National Register of Historic Places in San Francisco
Working Tugs in the San Francisco Bay
John H. Dialogue and Son, of Camden, New Jersey, built Hercules in 1907 for the San Francisco-based Red Stack fleet.
Hercules towed her sister ship, the Goliah, through the Strait of Magellan to San Francisco. Both vessels were oil-burners. Goliah carried fuel, water and supplies for her sister.
Hercules towed barges, sailing ships and log rafts between Pacific ports. Because prevailing north-west winds generally made travel up the coast by sail both difficult and circuitous, tugs often towed large sailing vessels to points north of San Francisco. In 1916, Hercules towed the C. A. Thayer to Port Townsend, Washington, in six days.
On trips back down the coast, Hercules often towed huge log rafts, laden with millions of board feet of Northwest timber, to Southern California mills. At other times, Hercules towed barges of bulk cargoes between other West Coast Ports and to Hawaii. During the construction of the Panama Canal, she towed a huge floating caisson to the Canal Zone.
In her deep-sea days, Hercules usually carried a crew of fifteen. The deep, narrow hull made life uncomfortable at times, because it rode low in the water, and the main deck was often awash. Tugboat captains were generally well-paid and highly respected. Considerable experience and judgment were required to bring a tug and a heavy tow through high seas in bad weather and to navigate the shallow bars and narrow entrances of West Coast ports.
n 1924, the Western Pacific Railroad bought Hercules to shuttle railroad car barges back and forth across San Francisco Bay between terminals in Alameda, Oakland, and San Francisco.
In 1941, her foremast was removed and the wheelhouse raised to improve visibility over the railroad cars on barges floating alongside.
Hercules now operated around the clock with two twelve-hour watches daily. A schedule of three, eight-hour watches was instituted just before World War II.
In 1962, Hercules was retired by Western Pacific and replaced by the self-propelled diesel car float Las Plumas.
Hercules was docked in Oakland until her acquisition by the San Francisco Maritime Museum in 1975.
Source: National Park Service
Hercules is a National Historic Landmark.
Aquatic Park and Vicinity