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Civil War replica boat launched in freezer popsicle sticks project takes three years
Mary Washington Hospital security officer spent years putting together a Popsicle-stick replica of a Confederate ship

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Date published: 6/20/2007


Rodney Lohr could have bought Popsicle sticks to build a replica of a Civil War ship, but as he said, "Where's the fun in that?"

So, he licked his way through 900 Dreamsicles, fudge bars and grape-flavored frozen pops.

Then, the 44-year-old washed, dried and sanded the pieces and tossed them in a plastic bag.

When the bag was full, Lohr went to work.

The Westmoreland County man knew he wanted to re-create the CSS Shenandoah, the only ship to carry the Confederate flag around the world.

But he didn't have the first diagram or set of directions on how to build a small version of a steamship. He looked at Internet photos, then started piecing together Popsicle planks and balsa wood.

Three years later, he put the finishing touches on a replica that's 5 feet long and 3 feet high, with 18 hand-sewn sails and rigging so intricate, he used tweezers to tie it together.

"I tried to make it as authentic as possible," he said.

Lohr's steamship will be on display today in the lower lobby of Mary Washington Hospital, where he is a security officer.

He'll stand beside his work and tell anyone who's interested how he's always been a fan of the underdog Confederates. He'll probably mention the chilly evenings spent in the workshop behind the house, glue gun in hand.

And if pressed, he'll humbly describe the way he envisioned the cannons or captain's quarters in his head, then made them out of wood.

No doubt, he'll speak in hushed tones whenever he mentions the vessel.

"She's lost at sea," Lohr said. "They don't know where she is, which is most unfortunate."

Lohr isn't about to let his Shenandoah go into unchartered waters. Before today's appearance, he carefully mapped out a route from his home near Colonial Beach to the hospital.

He arranged to have other security officers posted at key places to open doors and help him on the elevator.

Lohr's co-workers aren't surprised he finished such an arduous task. He drives the shuttle bus between the hospital and MediCorp offices on Fall Hill Avenue--sometimes going back and forth 40 times or more in the course of a day's work.

"Anybody at the hospital will tell you he is a tremendous person," said his boss, Bill Currier. "If there was anybody who was born to do this, it was Rodney."

Cathy Dyson: 540/374-5425
Email: cdyson@freelancestar.com

SEE IT: Rodney Lohr's replica of the CSS Shenandoah is on display from 11 a.m. to 2 p.m. today in the lower lobby of Mary Washington Hospital. THE SHIP: The Confederate Navy put the CSS Shenandoah to sea in October 1864. The steam cruiser logged 58,000 miles in the next 12 months as it captured or sank almost three dozen vessels. It's believed to have fired the last shots of the Civil War; those aboard didn't know the war had ended until four months later. REPLICA: Features 18 sails made from canvas, seven cannons, six crow's nests and working lights DOES IT FLOAT? Probably. Lohr covered it with sealant, but he's not about to test its buoyancy