Check out the Chocorua replica at the Gilman Library



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DAVID WARREN stands alongside the model of the Chocorua, which took 1,500 hours and 18 months to build. Tim Croes. (click for larger version)
April 20, 2011
ALTON — A model of one the most important steamboats that ever traveled the waters of Lake Winnipesaukee is on display at the Gilman Library.

The model of the Chocorua was built by David Warren and will be on display at the library through the end of May.

Warren, who has constructed many models including a model of The Lady of the Lake, spent 1,500 hours and 18 months carefully constructing the model.

The Chocorua was actually derived from a different boat, the Dover. In 1851, the Cocheco Railroad was planning to run from the seacoast all the way to Weirs, but the company ran out of money and only got as far as Alton Bay.

They scrapped together a 150-foot steamboat to connect to the other ports on the lake. Constructed of green wood, the Dover took her maiden voyage on Aug. 18, 1852. The boat leaked and had structural problems throughout its life. The boiler and engine were too heavy at the bow end, and a large quantity of stone ballast was required at the stern to balance her out.

Despite its flaws, the Dover made regular runs between Alton Bay, Wolfeboro, Long Island and Center Harbor. Most of the freight into Wolfeboro was delivered by the Dover, not the Lady of the Lake. The Dover (and the subsequent Chocorua) was barred from the most important port on the lake, the Weirs, which was controlled by the Lady of the Lake.

In 1863, the Cocheco was taken over by the Dover and Winnepiseogee Railroad, and the new owners felt the Dover needed improving.

They cut her in half, added a 14-foot section in the middle and named her the Chocorua. A hog frame was also added to strengthen the hull.

The Chocorua didn't fare much better than the Dover, and actually sank at her Meredith dock on a Sunday morning in Aug. 1866.

A diver was brought up from Boston to make repairs, and the boat was pumped out. The Chocorua was considerably slower than the Lady of the Lake.

When the two boats found themselves on a parallel run from Center Harbor, an often repeated joke was that all the sparks didn't come from the Chocorua's funnel. Most of them came from the explosive language of her commander, Augustus Wiggins, as the Lady of the Lake blasted past him.

The Boston and Maine bought the Dover and Winnepiseogee Railroad in 1870. They wanted nothing to do with the Chocorua, and they launched the luxurious Mt. Washington in 1872.

The Chocorua continued to operate until 1875. She was retired, serviceable parts were removed, and the hull was partially burned and sunk in Rand Cove in Alton Bay.

Apartments, which were built on the boat deck, were saved and set up as cabins on the campground near the railroad station. This later became known as the Camp Meeting Association and is now the Alton Bay Christian Conference Center. The dining room was purchased and remodeled by Mrs. Cloutman of Farmington and was later operated as a restaurant.

The pilothouse was acquired by "Aunt Mary" Ryan, who owned the Alton Bay Cottages, and was set up on the front lawn as a sort of summer house.

For Warren, building the model of the Chocorua couldn't have been done without finding the surveyor's certificate.

He actually stumbled upon the certificate while he was building the Lady of the Lake model.

"It would have been impossible to do the model without the survey," Warren said.

He actually found several mistakes in the measurements on the Chocorua. They were using a plum bobber at the time, and Warren believes several of the measurements were off due to wind gusts.

Warren is extremely detailed in his building of the model and even included miniature passengers and crew on the deck of the Chocorua.

Warren pointed to hog frame, the paddle box, which is four layers deep, and the hull, which is shaped like a canoe, as distinctive features of the Chocorua.

The boat and models of the Lady of the Lake, the Mt. Washington and James Bell will be on display in the Steamboat History Center, which will be on display at the Wright Museum in Wolfeboro this summer.

Warren is currently working on a model of the Uncle Sam, which will take approximately three years to construct.

Tim Croes can be reached at tcroes@salmonpress.com or 569-3126

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