James L. Kuber

J. B. Ford

James L. Kuber/tug Victory was built in 1953, was 767 feet long and flies a U.S. flag

James R. Barker
Previous names:
Reserve: 1953-2008
James L. Kuber: 2008-

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Tjameslkuber2008Apr18_9592he barge James L. Kuber is the former Great Lakes steamer Reserve.  The Reserve came into Duluth on January 12, 2006, still owned by Oglebay Norton.  By the time she left the port in April, she had been sold to K & K Warehousing in Menominee, Michigan. They kept the name Reserve and operated her through the 2006 shipping season until she sailed into Menominee in August, 2007 where she was converted to a barge.  The power plant was taken out and the superstructure and  two decks above the main deck at the bow were removed and a notch was added so a tug could move in and connect to the barge. Why was it done? One reason was the reduction in crew needed to operate a tug as opposed to a Great Lakes steamer. The tug only needs a crew of about 14 while the Reserve had a crew of at least 25. Through the 2011-12 shipping season, the tug barge James L. Kuber/Victory has only been here twice, once in April, 2008 and again in May the same year. As the Reserve, she usually came to the Twin Ports about 10 to 15 times a season. Picture above taken Friday, April 18, 2008 
While the original steam powered Reserve is no longer around, another version of her appears in a back yard in Duluth most every winter that we have enough snow.
reserve260826-2-049smallThe picture above was taken in August, 2006. She was greeted by a lot of visitors at the Duluth ship canal.  I doubt that many noticed the ‘erasure’ just under her name (close up at left). At that time (see above), she had already been sold to K & K but she had not yet been converted to a barge. The previous owners name, Oglebay Norton (see all the pictures below), has been painted over.
Pictures below taken when the vessel was the Reserve The Reserve was built in 1953 by Columbia Transportation, a division of Oglebay Norton in Cleveland. She was named after the Reserve Mining Company in Silver Bay, a company jointly owned by Armco and Republic Steel. Before being converted to a barge in August, 2007, she had several upgrades over the years. A bow thruster was added in 1970 at Fraser Shipyards, she was lengthened from her original length of 647 feet to 767 feet in 1975. Originally built with 4 holds using 19 hatches on deck, the lengthening included adding one more cargo hold and 6 more hatches.
Picture above taken Sunday, July 1, 2007
Picture above taken Wednesday, February 15, 2000: at winter layup, behind the Walter J. McCarthy, Jr.
Picture above taken Thursday, January 12, 2006
Picture above taken Tuesday, February 15, 2005
Picture above taken Thursday, November 29, 2001: approaching the Aerial Lift Bridge
Picture above taken Saturday, August 4, 2001: below the Lift Bridge
Picture above taken Monday, July 23, 2001
Picture above taken Monday, July 23, 2001: entering the Duluth harbor


  1. Robert J. Becaj, Jr. says:

    My memory is a different one. My father worked for General Electric and had times he would go to help with fixing these steamers. I was barely 6 years old and I got to go on The Reserve with him. We were on it just before it was lengthened by 100 feet. My dad always liked working with one of the Oilers, Blaine Wilhelm which I also got to meet. I write this on the 41st anniversary of the sinking of the Edmund Fitzgerald. Due to the lengthening of The Reserve, Mr. Wilhelm took to the Edmund Fitzgerald and unfortunately is one of those that went down with her.

  2. Art Bielfelt says:

    It’s true, she had a soul. I was aboard her as a deckhand in the 1961 and 1962 seasons, and spent a few weeks as a wiper in the engine room in ’62. When under her own power she felt alive. A living thing. It is sad to see what she has been relegated to. It’s like seeing an old friend reduced to being in a wheelchair, and remembering how she used to be in her prime. But, at least she is still with us.

  3. Bill Turner says:

    I worked on the Reserve for the 1975 season. It was my first year sailing and hers as a lengthened ship. I learned a lot that first year as I was able to get my Oiler/watertender ticket after that first season. I kind of think they killed her by making her into a barge and it seems to be a lot of money to be spent to save having to pay 11 more crew members but progress isn’t always easy. The truth be told she no longer is a ship but now just a barge. To look at it economically though her powerplant was 53 years old and it is a lot simpler replacing the tug then trying to upgrade her powerplant. She still lives on in pictures and the memories that worked on her. The following season I went to work on the Armco (One of her sister ships).

    • Robert Hutchinson says:

      I was on the Reserve too that year as a deckhand and fitter her out from Frasier when the extension was done. I stayed on until one hot August one in Chicago when I had had enough. I came on Oct ’74 and layed the boat up that winter. It was pretty neat coming into dry dock and seeing massive group of people converge to cut her in half for the extension.

  4. This was a terrible act of butchery. Of all the ships you had to wreck this one. Barges are not like a powered ship which actually has a soul.

  5. There are fewer and fewer classic lakes sailing each year, even if more are converted to ATBs and ITBs it just isn’t the same as it used to be.

  6. Tristin (loves ships) says:

    How come Anders? I think they’re very cool.

  7. I strongly dislike these tug/barge conversions.

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