The McColl Frontenac Oil Company Limited

Table of Contents

Title Page
The Editor's Notebook
The Steinbrenner Years
More Marine News
Marine Photo Salon
Norgoma To The North Channel
Ned Hanlan is Rescued
The McColl Frontenac Oil Company Limited
Table of Illustrations

A Fleet List

One of the first companies to distribute petroleum products in the Toronto area was McColl Brothers Ltd., a small firm dating well back into the nineteenth century which maintained a refinery of sorts in the east end of the city near the Don River. During the 1920's, the company, having decided to transport its oil by ship, chartered from John E. Russell of Toronto the bulk river and lake type barges NADINE and HILDA. The plan was to carry the oil in the holds of the barges, but no special equipment, apart from the necessary pumps, was added. As might be expected, the experiment was highly unsatisfactory and very few trips were made.

JOHN IRWIN unloads at the McColl Frontenac Toronto terminal c. 1935. J. H. Bascom photo.
The firm then decided to use Erie Canal type barges and, to this end, obtained the services of THOMAS TOMLINSON and PASSAIC, both steel-hulled, as well as the wooden JAMES F. CAHILL. The former two were fitted as tankers, but the latter was nothing more than a typical wooden bulk Erie Canal barge with the usual distinctive peaked hatches. The barges were used on the Buffalo-Toronto crude oil trade and were usually towed by the Welland Canal tugs J.R. BINNING and METEOR. None of them remained in the fleet for long. Very little is known about any of the three but, from details of a suit commenced by the mate of the CAHILL after her loss, it is learned that the action was against McColl Bros. Ltd., the Russell Towing Co., and C. D. Secord, the owner of record who, incidentally, was the owner, under the name Ohio Tankers Corp., of the B.B. McCOLL when she operated as A.J. PATMORE a few years later. It is, therefore, to be assumed that Russell, who had connections with many operators, was operating the barges in McColl's service.

In 1926, the company bought its first steamer, the PULOE BRANT, formerly a Royal Fleet Auxiliary tanker, and brought her to the lakes. Renamed B. B. McCOLL, she entered service in 1927 but was not to serve for long. In 1928, the aforementioned JAMES F. CAHILL was loading oil in Buffalo Harbour when she caught fire. The blaze, apparently started by an oil lamp on the tank barge(!), destroyed the CAHILL and spread to the nearby McCOLL as well as to the firetug W.S.GRATTAN. The B.B.McCOLL was severely damaged and was abandoned to the underwriters. Subsequently rebuilt, she is still active on the lakes for other owners.

Shortly after entering lake service, CYCLO-CHIEF heads down the Toronto Ship Channel in this photo by J. H. Bascom.
In 1929, the firm began a building program to develop a more respectable fleet but, by this time, McColl Bros. Ltd. had amalgamated with John Irwin's Frontenac Oil Co. Ltd., Montreal, to form the McColl Frontenac Oil Co. Ltd. The fleet took delivery of its first modern canal tanker, christened JOHN IRWIN, the same year. In the following year, her builders, the Furness Shipbuilding Co. Ltd. of Haverton Hill-on-Tees, turned out two additional steamers, CYCLO-CHIEF and CYCLO-WARRIOR, these two having greater capacity than their earlier sister due to an increased depth. This pair served mainly on the Chicago-Toronto crude run.

The operations of McColl Frontenac, still a relatively small concern in that it served only Ontario and Quebec, came to an end in 1947 when it was absorbed into the large international Texaco organization. At this time, the three tankers were transferred to Texaco Canada Ltd. which still operates one of them in its current lake fleet.


Although many other vessels have been chartered for short periods at various times, the following are those employed for any appreciable length of time.

J. R. BINNING Can. 138226. Wooden tug, built 1916, Sorel, Que. 53.1 x 15.5 x 7.7. Gross 58, Net 31. Owned for a short period by Canada Steamship Lines Ltd., Montreal. Operated for many years on the Welland Canal by J. W. Harrigan, Port Dalhousie. Engines removed 1942 and hull abandoned in Muir's Pond, Port Dalhousie.

METEOR Can. 107950. Wooden tug, built 1902, Port Robinson, Ont. 52.0 x 16.4 x 9.1. Gross 47, Net 32. Owned 1914 by James Pendergast, Cornwall and 1918 by Port Colborne Tug Co. Ltd. Operated for many years on the Welland Canal by D. McGrath, St. Catharines. Rammed and sunk by a barge below Port Colborne c. 1930.

NADINE Can. 107681. Steel bulk barge built 1899, Toronto, Ont., for Montreal Transportation Co. Ltd. 166.0 x 29.8 x 12.6. Net 484. Acquired 1921 by Canada Steamship Lines Ltd. Sold 1924 to R. G. Weddell, Trenton, Ont. Later purchased by John E. Russell, Toronto. Sold 1929 to the Pyke Towing & Salvage Co., Kingston. Later sold to A.B. McLean & Son, Sault Ste. Marie, Ont. Foundered near Brush Point, St. Mary's River 1945.

HILDA Can. 96870. Steel bulk barge built 1898, Toronto, for the Montreal Transportation Co. Ltd. 160.0 x 30.0 x 12.3. Net 418. Acquired 1921 by Canada Steamship Lines Ltd. Sold 1924 to R. G. Weddell, Trenton, Ont. Later purchased by John E. Russell, Toronto. Sold 1929 to Pyke Towing & Salvage Co., Kingston, later McAllister-Pyke Salvage Ltd. Sold 1969 to United Steel & Metals Ltd., Hamilton, for scrapping but found to be in such bad shape that she was scuttled in Lake Ontario off Kingston, October 1969.

PASSAIC U. S. ? Steel Erie Canal tank barge.

THOMAS TOMLINSON. U. S. 167266. Steel Erie Canal tank barge, built 1918, Kingston, N.Y. Gross 422.

JAMES F.CAHILL U.S. 165740. Wooden Erie Canal bulk barge, built 1914, Brooklyn, N.Y. Gross 396. Purchased c.1926 by C. D. Secord, Cleveland. Destroyed by fire and explosion in Buffalo Harbour 1928.


B.B. McCOLL (31), (a) SERVITOR (23), (b) PULOE BRANI (27), (d) A.J. PATMORE (39), (e) ROTARY (42), (f) A.J. PATMORE (46), (g) PEGGY REINAUER (55), (h) DETROIT. Br. ? U.S. 229053. Royal Fleet Auxiliary steam tanker, built 1914, Chatham Dock Yard, Chatham, England. 200.0 x 34.2 x 16.2. Purchased 1926 by McColl Bros. Ltd. After two unsuccessful attempts to cross Atlantic under own power, was towed to Montreal. Arrived Lake Ontario, November 1926. Became total loss by fire at Buffalo, 1928. Abandoned to underwriters. Sold to (Ohio Tankers Corp. and rebuilt 1930 by Electric Boat Works as barge canal type diesel tanker. Gross 858, Net 673. Damaged by explosion 1932 while unloading gasoline at Toronto. Rebuilt. Later sold R.T.C. No. Eleven Corp., Lyndhurst, N. J., for service on East Coast. Requisitioned by U.S. War Shipping Administration 1942. Purchased 1946 by Reinauer interests, U.S. East Coast. Sold 1953 to Michigan Tankers Inc., returned to lake trade. Lengthened 1959 to 249.5 x 34.2 x 15.2. Gross 1156, Net 895. Currently in use on Lake Michigan.

JOHN IRWIN (I) (40), (b) CYCLO-BRAVE (47), (c) TEXACO-BRAVE. Can. 160718. Steel canal tanker, built 1929, Furness Shipbuilding Co. Ltd., Haverton Hill-on-Tees, Hull 145. 250.0 x 43.2 x 18.0. Gross 1926, Net 1116. Reboilered 1952, Owners: l) McColl Frontenac Oil Co. Ltd., Toronto (1929-47). 2) Texaco Canada Ltd.

CYCLO-CHIEF (47), (b) TEXACO-CHIEF (I) (55), (c) FUEL TRANSPORTER (59), (d) FUEL TRANSPORT (70), (e) WITFUEL. Can. 160729. Steel steam canal tanker, built 1930, Furness Shipbuilding Co. Ltd., Haverton Hill-on-Tees, Hull 177. 250.0 x 43.3 x 24.2. Gross 2500, Net 1422. Lay idle 1954-55 at Port Weller and 1968-70 at Toronto. Sold 1970 for service in the Caribbean, Owners: l) McColl Frontenac Oil Co. Ltd. (1930-47). 2) Texaco Canada Ltd. (1947-55). 3) Gayport Shipping Ltd., Toronto (1955-59). 4) Hall Corporation of Canada Ltd. (1959-70). 5) West Indies Transport Ltd.

CYCLO-WARRIOR (47), (b) TEXACO-WARRIOR (69), (c) LAKE TRANSPORT (II). Can.160731. Steel steam canal tanker, built 1930, Furness Shipbuilding Co. Ltd., Haverton Hill-on-Tees, Hull 178. 250,0 x 43.3 x 24.2. Gross 2500 Net 1422. Severely damaged bow by ramming entrance to Toronto Ship Channel, October 1950. Repaired. Grounded and sank in Welland Canal at Thorold South 1964. Refloated and repaired. Owners: l) McColl Frontenac Oil Co. Ltd., (1930-47). 2) Texaco Canada Ltd. (1947-69). 3) Hall Corporation of Canada Ltd.



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