Seas Lagoon and Bay Lake, before being sent to their new home at the World Showcase Lagoon. Ben Ostlund came all the way from Newport Beach, CA., to see how the first two Friendship watertaxis were doing, while we were operating them on round-trips from the Magic Kingdom to Discovery Island, to Ft. Wilderness, and back to the Magic Kingdom.
The main source of the ship's propulsion, are (2) separate 6-cylinder Caterpillar diesel engines, Model No. 3406. One on each end. On the Magic Kingdom I and II, the main hull is divided into 3 compartments, with basically the main engine rooms being one long middle compartment, running down the length of the ship. It's hot and noisy down there, and not really painted to look very nice, if it was seen at all. There's an engine, a shaft, a rudder, and a very expensive 36" diameter brass prop on each end of the ferryboats. Fire suppression systems for the engine rooms and generator room are provided for by Halon gas tanks. Once activated, the invisible Halon gas will consume all the oxygen out of a sealed-off fire environment.
But, on the General Joe Potter (ex-Kingdom Queen, which was designed by Ben Ostlund ) the hull is divided into 5 watertight hull compartments, so each engine room is partitioned off, and has an engine and a generator located nearby each other. This ship is arranged differently, with a more sound-proofed engine environment. Almost all of the piping and machinery in Kingdom Queen's engine rooms are white. It's quite clean in appearance, and was designed to be on display. The diesel engines are the same type, Caterpillar Model 3406, except these are painted almost completely white. There's a round porthole viewing window on the Engine Room No.1 and No.2 doors, so guests can have a look for themselves. Tanks of invisible Halon gas also provide the same level of fire suppression system, on the Kingdom Queen. There's a service crawlway, to connect the two Engine Rooms together, which crosses over the Holding Tanks. The Watercraft Pilots have to be sure to close-off the two white, watertight "hatch" doors, when going inbetween the two Engine Rooms.
Whenever shutting down the ferryboats or cruiseships in the afternoon or late night, it's still possible to get 24 volts of power for the decklights and rimlights around the ships. All large Disney vessels are equipped with a thick shorepower cable, so they can be to be connected, to a shorepower electrical supply outlet, right on the dock. This allows the ship to function much like a giant "appliance". The lights and other sub-systems can be turned on (especially after hours at night) without requiring the use of battery-power or starting up the noisy generators.
The "No.1" end of the ferryboat has the shorepower cable box, located out front, next to the front gates. The "No.2" end does not have any cable box. Actually, that's the only way to tell which end of the boat is which. Sometimes when we return from a refueling in Drydock, we have to turn the ferryboat around, to put the No.1 end's cable box, facing the shorepower outlet on the dock. The ferryboats all have 12-volt battery power and two separately run diesel generators as well, used to startup and supply electrical power. The Kingdom Queen has a 24-volt battery power and diesel generators.
Anyone who ever worked on our ferryboats call tell you that the shorepower cable and the cylindrical male/female connector on the end of it, is very bulky and heavy to lug around during startup and shutdown procedures. It's like wrestling with a "boa constrictor" snake. The black neopreme electrical cable for a shorepower hookup is about 2" thick in diameter, and the aluminum plug-boot is often very hard to pull apart when you're in a hurry to get underway.
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