Chapter 16
"Cibola" goes; "Corona" Comes - The Gorge Electric Railway openss to Lewiston - How the Falls Cut their way back through the Rocks - Royal Visitors - The Decisiveness of Israel Tarte.

Table of Contents

Title Page
Publisher's Note.
1 The First Eras of Canoe and Sail.
2 The First Steamboats on Lake Ontario and the Niagara River.
3 More Steamboats and Early Water Routes. The River the Centre of Through Travel.
4 Expansion of Steamboating on the Niagara - Its Decline - A Final Flash and a Move to the North.
5 On the Upper Lakes with the Wolseley Expedition and Lord Dufferin.
6 A Novel Idea and a New Venture - Buffalo in Sailing Ship Days - A Risky Passage.
7 Down Through the Welland - The Miseries of Horse Towing Times - Port Dalhousie and a Lake Veteran - The Problem Solved - Toronto at Last.
8 The Niagara Portal - History of Names at Newark and Niagara - A Winter of Changes - A New Rivalry Begun.
9 First Season of the Niagara Navigation Co. - A Hot Competition - Steamboat Manoeuvres.
10 Change Partner - Rate Cutting and Racing - Hanlan and Toronto Waterside - Passenger Limitation Introduced.
11 Niagara Camps Formed - More Changes and Competition - Beginnings of Railroad in New York State - Early Passenger Men and Passenger Ways.
12 First Railways at Lewiston - Expansion Required - The Renown of the "Let Her B" - A Critic of Plimsoll.
13 Winter and Whiskey in Scotland - Rail and Steamer Alongside at Lewiston - How "Cibola" got Her Name - On the Route - The U. E. Loyalists - Ongiara Added.
14 Running the Blockade on the Let Her B. - As Told by her Captain-Owner.
15 The Canadian Electric to Queenston - An Old Portage Route Revived - History of the Two Portages - The Trek to the Western States - Chippewa Arrives - Notable Passenger Men.
16 "Cibola" goes; "Corona" Comes - The Gorge Electric Railway openss to Lewiston - How the Falls Cut their way back through the Rocks - Royal Visitors - The Decisiveness of Israel Tarte.
17 Cayuga Adds her Name - Niagara and Hamilton Joined - The Niagara Ferry Completed - Ice James on the River - Once More the United Management from "Niagara To The Sea."
Table of Illustrations

With three "Line" steamers and five trips a day, the route kept on steadily developing, the service being attractive, and the line kept well before the public, but the season's traffic produced nothing of particular notice.

During 1896 came a set-back, and unfortunate loss, by Cibola taking fire one night when lying alongside the dock at Lewiston. The Upper works were entirely burned off and the hull, having been set adrift, floated down the river as far as Youngstown, where it was secured and brought to the dock. Cibola during her career had proved herself an efficient steamer, fast, economical, and satisfactory in all weathers.

The CORONA leaving N.N. Co. Dock at Toronto.
Business had not so greatly increased that the remaining two main line steamers could not continue to sufficiently meet the service, so far as it then required, but immediate steps were taken to replace her loss and make ready for the requirements of the new electric railway then contemplated on the American side from the Falls to Lewiston.Mr. Angstrom, who had already done some excellent work as a marine architect, made the new design, and a contract was let to the Bertram Engine and Shipbuilding Company,Toronto, for a steamer 272 feet in length, 32 ft. 6 inches beam, 2,000 horse-power, with a capacity for 2,000 passengers, being larger than the Cibola. There was not this time so much difficulty in the selection of a name, as that of Corona suggested by Lady Smith, was readily adopted. This name was all the more appropriate from the fact that the "halo or bright rays" which are shot out and appear on a total eclipse of the sun is called the "Corona of the Sun." In this instance the new steamer Corona was succeeding the eclipse of the Cibola, and represented the hopes and new conditions of the "bright sun ray."

The steamer was successfully launched at the yards at the foot of Bathurst street, on the 25th May, 1896, the sponsors being Miss Mildred Cumberland, daughter of the Vice-President, and Miss Clara Foy, daughter of the General Manager.

The season of 1897 with three steamers all making double trips brought the introduction of the six trips a day, a service which fully provided for the new connection then opened, and for the increases which gradually came in several subsequent years.

The Niagara Falls Park Electric Railway, then already in operation on the Canadian side between the Falls and Queenston running on the upper level follows the river banks of the Gorge, overlooking it from these heights and adding views of the far vistas of the surrounding country and up and down the river.

The new Electric Railway, on the American side, put into full working operation in this year, and known as the Gorge Line, was constructed far down in the Gorge, just a little above the waters edge, following the curvings of the river, beneath the cliffs, and giving opportunity for coming into immediate proximity with the tossing rapids on this lower part of its torrents.

The construction of this railway from the Falls to Lewiston was the work of Messrs. Brinker & Brinker & Smith, of Buffalo, and in boldness of conception, and overcoming of intense difficulties in construction, is a record of great determination and ability.

How the FALLS have cut through the GORGE.
A round trip on both these lines, going up on one and returning by the other, and crossing the river on the cars at the Upper Bridge, reveals all the glorious scenery of the Niagara River between the Falls where they now are and the Niagara Escarpment at Queenston Heights, where the geologists tell us the Falls once fell over the cliffs to the lower level. It is estimated that from this place of beginning of the chasm which they have cut out of the strata of the intervening rocks, from 16,000 to 25,000 years, according to different views, have been spent in reaching to their present position and they are still continuing to cut their way back further up the river.

The process by which this has been done can be clearly seen by noticing on the sides of the cliffs that the several layers of limestone strata lie flat above one another, with large softer layers and deposits between each. The waters of the river at the upper level pour over the edge of the topmost rock ledge, and the reverberations and spray then wash out the intervening sand and softer layers, so that the rock strata becoming unsupported break off, and fall down into the gulf. In this way the chasm has year after year been bitten back.

When leaving the dock on the Niagara River Line steamers at Lewiston, or coming up the river from Niagara-on-the-Lake, it is enthralling to look up at these great cliffs, and in imagination casting the mind back into the centuries, see the mighty river as it once poured its torrents direct in one concentrated mass from the edge of these heights into the open river lying at their feet.

What a stupendous spectacle it must have been; yet, though wondrous, not more beautiful than the distant glimpses now gleaming through the shadowed portal between the cliff-sides clad with verdure and cedar, dominated by the shaft of the monument to the heroes of the Queenston Heights.

The acquiring of landing terminals on the Niagara River was further expanded in 1899, by the purchase from the Duncan Milloy Estate or the docks at Niagara-on-the-Lake. In addition to the wharves this property includes the shipyard of the old-time Niagara Dock Company. whose launching slips for the many steamers which they constructed are still in evidence. On the doors of the large warehouse alongside the wharf, there were then still to be traced the faint remains of the names of some of the vessels, which of old time used to ply to the port. The ground floor of the building appears to have been divided into sections, in which space for the freightage or equipment of each of the several vessels was allotted. Over the door of each section were the names for the occupants. as originally painted.

Schooners - Canada,Commr. Barrie,Cobourg,United Kingdom,St. George,William IV., Great Britain.

These names were now carefully restored. The steamers which ran regularly on the Niagara route have already been mentioned, these others used the port as convenient for laying up for the winter, with the advantage of the proximity of the dockyard for repairs. The Cobourg built at Gananoque in 1833, ran between Toronto and Kingston, with Lieutenant Elmsley, R.N. in command. The St. George was built in Kingston in 1834, and was mainly occupied between lake ports on the North Shore Route.

These doorways and the names now easily read above them bring us into immediate contact with the early enterprises on the river and form connecting links between the navigation interests under the opening conditions and those of the present time. The route has the charm of a constant unravelling of history.

Another wraith there is in connection with this Niagara dock which cannot be omitted. For many years a passenger on the incoming steamers would see a man in conductor's uniform standing on the dock watching the arrival. This was Mr. Miles, conductor of the Mail Express train, which ran on the Erie and Niagara branch between Buffalo and Niagara-on-the-Lake twice each day; on which with never failing regularity he made his double round trip each day for almost twenty years. Through three changes of ownership and several passenger agents "Paddy" Miles, as he was generally called, held his position and so dominated conditions that the train came to be known as "Paddy Miles' train," and the Branch as "Miles' Railway." He was superintendent, train dispatcher, and general passenger agent, in his own opinion, all moulded into one, and acted accordingly. As he stood on the dock with hands thrust deep into his breeches pockets and a scowl upon his forehead, he seemed to consider it was rank treason for anyone to pass up the river and not get off and use his train. Yet this was only on the surface, for Paddy was at heart a good soul, who took a very personal interest in the earnings of his Branch.

H.R.H. the Duke and Duchess of York going on board CORONA.
The Buffalo Exposition of 1900, bringing together as it did tourist business from all parts of the continent and of the world, threw exceptional business over the line. It may be said with certainty that every tourist who visits the American continent visits without fail the Niagara Falls ,as one of the great wonders of the world. With the expanded facilities which have been given him, a very large proportion also visit the Niagara River and its water attractions, and cross the lake to Canada at Toronto. This was clearly evidenced at the Buffalo Exposition, and the largely increasing traffic then arising, all of which was satisfactorily dealt with, without any shortcomings or mishap.

To January, 1901, Sir Frank Smith died, being the second of the original Board to pass away. His judgment, forceful determination, and large capital, had been mainsprings in the creation and establishment of the line of steamers whose beginnings he had promoted. Mr. J. J. Foy was elected President in his place.

It was during this year, (1901) that their Royal Highnesses the Duke and Duchess of York (now King George V. and Queen Mary) made their remarkable tour through the overseas part of the British Empire. One portion of their visit to Canada included the Niagara district, and a rest of several days in privacy and quiet at Niagara-on-the-Lake, the Queen's Royal" being specially set apart for their use. On October 10th, they visited the Queenston Heights, Brock's Monument, and the Niagara Falls, by special cars of the Niagara Falls Park Electric Railway. The Corona was used by the Royal visitors as a private yacht from Niagara-on-the-Lake to Queenston and return

It is a fact worthy of noting that both here and during the whole of their nine months of travel around the world, their Royal Highnesses never placed foot on any other than British ship or British soil.

The CHIPPEWA in Drydock at Kingston. Bow.
During the time the Chippewa was under construction in 1891, the Dominion Government had become proprietors of the dry dock at Kingston, and were making considerable improvements. The attention of the department was drawn to the fact that if completed as then designed, the dock would not be of sufficient length to take in the Chippewa, which would, when launched, be the largest steamer on Lake Ontario. Further construction had therefore been made, by which the pontoon gate which closed the entrance, could be moved fifteen feet further out when required, to enable the steamer to be taken in.

The CHIPPEWA in Drydock at Kingston. Stern.
In the spring of 1902 the time had come for the Chippewa to be placed in dock for the usual inspection. It was then found that the outer place for the gate had never been used, the local authorities stated that they could not change its position and that, therefore, the Chippewa could not be taken into the dock. This was a poser for the steamer was too long for the dock as it existed. With Captain McGiffin I visited Ottawa to see if any influence could be brought up on the local authorities to get them to furnish us with the fall length. We here met with a reception which was a specially valued reminiscence of an able parliamentarian. The Hon. Israel Tarte, a French-Canadian, had recently been appointed to be Minister of Public Works, and here he fully sustained the wide reputation he had elsewhere acquired for quick decision and immediate instruction. We suggested that if the gate could not be moved back, a space could be cut out of the stone steps at the inner end of the clock, so as to enable the prow of the Chippewa to extend between them.

On hearing our request, Mr. Tarte called in his Chief, asked if it could be done, being assured that it could added "Can you go to Kingston to-night and arrange for it?" The next morning work was begun in the dock so that the steamer could be taken in. Vessel men who had been accustomed to the slow and deliberate methods which had previously existed, greatly appreciated the changes which for the improvement of our local business from the City of Toronto.

It has often been noted that a Saturday half holiday is almost universally taken by the citizens of Toronto. In fact not a few of the travelling men from the United States have said that there is no use coming to Toronto to do business on Saturday, as every one is closing up for their afternoon trip. In the attaining of this condition the Niagara Navigation Company has had much to do, as the result of persistent advocacy.

With the increasing steamers we had abundant deck room which we desired to fill, particularly for the afternoon trip. This might be effected by getting the employers of some of the specific lines of business to close their establishments at 1 o'clock on Saturdays.

An "Early closing movement" was quietly inaugurated, groups engaging in the same business were canvassed and agreements arranged for simultaneous closing. The retail music stores were the first to put up the notices, and were followed by other lines of trade, as the public took gladly to the idea, until in four or five years the practice became well nigh universal and a "Saturday afternoon for Recreation, Sunday for rest" had been obtained. That it has been a boon to many is without doubt., and the City is the better for the many outings which are now available for the Saturday afternoon holiday.

Thus do great things from little movements grow.

Mr. John Foy was appointed President in February, 1902, and Mr. B. W. Folger, who had done splendid service in the steamboating interests in the Thousand Islands and St. Lawrence River was appointed General Manager. With him began a whole series of improvements and of expansion, which has continued with increasingly good results.

The regularity with which the steamers of the Niagara Line have made their passages has always been proverbial, contributed to by the seaworthiness of the vessels and the seamanship of their officers. From earliest days, but since somewhat modified, we had adopted the principle learned from the Kingston and Holyhead mail steamers whose route was somewhat analogous to ours, a quick run across open water with a narrow entrance at each end, that it was best to run the steamer at a regular gait and even in fog except, in the vicinity of other vessels to hold her course, and when of the port to stop until certain.

Sometimes there have been longish passages. One Saturday morning in August, 1903, the Chippewa left Toronto at 7 a.m. during a strong gale with a heavy sea from the east. A thick fog was found enveloping the south shore extending some five miles out. On gaining the Bell Buoy off Niagara and not being able to see anything, Captain McGiffin, rather than run any risk, determined to keep close to the buoy ready to run in should the fog lift. Here during all day and evening he remained within sound of the bell, coming up to and dropping away again under the heavy sea, until at last the lights on the land could be seen and Chippewa came alongside the dock at 11.50 p.m., 16 hours from Toronto! No other steamer was on the Lake that day. McGiffin kept his passengers well fed and for his carefulness and judgment was advanced to position of "Commodore."

A similar episode of carefulness had taken place in 1886, on the Cibola under Captain McCorquodale, when he similarly held his place off the port in a fog from 6 p.m. to 3 a.m. Both considered it was better to be sure than to be sorry.

In those early days the engines of the Michigan Central, would in emergency be placed with their head lights facing out on the river, and their whistles blown to guide the steamers in but since then the large range lights have been installed by the Government, and made entrance easier.

It was under the leadership of such men as these that the officers of the company were trained up, its rules and traditions formed, and stability of service encouraged. There are not a few officers and men who have been from ten to twenty years in the service, earnest in their profession, careful of the public and loyal to the company, which from the time of its inception has endeavored to treat them as members of a family gathering.

On the death of Mr. John Foy in December, 1904, he was succeeded in the Presidency by Mr. E. B. Osler (knighted 1913), who ever since he had entered the company, had always taken a very active interest in its progress and hereafter took a still, more intimate share in directing its policy and development.


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This volume is copyright The Estate of Ivan S. Brookes and is published with permission of the Estate. The originals are deposited in the Special Collections of the Hamilton Public Library.