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A New Chance at Life

Eleven years later, in 2005, Canal Society member Craig Williams, Senior Curator at the New York State Museum, received a telephone call from a curator at the Maritime Museum in Erie, Pennsylvania, asking if the NYS Museum would like to acquire some artifacts from the Day Peckinpaugh because she had been sold for scrap and would be gone in a few weeks.

Craig, knowing that the death of the Day Peckinpaugh was imminent, leaped into action and assembled some partners: the New York State Museum, Erie Canalway National Heritage Corridor Commission, New York State Canal Corporation, National Park Service, Canal Society of New York State, and the New York State Office of Parks, Recreation and Historic Preservation. On May 2 and 3, 2005, a team of canal scholars, historians, boatmen, and captains descended upon Erie to give the Day Peckinpaugh a thorough inspection. She was a sorry sight from the outside, a rusting hulk, but it was determined that the ship could still be viable and was at least moderately seaworthy.


The Canal Society of New York State was the only organization in the room that was not overly burdened with regulations, process, and layers of bureaucracy, therefore it could act quickly. The Society issued a check to purchase the vessel and also entered into a contract for an additional $25,000 to tow the ship to Lockport. The Erie Canalway National Heritage Corridor contributed $10,000 and some Canal Society members donated to the cause as well.

Closing took place on Sunday July 10, 2005 in Erie. Early the next morning the tug Ben Elliott, nudged the Day Peckinpaugh out of her berth, and the long haul to Buffalo was underway. The Day Peckinpaugh, after so many years and so many desperate moments filled with disappointment, was at last coming home with a new lease on life.

At Rest in Lockport

The Ben Elliott arrived with her prize in Buffalo on Monday evening. By late Tuesday evening July 12, with help from the New York State Canal Corporation tug boats and after striking the underside of the main road bridge in Tonawanda and going aground east of Tonawanda, the Day Peckinpaugh was finally docked at the old Barge Canal terminal wall above Lock 35 in Lockport. But the saga did not end here. While tied to the wall in Lockport she was scraped, given a coat of paint by volunteers, and other work was done such as rendering her critical machinery systems operational. Just to keep things lively she nearly sank one night when a leak developed in a raw-water valve associated with the ballast system. On another occasion vandals untied the vessel from her mooring. In the darkness, she navigated herself unbidden away from the wall, beneath several bridges, and about a quarter mile down the canal to the entrance of Lock E-35. In the morning she was found with her bow directly up against the seam between the two closed miter guard gates of Lock 35.

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