240ft x 74ft x 13ft Paddlewheeler Dinner Theater Vessel
After two years of construction (including site preparations, launching, and installation of mooring facilities) the 240'x78' sternwheel propelled vessel was completed and started cruises on April 15, 1995.
The "BRANSON BELLE", built on the shore of Table Rock Lake, is the largest vessel constructed outside of a shipyard. She is also the first theater vessel constructed in recent history, and one of the largest T-Boats ever designed. She will conduct Dinner/Theater cruises from Silver Dollar City's new WHITE RIVER LANDING development near Branson, Missouri. The serving of meals on a 3-tiered theater posed, by itself, quite a design challenge. Besides the below deck galley, each of the three passenger deck levels has its own service galley. A service elevator connects and serves all four levels.
Since noise control from outside sources is of prime importance in the theater world, isolation of engine room noise was critical. This vessel proves that, with proper engineering, even the noise generated by a pair of 2-cycle GM 16 V 92 TI's can be sufficiently controlled. Another design challenge was the HVAC system. Providing proper air distribution for both the performers and the passengers, at a very low noise level. These design criteria were successfully met, and even during the recent Mid-Western heatwave, the system kept the vessel cool. The "no smoking" vessel is equipped with 260 tons of Air Conditioning, and meets all applicable ASHRAE standards.
The "BRANSON BELLE" is operating proof that sternwheelers, even with as low a length-to-beam ratio as 3.13:1, can reach safe operating speeds. The often speedy early Western Rivers sternwheelers generally had length-to- beam ratios of 6 or more. Still, at a full load displacement of 1350 long tons, and with 500 h.p. driving each of the two paddlewheels, the vessel's speed exceeds 10 knots. The drive system, designed by Propulsion Systems, Inc., consists of an electric motor driving each paddlewheel through a planetary gear with double reductions, totalling a 35.4:1 ratio.
The paddlewheels are 24 feet in diameter, 16 feet wide, and have seventeen 2" thick x 24" wide buckets. Maneuverability is further supplemented by 350 h.p. bow and stern thrusters, manufactured by Schottel. The electric drives for the thrusters were also furnished by Propulsion Systems, Inc.
On-Site Marine Construction, Inc. (based in Springfield, Missouri) completed the vessel on time and within budget.
The Theater, which has three main tiers and many sub-tiers of seating, is 108 feet long, 33 feet high, and 74 feet wide. All 700 seats provide an unobstructed view of the stage. The total passenger capacity is 1,000.
Windows were provided by Pacific Coast Marine, joiner doors by Henze, and Detroit Diesel generator sets by Total Generator Service, Inc. U.S. Constructors were the elevator vendors, HVAC equipment by Carrier Transicold with installation by Edie Mechanical and On Site Marine. The sprinkler system was designed and installed by Grinnel Fire Protection Systems, Inc.
Over the years, DeJong & Lebet, Inc., has designed a number of vessels that were constructed "on-site". They include a 120 foot dinner vessel in Grove, Oklahoma, two 145 foot gaming vessels in Aurora, Illinois, and more recently the lengthening of one of the Aurora vessels from 145 feet to 224 feet.
The WHITE RIVER LANDING consists of a "period village" which houses shops, restaurants and entertainment facilities. The "BRANSON BELLE" is an extension of this complex.
Connecting the docking pier with the land facility are a combination of fixed and semi-fixed walkways to accomodate the significant rise and fall of the lake level.