The wood frame of the Delta Queen steamboat creaks and groans as the old lady tugs passively against her moorings. Weather and time have taken their toll on the silent relic, which sits lashed to a storm-damaged quay along Chattanooga's Coolidge Park. Workers have long since battened down her hatches and blocked off her decks.

The only sign of life is a fairly believable scarecrow, cobbled together using an old hat, a pair of boots and a duct-taped Dickies uniform. It sits in the shade with a fire ax across its lap to dissuade intruders.

But the once-stately chunk of floating history soon could return to glory, if a purchase of the 87-year-old river legend clears its last hurdle: an act by the U.S. Senate to allow her to transport passengers over the water.

Businessman Cornel Martin is leading a group of investors through the last stages of buying the Delta Queen for an undisclosed sum before moving her to dry dock for an estimated $6 million to $7 million in repairs. He plans to replace the steam line, generators and air conditioning, as well as a set of boilers that dates back to 1919.

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