Historic Boblo boats land role in Transformers 4
S.S. Columbia and S.S. Ste. Clair are docked in Michigan and await restoration
Two Boblo boats have landed a role in Transformers 4.
The S.S. Columbia and her sister the S.S. Ste. Clair, both docked in River Rouge, are being used as props.
The Columbia ferried people to the island amusement park from 1902 to 1991. The Ste. Clair did so from 1910 to 1991. Boblo closed for good in September 1993.
Filming of the movie began across Metro Detroit earlier this year.
The Columbia's ship keeper, Sam Buchanan, said the St. Clair has "a prominent role" in the movie while the Columbia's appearance is "minor."
"When the movie folks are in town, they’re always looking for unique place to shoot so these boats came into play," Buchanan said. "They’re moving right along. They’ve been shooting primarily at night. I don’t know how much more is going to be going on there but they’re not nearly finished."
The City of River Rouge confirmed filming took place Wednesday and Thursday night.
"There were a lot of helicopters flying around," city clerk Sue Joseph said.
The steamships were put on the U.S. List of National Historic Landmarks in 1992.
Producers have added a second smokestack to the Ste. Clair.
"It was unique looking because both Boblo boats only had one smoke stack. They added a second one for some sort of explosion in the movie," Buchanan said. "It won’t harm the boat any. The boats won’t be harmed in any way, but they’re making their big Hollywood debute."
Both are scheduled to be restored. The Columbia is owned by a not-for-profit group, the S.S. Columbia Project. The end goal is to have the ship eventually give tours along the Hudson River in New York.
Richard Anderson was the man behind the group. He died in January. But according to the organization's website and Buchanan, his dream is still alive.
"The board has undertaken a thorough review of the condition of the SS Columbia, the challenges involved in bringing her to N.Y. and the Hudson River, the adventure of restoring her, and the practicality of her operating up and down the Hudson," the organization posted on its Facebook page last month. "We expect to have announcements shortly about the next steps for the SS Columbia Project, who will be taking those steps, and how you can help."
Buchanan said complete restoration could cost "more than $10 million." In 2011, Anderson estimated a bill of $13 million The Ste. Clair, meanwhile, is owned by a Michigan doctor who wants it restored. It was most recently used as a dockside haunted house.
An added bonus about the filming is that the Ste. Clair had to have its decks replaced for safety's sake.
"It’s looking pretty good and at least it’s safe," Buchanan said.
Although he's seen some of the work done, Buchanan hasn't watched any of the filming.
"I'm going to wait for the film. I think Detroiters and folks from Windsor will like seeing their boats [in the movie]. Everybody in this area were very close or have a very good memory or experience going to Boblo riding on those boats," Buchanan said.
"Boblo is one of those things that everyone in this area misses."
Boblo ran as an amusement park from 1898 to 1993. It's now a residential development.
Sam Buchanan will appear on the Early Shift on Monday at 6:14 a.m. on 97.5 FM.