Engine Room From Coast Guard Buoy Tender Oak

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This engine room is from the U.S. Coast Guard buoy tender Oak. The Oak was built for the U.S. Light House Bureau in 1921 by Consolidated Shipbuilding Corporation of Bronx, New York, and measured 160 feet long and 875 tons displacement. It was transferred to the U. S. Coast Guard in 1939, when that agency succeeded the Light House Bureau.
Buoy tenders are known as the “Black Fleet” within the Coast Guard. Their hulls are painted black to hide the unavoidable scrapes and bumps from hauling buoys and channel markers. The spacious deck in the forward part of the ship was designed to carry buoys, concrete sinkers or anchors for buoys, mooring chain to attach the buoy to the concrete sinker, and other heavy material. The deck also provides work space for repair and maintenance of buoys.
The engine that powered the Oak is a 750-horsepower, triple expansion, three-cylinder steam engine, capable of moving the vessel at a maximum speed of nine knots with a cruising range of 1,300 nautical miles. It drove a single propeller approximately 8 feet 6 inches in diameter. The engine is 18 feet in length, 6 feet wide, and 16 feet high, and weighs approximately 25 tons. It is representative of engines used in small, coastal vessels from approximately 1890 to 1930.
For more than 40 years, in all kinds of weather, the Oak, its four officers and 23-man crew were responsible for setting, inspecting, repairing, and replacing hundreds of buoys, like the one in On The Water, that marked channels and shoals in and around New York Harbor, one of the world’s most important ports. In 1963, the Oak was transferred from the U. S. Coast Guard to the Smithsonian. The engine and radio room were removed from the Oak in 1971 and installed in the Museum in 1974.
Credit Line
U.S. Coast Guard, Department of Transportation
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Work and Industry: Maritime
Measuring & Mapping
America on the Move
Engineering, Building, and Architecture
America on the Move
Exhibition Location
National Museum of American History
ID Number
accession number
catalog number
Related Publication
On the Water online exhibition
Related Web Publication
related event
The Emergence of Modern America
Physical Description
metal (overall material)
National Museum of American History
Object Name
engine, Oak
engine room, US Coast Guard Buoy Tender "Oak"