Built: 1913 by Seattle Construction and Drydock Company; Length: 221; feet Beam: 30 feet; 1000 passengers
4 cylinder triple expansion steam engine, 3750 HP. 20 + knots in speed.
FINAL DISPOSITION: Scrapped, 1938
The crown jewel of the PSN steel steamers was undoubtedly the S.S.
The vessel had an arrow-like hull and long, sleek profile capped wtih two
oval funnels painted crimson and capped with black.
Launched on May 3, 1913 the ship would spend the rest of her career as
the fastest vessel on Puget Sound, routinely topping her rated 20 knot
speed. Lloyds of London was so impressed by the steamer that they
deemed her the fastest single-propeller vessel in the world.
Fitted with comfortable wicker seats upholstered with tan leather cushions
and real wood paneling throughout, the touches of elegance set the
steamer apart from her near sisters.
The vessel sailed the Seattle-Tacoma route in about an hour. At the time
the only road between the two cities was a narrow, muddy lane that
required nearly four times that time to travel via land.
Her master Everett Coffin joined her in 1914 and remained her captain for
the rest of her career. Coffin would speak fondly of the vessel his entire
For excursions her lower windows were sealed up, making her hull one long, unbroken line, somewhat improving her looks. She sailed from Seattle to Victoria
and Vancouver, British Columbia, and various points across the sound.
"Day in and day out, her time between two points allowing for tidal conditions, was the same, and in making landings at different piers, it was like landing a row
boat. Her reversing power was wonderful and from full ahead to a dead stop required seventeen seconds, a feat that was tried several times. Going astern,
she was almost as fast as ahead until she gained headway going ahead when she would gain speed...When she was put in the excursion business I got a
great surprise as to her sea going abilities in the Straits between Point Wilson and Victoria."
For the next 17 years the Tacoma would sail between her namesake city and Seattle. Then in 1928, after logging 1 million miles and carrying six million
passengers, the Seattle-Tacoma highway opened up.
The Tacoma sailed on the route until 1930 when it became apparent that the vessel was no longer going to be needed. The highway had won.
The Tacoma accompanied the Kalakala on her maiden voyage across
Puget Sound. Captain Peabody, head of Puget Sound Navigation,
instructed Captain Coffin that the Tacoma was not to pass the
Kalakala. While touted as a 17.5 knot vessel, the truth was the
Kalakala could barely muster 15. Captain Peabody was not about to
have his shiny new flagship humiliated by a 22 year-old antique.
All the way to Bremerton the Tacoma limped behind the streamlined
new flagship. On the return trip, however, Captain Coffin undid all the
stops and the Tacoma set the record for the shortest time crossing
from Bremerton to Seattle.
The fall of 1935 saw the Tacoma withdrawn from service. She was
tied up with the other old steamers, Kulshan, Solduc and the steam
ferries City of Angeles and City of Bremerton.
The beautiful steamer was finally cut up for scrap in 1938.
Washington State Ferries honored both the City of Tacoma and the
beautiful Black Ball steamer of the same name when they christened
the first Jumbo Mark II Class ferry Tacoma in 1997.