The Maritime History of the Great Lakes
North West (Propeller), U130661, fire, 3 Jun 1911

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      Magnificent Lake Liner Is Turned Into Furnace Following Explosion Of Oil In Paint Room.
      LOSS ABOUT $600,000.
An explosion of oils in the paint room of the Northern Steamship liner NORTH WEST, lying in her winter quarters in the Blackwell Canal, north of Tifft Street, early this morning started a fire that completely destroyed the upper works and interior of the big steel steamer.
      Her sister ship, the NORTH LAND moored alongside the NORTH WEST received a bad scorching but was dragged out of the path of the flames by the fireboats POTTER and GRATTAN.
      Officials of the company who were early summoned to the fire, estimated the total loss approximately at about $600,000. Ample insurance they say, covers it.
Both the NORTH WEST and NORTH LAND were scheduled to be placed in commission on June 21st, and outside the commissary department both ships were fully stocked and ready for the coming business.
      The fire started shortly before 4 o'clock. Four watchmen were employed on the ships and each of them made hourly rounds. One of the watchmen passing along the upper decks, heard a muffled report below, and peering over the rail he saw a pointed jet of flames dart from one of the port holes of the paint room. He called to the other watchmen and then jumped down to the runway alongside the ship and made all haste to the big flour house of the Lehigh Valley Railroad, full 100 feet to the north. There he said an alarm was sent to Fire Headquarters through the railroad company's private box.
      Steam was not up in the boilers of the big ship and no streams could be set in action until the arrival of the first fire company. Assistant Chief Murphy, who had made the long run from Fire Headquarters in eight minutes, in his powerful motor car, was the first of the firemen to arrive.
      By that time the big liner was a flaming torch, and the NORTH LAND alongside was beginning to blister and smoulder in the terrific heat. Already jets of flame were popping up in the woodwork of the deck cabins, and that the fire would secure a good foothold on the big ship seemed likely.
      Then the fireboat POTTER arrived from her station at the foot of Louisiana Street. Assistant Chief Murphy had scaled the sides of the burning NORTH WEST by that time and had made his way across the blistering, hot dicks to the NORTH LAND. He saw that immediate action was necessary to save the second ship. At his direction heavy hawsers were passed out from the fireboat, and the lines making the NORTH LAND fast to the blazing NORTH WEST were cast off. Then the powerful POTTER dragged the big steel liner out into midstream and brought her within easy range of the giant stand-pipes of the fireboat GRATTAN steaming up the canal.
      Heavy Streams Suffice.
Two minutes work with the heavy streams sufficed to drown out the flames n the NORTH LAND and the entire force of firemen then turned to the NORTH WEST. In the meantime Chief Murphy, whose attention had been entirely absorbed in the work of rescuing the NORTH LAND had failed to notice the spread of the fire on the NORTH WEST. He was quickly reminded of it, however, by a great sheet of flame driven by a back draft, that rolled from the forward part of the big cabin and reached out for him. Chief Murphy promptly went over the side. He did not go into the water, however, because he clung to a stanchion far down on the side of the ship. Men of the fireboat company helped him from his perch, and he went on with the work of battling the flames that were rapidly eating up the towering NORTH WEST.
      The fire started well toward the stern of the ship. There were stored in the room in which it originated between 250 and 300 gallons of paints and oils, which generated a terrific heat and drove the flames rapidly up through the decks and into the main salon. Before a stream was turned upon the flames the fire shot through the roof of the deck cabins and was mounter hundreds of feet in the air. Far out in the lake, and all along the Canadian shore the fire was plainly visible.
      A Tough Fight.
      It was a tough job for the firemen. A blaze on a big steamer is something they haven't tackled in years and some of them didn't know just how to go at it. Chief Murphy drove them through the mountains of smoke and deep into the hold of the big vessel. They made a gallant fight, but the fire was too much for them. Company by Company they were driven over the sides and back onto the docks and fireboats. From points of vantage, however, they kept their big streams directed into the heart of the flames that by that time were romping freely over the big ship from stem to stern.
      Ship Sinks.
      Just after 5 o'clock and more than an hour after the first stream had been set in action the ship began to show the effect of the great quantity of water that had been poured into her. She listed heavily to port and finally straightening up, dropped slowly to the mud on the bottom of the canal, everything above her big freight doors remaining out of water.
      It was 6 o'clock before the firemen had the flames under control and had driven them back into the main salon and below into the berth decks. After that it was simply a matter of drowning out the fire and this work was still going on at noon.
      The NORTH WEST was of steel construction, having a total length overall of 384 feet, with a beam of 44 feet. She was built in 1894 for passenger traffic on the Great Lakes and when she was placed in commission the pet scheme of James J. Hill of Northern Railway fame was realized.
      The NORTH LAND, her sister ship was built the following year, being a counterpart of the NORTH WEST in every detail. Both ships had since been in continuous service between Buffalo, Duluth and Chicago. Frederick Kruger, general passenger agent in Buffalo of the Northern Steamship Company, said he had no idea what arrangements his company might make as to installing another ship this season, to take the place of the NORTH WEST. The NORTH LAND, however, he said, would probably be placed in commission on her scheduled date, June 21.
      Buffalo Evening News
      Saturday, June 3, 1911

      . . . . .

      Boat To Be Raised And Rushed To Cleveland ,
      In Hopes Of Putting It Into Shape For Part Of Year.
      "We're going to raise the NORTH WEST as soon as it can possibly be done," said Frederick C. Cruger, manager of the Northern Steamship Company, this morning. "The work will probably be begun within a day or two. The vessel will then be taken to Cleveland, to be repaired in the yards of the American Shipbuilding Company. It will be impossible to tell whether or not the vessel can be put in shape this season, but if it is found that she has not been too badly damaged when put in the dry dock at Cleveland, the worked will be rushed to completion."
      " Will the NORTH LAND go into commission as usual ?" Mr. Cruger was asked.
      "Most assuredly. The boat was scorched a little. That's all."
      And the fact that the NORTH LAND was little damaged was further evidenced when the NEWS wireless operator feeling out over the lake this morning, got into communication with the operator on the NORTH LAND 20 miles out of Buffalo. Inquiry disclosed that the big sister ship of the burned vessel was out on the trial trip which is taken by the Northern boats every year shortly before their season opens. The NORTH LAND proceeded about 60 miles up the lake and returned to Buffalo this afternoon. She will be put into commission about June 21.
      Mr. Cruger states that as far as he is aware no other boat will be added to the service this year. It is estimated that it will take about $200,000 to repair the NORTH WEST now lying in the mud in the Blackwell Canal at Tifft Farm.
      Buffalo Evening News
      Tuesday, June 6, 1911

      . . . . .

      Work Of Raising Big Steamer Has Been Accomplished -- Hull Not Badly Damaged.
      This afternoon Capt. Cyrus Sinclair and Northern Steamship Company officials are inspecting the NORTH WEST which has been raised from the bottom of the Blackwell Canal at Tifft Farm. The work of raising the NORTH WEST was effected in jug-time under the supervision of Capt. Sinclair who represents the London Lloyds and with men, equipment and experience of Benjamin L. Cowles supplementary. After 24 hours of continuous work on the burned vessel she was finally floated last evening. While there are several; small leaks in the bottom of the boat it is not believed that the damage to the hull is serious. Engines and boilers are said to be in good condition, and none of the plates was sprung. The entire damage to the vessel it is thought will not amount to more than $250,000. Repairs on the vessel may be made in Buffalo.
      Buffalo Evening News
      Friday, June 16, 1911

      . . . . .

Steam screw NORTH WEST. U. S. No. 130661. Of 4,244 tons gross; 2,339 tons net. Built Cleveland, O., 1894. Home port, Duluth, Minn. 358.5 x 44.0 x 23.2
      Merchant Vessel List, U. S., 1898

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Reason: fire
Lives: nil
Remarks: Repaired
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Geographic Coverage:
  • New York, United States
    Latitude: 42.88645 Longitude: -78.87837
William R. McNeil
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North West (Propeller), U130661, fire, 3 Jun 1911