The Maritime History of the Great Lakes
British Whig (Kingston, ON), 17 Apr 1899

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p.1 Were Held On Board - Islander helped through ice to the foot of Wolfe Island by steamer Pierrepont.



The steamer Islander went down to Clayton yesterday.

The steamer Islander opened her season from Clayton today.

The steamer North King was floated out of Davis' dry dock today.

The sloop Idlewild is ready to sail when the harbor is free of ice.

Capt. M. Patterson stretches canvas on the schooner Two Brothers this week.

The steamer Hero opened her season today, leaving for bay ports at three o'clock this afternoon.

The light signals at Snake Island and Nine Mile Point were shown on Saturday night for the first time this season.

The Pierrepont left for Cape Vincent today, and tomorrow the steamer New Island Wanderer begins daily trips on that route.

The crews for the M.T. company's river barges arrived in the city this morning and those for the lake steamers were expected this afternoon.

The steamer Resolute left port yesterday for Deseronto. The tug Rescue came down the bay as far as the asylum to break a passage way through the ice.

Government hull inspector Horn entered office on Saturday. His first boat for inspection was the steamer Resolute, owned by the Rathbun company, Deseronto.

The schooner Annie Falconer, Capt. Simmons, owner, has been repainted and re-fitted in first-class condition. She leaves this week for Charlotte to load coal for W.G. Craig.

Capt. Mouck, domiciled on the Main Ducks during the winter, sailed into Portsmouth yesterday in his small hooker. He was locked in the ice inside Nine Mile Pt. all Saturday night.

The tugs Thomson and Jessie Hall arrived at Brighton on Saturday afternoon, going up outside. Operations were begun this morning in raising the barge Hector and it is expected that the outfit will reach port on Wednesday.

New hatch boxes have been added to the barge Dandy, increasing her carrying capacity by 700 bushels. As soon as the floating ice disappears the tug Maggie May, with the Dandy, leaves for Bay of Quinte ports for grain.

The schooner Annandale, Capt. Frank McMaster, is the first craft to enter port this spring, coming across from Charlotte on Saturday. The captain reports meeting large bodies of floating ice on the lake. The schooner passed Nine Mile Point on Saturday and ran into moving ice. The anchor was dropped, but was useless against the force of the shifting ice. Yesterday morning the tug Rescue, coming from Deseronto to meet the steamer Resolute, towed the Annandale into clear water, after which she sailed to the K. & P. docks above Cataraqui bridge. Capt. McMaster is now entitled to the harbor master's silk hat



Roller Boats May Prove An Interesting Factor.

Kingston, April 17th - To The Editor:

It is by no means impossible that the question of grain routes to the seaboard may receive in the near future a solution very different to that anticipated by those who have no faith in the Georgian Bay route. It is not very widely known in Kingston, or for that matter, elsewhere, that a company is being quietly but rapidly formed in Chicago to build and operate on the great lakes boats built on the patented plans of F.A. Knapp, barrister, of Prescott.

It is true that the roller boat has been laughed at by all the local authorities, and for this very reason recent developments have not received the attention which they deserve. It will probably cause considerable surprise, for instance, when it is known that shares in the incorporated company which holds the patents have very recently been sold for ten times their original value, and also that engineers who have a reputation extending beyond Canada and the states have publicly stated their conviction that every principle involved in the roller boat has been fully established by the trials made in Toronto bay. Yet both these statements are true.

It is also true that the men who are putting their money into the venture are by no means dilletante amateurs, with more cash than brains, but well-known and hard-headed men of business who have not invested without due consideration and taking advice from practical engineers whose opinions they feel they can trust, and perhaps more surprising than all is the fact that men are spending both time, brains and money in working out all the details of construction with no other recompense than paid up stock.

These facts may well make us pause to consider whether Kingstonians are quite wise in accepting the hasty conclusions of local authorities. Already the opinion expressed by more than one, six years ago, has been falsified by the event. It was then denied that it would be possible to move the roller boat by power suspended within it. Yet that very thing was done in Montreal before the Toronto model was built, and in fact was one means by which Mr. Goodwin became interested.

Today men carelessly condemn the Toronto model as a total failure, an opinion started by preconceived ideas and, as I will show, very contrary to the facts. Whatever failure there was, was forseen and foretold by the inventor, and is fully accounted for by causes which do not affect the principle of the roller boat.

Take the question of speed first, for it was in this that the only failure occurred. It was popularly supposed that Mr. Knapp expected to attain terrific speed with this little model. Popular supposition, however, was quite astray here. The diameter of the cylinder in Mr. Knapp's conception is a very essential element in the attainment of speed. Turning ten and a half times a minute, the Toronto model could not travel more than 693 feet, whereas a boat ninety-six feet in diameter, turning only five times a minute would travel over 1,500 feet in the same time. The inventor as a matter of fact never expected a higher speed from the model than fifteen to twenty knots per hour, even before the model was begun; and when he found himself obliged, through the influence of "practical engineers," to apply power by gravity and to divide his engine power and place part at each end, he told the writer that he would be well content with ten knots. This was before a trial was made.

Actually the speed achieved was never more than six knots, and usually only four and a half to five, but this again was due to faulty construction of the engines. These were intened to climb the inner circumference, and so by their weight compel it to revolve. But, alas, some "practical" man conceived the idea of using paper wheels, and at the same time forgot to provide for keeping the rails dry. The result was the engines acted much like a street car on a slippery day. The wheels revolved speedily enough, but like the street car "got no forwarder." The wonder was that any progress was made at all.

In other respects the boat justified the inventor fully. It was easily steered, it was easily started and stopped. It ran in the teeth of a brisk breeze without any difficulty or hindrance (a most important point), and it left its convoy stuck fast in the mud and fog, while it rolled off the mud without difficulty or injury and made its own way to dock. But for the failure of the engines it is certain it would have exceeded its inventor's expectations as regarded speed.

While, therefore, superficial critics have been laughing at the roller boat for what it did not do (and was not expected to do) more thoughful people have been examining what it did do, and under what conditions it was done, with the result that many who once scoffed are now fully convinced that the boat will do enough to give it an absolute monopoly of the freight traffic on Lakes Erie, Michigan and Superior.

Accordingly, plans and specifications have been prepared for the construction of a boat on the roller principle, ninety-six feet in diameter by 500 feet long, and to build this the Chicago company is being formed with the exclusive right of operating such boats on the great lakes. The stock in this company is being sold in substantial blocks, nothing less than five shares having as yet been sold, and many larger amounts. It has not been offered to the general public, but only to men of some position and influence, and the patent rights are to be paid for in stock, not in cash.

This boat is estimated by its designer, an engineer who has a good reputation in three countries, to need no more than 400 horse power and to be capable of carrying nearly double the freight of any boat now afloat. For narrow and intricate channels like the St. Clair river it will be provided with means of propulsion end on, its usual mode being of course broadside on. Its speed will at least equal that of the fastest freighters, and when light will probably far exceed them.

It is not difficult to see that a monopoly of this kind in the hands of an American corporation may work irremediable injury to the grain trade of the St. Lawrence. Conservative as the estimates are upon which its expectation of monopoly are based, the company could largely increase the horse power, and decrease the speed and carrying capacity and still carry freights profitably much below present rates. How then will Canadians be able to compete with the Buffalo route which this company will certainly favor? What will be the use of Kingston's elevators, and those projected at Montreal, if wheat and other freights can be carried via Buffalo at far lower rates than via the St. Lawrence?

At present it would not be difficult for Canadians to obtain a controlling interest in the company, for a considerable proportion of the stock is already in Canadian hands. Before the company is completed it may be possible to protect the Canadian route by negotiation to somewhat limit the monopoly, and secure to Canadian roller boats the trade between Canadian ports. But this opportunity will soon pass. Once let a boat be built and make a single successful trip, and all the wealth of the country will scarce buy the smallest concession.

It is of course easy to reply that the boat is not yet built, and when built cannot succeed. This was the attitude of stage coach proprietors toward the locomotive. The result is matter of history. They were ruined. And history, it is said, repeats itself. The local authorities have been proved wrong once. They may presently be proved wrong again. Ship builders of England, engineers of national and more than national repute, business men of cautious habit who have succeeded in their business, disagree with them and have backed their opinions heavily. It is, one may admit, possible that the boat may fail, but it is at least equally possible, a good many think it more probable, that it will succeed. Surely it is at the least a case of such doubt that wise men will "hedge." A SHAREHOLDER.

p.S. - In the above everything except total failure is conceded to the opponents of the boat.


What Is Proposed.

Niagara Falls, N.Y., April 17th - The scheme for diverting the grain from Buffalo, the Erie canal and the railroads, to the St. Lawrence route, via Port Colborne, is being quietly worked just now at Ottawa, where a franchise for the company seeking to bring about this move is asked, as well as improvements to the harbor at Port Colborne, and the reduction or abolition of canal tolls. The company, which is headed by Daniel Oday, of the Standard oil company; William J. Connors, Buffalo, and prominent politicians of Canada, who have been let in by the Americans in the deal, intends to build large elevators at Port Colborne and a fleet of steel barges capable of carrying 80,000 to 90,000 bushels each. It is estimated that 200,000,000 bushels of wheat will be diverted by this route to Port Colborne and Quebec for export to Europe and other foreign countries within two years. An effort is being made to consolidate with the elevator men of Montreal, and have a common interest in the scheme, but the latter do not take kindly to the overture made. In fact, considerable opposition has developed from the Montreal end. This is due, it is claimed, to the fact that the Montreal elevator men cleared some ninety thousand dollars on their grain shipments last year. The major portion of the capital for the scheme comes from the United States and is presumably advanced by Standard oil men.

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17 Apr 1899
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  • Ontario, Canada
    Latitude: 44.22976 Longitude: -76.48098
Rick Neilson
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pd [more details]
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Public domain: Copyright has expired according to the applicable Canadian or American laws. No restrictions on use.
Maritime History of the Great Lakes
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British Whig (Kingston, ON), 17 Apr 1899