Early Great Lakes
Steamboat Western World
By James Donahue
When launched in 1854, the Western World and her sister ship, Plymouth Rock, were considered the finest steamboats
on the Great Lakes. At 348 feet, the Western World also was said to have been the largest
steamship in her day.
Both vessels were designed by Isaac Newton, a New York shipbuilder on the Hudson River,
who brought his workers to Buffalo for the task. Both ships
were operated by 1,500-horse powered steam engines with wheels measuring 38 feet in diameter.
Built for the New York Central and Michigan Central Railroads, the vessels were put in service to carry passengers
and freight between Buffalo and Detroit.
In a sense, they were an extension of railroad service over the waterways.
The old news clippings said no expense was spared in building these ships. Hull
timbers were diagonally braced with iron, they each had four watertight compartments. The saloons were designed with a combination
of Gothic and Ionic motifs that included stained glass domes and rose wood furniture. The dining hall seated up to 200.
Western World, under the command of Capt. J. H. Barker, steamed from Detroit to Buffalo in 14 hours. They said the Plymouth Rock was even faster.
Someone counted the operating steamboats on the lakes in 1859. In addition to the Western World, there were nine other
steamers measuring over 1,000 tons each, 21 of them over 400 tons, 58 measuring over 200 tons, 70 over 100 tons, 63 over 20
tons and 61 that were under 20 tons.
The Western World topped them all at 2002 tons.
She apparently was a financial flop for her owners, however. After only three seasons the Western World was taken out
In 1863, at the start of the Civil War, both the Western World and Plymouth Rock were brought to Buffalo to have their machinery removed as scrap. The engine from Western World later was
installed in the Fire Queen, New York