Maritime History of the Great Lakes

Scanner, v. 23, no. 8 (May 1991), p. 7

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7. MAPLECOURT Ship of the M o n t h No. 190 When we seek a vessel to feature in these pages, we try to find a ship wh ich had an in t e r e s t i n g career. Some boats served for many years on the lakes wi thout ever doing a n y th in g of note, and about some of them we wo ul d be lucky to be able to compose a feature of even a ha lf- pag e in length. But other ships were notable for bizarre adventures, close escapes, tragic accidents, a wide va ri e t y of owners or names, or other unu sua l aspects of their careers. The vessel we have chosen to feature this issue was not abl e not only for the va ri e t y of trades she served, and for great changes in app ear anc e over the years, but also for some p a r t i c u l a r l y peculiar pass age s whi ch she made through the small locks of the old canals. The C a n ad ia n freight steamer and on e-time w r ec ke r M A P L E C O U R T began her life in 1892, when she was d e s i g n e d by John H. Smith at the request of the N or t h e r n S t e am sh ip Company, Buffalo, the lake shipping affiliate of the Great No r t h e r n Railway. The ship was de si gn ed to carry five hund red p a s sengers, and to make the trip from Buffalo to Duluth in sixty hours. The contract for the b u i l d i n g of the vessel was let to the Globe Iron Works Com pa ny of Cleveland, wh ic h c o n s t r u c te d her as Hull 50 of its yard on Old River Street, at the foot of Taylor Street, in Cleveland, Ohio. The keel of the big new p a ss en ge r steamer was laid on Octo ber 7th, 1892. It is int ere s t i n g to note that the keel laying took place on a Friday, a day wh ich man y lake sailors have c o n s id er ed in au sp ici ous for the start of a ship's career or even a voyage. Perhaps the Fri day jinx was more than just a myth, because the ship was to e n co unt er a great deal of mis fo rt un e during her almost fifty years of life. The steamer's hull was launched on Saturday, Jan ua ry 6th, 1894. This was a Saturday, it being acce pt ed practice in those years to launch new ships on Saturday s so that crowds of a d m iri ng specta tor s could turn out to view a shipyar d' s latest product. Miss M. Gertrude Hanna, da ug hte r of Ho wa r d M. Hanna (president of Globe Iron Works), pushed an elect ric button that started the gu il lo t i n e s cutting the my ri ad manila ropes and releas ing the shoring under the hull, sending the ship br oad sid e down the ways to drop five feet into the old r i v er be d of the Cu ya hog a River. Co -sp ons or of the ship was Mrs. John F. Gordon, wife of the general manager, Buffalo, of the No rt he r n S t ea ms hi p Company. She c hr is te ne d the ship with a bottle of sp ark lin g wine, and gave her the name NO RTH WEST. Re gi st e r e d at Buffalo, New York, and enrol led under official number U . S . 130661, N OR TH WEST came by her name proudly. Not only did she carry on the No r t h e r n S t ea ms hi p C o m pa ny 's tradition of giving its vessels names beg in ni n g with the word "North" or "Northern", but in ad di tio n the entire name ho n o u r e d the area of the lakes which she was de si gne d to serve. N ORT H WEST was 3 5 8 . 5 feet in length, 4 4 . 0 feet in the beam, and 2 3 . 2 feet in depth, with tonnage of 4244 Gross and 2339 Net. Her hull was built with some 1 , 500 tons of steel and 145 tons of iron, the plates were joined together by 81 1 / 2 tons of steel rivets. In the c o n s t r u ct io n of the cabins, some 5 0 , 679 cubic feet of timber and several tons of nails were used. Fifteen tons of paint were r e q ui re d to finish the hull, together with thirty barrels of oil. N ORT H WEST had twin screws driven by two qua dr up le exp an si on steam engines built by the shipyard. They had cylinders of 25 1 / 2 , 36 1 / 2 , 51 1 / 2 and 74 inches, with a stroke of 42 inches, and they d e v el op ed 7, 000 horsepower. Tur ni ng at 120 revolu ti on s per minute, the engines gave the steamer a regular speed of 20 miles per hour on a draft of 16 feet. The steamer had a complete water ballast system and, by alte ri ng her trim and pushing her m a c hi ne ry harder, she could do 27 miles per hour and did so on her trials on Lake Erie. Steam at 275 p . s . i. was pro du ce d by a mas siv e array of 28 Belleville patent w at er -t u b e boilers built by Globe Iron Works, each m e a su ri ng 7'9" by 6 ' 4 1 / 2 " . The boilers, in three groups each of wh ich had its own smokestack, were

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