The Maritime History of the Great Lakes
Scanner, v. 12, n. 7 (April 1980)
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Scanner (Toronto, ON), Apr 1980


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Bascom, John N., Editor
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Meetings; The Editor's Notebook; G. A. Tomlinson Souvenirs; The Shipbuilders; Additional Marine News
Date of Publication:
Apr 1980
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English
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Meetings

Saturday, May 10th - 6:30 p.m. at the Ship Inn. Annual Dinner Meeting. Please note the date and plan to attend. Details will be found below. This will be the last meeting until October.

The Editor's Notebook

The March Meeting was exceptionally well attended and a great success. We sincerely thank Milton J. Brown for coming all the way from Cleveland with his family to present for us his illustrated history of the Cleveland-Cliffs Steamship Company.

The ANNUAL DINNER MEETING will be held on Saturday, May 10, in the Ship Inn which is located in the cellar of the Marine Museum of Upper Canada. Dinner will be served at 7 and the bar will be open about 6:30 for those who might enjoy a restorative before the meal. "From Thunder Bay to Sept-Iles - A Trip Down the Seaway" will be the subject of our speaker, William J. Luke. The cost of the dinner will be $12.00 per person. The capacity of the restaurant is limited and many of the tickets have already been sold. If you have not yet reserved, please send your remittance by the earliest possible post to Mr. James M. Kidd, 83 Humberview Road, Toronto, Ontario M6S 1W9. Tickets will not be mailed but will be held at the door for those who have reserved.

In the New Member Department, a hearty welcome goes out to John P. Connelly of Deer Trail, Colorado, to Douglas G. Dennison and Nick Domy of Thunder Bay, to T. Reid McLam of Sarnia, to Lauritz C. Randeriis of Toronto, and to Ronald Pennington, Henry Bettie and William Chase, all of Goderich.

Marine News

Davie Shipbuilding Ltd. has announced that it will build a tanker for its Branch Lines Division, the vessel to be delivered in August 1981. Considerably larger than any of the tankers now operated by Branch Lines, the new boat will be of approximately 11,000 Gross Tons and will carry about 91,000 barrels of gasoline. She will cost $21,000,000 and will be strengthened for ice service. The announcement contained no mention of the name to be chosen for the tanker, but we might hope for a return to the "Branch" series of names which, for so many years, graced the fleet's ships.

The Huron Cement steamer E. M. FORD was raised from the bottom of Milwaukee harbour during the latter part of January and, during early March, was towed by JOHN M. SELVICK and LAUREN CASTLE to Sturgeon Bay where she is to be repaired by the Bay Shipbuilding Corporation. The 1898-built vessel sustained severe bow damage in the accident but it was found that her cement cargo was not as difficult to remove as had been anticipated and that, contrary to early fears, it was not necessary to cut her spar deck completely open to get at the cement. It is expected that E. M. FORD will be returned to service later this year.

It is now definite that U.S. Steel's idle self-unloader IRVIN L. CLYMER will not be joining the fleet of Huron Cement/General Dynamics. The "Steel Trust" has decided against selling CLYMER to any U.S.-flag operator but has left the door open for a possible sale to a Canadian fleet.

The U.S. Steel Great Lakes Fleet will operate seventeen bulk carriers during 1980 together with five of the "Bradley" self-unloaders. This would appear to indicate that, at least at the beginning of the season, only the following will be in service: ARTHUR M. ANDERSON, SEWELL AVERY, ROGER BLOUGH, CASON J. CALLAWAY, PHILIP R. CLARKE, BENJAMIN F. FAIRLESS, A. H. FERBERT, LEON FRASER, EDWIN H. GOTT, JOHN HULST, THOMAS W. LAMONT, IRVING S. OLDS, EUGENE W. PARGNY, ROBERT C. STANLEY, EUGENE P. THOMAS, ENDERS M. VOORHEES and RALPH H. WATSON, plus CALCITE II, JOHN G. MUNSON, ROGERS CITY, GEORGE A. SLOAN and MYRON C. TAYLOR. Notable amongst those missing from the list are B. F. AFFLECK, WILLIAM A. IRVIN, HORACE JOHNSON, HOMER D. WILLIAMS and T. W. ROBINSON.

The Interlake Steamship Company has ceased its negotiations to purchase PIONEER from the Medusa Cement Company. As mentioned earlier, Interlake has been hoping to bring from salt water an ocean-going vessel of the affiliated Moore-McCormack Lines for conversion into a pilothouse-forward self-unloader. These plans had been stalled by litigation involving another operator who used such a vessel, built for international service, in coasting trades. The legal action has now been concluded and it seems that P-M will be permitted to go ahead with the conversion, probably during the winter of 1981-82. The conversion of a salty, however, eliminates the need for the services of PIONEER to assist with Interlake's cargo commitments.

Despite earlier rumours to the contrary, the Cleveland-Cliffs Steamship Company will operate WILLIAM P. SNYDER JR. in 1980, the veteran steamer having passed her survey and inspection during the winter at Sturgeon Bay. It appears , however, that MAXINE will not fit out at all and, for the first time in many years, will not be trading for the Wisconsin Steel Company. Wisconsin Steel and its owner, Envirodyne Inc., are themselves in trouble at present due to financial reverses and labour problems experienced by International Harvester, Wisconsin's largest customer and former owner. It is anticipated that Cliffs will operate the rest of its fleet in 1980, even CHAMPLAIN which allegedly is suffering from the same complaints in her engine as those that have troubled certain other Maritime Class steamers such as E.G. GRACE.

The new 1,000-foot self-unloading stemwinder BURNS HARBOR, presently nearing completion at Sturgeon Bay for the Bethlehem Steel Corporation, is to be christened on May 24, 1980. The ceremonies will be held at the Bay Shipbuilding Corporation's yard.

The Columbia Transportation Division, Oglebay Norton Company, has confirmed that neither ASHLAND nor THOMAS WILSON will operate in 1980. Columbia would be willing to sell both steamers but the asking price has proven to be too steep to interest other fleets. Meanwhile, a few troublesome difficulties having been worked out, Columbia has decided to proceed with the construction of Hull 726 at Bay Shipbuilding, a 1,000-foot self-unloader. Her keel was laid at Sturgeon Bay on March 3rd. Columbia does, however, seem to be back-pedalling on its other plans for fleet updating; so far, no contracts whatever have been signed for the flock of self-unloader conversions which the company had planned for upcoming winters.

The cement carrier LOC BAY, recently purchased by the Medusa Cement Company, is to be renamed (e) BADGER STATE. She will be placed in service carrying finished cement from Charlevoix, Michigan, to Manitowoc, Wisconsin. Earlier reports had mentioned that she would be operated between Lake Ontario and Lake Erie ports, but this does not now appear to be the case.

The Dundee Cement Company of Dundee, Michigan, has recently acquired facilities for a cement distribution terminal at the Pinney Dock in Ashtabula, Ohio. Dundee intends to bring cement to the terminal by boat from Clarkson, Ontario, in much the same way as ROBERT KOCH hauls it from Clarkson to Buffalo for the St. Lawrence Cement Company. Anticipating approval of its plans by the St. Lawrence Seaway Authority, Dundee hopes to operate the service with the chartered barge MEL WILLIAM SELVICK and eventually to notch the stern of the barge to facilitate her handling by a tug in the Welland Canal. MEL WILLIAM SELVICK, of course, is the name given to the remains of the venerable steamer SAMUEL MITCHELL of 1892, which now is owned by the Selvick Marine Towing Corporation of Sturgeon Bay.

The harbour at Marblehead, Ohio, is being prepared to accommodate the Erie Sand Steamship Company's self-unloader CONSUMERS POWER, considerable dredging being necessary. In actuality, CONSUMERS POWER has not been purchased by Erie, but rather will be operated under a long-term charter from the American Steamship Company. She is the replacement for the 73-year-old J. F. SCHOELLKOPF JR. which was retired by Erie at the close of the 1979 navigation season as a result of her condition as determined in an autumn drydocking at Port Weller. The SCHOELLKOPF, as earlier reported, has been sold to Marine Salvage Ltd. for dismantling.

It is evident that Boland and Cornelius will be proceeding with the repair of the fire-damaged NICOLET, but we do not know as yet where or how the reconstruction will be performed. It has been said that she might be taken to the American Lakehead for the installation of the forward cabins from the Cliffs steamer FRONTENAC, but we would tend to discount the chances of such an eventuality. As a matter of interest, there is no word yet on the disposition of the rest of FRONTENAC either. The steamer's sorry remains were purchased from Cliffs by Fraser Shipyards in the hope of a resale, particularly as regards FRONTENAC's relatively new power plant.

MAURICE DESGAGNES, recently lost in the North Atlantic, is seen upbound at Port Colborne in this October 29, 1977 photo by J. H. Bascom.Yet another Canadian coastal vessel has been lost, this time one that had been a frequent visitor to the Great Lakes. On March 11, bound for Sept-Iles, P.Q., with a load of railroad ties from New Orleans, the 279-foot MAURICE DESGAGNES encountered heavy weather. The following morning, in a position some 75 nautical miles southeast of Halifax, the ship's cargo shifted and she began to take water. Distress calls were sent and the destroyers H.M.C.S. HURON and MARGAREE attended at the scene. The DESGAGNES' crew was removed by helicopter and, less than a half hour after the last man was lifted clear, the ship rolled onto her starboard side and sank. Built in 1963 at Terneuzen, Holland, MAURICE DESGAGNES had sailed under the name FINNRUNNER before her purchase by Groupe Desgagnes. At the time of her loss, she was owned by Les Armateurs du St-Laurent Inc., Pointe-au-Pic, P.Q. She had traded regularly into the lakes since 1977.

Despite the usual rumours to the contrary which circulate each spring (and which sometimes prove to be true), the S & E Shipping Corporation, Kinsman Lines, will operate its entire fleet during 1980. All six steamers are expected to be in service by mid-April. There had previously been some concern about the future of FRANK R. DENTON in view of the fact that she spent the winter laid up light in the Frog Pond at Toledo, the notorious resting place of vessels which have reached the end of their active lives. It is interesting to note that, with only six vessels left in the fleet despite the amazing growth of the company in the interim (but in line with its subsequent retrenchment of services), the Kinsman roster is smaller now than it has been at any time since 1964.

The Great Lakes Pilots' Association appears to have purchased two more tugs, GREEN BAY from the C. Reiss Coal Company of Sheboygan, Wisconsin, and DOLOMITE from the U.S. Steel Corporation which operated her at Rogers City. GREEN BAY, built in 1912 and rebuilt in 1960, is 74 feet in length and will be retained in service at Green Bay for at least five years. She is still in her old colours except that the 'R' has been removed from her stack. DOLOMITE is a 95-foot steam tug built in 1927, and it is not yet evident what will be done with her. It is to be assumed that she will be repowered for further use, but we would rather hope that she would retain her steam machinery, such hopes being based on pure nostalgia rather than on any consideration of economic principles.

Navigation Sonamar Inc. (a partnership of Logistec Navigation Inc., Groupe Desgagnes Inc., the Quebec Department of Transport, and several Quebec coastal operators who are all members of the St. Lawrence Shipowners' Association Inc.) is investigating the possibility of hauling salt to Montreal from the SOQUEM salt mine on the Magdalen Islands. Such shipments would replace the salt which presently travels to Montreal from Goderich. The company allegedly would like to acquire a number of self-unloaders for the service. Be this as it may, bids for the actual contract will be solicited from ten Great Lakes/St. Lawrence shippers, five of them being Quebec-based firms and five with head offices in Ontario. Where this will leave Navigation Sonamar, which presently has no self-unloaders, we cannot imagine, but the company was formed specifically for the purpose of giving local shippers a chance to compete in St. Lawrence trades with the larger lake-based fleets.

The St. Lawrence Seaway got off to its earliest opening ever when it began business for 1980 on March 24. The Welland Canal opened on the same day as did the MacArthur Lock at the Soo. (The Poe Lock will be opened as of April 1 and the third lock will be opened when traffic warrants.) The first boat to enter the Welland as it opened was H. M. GRIFFITH, upbound from Hamilton for coal. Although there is not much iron ore to move immediately, Canadian shippers specifically requested the early opening in order that they might begin moving their cargo commitments as soon as possible, there being a heavy backlog of Canadian grain waiting to move down the lakes.

The Bob-Lo Company's venerable steam excursion vessels COLUMBIA and STE. CLAIRE seem to be assured of a good future as long as they remain in sound mechanical and structural condition. Both steamers have been accepted by the Heritage, Conservation and Recreation Service of the U.S. Department of the Interior and have been placed in the National Register of Historic Places, thus matching the feat successfully managed some years ago by the river steamboat DELTA QUEEN. As far as is known, these three are the only operating vessels so designated. Bob-Lo officials state that they did not seek the designation but are happy with it. Plaques will be presented to the boats in spring ceremonies.

D'Arcy Foods Inc. has been investigating the possibility of constructing a grain elevator at Sault Ste. Marie, Michigan. The $1,700,000 elevator would be used for locally-grown specialty crops such as buckwheat, peas, millet and soya beans, the idea being to encourage area farmers to grow such items and sell them to D'Arcy. The problem is that the only existing dock at the Soo which would be suitable for the purpose is the old Carbide Dock, east of the Edison Sault generating plant, a dock now leased to the Sainte Marie Yard and Marine Company for its growing marine repair business. The two companies are looking into the possibility of sharing the space. Vessel agent for the grain shipping firm, if it does acquire facilities at the Soo, will be Capt. Frank Manzzutti of Sault Ste. Marie, Ontario.

The Hannah Inland Waterways Corporation is building two 400-foot barges for lake service, one coming from Bay Shipbuilding at Sturgeon Bay (Hull 727) and one from an off-lakes shipyard. Observers had been wondering what Hannah would do with these big barges, which should be ready for service in 1981, and only recently has the answer become evident. It appears that the Amoco Oil Company's Northern Division Transportation Department has been experiencing difficulties in manning its three beautiful steam-powered tankers and that these problems have become sufficiently severe that Amoco has decided to withdraw from the business of owning tankers. Accordingly, barring unforeseen developments, the 62-year-old AMOCO ILLINOIS, 50-year-old AMOCO WISCONSIN and 43-year-old AMOCO INDIANA probably have but one more year of navigation ahead of them. We shall regret the passing of these handsome steamers and shall miss the sound of their deep steam whistles.

The renewal of a portion of the west wall of Lock One was not the only major project along the Welland Canal begun during the winter by the St. Lawrence Seaway Authority. Work was also started on the widening of the upper level from Port Robinson to Allanburg, the abutments of old Bridge 12 having been removed at "Steelton Gap". The first stage of the work is to be resumed as soon as the ground becomes more stable this spring, and the summer months will see the widening of the channel for a further 3,600 feet northwards. The third stage, encompassing a similar distance to be widened, will be commenced during 1981.

The Canada Steamship Lines package freighter ESKIMO may soon change her colours for those of the Quebec and Ontario Transportation Company Ltd. Q & O would like to acquire ESKIMO but no firm decision on such a purchase will be made until after the vessel is drydocked for inspection.

When the wounded salty ARCHANGELOS was towed back up to Port Weller last December after coming to grief in the St. Lawrence River, it was generally assumed that repairs would be undertaken by Port Weller Dry Docks Ltd. This has proven not to be the case, however, as the shipyard has had its hands full with other work and could not manage to fit ARCHANGELOS into its schedule. The hapless salty was arrested at her berth on March 19, the action being instigated by the owner of her undelivered steel cargo. She was released on March 21 and, on March 24, was towed stern-first away from the wall below Lock One by the tugs PRINCESS NO. 1 and R & L NO. 1. Repairs to ARCHANGELOS will probably be undertaken at a St. Lawrence River shipyard.

The name of the City of Toronto will once again be borne by a deep-sea vessel in the near future. C.P. Bermuda (Canadian Pacific) has ordered four tankers from the Sanoyasu Dockyard Company of Japan and these will be delivered in 1980 and 1981. The four 31.500 dwt. tankers will be named FORT ASSINIBOINE, FORT GARRY, FORT ROUGE and FORT TORONTO.

G. A. Tomlinson Souvenirs

We extend a belated word of thanks to Alan Sykes and Barry Andersen for providing the Marblehead Stone bills of lading which were enclosed with the February "Scanner". They commemorate the retirement from service of the Columbia steamer G. A. TOMLINSON.

6. Ship of the Month No. 92

JOHN S. THOM

Back in December of 1972, we featured in these pages the two-stacked, wooden-hulled package freight steamers OATLAND and JOYLAND, two veterans which began life in 1884 as WM. A. HASKELL and WM. J. AVERELL (sometimes spelled AVERILL) respectively. They both lived to a ripe old age, although a third sister, WALTER L. FROST, did not. Readers who recall the story of these vessels will remember that they were followed from their builder's yard a few years later by five more boats of somewhat similar design, this latter group also being built to the order of the Central of Vermont interests. It is one of these later steamers that we have chosen for our present feature, for we have never before dealt in any detail with any of the five.

In the years before the turn of the century, and even for a short while afterwards, many of the railroads in the northern United States maintained not only thriving rail operations but also connecting steamboat services on the Great Lakes. One such company was the Ogdensburg and Lake Champlain Railroad, later known as the Central of Vermont and still later as the Rutland Railroad. It was in 1883 that the railroad formed a lake shipping subsidiary whose purpose it was to transport package freight by water between Ogdensburg, N.Y., and Chicago. The new company, first known as the Ogdensburg Transit Company and later as the Rutland Transit Company, appears to have taken over the trade of the old Northern Transportation Company (or Northern Transit Company, as it had become known) which had begun the liquidation of its outdated fleet in 1882.

The AVERELL, HASKELL and FROST were the first ships built for the Ogdensburg Transit Company but, six years after their construction, the line felt the need for additional tonnage to assist them and to replace several chartered vessels. Contracts for five new steamers were let to the Detroit Dry Dock Company and all of them were turned out by the builder's yard at Detroit during the 1890 season. They were christened GOV. SMITH (Hull 97), JAMES R. LANGDON (Hull 98), A. McVITTIE (Hull 99), F. H. PRINCE (Hull 102) and HENRY R. JAMES (Hull 104).

This is HENRY R. JAMES as she appeared from 1896 until shortly after 1900. Photo from the Bascom collection.The last of these vessels, HENRY R. JAMES, was enrolled as U.S.96055, her home port being Ogdensburg. A 'tween-deck package freighter with a wooden hull, she measured 240.0 feet in length (253.4 feet overall), 42.0 feet in the beam and 23.4 feet in depth, these dimensions producing registered tonnages of 2048.01 Gross and 1552.71 Net. The JAMES and all her sisters (for they were nearly identical) were powered by similar compound engines built for them, as were the boilers, by the Dry Dock Engine Works, a firm affiliated with the shipbuilder. JAMES was fitted with engine number 163 which had cylinders of 28 and 52 inches and a stroke of 40 inches. Steam was supplied by two cylindrical Scotch marine boilers, 12 feet by 10, numbered 77 and 78 by their makers; coal-fired, they produced a working pressure of 120 p.s.i.

It is rather difficult to understand why the railroad ordered five wooden-hulled package freighters as late as 1890. By this time, iron-hulled steamers had been ordered by several lines, perhaps the most famous of these being the beautiful HUDSON and HARLEM, built in 1887 and 1888 by the Wyandotte yard of the Detroit Dry Dock Company for the Western Transit Company, the marine affiliate of the New York Central and Hudson River Railroad. Undoubtedly, the Central of Vermont management was influenced by the success which had followed the commissioning of its own earlier trio of boats, but perhaps they were also a bit shy to leave aside so many years of tradition in shipbuilding and to take a chance on a form of construction upon which so many old-line shipping men looked somewhat askance. Perhaps, had the steamers been given iron hulls, they might have served the railroad and its successors for more than the twenty years that they ran for their original owner.

HENRY R. JAMES and her sisters were somewhat more modern than the earlier trio of steamers, but they were still typical of the wooden package freighters of the era. High-sided and bluff-bowed, they were equipped with large cargo ports on each side to facilitate the loading and unloading of freight. Two large cabins were mounted on the spar deck, or what might better be called the "upper deck", these providing most of the accommodation for the officers and crew. The texas, as the largest and farthest forward of these cabins might loosely be termed, was topped with a handsome square pilothouse, complete with three large sectioned windows across its front. Navigation was normally done from the open bridge located on the monkey's island, protection from the elements being provided by a canvas "dodger" or weathercloth, and by an awning overhead.

The after cabin was a smaller structure, from which sprouted a tall and fairly heavy smokestack, well raked to match the very tall mast which rose immediately abaft the pilothouse. The mast was fitted with a gaff, but there is no evidence that a boom was ever carried or that any of the boats were ever equipped to carry auxiliary sail. As built, all five vessels had but one mast but, as the years passed, they were given an interesting assortment of rather scrawny mainmasts. The first of these seems to have been located just abaft the "texas" cabin but, in later years, the main was relocated immediately forward of the stack. The five ships seem to have had their mainmasts set in slightly different locations. The hulls were given a sweeping sheer and the uplift of the bows was accentuated by the appearance of the anchor stocks which protruded from the closed bulwarks on the flush forecastle. The anchors themselves rested right on the open foredeck.

The Ogdensburg Transit Company's steamers seem to have carried a variety of colour schemes over the years. When built, JAMES and her sisters had black hulls and grey boot-tops, only the upper edge of the forecastle rail being white. The cabins were dark in colour, probably a shade of brown, and the stacks were white with a black smokeband which extended fully half way down the length of the funnel. The legends "O.T.Co." and "Central Vermont Line" appeared in white on the bows, the former on the rail and the latter beneath on the planked-in side of the 'tween deck. During 1896, the cabins began to be repainted white, although the shutters gracing the cabin windows remained a dark colour, probably brown or perhaps green. The rest of the colours remained the same until, shortly after the turn of the century and definitely prior to 1903, "the hulls were repainted white. The boot-top remained grey but the "O.T.Co." on the rail was changed to a black "R.T.Co." (indicating the advent of the Rutland years) and "Central Vermont Line" gave way to the black legend "Ogdensburg Line".

HENRY R. JAMES and her sisters, together with the earlier trio, led a gruelling life in the service of the Ogdensburg and Rutland Transit Companies. The line had the longest route of any of the American lake package freight services, for not only was it the only one to operate down onto Lake Ontario (most had their eastern terminus on Lake Erie), but the steamers had to push on down the St. Lawrence River as far as their home port of Ogdensburg. The route was particularly hard on the wooden ships since each round trip necessitated two tedious passages through the 27 small locks of the old Welland Canal. Eastbound, the ships could be found with their holds full of grain, but their westbound cargoes consisted of the usual general cargo plus large quantities of granite which was unloaded at Chicago for the building trades.

The five sisterships carried on with their usual route between Ogdensburg and Chicago until the latter half of the first decade of the new century. On August 19, 1906, GOV. SMITH was lost by collision with URANUS on Lake Michigan and, in the same year, the line commissioned its first steel-hulled canal-size package freighters, OGDENSBURG and RUTLAND, which were built at Cleveland by the American Shipbuilding Company. More steel canallers followed, BENNINGTON (I) and BURLINGTON (I) in 1908 from the Great Lakes Engineering Works at Ecorse, and ARLINGTON (I) and BRANDON in 1910 from the Wyandotte yard of the Detroit Shipbuilding Company, the successor to the Detroit Dry Dock Company.

As the newer steamers appeared, the older vessels were gradually relegated to standby status and it is fairly certain that they had been withdrawn from regular operation by 1910, although they undoubtedly saw fill-in service as necessary. HENRY R. JAMES, JAMES R. LANGDON and A. McVITTIE were sold for other service in 1910, while F. H. PRINCE was the victim of a fire which occurred on August 14, 1911. With all five of the newer ships having left the fleet, the only remainders of the wooden era still in the company's colours were HASKELL and AVERELL, their sister WALTER L. FROST having stranded to a total loss on South Manitou Island, Lake Michigan, on November 4, 1903. HASKELL and AVERELL remained with the Rutland until the Panama Canal Act forced the railroads to divest themselves of their lake shipping affiliates at the close of the 1915 season. The fact that they lasted longer than their newer, single-stacked counterparts was probably due to nothing more interesting than the fact that they were six years older and, as such, less likely to attract buyers.

HENRY R. JAMES and JAMES R. LANGDON both were acquired in 1910 by the same purchaser, namely the Quebec and Levis Ferry Company Ltd. of Quebec City. It was intended that the two steamers carry the cars of the Grand Trunk Railroad across the St. Lawrence River, railway access to Quebec City having been delayed by the 1907 collapse of the uncompleted Quebec Bridge. The company's ferry route was from a landing just above the Davie Shipyard's patent slip at Levis to Atkinson's Wharf which was located near the Quebec City customs house.

JOHN S. THOM, surrounded by Playfair canallers and with FRANK B. BAIRD at far left, awaits upbound passage at Port Dalhousie c. 1924. Photo by Rowley Murphy from the Bascom collection.The JAMES was reregistered at Quebec as C.126388 and was renamed (b) JOHN S. THOM in honour of the gentleman who, at the time of her purchase, was the president of the ferry company. Her sister became (b) CHARLES H. SHAW and was named for the company's vice-president. Both steamers were taken in hand by Davie Shipyards and were cut down for their new service as carferries, their 'tween-decks being removed and their superstructures aft of the forecastle cut down to the main deck except for a high bulwark which was left for protection. Tracks were then laid athwartship on the main deck and these provided space for some eight or ten standard freight cars. After this operation was performed on the THOM, she was a very strange-looking vessel indeed. Her pilothouse, once again painted a brown colour, perched atop a shortened texas which was moved forward on the very high forecastle. Her deck was, of course, very low and, because her side planking had been cut away right aft to the fantail, she was left with a peculiar double-deck after cabin, from the upper level of which sprouted her stack. This cabin looked all the more odd in that it was not situated all the way aft but rather closer to the midships section of the hull. The hull itself was black at this stage and the stack was black with a wide silver band. After the rebuild, JOHN S. THOM's depth was reduced to 14.9 feet and her tonnage to 1440 Gross and 911 Net.

JOHN S. THOM and her sister shuttled back and forth across the St. Lawrence from 1910 until a new railway bridge spanning the river was opened in 1916. One would have thought that this event would have finished off the THOM and the SHAW for good, but such was not the case. The Quebec and Levis Ferry Company decided to place them both in the coal and pulpwood trades on the Great Lakes and the St. Lawrence River. Considering their age and condition, this decision would have been surprising had it not been for the great demand for tonnage which had been created by the First World War; many of the more modern canallers had been requisitioned for salt water service and almost any bottom that would float was pressed into service as replacement tonnage.

During the summer of 1917, however, the THOM was involved in a stranding which very nearly proved to be her undoing. Had it not been for the war, she would probably never have been salvaged from her resting place on the rocky shoal protruding into Lake Ontario beneath the Devil's Nose, that high and bold promontory on the south shore of the lake, some 22 miles west of Charlotte. The Devil's Nose had proven fatal to many lake vessels over the years, particularly during the era of sailing ships which were easily trapped on the lee shore in heavy weather. But salvaged the THOM was and, for the full story of the accident and the refloating of the steamer, we can do no better than to quote the words of her master, Captain William J. Stitt, as contained in C.H.J. Snider's "Schooner Days", Number CCCXXII, which appeared in the Evening Telegram, Toronto, on Saturday, December 11, 1937.

"Early in August, 1917, we had loaded pulpwood on the THOM at Cap Saumon for Ogdensburg, had delivered our cargo, and were en route to Erie, Pennsylvania, for a coal cargo for Quebec City. Shortly after 4 p.m. on August 21, we got away from Ogdensburg and proceeded up the St. Lawrence, passing out into Lake Ontario at 10:30 p.m. The weather was fine and a light northeast wind was blowing almost directly astern.

"At midnight, we were out by Main Duck Island and on our course for the Welland Canal, making about 12 miles per hour. At 11:45 p.m., the other watch was called and, after taking their usual midnight supper, took over control. Chief Engineer W. A. MacLaren and I went aft to the dining room and partook of our light lunch and coffee before retiring for rest to be ready for a strenuous day putting the ship through the Welland Canal. As usual, after returning to the forward deck, we discussed the weather conditions and the prospect of a nice daylight run through the canal. It was a beautiful night with a clear atmosphere and the reflections of all the cities and towns on both sides of the lake showed up clearly. The C.S.L. passenger steamer was plainly seen pulling out of Charlotte and heading for Kingston.

"After the first watch had retired and things had settled down with all the officers on duty and following our usual course up the lake, the mate gave the wheelsman orders to keep a good course and, should any downbound boats be sighted on or near our course, to report to him. It was a close, muggy night, quite warm and with a tendency to make one drowsy, so the mate dropped down on the seat behind the big hand wheels and dropped off into a sound sleep. The wheelsman, left to his own meditations and with very little steering to do as the boat would keep her course almost alone, also got very drowsy and dropped off into a doze. The same thing happened to the watchman up forward who was supposed to keep a sharp lookout. Thus the ship was left to herself with the watch asleep at their posts, unmindful that she was deviating from her course and gradually working her head towards the south shore and approaching that dreaded boulder patch just east of the Devil's Nose.

"In the engineroom and stokehold, the second engineer, oiler and firemen were attending their duties and, between times, going to the gangway for a breath of fresh air. On one of these visits, the engineer spotted that big and prominent flashing lighthouse so well known by mariners, Braddock's Point Light, seven miles west of the Charlotte piers. He called the oiler and remarked to him that he never remembered seeing it so close aboard when passing up the lake. Another hour passed and the second engineer and oiler were at the gangway again for a breather; this time they noticed the south shore quite close aboard and the ship heading for the bight just inside that prominent landmark, the Devil's Nose. It was just about 4 a.m. then (Wednesday, August 22, 1917) and beginning to break day with everything as clear as a bell.

"Unless something were done at once, the ship would soon be aground. They did think of stopping the engine and calling the captain and chief engineer to investigate the circumstances, but delays are always dangerous when in close quarters and the ship running full-pelt at 12 miles per hour. It was decided to send the oiler up to the wheelhouse at last to call the mate and see what was wrong. Just as the oiler was ascending the ladder to the bridge, the ship struck the boulders and went bounding over them for a distance of several hundred feet. She came at last to rest, minus her rudder and part of her propeller, and with her back broken at midships.

"The shock was terrible and most of those who were off watch were thrown out of their berths and bounced around. The mate, wheelsman and watchman got a rude awakening, naturally, when the ship hit and they were very much awake by the time she came to rest. Considerable damage was done to the engines, which were running full at the time, as the propeller came in contact with the boulders and broke three of the blades off completely and carried the rudder away at the same time. The confusion on board was terrible as everyone came scrambling out on deck to see what it was all about.

"Fortunately, the ship was not leaking and quite tight, but we were certainly well aground on the boulder shoal and directly in front of us loomed up His Satanic Majesty's profile. After the mate and his crew had explained the circumstances leading up to the disaster and had accepted full blame for it all, we launched a lifeboat and made a thorough examination of the damage to the ship and the nature of the reef we were on. We rowed to the shore and in a summer cottage found a 'phone and got in touch with our owners, a wrecking company at Kingston, and the insurance company.

"We were 22 miles west of Charlotte and this was the morning of August 22. The lake was calm and just a light northeast wind was blowing, so we were in no immediate danger. Early on the morning of the 23rd, the Donnelly Wrecking Company arrived with pump, diver and wrecking equipment, and commenced salvage operations. As the ship was empty and nothing could be unloaded to raise her from the reef, she had to be carried bodily over the boulder bar and into deep water several hundred feet distant. The THOM was a big heavy boat and had very heavy boilers and engines. After working all day of the 23rd, we finally had the ship afloat just before dark and we towed her into Charlotte for the night, as the weather had turned bad and very threatening, with a fresh northeast wind coming up.

"On the morning of the 24th, we got away from Charlotte with the THOM in tow of the wrecking tug DONNELLY, and after a very good run arrived at Kingston just after midnight. Not being able to get the THOM on the Kingston drydock for repairs, she proceeded on down the St. Lawrence River to Ogdensburg, N. Y., where she was hauled out on the marine railway on August 27. After inspection of the hull, it was decided to make temporary repairs and take the ship to Quebec under her own power and there give her a thorough rebuild. We got away from Ogdensburg on September 9 and, after a very good run, arrived in Quebec at 9 p.m. on September 12. We dismantled the ship at that port and, on September 20, took her to the Levis drydock for rebuilding."

JOHN S. THOM needed a lot of work after her escapade on the Devil's Nose and she remained in the Davie shipyard at Levis over the winter of 1917-18. Much money was expended on her refurbishing but, rather than putting the THOM back in lake service in the spring of 1918, the Quebec and Levis Ferry Company Ltd. sold her for the sum of $160,000 (quite a price for those days) to New York interests. For seven years, JOHN S. THOM operated on salt water but it does not seem that she was placed in United States registry, as she does not appear in the "Merchant Vessels" listings. What she did on salt water, we do not know, but we find it hard to imagine that the THOM was particularly suited for operation on open waters along the coast.

Perhaps even more surprising than the THOM's continued operation after the cessation of the Quebec railferry service or her escape from the Devil's clutches was her return, at the grand old age of 35 years, to the ownership of the Quebec and Levis Ferry Company Ltd. which reacquired her at a cost of $70,000 during 1925 and brought her back to the lakes. Back in her old colours again, and looking just as she had before her venture onto salt water, JOHN S. THOM went back into the coal and pulpwood trades, staying mainly on the St. Lawrence River and Lakes Erie and Ontario. Seldom did she stray onto the upper lakes, for she was hardly in any condition to withstand the rigours of heavy weather.

JOHN S. THOM plodded along for a few more years in the service of the Quebec and Levis Ferry Company, but she was nearing the end of her days and, as might be expected of a wooden hull nearing the end of its fourth decade of service, more and more work was required to keep her in operation. The onset of the Great Depression spelled the end for her and, during 1930, she was laid away to rest in the St. Charles River at Quebec City. There she mouldered away in the boneyard and it seems likely that her last remains were dismantled during the late 1930s. Even so, the THOM lasted longer than any of her sisters. A. McVITTIE survived, cut down to a bulk carrier and later acquired by the Montreal Transportation Company Ltd., until she sank in Kingston Harbour during November of 1919. Her hull was finally dismantled in 1925. CHARLES H. SHAW, the THOM's companion in the ferry service and coal and pulpwood trades for eight years, ran until about 1920, at which time she also was laid up in the St. Charles River. Unlike JOHN S. THOM, she never went to salt water and she was eventually dismantled about 1927.

JOHN S. THOM, although she was a good-looking vessel back in her package freight days for the Central of Vermont, was never a handsome boat after being cut down for the ferry service. In fact, she was downright homely and one of the strangest ships ever to serve on the lower lakes. She did, however, fulfill a useful purpose and merits our acknowledgement, even after the passage of so many years since she last turned a wheel.

The Shipbuilders

- The Revelation of the Answers to our March Quiz-

Judging from some of the comments we have heard, a goodly number of our readers have found the March quiz, prepared by Captain John Leonard, to be a challenging exercise in marine history and trivia. We hope that you enjoyed trying the quiz and we present herewith the correct answers so that you can see how you did. Although there were twelve major questions, we asked for exactly fifty individual pieces of information; for a correct score, give yourself fifty points, one for each sub-question.

1. The port was Ogdensburg, N.Y., and the shipbuilder was the St. Lawrence Marine Repair Dock Corporation. Its Hulls 1 and 2, built in 1929 and 1930, respectively, for the Federal Motorship Corporation, were the barge-canal motorships EMPIRE STATE and BUCKEYE STATE. From 1942 until 1945, they were chartered to the Quebec and Ontario Transportation Company Ltd.

2. The port we were looking for was Oswego, N.Y. In answer to part two, we will accept the name of any of the wooden-hulled steamers or schooners built there, but we were really looking for the first propeller-driven steamer on the Great Lakes. This was the 138-ton VANDALIA which was built at Oswego during the winter of 1840-41.

3. Kingston, Ontario, was the port and its major shipyard was the Kingston Shipbuilding Company Ltd., although other yards did function there over the years. The vessels we were looking for were:

a) Tug and Tender POLANA (23), (b) JALOBERT (54), (c) MACASSA (II)(65), (d) QUEEN CITY - built 1911 and presently serving as an excursion boat in the Detroit - Windsor area.

b) Tug and Tender BELLECHASSE - built 1912 and scrapped at Sorel 1954.

c) Canal-sized motorvessel D. C. EVEREST - built 1953 and still operating for American Can of Canada Ltd. which celebrated its 75th anniversary in 1979.

4. The port was Deseronto, Ontario, and its most famous marine facility was the shipyard of E. W. Rathbun and Company. The passenger steamer whose identity we were seeking was the 260-foot CIBOLA, built by W. C. White of Montreal at the Rathbun yard in 1887 for the Niagara Navigation Company Ltd. As a matter of interest, CIBOLA burned at Lewiston, N.Y., on the night of July 15, 1895 and her machinery was later placed in CORONA. CIBOLA's hull is alleged to have been buried in landfill during the Toronto waterfront extension of the early 1920s.

5. The port was Hamilton, Ontario, better known for shipbreaking than for shipbuilding. We were seeking the names of the following vessels:

a) CHIPPEWA - passenger steamer built 1892, Hull 2 of the Hamilton Bridge and Shipbuilding Company Ltd., for the Niagara Navigation Company Ltd. Later operated by C.S.L. and scrapped at Toronto and Hamilton in 1939.

b) ARABIAN - iron-hulled package freighter built 1892, Hull 1 of the Hamilton Bridge and Shipbuilding Company Ltd., for the Fairgrieve Brothers, Hamilton. Eventually passed to C.S.L. fleet. Sold 1926 and reduced to a barge. Final disposition not known.

c) HAMILTON - steel barge built 1901, Hull 4 of the Hamilton Bridge and Shipbuilding Company Ltd., for the Montreal Transportation Company Ltd. Later operated by C.S.L. Rebuilt as a steamer and lengthened in 1921, then scrapped 1937 at Sorel.

d) MYLES (06), (b) CATARACT (27), (c) THERESE T. - composite package freighter built 1882 at Hamilton for Myles and Company. Passed through hands of many owners including C.S.L. Burned 1910 and rebuilt. Reduced to barge 1916. Rebuilt as steamer 1918. Again reduced to barge 1927. Final disposition unknown but appears to have been dismantled at Kingston during the late 1940s. This is the vessel that appeared on the March photopage, the illustration showing her after an accident of unknown nature.

6. The village of Bridgeburg, Ontario, is presently known as Fort Erie. The three vessels whose names we were seeking were:

a) E. B. OSLER (27), (b) OSLER (54), (c) R. O. PETMAN - steel bulk carrier built 1907-08 by the Canadian Shipbuilding Company Ltd. for the St. Lawrence and Chicago Steam Navigation Company Ltd. Passed to C.S.L. in 1916 and converted to a self-unloader in 1939. Scrapped at La Spezia, Italy, in 1968.

b) TRANSITER (42), (b) TRANSTREAM (69), (c) WITSUPPLY - steel tanker built 1935, Hull 2513 (i) of the Horton Steel Works Ltd., as the pioneer unit of the fleet of Transit Tankers and Terminals Ltd. Lengthened 1937. Exploded 1941 and later rebuilt and again lengthened. Sold 1969 for service in the Caribbean. (The Lloyd Tankers barge BRUCE HUDSON was also built by Horton Steel in 1935 but TRANSITER is the boat we were seeking.)

c) INTERNATIONAL (II) - iron-hulled river carferry built 1872 for the Grand Trunk Railway. Latterly served the Pere Marquette between Port Huron and Sarnia. Sold 1934 and converted to a derrick barge. Final disposition not known.

7. The city we were looking for was Cleveland, Ohio. At one time, the Globe Iron Works, the Cleveland Shipbuilding Company, and the Great Lakes Towing Company were all building vessels at the port. Of course, other shipyards had functioned at Cleveland in earlier years. Globe and Cleveland Shipbuilding were eventually merged into the American Shipbuilding Company which has since abandoned its Cleveland facilities. The Great Lakes Towing Company still maintains a floating dock at Cleveland to service its own fleet of tugs.

8. The shipyard was the Jenks Shipbuilding Company which operated facilities on the Black River at Port Huron, Michigan. The three vessels mentioned in the quiz were:

a) EASTLAND (17), (b) U.S.S. WILMETTE - steel passenger and freight steamer built 1903 for the Michigan Steamship Company. Passed down through several owners and capsized at Chicago on July 24, 1915, with the loss of 835 lives. Salvaged and rebuilt as a naval patrol boat and training vessel. Scrapped 1948.

b) HENRY STEINBRENNER (I) - steel bulk carrier built 1900 for the Kinsman Transit Company. Sunk in collision with HARRY A. BERWIND in Lake Munuscong, December 6, 1909. Salvaged and rebuilt 1910. Foundered in heavy weather near Isle Royale, Lake Superior on May 20, 1953.

c) JAMES R. ELLIOTT (31), (b) NORMAC - steel firetug built 1902 for the Detroit Fire Department. Sold 1931 to the Owen Sound Transportation Company Ltd. and converted to a passenger and freight motorship. Retired from service 1968 and now used as a restaurant at the foot of Yonge Street, Toronto.

9. The ship was the iron-hulled railroad carferry HURON which was fabricated by Palmer and Company, Yarrow-on-Tyne, and assembled in 1875 at Point Edward, Ontario, by John H. Smith for the Grand Trunk Railway. HURON's hull is still in use on the Detroit River as a carfloat.

10. The shipbuilder was James Davidson who, for many years, built vessels for his own fleet at his shipyard at West Bay City, Michigan. Davidson also built ships for other operators. We asked for the name of at least one of the famous boats he built, and any of the following (for example) would suffice: AUSTRALASIA, BERMUDA, CARTAGENA, CITY OF GLASGOW, MADAGASCAR, MONTEZUMA, NICARAGUA, ORINOCO, PANAMA, RAPPAHANNOCK, SACRAMENTO, SHENANDOAH, VENEZUELA, etc.

11. The Georgian Bay port we were looking for was Owen Sound and the yard was that owned and operated by the Polson Iron Works Ltd. of Toronto. The three steamers whose identity we were seeking were:

a) MANITOBA - steel passenger and freight steamer, Hull 23, built 1889 for the Canadian Pacific Railway Company Ltd. Operated for the C.P. R. lake service until retired at the close of the 1949 season. Scrapped 1950 at Hamilton.

b) ONTARIO - steel river carferry, Hull 25, built 1890 for the Canadian Pacific Railway Company Ltd. for service on the Detroit River. Sold 1916 and later reduced to a lumber barge. Foundered on Lake Superior on October 13, 1927.

c) SEGUIN (20), (b) MAPLEBORO (25), (c) CITY OF MONTREAL (II)(26), (d) ARVIDA - iron-hulled lumber carrier, Hull 24, built 1890 for J. B. Miller and the Parry Sound Lumber Company. Later converted to a package freighter and eventually wound up in the C.S.L. fleet. Sold for scrap 1937, although her engine survived and was placed in the tug J. E. McQUEEN, (a) ESSEX (ferry), (c) STOIC, which eventually served for Imperial Oil Limited in South American waters.

12. We asked a number of questions concerning Alexander McDougall and his famous whalebacks. We will answer them in the order in which they were posed.

a) BARGES 101, 102, 103, 104 and 105, together with the steamer COLGATE HOYT (Number 106) , were built at Duluth, Minnesota. In actual fact, 101's bow and stern sections were built by the Pusey and Jones Company at Wilmington, Delaware, and were shipped to Duluth where they were added to the midbody that had been built there. Lake yards had not yet gained sufficient experience to build the elliptical (or conoidal) bows and sterns, although 102 was wholly constructed on the lakes.

b) The remaining 34 lake-built whaleback steamers and barges were constructed at West Superior, Wisconsin, after McDougall obtained the backing of the Rockefeller interests and Superior, with much foresight, had outbid Duluth in an effort to make facilities available for the building of the whalebacks.

c) McDougall's famous shipyard was the American Steel Barge Company and it was eventually merged into the American Shipbuilding Company when that giant was formed. And yes, the American Steel Barge Company did build vessels other than whalebacks, examples being the barges JOHN SMEATON and CONSTITUTION.

d) Whalebacks were built at yards off the Great Lakes. CITY OF EVERETT was built by the Pacific Steel Barge Company at Everett, Washington, and BARGES 201 and 202 were built by Hendren and Robins at Brooklyn, N.Y. One other whaleback was built off the lakes, but neither by nor for McDougall; she was the Belgian SAGAMORE, built at Sunderland by William Doxford and Sons Ltd. in 1893. Neither CITY OF EVERETT, later converted to a tanker, and the proud possessor of a most interesting life history until her loss at sea in 1923, nor SAGAMORE ever entered the lakes, but 201 and 202 did serve on the lakes from 1890 through 1905.

e) The last lake whaleback constructed and, in fact, the last whaleback built anywhere in the world, was ALEXANDER MCDOUGALL, Number 140, which was launched on July 25, 1898. With a length of 413 feet, she was also the largest of the whalebacks. She differed from all of the others in that she had a normal steamer's bow instead of the conoidal bow that characterized the other products of "McDougall's Dream".

Thus endeth this quiz. We should like to congratulate Duff Brace of Ashtabula who scored a total of 43 out of a possible 50 points. Watch for our next exercise in trivia and frustration in an upcoming issue.

Additional Marine News

It is entirely possible that the career of the 72-year-old Q & O steamer MARLHILL, (a) HARRY A. BERWIND (17), (b) HARVEY H. BROWN (III)(64), (c) PARKER EVANS (79), may be at an end. The vessel had begun to fit out for the year at Toronto during late March but, during the process, it was found that she had suffered a cracked boiler. As a result, steam was dropped and the company will not activate MARLHILL at this time. It is, however, possible that the vessel will be repaired and placed in service later in the year should economic and business conditions warrant.

The 1980 navigation season for the port of Toronto opened on the afternoon of March 22nd as CANADIAN OLYMPIC cleared her winter berth at the Hearn Hydro Plant. She had "transit" grain cargo for the winter and headed down the St. Lawrence River to unload it before she goes to work in the coal trade. The first salty of the year at Toronto was the Manchester Liners Ltd. chartered containership LINDO which arrived on April 2. Her visit was all the more unusual since Manchester cut out its regular service to Toronto a number of years ago.

Sherwood Marine Inc. of Toronto, the operator of the passenger boat CAYUGA II, is investigating the possibility of operating a Ro-Ro service for trailers between Toronto and Wilson, N.Y. The service would be run by a "Catug" type of vessel, a tug-and-barge combination featuring a catamaran tug.

The christening of the rebuilt CANADIAN NAVIGATOR will be held at Port Weller on April 19th. The former "salty" ST. LAWRENCE NAVIGATOR, she differs from her rebuilt sistership, CANADIAN PROSPECTOR, in that she has been given a transom stern to increase her carrying capacity.

At long last, Medusa Cement has sold its C. H. McCULLOUGH JR. for scrapping. Idle for a number of seasons, the 1907-built McCULLOUGH will be taken in mid-May to Thunder Bay for dismantling by the Western Metals Corp.

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Scanner, v. 12, n. 7 (April 1980)


Meetings; The Editor's Notebook; G. A. Tomlinson Souvenirs; The Shipbuilders; Additional Marine News