My brother, his long-time friend and I have been researching a train ferry, the SOLANO (1879-1930) for over 15 years. The SOLANO was conceived, designed and built by the Central Pacific Railroad and traversed the Carquinez Strait in the far northeast San Francisco Bay area, serving as a vital rail link between Oakland and Sacramento on the CP/UP Transcontinental Railroad (later the Southern Pacific RR). A few months ago we received an email from a Brit who happened to be interested in our HO scale model of the SOLANO. Within his email he casually mentioned that the SOLANO was almost as large as the WYOMING, a six-masted schooner commonly cited as "the world's largest wooden ship"! Our friend went on to say that the WYOMING's 450' length wasn't all that much larger than the SOLANO's 424' length.
I didn't think much more about our friend's comment till the other week when a review of his comment prompted me to do a little Web research to compare these two vessels. What I found surprised me. Yes, the WYOMING was indeed 450' long, from the tip of the front sail boom all the way to the rear most sail boom (forgive me, I am not a "boat guy" so I don't know the proper terms). The "surprise" was that the WYOMING's hull was only 350' x 50". The SOLANO's hull, at 402' x 60' was definitely larger. And if one measured the SOLANO's overall deck size, including guards, she was even larger ...at 424' x 116'.
My Question: In your view, could the SOLANO actually be "the largest verifiable wooden ship ever"? Or does something disqualify the SOLANO in your eyes?
The SOLANO was an all-wooden ship but she did have iron reinforcing bolts and also an intricate cable/post hogging system (BTW, she was also one of the few side paddlewheel vessels to be powered by TWO independent walking beam engines). I should mention that the SOLANO was later joined by her sister ferry, the CONTRA COSTA, in 1914 and that the CONTRA was 11 feet longer. However, the CONTRA had steel pilot house bridges that were an integral part of her structure so she may not qualify as an "all wood" boat in some circles. My guess is that there were other ships, such as the GREAT REPUBLIC, that might arguably surpass the WYOMING. But do any surpass the SOLANO?
Your comments are welcome!