Riverboats Diurnal and Phaeton Race, 1880
-from the Wheeling Intelligencer, June 18, 1880
AN EXCITING CONTEST.
Another Race Between the Phaeton and Diurnal, and Another Victory for the Phaeton.
About noon yesterday a large crowd of people were attracted to the wharf by the repeated, sharp, quick whistles of steamboats, that indicated something of an exciting nature going on, and sure enough there was, for tearing up the river like the veritable "Flying Dutchman," came the Phaeton, while at her very stern was the Diurnal, each trying her level best to arrive at the wharf first. A reporter of this paper was the first to board the Phaeton for the purpose of asking the cause of the appearance of the Diurnal and the little flyer at that unusual hour.
"Well," said the junior Dillon, who was in command, "we landed at Bellaire as usual, and backed out again to come on up to this city, but had hardly gotten under way when some one yelled to me: 'See, the Diurnal is going to race you.' My first impulse was to stop and not have anything to do with her, as she carried horns that fairly and honestly belong to us, and then, too, we were not then prepared to do anything, as our steam was low and it was rather short notice to the engineer; however, I yelled to him to do the best he could, and let her go, taking one side of Boggs' Island and the Diurnal the other. Here she was just even with us, and we were running about even, but we spurted ahead and came in as you see. We can beat that boat any day, and don't you forget it. We have twice won those horns, and yet it seems we cannot carry them. Until they are handed over I don't want anything to do with her. I would like to show you my wheels. There are not two buckets on either that are not injured by striking logs and drift wood, and, to cut a long story short, we were in no condition to run anything; but I tell you, we have a thousand dollars to say that we can beat the Diurnal from Marietta to Wheeling. But I would like to have those horns!"
By this time he had descended from the pilot house to the lower deck, to find a great crowd of people, all evidently in [-scratched line-] and her recent victory and a [--scratched film--] transfer of the horns should be made. But the Diurnal hastened to back out from the wharf, amid the derisive cheers of the crowd, and the defiant whistles of the Phaeton, to which she returned one or two short shrieks of defiance and proceeded down the river, past a tow boat lying at West Wheeling, which also gave several toots at the defeated boat.
The Diurnal claims that the Phaeton had a start of more than two hundred yards at Bellaire, but the Phaeton says "we did not know that we were to be raced and had only one hundred pounds of steam, so this disadvantage to the Diurnal was more than compensated for by our lack of power at the opening of the race."
Capt. Robert McEldowney, who was on the Phaeton, says the Diurnal was clearly beaten, not only in this race, but in the race of last week below New Martinsville, at which time he was also a passenger to Parkersburg on the Diurnal, and was aware of her condition. He firmly believes in the superiority of the Phaeton over the Diurnal.