SACRAMENTO, Calif. (KTXL) — The Delta King has sat moored at its current location in Old Town Sacramento since 1989, after a lengthy reconstruction, but did this royalty of the river ever move under its own power?
The easy answer is yes it did, but the story of the Delta King and its twin the Delta Queen is one of a bygone age when these great boats were the jewels of the river and a symbol of luxury.
The Delta King and the Delta Queen were christened on May 20, 1927 after being constructed between Glasgow, Scotland and Stockton at the request of California Transportation Company.
The main route for these ships as part of ‘The River Lines’ was a nearly 11-hour night trip, starting at 6 p.m. from Sacramento and arriving in San Francisco at 5:30 a.m. the following morning.
The Delta King and Queen ran this route for 14 years between 1927 and 1940 and offered an experience seldom found in prohibition America. Guests could find alcoholic beverages, live jazz music, gambling and of course fine dining.
Each boat was 285 feet long, making them the longest vessels to operate on the Sacramento River at that time.
With the completion of the Golden Gate Bridge in the late 1930’s, patronage of the paddle boats declined and in 1940 the two boats were sold off.
However the boats would stay in familiar waters as they were brought into the United States Navy in 1940 and designated YSB 55 (Delta King) and YSB 56 (Delta Queen) where they served in the San Francisco Bay.
During their time as naval vessels the “king” and “queen” served as troop transports, naval barracks and hospital ships.
Following their military service the Delta Queen was bought by the Green Line Steamers in Cincinnati and to this day still makes trips up and down the Mississippi river.
However, when the Delta Queen left she took the Delta King’s steam engine for spare parts in 1948 and since that time the Delta King has never moved under its own power.
The Delta King had an uncertain history for the next several decades as there were plans to make it a floating Ghirardelli Square and a Chinese restaurant.
For some time it was sent up to Kitimat, Canada where it served as living quarters for workers at an aluminum manufacturing plant.
In 1984, after falling from its former glory, the Delta King was pulled out of the San Francisco Bay after being partially submerged for 15 months.
The Coyne family brought the now more than 60-year-old boat back to its birthwaters in the Sacramento River for a five-year restoration.
The restoration brought the historic steamboat back to its former glory, minus its propulsion system.