During the early 1920's, T. M. Kirkwood and his sons formed the Kirkwood. Steamship Lines, Toronto, the intent being to engage in the package freight trade between Quebec, Montreal, Toronto and Hamilton in direct opposition to the well established services of Canada Steamship Lines Ltd. Kirkwood, however, might better be remembered for pioneering a unique direct freight service between Toronto, Hamilton and Vancouver via the Panama Canal.
T. M. Kirkwood grew up in the lake shipping trade. As a teenager, he served on the CORINTHIAN of the Royal Mail Lines in the 1870's as she plied between Hamilton, Toronto and other North Shore Lake Ontario ports, and Montreal. He was aboard when she stranded near Grafton in 1876. Later, in association with one D. L. McKinnon, Kirkwood operated the propeller CITY OF WINDSOR and the sidewheel CITY OF OWEN SOUND. Both vessels were of wooden construction and operated in the passenger and freight business between Owen Sound and Sault Ste. Marie.
CITY OF WINDSOR (Can. 94843) was built at Detroit in 1883 as a combination passenger and freight steamer. She measured 117 x 24 x 9.5 and her tonnage was 403 Gross, 236 Net. Originally known as (a) E. K. ROBERTS, she was purchased by Kirkwood and McKinnon in 1890 at a marshal's sale in Toronto after she had damaged a lock in the old Welland Canal. They rebuilt her in 1890 as (b) CITY OF WINDSOR and put her to work. Eventually, after several sales in the interim, she came into the fleet of the Owen Sound Transportation Co, and was renamed (c) MICHIPICOTEN, operating in freight-only service to the North Channel. She finally burned at Gore Bay on the north shore of Manitoulin Island on October 11, 1927.
CITY OF OWEN SOUND (Can, 107598) was originally the paddle tug METEOR built in 1866 at Sorel for the Allan Line for use in conjunction with their transatlantic liner service. After some years in service on the lakes as a tug, she was rebuilt as a passenger and freight steamer at Owen Sound in 1900. Measuring 129 x 24 x 11, her tonnage jumped from 336 to 754 Gross with the rebuild. She was licensed to carry 250 passengers. In 1906 she was renamed (c) ERINDALE but burned on August 9 of the same year at Port Darlington (Bowmanville) to the east of Toronto,
But we have strayed from the Kirkwood Steamship Lines of the twenties. They acquired the British coaster GREYPOINT (Br. 121234 (a) RATHLIN, for the Toronto-Montreal service and she maintained a weekly service each year through 1926. She had been built at Glasgow, Scotland, by W. Beardmore & Co. Ltd. in 1905 and with dimensions of 252 x 35 x 17, she grossed 1128 tons. GREYPOINT was a typical "three island" type salt water vessel and carried fitted topmasts on her tall spars. She brought to Lake Ontario the Kirkwood colours - black hull, white cabins and a black funnel with a white band.
For the Toronto to Vancouver run, Kirkwood acquired the J. H. PLUMMER (Can. 114447). She had been built in 1903 by Armstrong Whitworth & Co. Ltd. at Walker on Tyne (Newcastle). With a length of 246.4 feet, a beam of 36.6 and a depth of 21.7, her tonnage was shown as 1643 Gross, 1238 Net. A typical turn-of-the-century steel canal package freighter with her bridge off the forecastle, she was originally owned by the Canadian Lake and Ocean Navigation Co. Ltd. along with her sisterships A. E. AMES and H. M. PELLATT. All three were named for prominent Toronto financiers. By 1910 she was operated by the Merchants Mutual Line Ltd., a forerunner of Canada Steamship Lines Ltd. which was formed in December 1913. She was requisitioned for salt water service during World War I and, while still on the Atlantic in 1920, she passed from C.S.L. to Belgian owners and was renamed (b) VAN EYCK. Brought back to the lakes late in 1922 by Kirkwood, she reverted to her original name. After a very short period of operation on the Toronto-Vancouver run, she was sold to Vancouver interests for service on the Pacific and renamed (d) AMUR. In 1941, she was owned by the Coastwise Steamship and Barge Co. Ltd., Vancouver. In 1946, she was sold to Chinese buyers and renamed (e) FAR EASTERN CARRIER. The same year, she passed to the Tung An Shipping Co. Ltd., Shanghai, and was renamed TUNG AN. She passed out of registry about 1950.
To replace J. H. PLUMMER, Kirkwood acquired CANADIAN LOGGER, a typical World World I "Laker" with modified superstructure. She had been built in 1921 at Midland by James Playfair's Midland Shipbuilding Co. Ltd. for the ocean-going fleet being built up by the Canadian Government Merchant Marine. With a length of 251.0 feet, a beam of 43.6 and a depth of 23.6, she showed a tonnage of 2410 Gross, 1460 Net. Kirkwood bought her in 1923 for $100,000 with the help of Sir Thomas Wilson of Belfast. Renamed (b) TORHAMVAN (from the first syllables of Toronto, Hamilton and Vancouver), she was placed in regular service between Lake Ontario and Vancouver. Due to the length of her run, she made only a few trips each year into the lakes. On the eastbound voyages from Vancouver, she often carried lumber consigned to east coast ports or even into the lakes and it is presumed that she engaged in this sort of trade during the winter months when the Great Lakes were inaccessible.
The service continued until 1926 when the competition from the Canadian Government fleet from whom TORHAMVAN had been purchased, forced the abandonment of Kirkwood's operations. GREYPOINT and TORHAMVAN were sold, the latter to the Lakefield Steamship Co. Ltd., of Montreal. Soon thereafter, TORHAMVAN stranded on the rugged coast of Newfoundland, becoming a total loss.
(Ed.'s Note: For many years we have been trying to pin down the eventual disposition of GREYPOINT mentioned in this article, but without success. We solicit the assistance of any readers who may have knowledge of the subject. Your help will be much appreciated.)
Reproduced for the Web with the permission of the Toronto Marine Historical Society.