Friday, October 7th - 8:00 p.m. at the Museum. Open Slide Night. Members are invited to bring a few slides each to illustrate their summer shipwatching activities.
The Editor's Notebook
Our April meeting was a great success and we were pleased to see so many members in attendance for the excellent slide show put on by Barry Andersen and Jack Heintz. Barry showed slides of scrap tows in the Welland and of the construction of CANADIAN OLYMPIC, while Jack presented photos taken at various locations on European waterways. We thank each of these gentlemen for their efforts and look forward to seeing more of their work in the near future.
By the time these pages reach most of our readers, our Annual Dinner Meeting will have come and gone. We had a good number of our out-of-town members in attendance and if you were not there, you missed a good dinner and an outstanding show presented by Peter Worden. Our thanks to Pete for coming all the way from the Detroit area to address the assembled faithful.
Our dinner meeting was the last formal meeting of this season and although many of us will meet along the banks of the Welland Canal or the St. Clair or St. Mary's Rivers during the summer months, we will not get together again officially until October. Until then, all best wishes for a happy summer of boatwatching. Remember that we will be sending a "Scanner" your way around the beginning of August.
In the New Member Department, a hearty welcome goes out to Capt. Robert A. Sanderson of Windsor. Capt. Sanderson is master of the tug PRESCOTONT.
The improvement in weather conditions in the lower lakes area during the latter part of the winter permitted the opening of the Welland and St. Lawrence canals on April 4th and it was not long before the lakers that had been trapped by the inclement weather of late 1976 began to complete trips unexpectedly interrupted when navigation had come to an end. First ship up the Seaway was the Norwegian THORSHOPE which arrived in Toronto on April 6. The Welland was opened on the 4th by the upbound MANITOULIN. Things were not so easy on the upper lakes, however, and many difficulties were encountered in the St. Mary's River and in Whitefish Bay. It was so bad that only the newer and more powerful vessels tried to buck their way into Lake Superior, the older lakers either fitting out late or else operating only in other areas. The ore boats were flocking to Escanaba for their cargoes and for the first time in many years even the U.S. Steel ore carriers loaded there. Another problem area was the eastern end of Lake Erie. That lake was entirely frozen over during the winter and the ice pressed down into the area outside Port Colborne harbour. On the day the Welland Canal opened, the big Canadian icebreaker NORMAN McLEOD ROGERS was brought to Port Colborne to help the first of the ships through the thick ice and pressure ridges but after a couple of weeks things loosened up enough that her services were no longer needed.
The new Upper Lakes Shipping Ltd. self-unloader CANADIAN OLYMPIC, upbound with ore from Sept Iles for Ashtabula on the return leg of her first trip of the season, suffered a steering failure while in the St. Lawrence River just west of Brockville on the morning of April 14, the result being that the ship veered across the channel and planted her bow firmly on Royal Island, about 20 yards from shore. The grounded freighter began to take water and kept her engines turning over so as to keep herself on the island, but she managed to block the entire channel between Royal and McCoy Islands, forcing other vessels in the area to anchor. The crew was able to control the intake of water and the ship was in no danger of sinking. McAllister tugs were summoned from Kingston and Montreal and the lighter MAPLEHEATH removed about 2,500 tons of ore, sufficient to allow the boat to be pulled free of her rocky perch on April 16. CANADIAN OLYMPIC completed her trip, unloaded her cargo and returned to Port Weller where inspection on the drydock showed damage to the starboard bottom plating back as far as the bowthruster tunnel. It is expected that she will be incarcerated until at least mid-May.
Another spring casualty was Mohawk Navigation's SILVER ISLE which was the victim of strange currents in the Seaway near the Eisenhower Lock about the same time that CANADIAN OLYMPIC was getting into trouble near Brockville. SILVER ISLE was caught in a nasty set across the channel and was forced against the pier, tearing a 50-foot gash in her starboard bow near the waterline . Her pumps were set to work and she was taken to Humberstone where she was moored at the Law stone dock, repairs being put in hand by Herb Fraser.
The Columbia fleet seems to be having a few unexpected problems this year. First its veteran self-unloader W. W. HOLLOWAY was damaged in a shipyard fire at South Chicago and now J. R. SENSIBAR has been the victim of an unusual accident which left her de-boomed. On Friday, April 15, the SENSIBAR was at the Edison dock at Trenton, Michigan. The unloading boom had been swung out over the starboard side of the ship when suddenly she lost power in her unloading machinery. The boom dropped and buckled as it hit the edge of the deck, almost the entire length of the boom disappearing into the water. Columbia was to have a new boom fitted as soon as possible. The SENSIBAR dates back to 1906 when she was built at Ecorse by the Great Lakes Engineering Works as FRANK C. BALL, a name she carried until 1930. Built as a bulk carrier, she was converted to a sandsucker in 1930 and to a self-unloading bulk carrier in 1941. She was dieselized and completely rebuilt topsides in 1960 and the following year she was lengthened.
A very similar accident recently involved the Canada Steamship Lines self-unloader GLENEAGLES, last boat in the C.S.L. fleet to be powered by reciprocating machinery. GLENEAGLES was late fitting out this year as a result of extensive repairs necessary to make good damage suffered by the ship in the ice jam in Port Colborne harbour at the close of the 1976 navigation season. She spent the winter above Lock 8 and when the canal opened was towed to the C.S.L. stone dock at Humberstone where repairs were put in hand. During the third week of April, GLENEAGLES was loading at the same dock. Her boom had been swung out over the side during the loading operation but was brought inboard to permit the passage of another vessel down the channel. The boom was then swung out again, at which time it dropped to the deck, breaking into two sections. Necessary repairs are now in progress, the far end of the boom having been fished out of the canal and a new midsection being built on deck. The fact that the steamer is being repaired would indicate that C.S.L. still considers her to be a viable unit of the fleet and that her future is rather more secure than has been rumoured during the past few years.
In our last issue, we reported on the possibility that the Kinsman steamer GEORGE M. STEINBRENNER might be fitted out and operated this season. We did, however, express a certain incredulity concerning this news based (understandably, we believe) on the reportedly poor condition of the vessel and the fact that she had been idle for so long. As it turns out, our doubts were unjustified, for the STEINBRENNER, which has been laid up at Toledo since 1974, began to fit out in April and should be in service by the time this appears in print. It is likely that GEORGE M. STEINBRENNER will operate for the remainder of the season and for part of 1978, at which time she will be due for her five-year survey and inspection (which she will not likely be given). It is with great pleasure that we see her re-enter service.
While still on the subject of the Kinsman fleet, we have even more good news for lake boatwatchers for not only will they be seeing GEORGE M. STEINBRENNER in service this year but also, for at least part of the season, they are to see PAUL L. TIETJEN in operation. We understand that the latter steamer may run until about July at which time she will be out of class.
The Kinsman steamer BEN MOREELL, which has been the recipient of extensive repairs during the winter (and which has thus eaten up a large proportion of the company's 1976 profits), will appear this season with a new name. The 55-year-old bulk carrier has been renamed (c) ALASTAIR GUTHRIE in honour of a prominent Duluth grain broker.
In our last few issues, we have reported on the recent retirement of the Kinsman steamer CHICAGO TRADER, a victim of the high cost of repairs necessary to permit her to pass inspection. CHICAGO TRADER has served as a source of parts needed to put GEORGE M. STEINBRENNER back in service, the TRADER herself having since been sold to the Acme Scrap Metal Company for scrapping. She will shortly be towed from Toledo to Ashtabula where demolition will be put in hand.
Scrapping operations are proceeding rapidly at Humberstone on CHARLES DICK. The veteran Canadian sandsucker is disappearing under the torches of Marine Salvage Ltd. very quickly and when last observed, was cut back through the after cabin. It will not be long before there is nothing left of her at all.
But another steamer has escaped from the clutches of the scrappers and has an operating future ahead of her. Ever since the firm bought the tanker IMPERIAL LONDON last summer, Marine Salvage has indicated a desire to sell her for operational purposes. We now learn that she has been sold to unidentified "southern" operators who will take her down to Caribbean or to South American waters. IMPERIAL LONDON is scheduled to go on drydock at Port Weller during May so that she may be refurbished for her new owners.
The Chessie System on April 4th announced that its summer schedule of sailings across Lake Michigan will be maintained by its carferries BADGER and SPARTAN and that the older (1941) CITY OF MIDLAND 41 will not be placed in service this season. The railroad has offered to donate CITY OF MIDLAND 41 to either the state of Michigan or Wisconsin or both for use in the passenger and auto trade across the lake but as yet there is no word as to whether Chessie's offer will be accepted.
In its efforts to obtain a ship for use on the proposed passenger and auto ferry run between Meldrum Bay and DeTour Village, the Eastern Upper Peninsula Transportation Authority submitted a bit of $1,587,000 for the idle British Columbia government ferry SUNSHINE COAST QUEEN, (a) VACATIONLAND, (b) JACK DALTON, (c) PERE NOUVEL, once the pride and joy of the Michigan State ferry operation at the Straits of Mackinac. The idea was that the boat is suitable for the laying of railroad tracks on her main deck so that when not in use on the passenger run, she could take the place of CHIEF WAWATAM on the Straits railway carferry service. Late reports, however, say that the E.U.P.T.A.'s bid for the former VACATIONLAND was not successful. In the meantime, we have also heard that the inactive Ann Arbor Railroad carferry ARTHUR K. ATKINSON may well be under consideration for use in the dual service.
The new Algoma Central self-unloader ALGOLAKE was christened at ceremonies held at Collingwood in early April and the ship should now be in service. The town of Collingwood, for which the shipyard is the major industry, had been crying the blues over the prospect of wholesale unemployment in the area due to the layoffs expected once ALGOLAKE was completed. Algoma Central, however, rekindled the town's spirits by announcing during the christening ceremonies that it had awarded to Collingwood Shipyards Ltd. a contract for yet another self-unloader, a sister to ALGOLAKE.
As reported some months ago, Cleveland Tankers Inc. will soon be taking delivery of yet another tanker built off-lakes for the company. As a result, its motortanker POLARIS has been retired and offered for sale. POLARIS was built in 1945 at Hingham, Massachusetts, by the Bethlehem Shipbuilding Company as LST 1063. The 326-foot boat was bought by Cleveland Tankers from the U.S. Maritime Commission in 1948 and was converted to a tanker at Oakland, California, coming into the lakes via the Mississippi in 1949. While POLARIS was never a good-looking ship and indeed looked every bit the L.S.T. she formerly was, we view her departure from the Cleveland Tankers fleet with a certain sadness, as her withdrawal marks the retirement of the last of the older tankers from the fleet. The company at one time in its fleet had such interesting steamers as ROCKET, COMET, MERCURY and PLEIADES, as well as numerous other boats and it is a bit disheartening to the true steamboat fan to note that the active fleet now consists (apart from the new vessel under construction) of the dumb barge PHOENIX and the powered barges SATURN and JUPITER.
Much to our surprise, CAYUGA II returned in mid-April to her berth in the York Street slip at Toronto. We gather that her owners have somehow managed to overcome their financial problems and that they are intending to use the ship in excursion service around Toronto Bay again this summer.
Last month, we reported that the U.S. Steel Great Lakes Fleet would this year reactivate the steamers AUGUST ZIESING and WILLIAM A. McGONAGLE which did not operate in 1976. Unfortunately, it would now appear that this will not be the case, although all the straightdeckers which ran in '76 will be in service again this season.
N. M. Paterson and Sons Ltd., Thunder Bay, has sold to Greek buyers its 291-foot motorship HAMILDOC (III). The vessel, built for Paterson in 1963 by Davie Shipbuilding at Lauzon, has already been delivered to her new operators and has departed for Mediterranean waters. Meanwhile, Paterson is also looking for a buyer for its 271-foot LAWRENDOC (II) which has lain idle at Cardinal since last July. We also understand that the company had thought this spring of disposing of its last canaller, TROISDOC (III), but was persuaded to keep the ship to service the Wallaceburg - Cardinal corn trade.
Back in the February issue, we mentioned that a Canadian self-unloader was being retired from service but we did not actually name the vessel. For those who have not guessed in the meantime, we can now identify the boat as the Westdale Shipping Ltd. steamer PINEDALE which has succumbed to machinery problems. PINEDALE is presently resting at Hamilton and will be cannibalized for parts to keep the other self-unloaders of the fleet (and particularly the ageing LEADALE and FERNDALE) in service. PINEDALE dates back to 1906 when she was built at Wyandotte by the Detroit Shipbuilding Company for E. D. Carter of Erie, Pennsylvania. She was sold in 1914 to the Algoma Central Steamship Line and in 1916 passed to the American Steamship Company for whom she operated until sold to the Reoch interests in 1960. She was converted to a self-unloader in 1932 at which time she was also lengthened. She ran variously as (a) E. D. CARTER (16), (b) WILLIAM T. ROBERTS (32), (c) DOW CHEMICAL (I)(39) and (d) NORMAN J. KOPMEIER (6l). She was the first of the ex-American upper-lake self-unloaders to cross the border for the Reoch fleet and her retirement at age 71 follows only a year after the loss by Westdale of AVONDALE (II) whose hull was condemned late in the 1975 season.
Mention has previously been made in these pages of the fact that the Cleveland-Cliffs Steamship Company's stretched bulk carrier WALTER A. STERLING will be converted to a self-unloader later this year at the AmShip yard at Lorain. Now comes word that Cliffs' other super-size bulker, EDWARD B. GREENE, is also being considered for a similar conversion, although there has been no announcement as to when or where the work might be done.
The small Halco tanker ISLAND TRANSPORT has at last had her appearance improved by the raising of her funnel so as to hide the myriad exhaust pipes which previously stuck up out of her diminutive stack. Now if only they could do something about the rest of the boat....
The St. Lawrence Cement Company Ltd. is going into the shipping business and has purchased from New Zealand interests the small cement carrier GUARDIAN CARRIER, (a) ETHEL EVERARD, which was built in 1957 at Grangemouth. She is due to arrive at Clarkson on June 9 and will be used to haul cement between Clarkson and Buffalo. No new name for the ship has been revealed. It is a bit of a mystery why the firm would use a ship on a run through the Welland when the company's trucks now make the same trip in three hours.
We recently remarked on the conversion to oil fuel at Ashtabula of the Interlake steamer HARRY COULBY. It should be noted that two other lake carriers have also been given the same conversion, these being Columbia's straight-decker THOMAS WILSON (getting the job done at Cleveland) and the U.S. Steel self-unloader GEORGE A. SLOAN, the latter also getting automated boiler controls .
We are sure that anyone who has seen the rebuilt PIERSON DAUGHTERS since she entered service this spring will share our enthusiasm for the new look of this steamer. Her new pilothouse is a most attractive addition and her rebuilt funnel represents a considerable improvement over the poor excuse for a stack which she carried ever since her stretching in 1960 at which time she was given the stern of a T-2 tanker. The short white stripe which appeared on the forward end of her hull last year has now been extended aft to the break of the poop and is only broken amidships where the Soo River Company name appears. The funnel colours have also changed and the new stack design has been given to the other Soo River boats as well. The stack is now basically white with a black smokeband over narrow white and black bands. Although we originally thought that the "inkblot" (the black shamrock) would not appear in the new design, it seems to have reappeared in the form of a black outline (rather than a solid figure) on the white lower portion of the stack.
Upper Lakes Shipping Ltd. has assumed from its subsidiary Leitch Transport Ltd. the ownership of six vessels, namely ST. LAWRENCE NAVIGATOR, ST. LAWRENCE PROSPECTOR, CAPE BRETON MINER, ONTARIO POWER, CAPE BRETON HIGHLANDER and CANADIAN TRANSPORT. The move is seen as an indication that the ships (with the exception of CANADIAN TRANSPORT and CAPE BRETON HIGHLANDER which are too large to transit the Seaway) may now spend more time on the lakes and less on salt water where they are far less economical to operate. CANADIAN TRANSPORT and CAPE BRETON HIGHLANDER may well be leaving the fleet soon anyway because Upper Lakes has lost back to C.S.L. the contract for the carriage of titanium ore between Havre St. Pierre and Sorel and it is unlikely that Upper Lakes would have any other use for the two vessels.
Now that C.S.L. has regained the St. Lawrence titanium contract from Upper Lakes Shipping to which it had lost it several years ago, C.S.L. is in need of tonnage to operate the route, it being apparent that the firm does not intend to use a laker for the service as it did previously (RIMOUSKI was normally assigned to the run). The company has purchased from Nippon Yusen Kaisha of Japan the 1966-built, 56,000-ton bulk carrier FERBEC and will shortly bring her to Canadian waters for the titanium run.
The lakes should soon see the arrival of LAKE NIPIGON, a vessel converted for the lake services of Nipigon Transports Ltd. in a Singapore shipyard. The boat is currently on her delivery voyage.
Another new vessel, but one which is already in the lakes, is TEXACO BRAVE (II) which arrived in Toronto for the first time on May 6th. Measuring 415 x 66 x 35, 8545 Gross, 3673 Net, the tanker was built for Texaco Canada Ltd. at Shimonoseki, Japan.
Hall Corporation Shipping Ltd. has recently sold its tanker FROBISHER TRANSPORT to Shell Canada Ltd. who will operate her in lake and coastal service. The 426.6-foot motorship was brought to Canada in 1974 when Halco purchased her from Scandinavian owners. No new name has been announced. We rather wonder whether she may be intended as a replacement for FUEL MARKETER (II). Halco is also trying to dispose of SEA TRANSPORT (II) but has had no takers.
CLARENCE B. RANDALL, the retired veteran of the Inland Steel fleet, is currently lying at the Milwaukee premises of a scrap firm. Observers report that the name has been painted out on her bow and stern and that the Inland Steel name has been painted off her sides . We wonder whether this may be in anticipation of a sale of the ship or just a preparation for scrapping operations. Either way, it would seem a bit useless to try to obscure the distinctive Inland markings.
The Quebec and Ontario Transportation Company Ltd. has once again gone off-lakes to purchase a ship for its fleet. The firm has obtained a Spanish bulk carrier of approximately 7,000 Gross Tonnage for use in lake and east coast service. We hope to confirm the name of the vessel shortly.
MESABI MINER, now nearing completion at Lorain, was towed from the AmShip drydock on March 26 to allow ROGER BLOUGH to be put on the dock. In the meantime, work on the MINER has progressed and it is reported that exterior hull work was nearly finished by mid-April. She is due to be commissioned in early June. She will be a sister to JAMES R. BARKER but her boom will be a bit longer. Meanwhile, the keel has been laid at Toledo for the midbody of yet another similar vessel which has been ordered by the National Steel Corporation. She will follow MESABI MINER from Lorain where she will be completed.
We have heard rumours to the effect that in 1978 there will be two salt water cruise boats in the lakes. Apart from LOWELL THOMAS EXPLORER which we assume will still be running in the lakes then, we have been at a loss to imagine what the second boat could be. Recently we heard from usually reliable sources that it will be the Hapag-Lloyd's EUROPA, (a) KUNGSHOLM, which is apparently scheduled to wander into the lakes on several of her 1978 cruises. The only difficulty as we see it is that EUROPA has a beam of 76'10" and as a result she may be just too wide to make it through the canals.
Member Frank Crevier of Algonac spent the winter down south and his travels took him to New Orleans where, on March 17, while riding the splendid new sternwheel steamboat NATCHEZ, he saw a familiar ship amongst the salties berthed at the freight sheds. It turned out to be ESKIMO and Frank has described for us her new livery. The former laker now has a black hull with white forecastle, poop and cabins. Her stack is black with a white band and on the band appear the letters "C.S.L." in black. A small red maple leaf appears inside the "C". ESKIMO, now registered at Hamilton, Bermuda, is operating with CHAMBLY in deep-sea service for a C.S.L. subsidiary.
Port Weller Dry Docks Ltd. will soon be having a full wall built between its drydock and the graving dock so that the two chambers may be flooded and drained independently. A separate entranceway to the graving dock (familiarly called the "shelf") will be constructed.
Lake Huron Lore
We are pleased to announce that once again this summer, the Lake Huron Lore Marine Society and the Port Huron Museum of Arts and History will be presenting a Special Marine Showing during the month of July (only). The museum is located at 1115 Sixth Street, Port Huron, Michigan, and is open Wednesday through Sunday, 1:00 p.m. to 4:30 p.m. There is no charge for admission and all steamboat fans who may find themselves in the area are most cordially invited to view this special showing.
Memories of a Day at the Welland Canal
Primarily to have a record for later use in labelling negatives and prints, most ship photographers keep a diary of boats that they have seen and photographed. Ye Ed. has kept such a record for more than twenty years but when he started his, it was not so much to facilitate the labelling of photos as it was a manifestation of the sheer joy of seeing so many interesting steamboats. For, you see, the record dealt mainly with boats seen on Saturdays at the Welland Canal and those were the days when it was a disaster if one did not see at least forty (!) ships in the canal on any given day.
The diary provides some very warm and pleasant memories which come leaping out from the pages as we leaf through. We were going through our book a while ago and ran across just such a page which brought the memories flooding back. We mentioned it to another steamboater one day and he suggested that it might make interesting reading for our members whereas we had thought of it as a purely personal memory. We'll try it on for size and hope that we don't put you all to sleep as we look down the list of ships observed by the writer at the Welland Canal on May 30th, 1959.
That day eighteen years ago was a warm, sunny Saturday, a perfect day for a jaunt to the canal. No such trip was complete without a visit to Port Dalhousie harbour, reached by a drive along the Lakeshore Road through the fragrant orchards. At that time, the lock at Port Dalhousie was still functioning and occasionally ships would pass up into Muir's Pond to visit the shipyard or to lay up in slack periods along the pier extending from the upper end of the west side of the lock. The lock itself was, of course, originally Lock One of the third Welland Canal and accommodated only canallers. On May 30, 1959. Muir's Pond contained three ships, the Upper Lakes Shipping steamer WILLIAM H. DANIELS and the Misener canallers TRENTON and WALTER INKSTER, the latter being the last of the turret steamers to sail the lakes. DANIELS was to see further operation but TRENTON and INKSTER had sailed their last and would be broken up right there at Port Dalhousie in the drydock.
Travelling on to Port Weller, it was obvious that big things were happening that day. There was a crowd in the shipyard and the bunting was flying, for they were christening the brand new Upper Lakes Shipping bulk carrier SEAWAY QUEEN, a boat named to honour the new waterway that was opening that spring.
There were some 41 ships in the canal that day and the camera was busy. Very few of the boats were salties but the ones that were from off-lakes were such interesting specimens as RUTENFJELL and MANCHESTER PROSPECTOR, familiar names to all observers at that time. Of more interest to the lake steamboater were the many canallers locking through. The list seems endless: WILLOWDALE, CITY OF WINDSOR, ROBERT BARNES FIERTZ, JOSEPH MEDILL PATTERSON, JAMES STEWART, MICHIGAN, NORMAN B. MacPHERSON, LEECLIFFE HALL (I) (then carrying the Liquifuels stack design), TROISDOC (II), SORELDOC, GRIFFON, BELVOIR (II), NEW YORK NEWS (II), BATTLEFORD and JUDGE KENEFICK. It may be 18 years ago but in many cases we can remember exactly where we saw each ship that day.
This is J. G. IRWIN as she looked in Ramey's Bend on May 30, 1959, stripped and ready for the shipbreaker's torch. Photo by J. H. BascomJust as it is now, the scrapyard at Ramey's Bend was an interesting place to visit back then. 1959 was the year in which Marine Salvage started to use the old canal section for the wholesale breaking up of old steamers. The Misener canaller GEORGE M. CARL had spent the winter in the Bend and was already stripped out and ready for the fate that lay waiting for her. As the spring wore on, she was joined there by C. A. ANSELL, CLAYTON and H. L. WYATT, all of which sailed in under their own steam, and just a few days before our visit, J. G. IRWIN had arrived as well. The latter was the first to feel the cutting torches and by mid-July there was little but her keel remaining in the bottom of Magee's drydock and work had already started on GEORGE M. CARL.
The real shocker of the day was the old steamer lying on the east wall of the canal below the old bunkers dock at Humberstone. She had a black, green and silver funnel and a red hull but over the foreground it was hard to tell who she was. Odd, too, was the fact that there should have been a silver 'S' on her stack but it wasn't there. A closer look revealed that she was the Kinsman Transit steamer MacGILVRAY SHIRAS which, in tow of HELEN HINDMAN and PORT WELLER (the little steam tug from the shipyard), had stopped over en route to the Stelco plant at Hamilton where she would be scrapped. What was amazing about the SHIRAS was the huge hole in her starboard quarter; her fantail had been peeled back as if with a can opener and the cabin above was mangled at its after end. The damage had been occasioned earlier that season when a freshet on the Buffalo city ship canal had torn SHIRAS and the Midland steamer MICHAEL K. TEWKSBURY loose from their moorings and swept them down onto the Michigan Avenue bridge. TEWKSBURY lived through the accident, SHIRAS found that it was her undoing, and the bridge got the worst of the deal.
Moving on up the east side of the canal, we could see over the buildings in Port Colborne a rather scruffy-looking pilothouse looming in the upper harbour. Our inquisitive nature was whetted and we were taken by surprise when we found moored on the West Street wharf the veteran steamer CARL W. MEYERS, also bound for Hamilton for scrapping after spending four years in the Continental Grain storage fleet at Buffalo. She had been better known for many years as CRESCENT CITY and by then was looking every bit of her 62 years. The shutters were falling off the pilothouse windows and the green Browning paint was peeling in huge blisters from her stack. It was evident that she was no longer suitable even for the storage of grain, much less operation.
As interesting as the MEYERS was, however, Ye Ed.'s attention was drawn to the dense clouds of smoke coming from the outer harbour where we saw a sight that we'll remember as long as we live. For there, in all her glory, was the whaleback steamer JOHN ERICSSON and she wasn't alone, for in her care were the two whaleback barges ALEXANDER HOLLEY and 137. The ERICSSON was bustling about, shifting her charges between the Valley Camp bunkers dock and the Maple Leaf Mills elevator, and generally playing the part of the sow nudging her piglets around the barnyard. That was the only time we ever saw ERICSSON and both whaleback barges together under steam in one place. The ERICSSON was light and would return up the lakes with 137 in tow, leaving the loaded HOLLEY in Port Colborne to be unloaded and picked up later by another of the company's steamers.
There were other boats in the canal that day, but they were everyday items such as C. A. BENNETT, CRISPIN OGLEBAY (I) and STADACONA (II) and while today we would give an arm and a leg to see them again, back then they were nothing to write home about much less click a camera shutter. It's hard to believe, but of the 4l ships in the canal that day, only two are still operating in 1977 in relatively unchanged condition, these being SEAWAY QUEEN and her fleet-mate JAMES NORRIS. Eighteen years is a long time and we forget so quickly. But every so often, it's fun to sit back and remember some of those golden days when steamboating was just a little bit more interesting than it is in 1977.
Ship of the Month No. 66 KINGSTON
No discussion of the relative aesthetic merits of various ships is complete without mention of certain names, particularly some of the nightboats which frequented North American waters during the early years of this century. Included would surely be CITY OF DETROIT III, CITY OF CLEVELAND III and SEEANDBEE and, from salt water, the famous Fall River steamers PLYMOUTH, PROVIDENCE, PRISCILLA and COMMONWEALTH and the Los Angeles Steamship Company's beautiful propellors HARVARD and YALE. But another ship is usually included in this exalted group, a ship which, although not nearly as large as the most famous of the nightboats, may well rank as one of the most handsome steamers of her type ever built. She was Lake Ontario's own KINGSTON, a paddler that served our area for nearly half a century.
The passenger trade between Toronto and Montreal, the two largest cities of the Dominion of Canada, was perhaps the first major domestic route on the Great Lakes. Down through the years, the Montreal-Toronto trade catered to vacationers and business travellers alike and the route prospered, although steamers running between the two cities had either to run or bypass the rapids of the St. Lawrence River. It was a fact of life that only small steamers could transit the old St. Lawrence canals and such transits were often lengthy when the locks were jammed with traffic. The way around such problems was to operate one set of vessels from Toronto to the head of the canals and another set of ships down the rapids to Montreal and back up through the canals.
By the latter part of the nineteenth century, the Richelieu and Ontario Navigation Company Ltd., which had come to be the major operator of passenger vessels in the Lake Ontario and St. Lawrence River areas, had gained supremacy and, in fact, a virtual monopoly on the Toronto-Montreal route. By changing from ship to ship within the R & O fleet, a traveller from Ontario could make his way by boat all the way to Quebec City and, via the Niagara Navigation Company Ltd. (later acquired by R & O), the chain was extended so that connections through to salt water could be made from Niagara and from the Buffalo area. This connecting service prompted the Richelieu and Ontario to use as its motto the catch-phrase "Niagara to the Sea".
The boats operated by the R & O on the Toronto to Prescott service, the upper half of the run to Montreal, were by the end of the nineteenth century in need of replacement and so in the closing years of the century, R & O retained the services of one Arendt Angstrom to design for the company first one and then a second new overnight steamer, Angstrom later became the chief naval architect for the Canadian Shipbuilding Company Ltd. and was eventually destined to become general manager of that firm. Angstrom was a most competent marine architect, his work showing signs of the influence of the great Frank E. Kirby.
By this time, the nightboat was becoming a hybrid beast. Day steamers and excursion boats didn't change all that much in those years but the nightboat was the cream of all passenger vessels. It was the nightboat that whisked businessmen and vacationers alike to their destinations while they slept and the boats were built not only for speed and comfort but also, as the years passed, to show the flag for their owners. As a result, they became more fancy and luxurious, the steamers growing larger and their interiors becoming less and less those of steamboats and more and more those of classical buildings. Some of these palace steamers were successful while others were something less than successful in design, their cost outweighing their usefulness and their interior design being so heavy and pretentious as to be almost grotesque.
The first of Angstrom's boats for the R & O was built in 1899 by the Bertram Engine Works at Toronto and was christened in honour of the city in which she was built. TORONTO was an instant success and outshone any other steamer then operating on Lake Ontario. As a result, when R & O wanted a second vessel to serve as a running-mate for TORONTO on the Toronto to Prescott overnight service, the firm had no hesitation in seeking the services of Mr. Angstrom to produce an even better boat than the 269-foot TORONTO.
The new steamer, like TORONTO, was a steel-hulled sidewheeler and was built by the Bertram Engine Works at Toronto as the company's Hull 37. She was 288.0 feet in length, 36.2 feet in the beam (65.0 feet over the guards) and 13.3 feet in depth. Her Gross Tonnage was 2925 and her Net was 1909. The new steamer's registry was opened at Toronto and she was given official number C.111654. She was named KINGSTON in honour of the eastern Lake Ontario port.
Stern views seldom appear in these pages but this classic photo by the late Rowley W. Murphy illustrates the graceful lines of KINGSTON as she leaves Toronto Harbour by the EAstern Gap late in her career.KINGSTON was powered by a direct-acting, inclined, triple-expansion engine which had cylinders of 28, 44 and 74 inches and a stroke of 72 inches. Steam was supplied by four coal-fired Scotch marine boilers measuring 11 by 11 1/2 feet, the boilers and engine having been built for the ship by Bertram's. The machinery produced 461 Nominal Horsepower and drove the two relatively small feathering sidewheels which were housed in well-decorated but rather unobtrusive paddleboxes which rose just above the level of the cabin deck.
Angstrom gave KINGSTON a superlative interior decor. Her staterooms, accommodating 365 passengers, were located on the upper two decks and the bulkheads were covered with beautifully-carved designs. The cabin was divided into two sections by the funnel casing, the forward and main saloons both being galleried structures. The forward saloon, the smaller of the two, was given an intricately carved ceiling, the centre part of which was a glass skylight which flooded the area with daylight. The bulkhead of the funnel casing displayed a typical classical mural and the surprisingly plain stairway was set off by a selection of potted ferns. The railing around the well in the upper deck was a masterpiece of Victorian elegance.
The main saloon was the pride of the ship and featured a staircase of Corinthian inspiration. The ceiling contained a centre panel dominated by hexagonal and triangular designs and light was admitted to the cabin by a clerestory running the entire length of the saloon as well as the area occupied amidships by the boiler uptakes. The main companionway led down to another which took passengers to the main deck.
Just as Frank E. Kirby's masterpieces of marine architecture (such as CITY OF DETROIT III) were dominated by their superb pilothouses, so did Arendt Angstrom have a hand for designing this feature of a steamboat. Both TORONTO and KINGSTON had extremely fine pilothouses, not cluttered by a sunvisor, and featuring a protruding roof-edge and four-sectioned windows which dropped to provide ventilation. As was typical of steamboats of the day, both ships carried across the front of the pilothouse a finely-lettered nameboard which, unfortunately, was frequently obscured from view by the large canvas dodger which could be stretched on the bridge deck rail.
KINGSTON entered service with an all-white hull and white cabins, her two well-proportioned but barely raked stacks bearing the usual Richelieu and Ontario colours of red with a black smokeband. Although she was to lose them in later years, she originally sported gold-leaf dragons of quite ferocious appearance on her trailboards. As built, KINGSTON carried only one mast which sprouted from the texas cabin immediately aft of the pilothouse but after she was in service for a short period of time, she was given a rather flimsy mainmast located just abaft the paddleboxes. The after mast was added incompliance with government regulations requiring the carriage of a stern running light. The foremast was originally fitted with a prominent gaff.
KINGSTON, of course, differed from TORONTO in that she was somewhat longer, a difference in size which was certainly noticeable, but she differed in certain other basic ways as well. The most obvious, perhaps, lay in the fact that KINGSTON was given two stacks while TORONTO carried only one. KINGSTON carried on the bow, just ahead of the cabin structure, two rather prominent ventilators with cowls, a feature that TORONTO lacked entirely. And KINGSTON was built with her dining saloon forward on the main deck, its location indicated by a long row of large windows. TORONTO, on the other hand, was built with her dining saloon in an unusual location forward on the upper cabin deck, an arrangement that was obviously less than satisfactory as the facility was soon moved down to the main deck forward.
KINGSTON joined TORONTO on the Toronto-Prescott overnight run and was an even greater success than the earlier ship. The vessels sailed from Toronto on alternate days during the summer months (the service was rather less frequent during the off-season), departing from their home port at about 2:30 p.m. Stops were scheduled at Charlotte, Kingston, Alexandria Bay and Brockville with the arrival at Prescott timed so that those wishing to proceed to Montreal could transfer to the dayboats operating on the rapids for the scenic run down to Montreal.
KINGSTON operated dependably and very seldom made the news, this being the result of the fact that she got herself into very few scrapes during her lifetime. The most notable feature of her operation was her regularity and the unspectacular nature of her service. But in 1908 she did make the news when she was in collision with the small American steamer TITANIA off Charlotte harbour at about 10:00 p.m. on August 11th. Both vessels were attempting to enter the piers and neither signalled nor gave way to the other. The U.S. Steamboat Inspection Service later held an enquiry at Buffalo and both ships were held to be at fault for proceeding at speeds unsuitable for harbour waters and for not signalling to each other. TITANIA's master lost his license over the affair but the court, having no jurisdiction in Canada, could not touch the ticket of KINGSTON's master.
The "teens" saw KINGSTON under the command of Capt. E. A. Booth who sailed the ship for many years. It was with Capt. Booth on the bridge that the boat went through the only change of ownership that she was ever to see, that occurring in 1913. But 1913 was also a notable year for KINGSTON for another reason. The R & O, through an American subsidiary, the Richelieu and Ontario Navigation Company of the United States, was operating its steamer ROCHESTER on Lake Ontario from Toronto to the American side and it was believed that it was no longer necessary for KINGSTON and TORONTO to make the Charlotte call. Accordingly, the Toronto sailing was rescheduled for 6:00 p.m., it being thought that such a departure time would be more suitable for passengers arriving by train. By the following year, however, ROCHESTER was gone from the Toronto-Rochester route and TORONTO and KINGSTON resumed their Charlotte calls, their Toronto departure being scheduled again for mid-afternoon.
The year 1913 brought the formation of Canada Steamship Lines Ltd. of Montreal, the R & O being the major firm participating in the mergers which led to the birth of what was first called the Canada Transportation Company Ltd. but was soon rechristened as Canada Steamship Lines Ltd. TORONTO and KINGSTON were placed in what was known as the Western Division of C.S.L.'s passenger operations and in due course were given the familiar red, white and black stack colours. In latter years under R & O ownership, the boats had been given black hulls and under C.S.L. management they carried at various times black, white and green hulls.
During the spring of 1916, TORONTO was drydocked at Kingston and refurbished, and when she emerged she sported a wireless antenna strung between her masts, a feature that was soon added to KINGSTON as well. KINGSTON'S wireless call sign was VGMD, her wireless equipment being carried in a small cabin aft of the second funnel. It was thought that the wireless would allow passengers to keep up to date on news stories of the day, especially those concerning the progress of the war in Europe. As well, each boat received "moving picture apparatus for the amusement and instruction of passengers".
By 1920, Capt. Booth had moved over to TORONTO and KINGSTON was commanded by Capt. A. E. Stinson. The twenties were good years for the boats and they continued to operate a daily service during the summer months, the frequency being cut back to thrice-weekly during the off-season. They were able to maintain this service right through the Great Depression as well, their route not being affected by the poor business conditions to the point where a reduction in frequency of sailings would have been necessary.
It was as things were improving again after the Depression that KINGSTON was involved in one of her few serious accidents. The year was 1936 and the ship was approaching the dock at Brockville one day when she suffered a mechanical failure. The engine failed to reverse and KINGSTON struck the dock hard. As she glanced along the wharf, she canted over to starboard and her port wheel literally "walked" along the dock until her bow struck the shore. Needless to say, rather severe damage was occasioned to both the wharf and the ship but repairs to both were put in hand.
Strangely enough, the end of the Depression also meant the end for TORONTO, although business conditions had nothing to do with her demise. As a result of the disastrous fire which in September 1934 destroyed the Ward Line coastal steamer MORRO CASTLE with substantial loss of life, the U.S. government in 1938 instituted regulations which, amongst other requirements, prohibited the operation in U.S. waters of passenger steamboats having a wooden main deck. Unfortunately, TORONTO was so afflicted although KINGSTON had a steel main deck, and since the vessels' route took them to two American ports, TORONTO could not continue. She was laid up in the Turning Basin at Toronto and in due course was given a coat of grey paint to help preserve her woodwork against the day when she might once more be used by the company on some other route. That day, however, never came and on June 14, 1947, TORONTO was towed to Hamilton by the tug HELENA, the veteran paddler having been sold to the Steel Company of Canada Ltd. for scrapping. After the retirement of her running-mate, KINGSTON carried on the Toronto-Prescott route alone.
Another serious accident involving KINGSTON occurred on June 17, 1941 when she grounded on a shoal in the St. Lawrence. The Pyke Salvage Company sent its tugs SALVAGE PRINCE and SALVAGE QUEEN to her aid and KINGSTON, after a week on the shoal, was freed with the assistance of pontoons. Shortly after the steamer had floated free but before she could be moved from the scene, she was a victim of a thunderstorm in which lightning struck her foremast. Whether the lightning decapitated the mast or whether its top was lopped off by repairmen afterwards we are not certain, but the mast was considerably shorter when the steamer re-entered service. It is said that KINGSTON'S longtime master, Capt. Benson A. Bongard, was so shaken by the accident that the company had to bring Capt. H. W. Webster of the CAYUGA to the scene to replace Capt. Bongard for the trip to the Kingston drydock. Capt. Webster would eventually replace Capt. Bongard on a permanent basis and, in fact, he was destined to be KINGSTON's last master.
KINGSTON carried on by herself through the war years and, in fact, all the way to the end of the decade. She was getting on in years but the service was popular and it looked as if the paddler would keep going for a good many more years. In fact, her engine was rebuilt in 1948, hardly the sort of work likely to be done by an owner considering the retirement of a vessel. But as KINGSTON's 1949 season was drawing to a close, there occurred an event which was to prove to be the undoing of the veteran steamer.
During the early morning hours of Saturday, September 17, 1949, the C.S.L. upper lake passenger and package freight steamer NORONIC was lying on the west side of Toronto's Yonge Street passenger terminal, the ship being on a post-season cruise with a large complement of Americans on board. Fire broke out on the ship and by morning, NORONIC was a sunken, burned-out wreck, the lives of many of her passengers having been snuffed out during the holocaust. At 2:40 p.m. that afternoon, KINGSTON sailed from Toronto on her last scheduled run of the season, a trip that was to prove to be her very last.
This may well be the last photo taken of KINGSTON while in operation From the camera of J. H. Bascom, it shows her leaving Toronto on her lat trip, September 17, 1949.KINGSTON, once her final round trip had been completed, went to the shipyard at Kingston where she was scheduled to undergo considerable maintenance work during the winter. In fact, much work was actually done on her but before it could be finished, the Canadian government in January 1950 dropped a bombshell in the form of comprehensive and stringent new fire regulations which were a direct result of the NORONIC disaster. In order to bring KINGSTON into compliance with the new requirements, C.S.L. would have had to spend approximately $600,000 to install fire alarms, sprinkler systems and additional bulkheads. As might have been expected, the company was unwilling to expend so great a sum on a boat of KINGSTON's age and accordingly it was immediately announced that the Toronto-Montreal passenger service would not be operated in 1950, the KINGSTON being retired from her Toronto-Prescott run and RAPIDS PRINCE from her connecting service between Prescott and Montreal.
As it was obvious that KINGSTON would never operate again, C.S.L. wasted no time in disposing of the steamer. During the spring, she was towed to Hamilton and there the wreckers began to rip into her beautiful woodwork. By early summer, there was not much left except the hull and the funnel casing at the top of which forlornly perched her two stacks. The hull was then towed around to the yard of the Steel Company of Canada Ltd. where it was cut up.
KINGSTON lasted a good deal longer than most of the famous nightboats and, had it not been for the events of that fateful September 17th, the chances were very good that she would have operated yet a few years more. Nevertheless, KINGSTON had gained a place in the hearts of the Lake Ontario travelling public and will long be remembered by local residents as well as by the marine historians who so admired her grace and elegance.
KINGSTON may have left another legacy too, but one that is not recognized as such by the many people who come in contact with it. It is said that Thousand Island salad dressing was invented in the galley of KINGSTON by a steward who had run out of other dressing and who was faced by a dining saloon full of hungry travellers. This may or may not have been the case, but either way, KINGSTON was worthy of recognition and deserved to be remembered for many, many years.