LOUISVILLE, Ky. (WDRB) - The Belle of Louisville gets a much needed refurbishing of its engines, thanks to a generous donation by a local company.
The Belle appears to rest easy at the fourth street wharf through the winter months, but below deck, its full steam ahead.
New pistons and rings are being installed, so that for her 100th birthday, the Belle can run like new again.
"This will just enable her to do what we know she is capable of, which is another 100 years," said Linda Harris, CEO of the Belle of Louisville.
Atlas Machine and Supply of Louisville engineered the project. The company had to make custom parts for the 120-year-old steam engines.
"It's amazing that these engines are even here and running after all these years," said Robert Furlong, an Atlas engineer who came out of retirement specifically for the project.
The engines are so amazing, in fact, that the world's largest museum wanted to pluck them right out of her belly and put them on display.
"The Smithsonian wrote us a letter," Harris said. "They wanted these famous steam engines for their transportation museum. And they're waiting, and they'll be waiting, and waiting some more."
Officials say the price tag on the project totals around $70,000 -- all paid for by Atlas Machine & Supply.
"Stop and think, these pistons are over 100 years old, and they had been modified and worked over," Furlong said. "When they took these apart, the piston out of this engine was coming apart."
The refurbishing of the engines will make the boat more efficient, as it will use less gas and steam.
"You're not going to ski behind her, but she is going to be more efficient," Harris said.
And more importantly, it could give the Belle local bragging rights.
"Steamboat race here we come. We're ready for it. We're going to win it in our 100th year," Harris said.
And then maybe, the Belle will regain reign of the river and bring home the silver antlers--maybe even hang them in the engine room.
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