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Chicago Has A 60-Year-Old, Ice-Breaking Tugboat That's Still In Use

By Justin Breen | January 7, 2017 8:46am | Updated on January 9, 2017 8:49am

CHICAGO — A frozen Chicago River received a winter visitor Friday in the form of a 60-year-old ice-breaking tugboat.

The James J. Versluis chugged its way through the ice-covered water, breaking through the ice.

According to the Chicago Maritime Museum, the 90-foot-long vessel was built in 1957 and is operated by the Chicago Department of Water Management. The museum said the tugboat breaks ice to "allow fire department boats to access the river in an emergency."

According to "Great Lakes Tugboats and Workboats," the boat was built by Sturgeon Bay Shipbuilding in Door County, Wis. The site noted that the boat used to also service the four water intake cribs in Lake Michigan a few miles from the city's shoreline.

A 1957 Tribune article said the tugboat was purchased for $325,000 and named after James J. Versluis, who was Chicago's engineer of water works for 25 years and a city employee for four decades. Versluis, of Grand Rapids, Mich., was 83 when the ship was dedicated in his honor, and he was too ill to attend the ceremony, according to the Tribune.

Here's an older video of the ice-breaking tugboat in action:

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