Racing the Twentieth Century Limited [1925]

Power Boats Beat Time of the Twentieth Century
Teaser and Baby Gar IV Run Between Albany and New York
at Better Than Railroad Speed


Teaser Beats Train


Three Speed Boats to Race Crack Train


Wood Out For Two Records


Broken Spring Disables Baby Gar V, Leading


Challenge To Hoyt By Wood


Thousands Along River Eagerly Watched Race


Gar Wood Beats Time Of 20th Century Train


Power Boats Beat Time of the Twentieth Century

Two of the most spectacular runs ever attempted by boats of any kind were made in the latter part of May when the Teaser and the Baby Gar IV, both well-known high speed boats that had shown their wares in several important power boat races last year, set out to beat the time of the fastest train in the United States, the Twentieth Century Limited. These two runs have been alluded to as races. But in reality they were not races, but runs against time, as the train was not allowed to race or to exceed her scheduled time, which, however was quite fast enough to make the attempts of these two boats take a strong hold on the popular imagination.

Never has the public been as interested in a power boat event as they were in this. All along the 138-mile course thousands of spectators watched the little craft pass, throwing up showers of spray from their slim stems and leaving a long, white wake astern. In New York City, Riverside Drive and every point of vantage were black with those anxious to see whether a water-borne craft could exceed speed made on land, and several large aeroplanes followed the Baby Gar IV, whose run was more widely heralded than that of the Teaser, throughout the long course, and broadcasted the news of the "race" to other thousands throughout the country.

These two events have done, perhaps, more than anything else, to show the public just what developments have been made in the speed and reliability of motor driven craft.

The run of the Teaser was the first one made. An account of it follows.

Teaser Sets Up a Record

In setting out one day in May to better the time of the Twentieth Century Limited, the fastest train in the United States, from Albany to New York, Mr. R. F. Hoyt's Teaser proved how good a motorboat can be if properly designed, built and powered. Her Wright-Typhoon 600 h.p. engine drove her with ease to Albany and back in a day a distance of approximately 300 miles and faster in each direction than one could travel on the Twentieth Century Limited.

The trip up the Hudson to the Albany Yacht Club was made in the phenomenal time of 2 hrs. and 40 minutes, the time of the Twentieth Century being 3 hrs. and 13 minutes. On the return trip rough waters forced a slower speed, the Teaser making the trip in 3 hrs. and 5 minutes.

This race took place on the morning of May 10th. George J. Mead, Chief Engineer of the Wright plant, tested out the Teaser on the waters of Long Island Sound on the day previous.

The start was made from the Columbia Yacht Club at 3 minutes of 8 o'clock on a Wednesday morning. Mr. Mead was at the wheel and those in the boat were C. F. Chapman, official observer for the American Power Boat Association, and Carl Christiansen and Theodore Carlisle, mechanics.

Although the sun was out and the day apparently clear, a fog came up over the river and made navigation difficult at such high speed. However, with care, it was possible to steer a good course even under these adverse conditions. To add to the difficulties. large fields of driftwood were encountered, which required considerable dodging to avoid. The crew had one thrill in the Tappan Zee, when a single pole followed immediately by a line of poles attached to nets perhaps one-half mile long, confronted the boat, making it necessary to run at full speed to starboard and parallel the nets to the end, where the course was again regained. Approaching Albany, Teaser met a Hudson River Day Line boat, which forced her to slow down for awhile to negotiate her wake. This was the only time during the entire trip when the throttle was touched, and then for less than a minute. The upper reaches of the river were surprisingly smooth, but contained some bad pieces of driftwood, which could be more readily picked up, however, in the smooth water and avoided. Passing under the Castleman cut-off bridge and around a gentle bend in the river, the Teaser reached Albany at 10:35 A.M. Here the crew found a royal welcome and all the boats on the river front, as well as many factories, greeted the speedy craft with their whistles.

On their arrival at the Albany Yacht Club, Mr. Chapman announced the official time to have been 2 hrs. and 40 minutes for the upgoing trip.

Comparison of the log of Teaser with the train table of the New York Central shows how the speed boat beat the train schedule. It took the boat 45 minutes to get from New York to Bear Mountain, while the Twentieth Century takes about 67 minutes for the same stretch, which includes changing engines at Harmon.

From Newburgh to Albany, however, the race was more even, the boat taking 100 minutes to make the distance, while the train time shows the Century rakes about 96 minutes.

From Castleton to Albany, the boat took 10 minutes for the 9 miles, while the Century takes 12 minutes, allowing for a slow trip through the Renssalaer yards and over the Maiden Lane Bridge.

Following is the schedule of the time of the trip up and back:




New York


4 40

Spuyten Duyvil








4 :06

Bear Mountain Bridge



West Point



Newburgh (30 miles from N. Y.)











1 35

The records show that the motor turned 2100 r.p.m. all the way up.

The boat left Albany on the return trip at 1:32 P.M. and arrived at the Columbia Yacht Club at 4:40 P.M. Practically ideal conditions as far as Poughkeepsie were encountered, the Teaser bettering her own time by two or three minutes. As the river widened out, however, the wind freshened from the south, and the craft encountered progressively heavier seas as New York was approached and this forced slower time, particularly crossing Tappan Zee, and prevented as fast a trip on the return journey.

Teaser was designed by George Crouch and built by H. B. Nevins Corp.

The Baby Gar IV's Run

Six days later "Gar" Wood, of Detroit, had two of his famous runabouts at Albany, ready to lower the colors of the railroads' crack flier. These two boats were smaller than the Teaser, being 33 feet long by 7 feet 6 inches beam. Each was powered with a Wood Liberty Motor.

Gar Wood was driving his Baby Gar IV, while George Wood was at the wheel of the Baby Gar V. The train left slightly ahead of time and this almost caught the two boats napping, as they were lying in the river with engines stopped as the Century thundered over the Albany bridge. Starting with cold engines the two boats jumped away and tore after the train, which could not be seen for some fifteen minutes as the tracks were not in sight of the river at that point. But the boats were equal to what was asked of them and when the train finally came into sight the two boats gradually overhauled her and pulled into the lead. Number V was ahead at Hudson, as it was evidently running better than Baby Gar IV, so "Gar" signalled to his brother to slow up and he ran alongside and changed crews, so as to be on the leading boat.

Again they tore along, ahead of the train's time, but nearing Poughkeepsie the Baby Gar V broke a valve tappet spring and began to miss on one cylinder, so that the crews changed again, and Number V withdrew, leaving Baby Gar IV to complete the run alone.

These two changes consumed some time, yet in spite of this the remaining boat was well ahead of the train at Spuyten Duyvil, where the tracks leave the river. On she tore, in a cloud of spray that at times completely hid the boat from the spectators ashore, and flashed by the Columbia Yacht Club at 86th Street just fifteen minutes ahead of the Century. She made the run from Albany, 138 miles, in 2 hours 58 minutes. The time of the train is 3 hours 13 minutes. The times follow:

Left Albany 6:52 a.m.; passed Catskill, 32 miles, 7:30 ,a.m.: New Hamburg, 76 miles, 8:35; Beacon. 7 miles, 843: Crown. 9:12: Yonkers, 9:36, Spuyten Duyvil, 942: arrived Columbia Yacht Club 9:50 A.M.

(Reprinted from Yachting, July 1925, pp.52-53)

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