When Dwight Crater was a young man, he worked aboard a small steam-powered wooden tug in New York Harbor, operating the vessel as a deck hand on the myriad tasks that such vessels managed in the first half of the last century. Crater went on to become a skilled steam engineer, earning his gold-seal rating in the state of New Jersey, serving in shoreside power plants. The tug, meanwhile, called John W. Van Pelt, eventually slipped into decline and was presumed lost in the ensuing 50 years, possibly scuttled offshore when the planks became too rotten, or perhaps driven ashore on a mud bank and left to rot on Staten Island’s Kill Van Kull, along with so many other hundreds of its kin.
However, Crater never forgot the vessel, and in his retirement, he set about building a scale model, replete with steam-bent wood framing and planking, and an exact replica of the steam plant. When Crater died last year, the vessel model was left unfinished. Which is why Susan Crater, Dwight Crater’s daughter-in-law, is looking for a good home for the little tug model, which features a completed, operational miniature steam engine – built by hand and air-tested by the builder – and a half-finished hull.
“We would love to find someone with the necessary skills who would appreciate this model,” Susan Crater said. “We found the radio remote controls with the model and the drawings of the finished tug with the scale marked on them. The person taking over the model construction would have to finish the hull and all the other abovedeck components. None of us have the skills ourselves, and Dwight would have loved to see it finished.”
Prospective tug builders should contact Susan Crater via email: