Ship of the Month No. 56 India of Garden Island

Table of Contents

Title Page
The Editor's Notebook
Marine News
St. Lawrence River Ferries
Marine Memories
Our Mistake
City of Ottawa Revisited
Ship of the Month No. 56
India of Garden Island
The Interprovincial Steamship Company, Halifax
Judgment on a Comedy of Errors
Late Marine News
Table of Illustrations

Two months ago this section of "Scanner" featured the iron steamer CITY OF OTTAWA which started life as the Anchor Line passenger and package freight carrier INDIA. This time around we have chosen another vessel which bore the name INDIA, but a ship very much different from her earlier namesake. In fact, this latter INDIA was one of the better known wooden freighters to come from a shipyard on the Canadian side of the Great Lakes.

INDIA (C.107735) was constructed at Garden Island, Ontario, a very famous island in Lake Ontario near Kingston at the head of the St. Lawrence River. Built by the Calvin Company Ltd. in their own yard for their own fleet, the steamer was launched in 1899. She measured 215.9 feet in length, with a beam of 36.4 feet and a depth of 15.0 feet. Tonnage was 976 Gross and 573 Net.

The Calvin yard on Garden Island was well known for the many sailing vessels, river barges, tugs and steamers which were built there for the company's own business as timber forwarders. Many hundreds of thousands of feet of timber were brought to the company-owned island in schooners during the early days, and latterly in steamboats and their consort barges. The timber was discharged at Garden Island and was formed into rafts which were then sent down the St. Lawrence to the timber coves at Quebec for shipment to European markets.

INDIA was specially designed for the timber trade and was a flush-decker with high freeboard, somewhat akin to a package freighter. Since the carriage of timber tended to be rough on ships, INDIA was strongly constructed. She was given timber ports in her bows to facilitate the loading and unloading of sticks of timber which were customarily picked up at small harbours and even on beaches around the upper lakes. The Calvin steamers had a look all their own, "sturdy and conservative", and could easily be picked out anywhere on the lakes by those who were able to recognize a shipyard's "build" when they saw it.

The triple-expansion machinery which was fitted in INDIA was built by the Calvin Company at the boiler and machine shops on Garden Island. The only other large engine that the Calvins had ever before built was a fore-and-aft compound for the wooden tug REGINALD. INDIA's boilers were not built by the Calvins and had to be brought to the island for installation in the hull. It is a distinct possibility that they were built at Toronto by the Polson Iron Works who in 1903 supplied the Calvin Company with boilers for the wooden steamer SIMLA.

Like other Calvin steamers (for instance, D. D. CALVIN, ARMENIA, SIMLA and BOTHNIA), INDIA was painted a bright green with white trim and cabins and a black funnel. She could usually be seen towing at least one barge and sometimes she would have two on the string. Some of the barges in the Calvin fleet were CEYLON, BURMA, VALENCIA, NORWAY and AUGUSTUS, and no doubt INDIA towed all of these at one time or another.

When the timber business was slack, and in later years this occurred more frequently as less and less timber was exported, INDIA carried her share of wheat, iron ore and coal to various Canadian ports. But the Calvin boats ran at a disadvantage when they tried to compete with other carriers in the general freight trades. Because of their specialized construction, they were suitable only for the timber trade and were hard pressed to earn their keep in any other service. Finally about 1914, when the export timber trade was a thing of the past, the Calvin Company Ltd. sold its vessels to the Montreal Transportation Company Ltd. From then on the INDIA operated for the M.T.Co. fleet in the bulk trades. This move was not an unnatural one since for some years prior to 1914 the Calvin family had held an interest in Montreal Transportation.

Early in 1916 control of the Montreal Transportation Company Ltd. was acquired by Roy M. Wolvin who at that time was an executive of Canada Steamship Lines Ltd., and who had, in fact, been instrumental in the creation of that shipping giant. As a result of Wolvin's dual association, there was a very close relationship between M.T.Co. and C.S.L. during the period 1916 to 1920; C.S.L. operated the M.T.Co. vessels and some of them even appeared in C.S.L. colours. This relationship came to an end in 1920 when C.S.L. actually absorbed the remaining units in the M.T.Co. fleet (some of the better ships having been sold elsewhere by Wolvin at a good profit).

By the time INDIA became a C.S.L. vessel, she was a much different boat than she had been during the Calvin years. Sometime during the war, she had been rebuilt as a conventional bulk carrier with raised forecastle and poop. In other words, she had lost the enclosed 'tween deck area which had been admirably suited to the timber trade but which proved bothersome when the ship operated in the grain, coal and ore trades.

The decade of the twenties was one which saw a major change in the types of vessels used by C.S.L. As the decade dawned, the company found itself with a grand collection of small wooden boats, most of which had seen better days and many of which had come from Wolvin's M.T.Co. As a result, C.S.L. began to have to replace many of these old veterans and their ranks were depleted quickly as newly-built canallers appeared from the builders' yards.

The undoing of INDIA as far as C.S.L. was concerned came in 1922 when she was involved in an accident on the Welland Canal. The company did not feel that she was worth the effort and expense of repairing and accordingly they abandoned her to the Reid Wrecking Company. Reid repaired her and sold the steamer to the India Navigation Company of Montreal, Crawford and Company, managers. For the next few years she was a frequent visitor to the port of Toronto, bringing in many cargoes of coal.

But INDIA was nearing the end of her usefulness. She spent a period of time laid up at Kingston and then in 1926 she was sold to the Ramsay Brothers of Sault Ste. Marie, Ontario. They used her for two years. Her end came on September 5, 1928 when she caught fire in the North Channel behind Manitoulin Island, some eight miles east of Little Current near West Mary Island. INDIA was completely destroyed in the spectacular blaze and her last remains are today marked by a buoy in the channel.


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