FOX RIVER LIGHT ATTENDANT STATION

By Al Schreiber

 

Al writes and asks about an old duty station. This was a different life and one most Coasties never knew about it. In this short article is a brief description of the duties and a couple of anecdotes concerning events that occurred while Al was on TAWD (Temporary Additional Winter Duty, i.e., where you went in the winter on the Great Lakes after you shut down your unit for the winter.)

Jack:  Do you know whether this station is still operational? BM1 Richard Lewis and I operated the station from 1954 to 1958. We set, serviced, and picked up the 120 buoys during the summer season, March to December. We did this all with a 40-foot buoy boat. We also worked from Green Bay to Fond du Lac, to The Wolf River where we set buoys in 4 feet of water. From December to March we were sent to the Two Rivers Lifeboat Station.

My family stayed in a trailer park outside of Appleton (where the temperature went to 25 below in the winter.)

The buoy boat was laid up in the lock area in Kaukauna. We painted the buoys in the spring, and the lighted ones we brought batteries from Milwaukee. We had no vehicle, so we used my car to haul paint and supplies to the buoys put ashore in various places.

The Train in the River

One night while on TAWD in Two Rivers a railroad diesel engine ran through the coal yard and fell into the river across from the Coast Guard Station. When we got up to it we saw the headlight shining up through the water. Two boxcars were floating in the river. We learned later that the pots and pans in the load (from the factory down the road) held them afloat. We had an anxious time of it until we found out no one was in the diesel engine. Seems as though some prankster put the train in motion and it crashed through a few barriers on its travels to the river.

The Orange Tug Underway But Not Under Command

During another winter at Two Rivers Station, a local boatyard built a small steel tug and four men started out for Chicago on a cold, icy day. We watched them pass, with their bright orange paint job. Sometime later an anxious person called and wanted us to look for the boat because it hadn't passed its checkpoint in Port Washington. We went up to the lookout tower and lo and behold here was the boat out on the lake. It just kept going by the harbor entrance going north. The Officer-in-Charge decided to investigate, so we lowered the 36' motor lifeboat, and the boatswain’s mate and I went out after it. We also had a military “duck" at the station, and another boatswains mate took it up the beach. The tug stopped about a mile up and the duck went into the water to investigate and found all hands on board unconscious. They took them aboard and radioed the police who sent an ambulance up the beach and delivered them to the hospital. We finally arrived at the tug and towed it back to Two Rivers. It was so cold the towing hawser was frozen stiff. I barely could throw it off. We tied it to a bollard at the station and had the crew haul it in.

Fortunately the crew of the tug arrived in the hospital in time to save their lives. It seems they had buttoned up the cabin because it was so cold. Unfortunately the gasoline engine exhaust pipe had a crack in it. 

When we caught it, the boat had run out of gas. Why it turned around and headed north, and why it kept a steady course nobody knows. Seems like a lot of luck there. Their crew only remembers seeing Port Washington in the distance.

Alfred E. Schreiber is a retired CWO USCG and his email address is aescre@cs.com

   

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