Modeling the Red River Wreck

The Heroine Ship Model

The Red River Wreck is the nearly complete hull of the Heroine, a western river steamboat built in 1832 and wrecked in 1838 between Jonesborough, Texas and Fort Towson, Indian Territory. It is the oldest archaeologically recorded vessel of its type and Oklahoma’s only documented shipwreck. The shipwreck was buried for nearly 150 years in the bank of the constantly shifting Red River until exposed by a flood in 1990. The wreck was brought to the attention of Oklahoma Historical Society (OHS) staff in 1999 and became a joint OHS, Institute of Nautical Archaeology, and Texas A&M University project in 2002.

The Heroine is 140 feet (42.7 m) in length and 24 feet (7.3 m) in breadth, too large to recover and display. In order to bring the wreck to the public, the OHS contracted with the Center for Maritime Archaeology and Conservation for model builder Glenn Grieco to construct scale models of the vessel. Based on archaeological discoveries that are supplemented by historical research, these models will allow the public to appreciate the construction and propulsion of the ship. The Heroine models will be displayed at the new Oklahoma History Center in Oklahoma City, surrounded by artifacts and displays that tell the story of Heroine and Red River navigation.

The modeling process began with recording the shipwreck. Based on the archaeological drawings, Mr. Grieco reconstructed the hull and fabricated the metal fittings using computer aided design software and a programmable mill. Machinery elements missing from the wreck were reconstructed from historical records and the mounting hardware and timbers found on the hull. Recording, computer reconstruction, fabricating the parts and assembling the model took approximately one year.

Shaft modeling process from archaeological remains, to computer rendering, to final model



The Shipwreck

Shaft and support timbers intermingled with river debris

Starboard quarter looking forward, Autumn 2003

Starboard side including machinery

Computer generated view of the aft two-thirds (rendered by Steve Wilson)



Recording the Shipwreck

Glenn Grieco seated atop the starboard shaft inspecting the flywheel flanges

Glenn Grieco recording the machinery



Graphic Reconstruction

Computer rendering of valve cam

Isometric view of a reconstructed hull section

Computer rendering of axle bearing


Modeling Process

Glenn Grieco and Dr. Kevin Crisman, principal investigator, discussing the model

Glenn Grieco finishing the model

Glenn Grieco adjusting the flywheel

Glenn Grieco explaining the model to Ali Steere and Dr. Sylvia Grider


The Model

The Heroine ship model is a 1:10 scale reconstruction of the vessel’s midsection. The completed model measures 46 by 52 inches and was constructed of European pearwood, castella boxwood, and blackened brass. The Heroine model is currently on display at the Oklahoma History Center in Oklahoma City.

Starboard view of model with framing exposed

View of model from forward looking aft

Port view of model, fully planked


Detail of flywheel bearing and valve cam

Detail of paddlewheel

Detail of steam engine

Detail of flywheel and paddlewheel

Interior view of model depicting bearing timber supports


The Model on Display at the Oklahoma History Center

Model on display outside of the Kerr-McGee Gallery

Looking from the model into the Oklahoma History Center foyer



Photographs by Jon Swanson, Kevin Crisman, and INA Staff; Computer Rendering by Steve Wilson and Glenn Gri eco; Web Design by Ben Ford