Several issues back, we recorded in our Marine News section the destruction by the wrecker's torch of the salvage barge EN-AR-CO. Our obituary for this vessel did not, however, give any indication of the history of the ship and, in view of the fact that she was one of the oldest hulls on the Great Lakes, we feel that she deserves more recognition than has generally been accorded her.
The story of this lowly lightering barge began back in 1874 when the Delaware River Iron Shipbuilding & Engine Company launched a 189-foot iron hull at their Chester, Pennsylvania, yard. The ceremony took place on April 29, 1874, and was a success probably beyond the builder's wildest hopes, as the hull was to last for ninety-five years. With a beam of 29 feet and a depth of 14.4 feet, the propeller driven collier had a tonnage of 565 gross and 377 net when completed. The two-masted steamer, registered as U.S. 2905, was christened BERKS and entered the coastal service of the Philadelphia and Reading Railway.
In 1906, the IBERKS was purchased by the Canadian Transit Co. Ltd., Toronto, and at this time she made her first appearance on the Lakes. The ship was stripped down for use as a barge and was renamed W. S. CALVERT. In 1909, she was acquired by the National Refining Co. (later to become Canadian Oil Companies Ltd., Toronto), and in 1910 she was transferred to their subsidiary, the Sarnia & Toledo Transit Co. Sometime during their ownership, they converted the W. S. CALVERT to carry oil in bulk and in 1921 she was given the name EN-AR-CO, representing the initials of her owner's corporate name.
The ship was laid up during the late 1920's and remained idle until 1934 when she was sold to John E. Russell, a prominent Toronto shipping figure. She was being refitted at Toronto for the service of Lloyd Tankers Ltd., when, on July 23, 1934, the ship was damaged by a tremendous explosion which was followed by a stubborn fire. The explosion took the life of John Russell who was on deck at the time.
In 1935, EN-AR-CO was sold to Pyke Salvage and Navigation Co., Kingston. She was converted to a coal barge and lighter with a steam whirly crane mounted on deck and her tonnage was shown as 560 gross and 543 net. She put in good service on many occasions for her owners, who later became McAllister-Pyke Salvage Ltd., but her assignments became fewer as the years passed, and she spent much of her time idle at Kingston. We believe that her last job was removing molten rubber and other material from the hull of the Greek salty ORIENT TRADER which burned and sank in Toronto Bay off Ward's Island on July 21st, 1965. After several years of inactivity at Kingston, EN-AR-CO was sold in 1969 to United Steel and Refining Co., Hamilton, and she was dismantled at their yard during the autumn.
At the time of her scrapping, EN-AR-CO was one year older than the Detroit River carferry HURON and was apparently the oldest Canadian lake vessel still operable. The shipbuilders at Chester must have done their job well.
Reproduced for the Web with the permission of the Toronto Marine Historical Society.