Crew Spotlight: Tom Coursen, Alternate Chief Engineer

For this month’s edition of our Crew Spotlight series, we are interviewing Belle of Louisville Riverboat’s Alternate Chief Engineer, Tom Coursen! Tom began working as a Fireman and Striker 20 years ago and has since worked his way up to become Alternate Chief Engineer! Read on to learn more about Tom’s role at Belle of Louisville Riverboats.

How long have you worked with Belle of Louisville Riverboats?

I’ve been with the Belle for twenty years, starting as a fireman and striker and eventually earning my Designated Duty Engineer license and Chief Engineer license.

What are some of the important responsibilities of your job?

All the engineering staff oversees, maintains and repairs the various mechanical systems of the boat including plumbing, boilers, steam piping, engines, pumps and electrical systems. 

In your opinion, what is the best aspect of your job?

Knowing that we are maintaining a piece of living history and helping to educate the public about the history behind the Belle, steamboats on the rivers, and the rivers themselves. 

What does a typical workday look for you?

During the season, we concentrate on having the Belle and Mary Miller mechanically ready for the excursions, as well as operating the Belle’s machinery during the trips.  The off-season typically finds us performing more in-depth maintenance that can’t be undertaken during the cruising season.

What is the most unique aspect of your job?

I think working with the antique machinery and steam systems is pretty unique.

What is your favorite memory of working with Belle of Louisville Riverboats?

Some of the longer out-of-town trips have been really memorable, whether going to Madison, Indiana, or Cincinnati for the Tall Stacks Festival of Riverboats, or for our dry docking in 2020; these have been times when we see different parts of the river and come together as a crew. 

Why is Belle of Louisville Riverboats important to you?

The Belle is a unique piece of living history.  Our organization not only provides a venue for leisure and entertainment, but lots of opportunities to educate the public about the history of steamboats and the rivers.

Is there anything you would like to add?

Meeting passengers and the public from so many different backgrounds and places is always interesting.  People always want to know what it takes to keep the Belle going and are very supportive of us doing so.

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