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Fall River Line Night Boats

SS Plymouth & SS Commonwealth


Fall River Line's night boat Plymouth was built for service on Long Island Sound. Before the opening of the Cape Cod Canal to passenger steamer service in 1916, travelers from New York to Boston sailed in night boats in the early evening. After a stop at Newport, the boats would continue up to Mount Hope Bay and Fall River, where passengers would board the 0710 train to Boston, ninety minutes farther on. That night, the boats would depart Fall River, and after a stop at Newport would arrive at New York at 0700 the next morning. By the 1930s, the night boats were facing stiff competition, for both freight and passengers, from railroads, trucks, and cars. Three years later, the Fall River Line ceased operations and sold off its remaining boats—Priscilla, Plymouth, Providence, and Commonwealth. All four were scrapped at Baltimore, and with them died the age of the "floating palaces" that dominated transportation in New England for a century.

In 1894 the Captain of the Plymouth, Capt. Elijah "Danger" Davis ran her aground near Plymouth Rock. The Plymouth was carrying 700 passengers and the grounding was witnessed by a host of dignitaries, assembled to enjoy the trial voyage of her sister Fall River steamer Priscilla, which sailed past the stranded Plymouth, as the crew tried to free her from the shoal.

During WWI the Plymouth ferried many soldiers throughout New England to New York on thier way to Farnce. One such voyage took place on August 24th, 1917 when the entire 8th Provisional Artillery, which later became the 53rd Artillery, C.A.C was enroute to New York City. They traveled by boat from Ft. Adams, Rhode Island to New York city. The 1st and 2nd Battalions boarding the Fall River Steamer Plymouth at 10:30 P.M. and the 3rd Battalion and Hdqtrs. and Supply Co., boarding the Fall River Steamer Commonwealth at 11:00 P.M.

SS Commonwealth

The SS Volund was a 239-foot long iron and wood tramp steamer that was sunk by way of collision with the passenger steamer Commonwealth on September 26, 1908. The Norwegian flag steamer was powered by both steam and sail, making her a unique vessel in her day. The ship was constructed in 1899 in Bergen, Norway and owned by Q & A Irgens and Co. The Volund’s main function was to transport plaster from Newberg to Windsor, Nova Scotia. In the early morning hours of September 26, the Commonwealth, the flagship passenger steamer out of Fall River, struck the Volund on her port side. Both ships were traveling in heavy fog. It was alleged that the Commonwealth was traveling too fast – about 13 knots, which would have been ill-advised in dense fog. The steamer began to sink quickly, though the crew of the Commonwealth readily assisted the Volund and all 14 of the striken vessel’s crew were rescued. The Volund sank bow first in about 105 feet of water off Race Rock.

Side Wheel Steamer Commonwealth of the Fall River Line was the largest ship in the line. She had 425 State Rooms and was a floating hotel.


This page owned by Joe Hartwell. This Page was last updated on 8/23/09

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