Joseph Lombardi on 2013 J B Ford Survey

Steamship J. B. Ford in Superior, WI as viewed from the water. During the survey in 2013.

“Leroy, Great talking to you this morning about that old girl in Superior. Attached are the photos from my survey way back when. Please note my name and company (Ocean Technical Services, LLC) when posting to the web. Best of luck! Joe Lombardi ”


shadow of surveyor as he looks down the port side of the forward house.  Later the navigation light shadow box would be on display for a “Gales of November Event,” fundraiser to help Lake Superior Maritime Museum.

JOSEPH LOMBARDI phone interview conducted on 31 MAY 2019

SUBJECT: J. B. FORD MARINE SURVEY 2013 in Superior, Wisconsin

The J. B. Ford was visited by a well respected Marine Surveyor Joseph Lombardi of Ocean Technical Services L.L.C.   He was contacted by the president of GLSS Inc. to fly up to the Twin Ports to conduct a marine survey should this vessel fall under new management from LaFarge North America and become a floating maritime museum. The survey was conducted, but the final marine survey report never written. The survey was a two day event starting on June 30th 2013 and ending on July 1st 2013.  This was during a weekend.

I conducted this interview to discover what the surveyor’s thought was of this historic vessel as he viewed it way back in 2013. I was left with the following thoughts.

– Her hull was in good condition for her age, but some of her plates were corroded and she would need to go for shipyard to have some of them replaced. He took copious notes on hull thickness, but those files are long gone or lost.

Close-up view of riveted hull near waterline.
Close up photo of hull near water line.
Hull plates on the J. B. Ford during the survey.


– Her cabins were mostly intact some still with bedding from her last shore side crew.

One of three 1959 vintage crew quarters. These chairs were ordered by shipyard during the conversion. When the J. B. Ford left shipyard in 1959 her hull was painted green matching these chairs. During abatement most metal furniture went for scrap.
Newest cabins on the J. B. Ford were located aft of the boat deck. This image shows the year 1959. Note the fans from Germany.
Forward deck crew cabin, note no major changes since 1904. The yellow arrow points to one of five surviving sinks from that era. The cast iron brackets are missing by 2013.

-Rainwater was present in some cabin areas and machinery spaces. This was due to neglect and leaks from upper decks.

Captain’s office where men like Captain Robert Brissette filled out memos, and Captain James Owens plotted course on the original chart table. It is still hoped that a group would purchase it for a museum.
Scupper with out screen. The scupper plugged with dust and dirt, paint chips. Once plugged the water settled and rotted out that corner.
Note the standing rain water near the unloading machinery space. The ladder well is unbolted yellow arrow, and a few five gallon buckets of mobil product are stored off to the corner. This was her condition in 2013.

-Her machinery spaces were mostly complete though neglect was evident.

Stbd side of engine room upper level looking forward. The time clock circled in yellow last punch setting was Feb 1st around 1330 hours. The arrow points to a 1959 vintage green chair paired up to the engine room desk.
Air pump mounted on port lower side of main engine. A can of Kroil oil. In my experience the engine crew of the Steamship Badger used this for many projects.
On the day of the survey (24) C02 bottles were already missing. 12 bottles offered fire protection to the Nordberg diesel generator space, the other 12 to the fuel oil and boiler room space. These were located in the aft house main deck level.
Inside the counter stern. The quadrant is from a WW2 steering engine that was installed on this ship in 1959.
Twenty Eight feet down looks very far in this photo.
Base of smoke stack mounted to boat deck aft house. This is viewed from inside.
View of the cargo hold, the tank top is the old bottom where grain, coal and iron were carried prior conversion in 1959.

The main engine from the Stbd side looking towards Port. The pipe insulation was labeled, a plastic tarp skirt was taped around it to lessen water damage. Those items in yellow circles are spare valves for the Norberg diesel engine. These were used to weight down the tarp. The electronic revolution counter remains attached to the main engine.

Lower engine room the red parts are crank webs, which make up the crank. The connecting rods lead up to the crossheads not pictured. Crossheads are connected to the piston rods and pistons themselves.


Yellow arrow is pointing at the reversing engine. This is in the Stbd lower engine room.


Some piping is disconnected at the pipe union. This is in the lower engine room.


The propeller shaft, note the flange is disconnected. When the Ford was in Fraser Shipyard the propeller was cut off and a number of sea chest were welded shut to lessen the risk of sinking. The arrow points to where the turning gear was mounted prior removal in 1985. The halves from the E. M. Ford 1898 are in the Stbd side of the lower engine room. The J B Ford gear was scrapped with the E M in Canada. Circled are the shaft bolts.



4 ton chain hoist newest patent 1920. This is mounted under skylight over the main steam engine.

-The shipboard office files presented evidence of being prior gone through with some files missing. Not all drawings were present at the time of the survey.



Crew passage way, the open door leads down to the bosin’s locker. That door was likely onboard during the 1905 storm on Lake Superior.


bosin’s locker, the stairwell leads up to crew passageway forward house. Stool circled is still available for purchase from Azcon.


Note two pigeons circled in yellow patiently wait the visitors to leave the windlass room.
Young birds nest in the windlass room.

-From a historical perspective he agrees that the original woodwork was still there and instead of replacing those cabins, they added to them on the J. B. Ford. Also he viewed the ship as having a very interesting history, a special boat with many years of Great Lakes cargo transport heritage behind her. Her lines are nice compared to the modern lake vessels, she has a neat counter stern.

Bollard bit on spar deck. This is identical to the ones on the museum ship William A. Irvin.
Oldman Boiler Works Inc. Buffalo, NY fairleads. For awhile it was rumored that Fraser shipyard has interest in these off the J. B. Ford. The missing sheave is on deck. The J. B. Ford was a common sight in Buffalo during the 1960s and 70s.


One of the originals from American Shipbuilding back in 1904. Many of the 1905 Storm vessels were equipped with this style.

The following photographs are from those two days taken by the surveyor himself these were never released or posted else where prior to now. Please view his website to learn of other historic vessels he has surveyed including the U.S.S. Little Rock CLG-4, the U. S. S. Texas among others. Joseph Lombardi’s photographs are used with his permission, for more information please contact him directly at Ocean Technical Services L. L. C. at


Forward house on J. B. Ford. Note the gyro repeater is missing circled in yellow, and porthole is missing from larger chart room.  The yellow arrow points to a 1927 vintage radio compass.  This is also known as a radio direction finder.  Ameilia Earhart depended on this technology to help her locate her next stop.  This one was installed on this ship ten years prior her last famous final flight.


The circle indicates where her capstan was mounted back in 1904. The hatch cover present during the 2013 survey never made the trip to Duluth. However one from another steamer sunk near Buffalo, N. Y. identical is on display at the Buffalo Harbor Museum.


This red metal shed on the aft deck near the smoke stack housed propane tanks for the galley stove below.



Aft Deck winch.  Note the ladder well is cut and removed.


Inside the bow of the J. B. Ford forward of the collision bulkhead. When this compartment is exposed to daylight the Ford will be a memory. Note the riveted hull construction of another era.


Looking down the stern from the top of the aft house.













Leave a Reply