The David Weston

The owners of the Union Line realized the advantages of a large boat, and one with up-to-date passenger accommodations to attract the rising volume of business. An order for building a steamer with the desired facilities was placed with John Retallick of Carleton, Saint John in the fall of 1865. Great care was taken in the construction, birch and hackmatac being used for her timbers, and best quality spruce for the planking. The launching took place the following May, when Saint John's newest steamer was given the name David Weston, in honor of her captain.

Captain Weston was a fine steamboat man. He had started his career at the age of fifteen as kitchen boy on the Fredericton commanded by his uncle, David Currier. In the following years, he served as deck hand and later as mate on several steamers. In 1852, he had been given his first command when he was appointed master of the Union. Two years later, he was transferred to command the Anna Augusta, where he remained until the building of the steamer that bore his name. These twenty-eight years of service had won him wide popularity.

Captain Weston gave a watchful eye to the fitting out of his new boat, particularly to the installation of the engine that had been built at the Phoenix Foundry in Saint John. It was a 250-horsepower low-pressure beam engine, with a cylinder forty inches in diameter and having an eleven-foot stroke. The two boilers were manufactured by the McLaughlin Works in Saint John. Each was fitted with 180 tubes. Both boilers were tested to 65 pounds and were designed for a working pressure of 43 pounds. In July, the David Weston, was taken through the falls to Indiantown where, her lines having been made fast to the wharf, her machinery was run for testing for nearly a whole day. It was found that three pounds of steam were sufficient to revolve the paddle wheels that were 29.6 feet in diameter and equipped with seven-foot floats.

On the first day of August, two hundred people boarded her for her trial run when the David Weston went as far as Hardings Point. It was found that she would be able to provide fast transportation because she moved along at a rate of seventeen miles per hour. But it was the commodious accommodations that received the most praise.

The new 177-foot side wheel boat was quite grand. She had a 552-ton capacity and she gave an impression of luxury and comfort with her cozy-looking cabins and finely carpeted dining room. The 140-foot-long grand saloon has such touches of Victorian elegance as marble top tables, and plush covered chairs, and sofas decorated with tassels and fringes. An elaborately ornamented circular stairway, at the forward end leading to the main deck, gave the final dash of splendor.

When it came time for lunch, it was found that no fewer than 90 people could be seated at one time. Best of all, unlike her predecessors, the David Weston had her dining quarters on the saloon deck. This meant the the river traveler would no longer have to use a dining room below the main deck, seated in dark and dingy surroundings and assailed by the stench of bilge water. Now he was able to enjoy the passing scenery with his meal and to "breathe the pure air impregnated with the sweet fragrance wafted from the meadows and gardens along the river".

So, heaped with praise, the David Weston began her 38 year career on the St. John, a record for length of service by the time fire destroyed her at Craig's Point on September 19, 1903, when three lives were lost.

Her run was the main river between Saint John and Fredericton, where she maintained a schedule of three trips a week. Here, she became known for her speed, good accommodations, and regularity. This was a happy combination that made for business success.

A replica of the David Weston can be found at the New Brunswick Museum.