NAVIGATION FOR 1875.
THE PROPELLER AND FORWARDING LINES.
PROSPECTS OF TRADE - SIZE OF THE FLEET.
The prospects of trade this season for the craft plying between Montreal and the West, on the St. Lawrence River, are said to be none of the brightest, though it is to be hoped that better times will be had than during 1874, when freights were much depressed. The various lines of freight steamers and barges remain much the same in point of numbers and routes of travel as last season. Very few new boats are being built, and in fact some forwarding firms expect to have to lay up a tug or two for a part of the season. Three propeller lines are in existence, which control the movements of nearly all the Canadian boats. The same parties seldom own more than one or two propellers; and in order to secure paying freights, the steamers run in regular lines, with agencies established at all the large ports. The largest is the Merchants' Lake and River Steamship Line, which is composed of over twenty propellers, many of them well known in the trade. They are the Canada, Calabria, Dominion, Dromedary, Persia, Celtic, Lake Michigan, Argyle, Asia, California, Columbia, City of St. Catherines, Europe, Lake Erie, Lake Ontario, Lincoln, Ocean, Prussia, Scotia and Sovereign. These boats are intended to form a daily line for the carriage of freight and passengers between Montreal, Toronto, Hamilton, Welland Canal, Lake Erie ports and Chicago. The Lake Michigan, Celtic, Canada, and Calabria are under special contract with the Great Western Railway to carry goods from Montreal to Hamilton and thence to any place on that road at through rates. A number of the boats of this line will trade through to Chicago all the season. Messrs. Jaques & Co. are the agents in Montreal.
The Western Express Line will consist of the following propellers: Acadia (composite), Alma Munro, Bruno, Cuba, Zealand, Africa, Armenia, D.R. Van Allen, L. Shickluna, Georgian, and the City of St. Catherines. These boats are to run between Montreal and all ports West, affording accommodation for passengers. They call at Kingston, Toronto, Hamilton, St. Catherines, Lakes Erie and Huron ports, Milwaukee and Chicago. Mr. Wm. Macauley is the agent for Montreal. The Cuba and Zealand are building, the former at Kingston and the latter at Hamilton. Both will be full Welland Canal size, have roomy 'tween decks, and good accommodation for passengers.
The Dominion Line consists of the following propellers: America, Bristol, City of Montreal, East, and R.W. Standly. They will form a tri-weekly passenger and freight line between Montreal, Toronto, Hamilton and intermediate ports, and for freight between Montreal and Lakes Ontario and Erie ports, including Detroit and Chatham. Mr. John F. McCuaig is agent in Montreal.
These three lines composed of 36 steamers, are expected to more than meet the requirements of their share of the trade from the West during the season of 1875. They are great favorites with that class of the travelling public who can afford time for a breezy trip over the great lakes or who desire to travel cheap, perhaps nowhere can a passenger be conveyed so far and so comfortably for so little money as on a lake propeller. They have turned out safe, and in most instances expeditious craft and often after battling against heavy gales, make their regular time.
This business has during late years assumed almost mammoth proportions on the St. Lawrence. There are now fleets of first class tow boats and barges, and hundreds of thousands of dollars of capital invested in the transportation of the Western grain from Kingston (where the lake schooners generally unload) to Montreal. Four companies are employed in this work. The rates of freight from Kingston to Montreal are generally reasonable, and it is expected they will be the same this season as last, viz., four cents per bushel. The canal tolls are extra, and amount to fifteen cents per ton on wheat, at 33 bushels to the ton, and the same rate on corn at 36 bushels to the ton. The barges, some of them iron, carry crews ranging from 5 to seven in number, including a captain and a female cook. These captains are generally 'jolly' looking and corpulent, and, who, as well as their men daily 'stow away' a quantity of peasoup and pork which would utterly dishearten any boardinghouse keeper who expected to pay a dividend of ten per cent perannum off her dinner table. The crews get small wages but the work is never very heavy.
The Montreal Transportation Company does a very extended business. It owns 40 barges, and several of them of large size, carrying upwards of 24,000 bushels of corn or wheat. Their capacity varies from 24,000 down to 12,000 bushels. The Company does all its own towing, employing five screw tugs, the Elfin, Charlotte, Bronson, Glide, and Active. The Elfin, which was damaged by fire, is being put in thorough order. It is proposed to send the Active below the coming season to tow from the Gulf up to Montreal; as there will probably be a lack of business for their five steamers this summer. The Company finds it very advantageous to do all its own towing last summer, however, trade proved slack and two of their tugs were laid up for a time.
The St. Lawrence And Chicago Forwarding Company own 25 barges, averaging in capacity from 13,000 to 25,000 bushels each. It also has two fine screw tugs, the Jessie Hall and the Frank Perew. The latter is one of the famous Detroit river tugs, where there is such keen opposition that the most powerful screw tow boats in existence have been introduced. The Perew has been lately purchased by her present owners. Mr. A. Macphie is the Company's manager in Kingston.
Messrs. Millar & Jones own 15 barges of an average capacity each of 24,000 and 10,000 bushels. Their total capacity per trip is 250,000 bushels. The firm employ a steamer to do their towing, and have in the past patronized to some extent the Government tug line. The firm own a floating elevator at Kingston. It consists of Mr. Millar in Montreal, and Messrs. Jones & Millar in Kingston.
Messrs. Holcomb & Stewart own 15 barges of a carrying capacity of 250,000 bushels per trip. They own the tug Wren, a powerful boat. The fact that the subsidy has been withdrawn from the Government tug line will no doubt compel all the forwarding companies to do their own towing. The Government tug line consisted of eight side-wheel towboats, owned by Calvin & Breck, of Garden Island, Kingston. The terms of the contract were that the owners of the boats were to receive $12,000 from the Dominion Government, in return to dispatch a boat from Kingston every evening to tow down whatever barges or craft were ready to proceed. She dropped her tow at Dickinson's Landing, and it was, after passing through the Cornwall Canal, towed over Lake St. Francis by another of their boats; a similar boat did duty on Lake St. Louis, between Beauharnois and Lachine. Their towage rates up and down were, in consequence of the subsidy, put at a low rate. Now that this has been withdrawn it is claimed the river trade will suffer, as no outside boats can be found to do the work at the former rates. To this it is answered that the Montreal Forwarding Company finds it more economical in time and money to do its own towing, and that the other companies patronized the Government line as a convenience, while but few schooners descend to Montreal. It is held on the other hand that the absence of the line will drive trade to Oswego, but no doubt if a demand arises for towboats there will be plenty of independent craft ready to compete for the trade and reduce tariff rates - perhaps not so low as have been fixed by Calvin's line supported against loss by a subsidy, but still far below what would be charged if there was a monopoly of the towage. The forwarding trade will certainly not suffer from doing its own towing if the experience of the Montreal Transportation Company is any criterion. [Witness]