Work has progressed well on the Toronto sidewheel ferry TRILLIUM and by the time this report appears in print she should be back in her home port. At the time of this writing, she was scheduled to come home during the first week of November. The only disappointment lies in the fact that the Metropolitan Toronto Parks Department has decided to have TRILLIUM towed all the way on her delivery voyage. While we can understand the reasoning in having her towed down the Welland Canal, we fail to comprehend the Parks Department's wish that her arrival at Toronto be quiet and unannounced. It would seem to us that the best publicity they could ever get for the ship would be to have her steamed triumphantly into port with all the fanfare they could muster, including the traditional salute by the fireboat. Having the ship towed across the bay could not, we imagine, elicit anything but negative comment in the press, particularly when so much money has been spent restoring TRILLIUM to her original condition. Be all this as it may, the vessel is a real joy to behold and we compliment all those who have been involved in the work. We have been aboard TRILLIUM and are amazed at the quality of the reproduction achieved in the aluminum superstructure. The only changes from the original plans of the vessel are those necessitated by government regulations or by the forced installation of modern navigational equipment, but these changes are hardly noticeable, especially to those not familiar with the way the steamer looked in her early years. No matter how TRILLIUM makes her entrance into Toronto Harbour, the reappearance of a ship so long idle and the fact that she is one of a kind in these parts will undoubtedly put Toronto on the map as far as operating marine history is concerned.
The purge of the older American lake tankers continues. Last issue we reported the sale for scrapping of Cleveland Tankers' motorvessel VENUS and it is now our sad duty to report the sale of the same company's steamer MERCURY which has gone to the Sturgeon Bay Iron and Metal Company of Sturgeon Bay, Wisconsin. The tanker is currently lying at the yard of the Bay Shipbuilding Corp. at the same Lake Michigan port. MERCURY is a 390-footer built in 1912 at Lorain by the American Shipbuilding Company for the Standard Oil fleet. Originally named RENOWN, she became (b) BEAUMONT PARKS in 1930 and took on her present name in 1957 when she was acquired by Cleveland Tankers. MERCURY is a particularly good-looking ship with a graceful sheer and a very tall funnel. Her retirement brings to six the number of vessels that the fleet has cast off in recent years, the other five being METEOR (1896), COMET (1913), ROCKET (1913), TAURUS (1924) and VENUS (1928). In addition, ORION (1931) and PLEIADES (1921) were cast aside during the mid-sixties. This depletion of tonnage leaves Cleveland Tankers with only four vessels, the converted L.S.T. now known as POLARIS, the barge PHOENIX, and the two self-propelled barges SATURN and JUPITER, the latter not yet delivered from her builders.
The widely circulated story that the Chesapeake and Ohio had ended passenger service on its Lake Michigan carferries BADGER, SPARTAN and CITY OF MIDLAND 41 appears to have been a bit of an exaggeration, although whether the problem originated with the press reporting or with the company is not known. True, the company went onto its winter schedule with reduced sailings and somewhat curtailed passenger services, but the fact remains that passengers are still being carried, as are their autos. Nevertheless, we cannot avoid thinking that since the railway is most vocal in its expression of the desire to be out of the carferry business, this whole thing may just have been a bit of a trial balloon sent up to test the current atmosphere on the subject of abandonment and perhaps also to discourage the travelling public from considering crossing the lake by boat so that when the application for discontinuance is finally heard, the line can show a decrease in traffic and a resultant lowering in the profits of the ferries.
The Inland Steel Company is apparently considering the conversion of EDWARD L. RYERSON to a self-unloader, the work being tentatively scheduled for the winter of 1976-77. Final plans, however, are being held up until such time as the company can straighten out the many problems they have encountered with WILFRED SYKES. The 730-foot RYERSON was built in 1960 at Manitowoc and, while her appearance is certainly not of the same class as that of SYKES before her conversion, we do hope that her lines will not be ruined by the fitting of such a large elevating box or such a droopy (for want of a better word) boom as those that have forever destroyed the lines of the SYKES.
Defoe Shipyards at Bay City, Michigan, will have a big winter job on their hands this year. The firm has won a contract to dieselize the Reiss Steamship Company (Boland and Cornelius) self-unloader RICHARD J. REISS. The vessel will be fitted with a 2800 h.p., 20-cylinder G.M. Electro-Motive diesel power plant. RICHARD J. REISS was one of the many steamers built for the U.S. Maritime Commission during the second war and emerged from the River Rouge plant of the Great Lake Engineering Works in 1943 as ADIRONDACK. She took on her present name the same year and was converted to a self-unloader in 1964 when still in the colours of the actual Reiss fleet. She passed to BoCo management when that firm absorbed Reiss in 1969 although ownership has been continued in the Reiss name. Although many of the Maritime Commission class vessels have been converted to self-unloaders, RICHARD J. REISS is the first to be fitted with new power and her conversion serves to reinforce the commonly held opinion that although these ships are now more than thirty years old, they are among the staunchest lake vessels ever built and should be with us for a good many years to come.
Speaking of the Defoe yard at Bay City, we understand that the firm had a contract with the Columbia Transportation Division, Oglebay Norton Company, to rebuild the cargo holds of WILLIAM A. REISS and to convert the coalburner to oil fuel. The contract has, however, been cancelled since the acquisition on charter by Columbia (Pringle Transit Company) of WILLIAM R. ROESCH and PAUL THAYER. WILLIAM A. REISS will thus continue to be held in reserve by Columbia until such time as she is needed or is ripe for a conversion of some kind. The vessel was acquired from Kinsman late in 1974 but has proven to be a bit of a liability to her new owners since she is an ungainly thing as a result of the deepening of her hull in 1963 by Reiss. She is so high that the shoreside unloading rigs have difficulty in getting down to her tanktops when she is riding high in the water and we understand that not only have some of the rigs been damaged in trying to unload her but also that her hatch coamings have taken quite a beating. Even so, WILLIAM A. REISS is a good enough ship that we are sure she will eventually be returned to active service.
The BoCo self-unloader CONSUMERS POWER, currently laid up at Ecorse, is due to be converted to oil fuel over the coming winter at Nicholson's. We hear that any damage resulting from her grounding earlier in the year is minimal and that she has been idle merely because of poor business conditions .
Incidentally, another idle self-unloader, Columbia's veteran steamer SYLVANIA, re-entered service in mid-October. She had considerable work done on her during her period of inactivity.The Upper Lakes Shipping straightdecker THORNHILL recently had a very close escape from disaster. After unloading at Toronto Elevators, she cleared Toronto on the evening of October 17, passing up the Welland Canal during the night. The following day she headed up Lake Erie and got caught in a nasty fall gale, one of the many manifestations of a huge low pressure area which hovered over the lower lakes for several days. The steamer seems to have run into trouble of some kind and took a considerable amount of water in her engineroom before she could be turned around and brought safely into Port Colborne. She is said to have sprung several plates in her escapade.
The former Kinsman steamer GEORGE E. SEEDHOUSE did arrive at Humberstone as expected in October but she did not linger there and has apparently escaped the one-way trip to a European scrapyard. SEEDHOUSE was taken out of Toledo on September 29 by the G-tugs TENNESSEE and PENNSYLVANIA and was towed down Lake Erie by OHIO, her arrival at Port Colborne being delayed by inclement weather conditions. She was taken down Lock 8 by OHIO and OKLAHOMA on October 2nd and was moored in the old canal between Humberstone and Dain City alongside PETER ROBERTSON which had been towed in during the previous month. It was assumed that Marine Salvage Ltd. would dispose of the two ships to overseas breakers but this is not the case. On October 23 the tugs JOHN PURVES and G. W. ROGERS hooked onto SEEDHOUSE and took her back up through Lock 8. We have heard two versions of the reason for her departure, one being that she was headed for Lake Michigan for undisclosed purposes and the other that she was going to Bay City for use as a floating machine shop. We shall await details with interest.
A recent issue of the monthly Canadian Shipping contained an item advertising for sale a vessel described as a 147-foot steam-powered coastal freighter built in 1947 and currently lying at Parry Sound. This item had us puzzled for a while until we remembered that after she was retired a few years ago, the Canadian Coast Guard tender C. P. EDWARDS dropped out of sight. We had wondered where she had gone and now we know. The 1974 Canadian register shows her owner as the Kilbear Construction Company Ltd. of Toronto and this is the firm that placed the ad in the magazine. C. P. EDWARDS was a two-hatch coastal freighter built in 1946 at Collingwood as (a) OTTAWA MAYHILL. She measured 144.3 x 27.1 x 8.0, Gross 338, Net 124. The steamer later was purchased by the Canadian government and was converted for use as a lighthouse and buoy tender, in which duty she was assigned to the Parry Sound base covering Georgian Bay. We find it hard to believe that anyone could be interested in purchasing the little steamer now after a period of idleness in which her condition can hardly have improved, and further in view of the cost of dieselizing her, a move that would almost have to be made by anyone purchasing the ship and wishing to operate her.
Work on rebuilding the steam tug CHRIS M. is proceeding at Toronto. The vessel has lost much of her original machinery and is riding quite high in the water aft. The tug's new owner, Norman Rogers, intends to install diesel machinery and, we presume, has found someone to back him financially. As yet we have heard nothing firm on the use to which CHRIS M. will be put once the conversion is completed.
The Lake Erie gas drilling rigs normally winter at Port Colborne on the west wall of the old canal just below Bridges 20 and 21. Even the old NORDRILL (SIMCOE) lay along that wall when idle. But TELESIS, the former Halco canaller CONISCLIFFE HALL, will spend the coming winter along the West Street wharf. And the reason? Her drilling equipment is so high that she can't get under the vertical lift bridges!
Closing dates for the various Canadian canals have been announced by the St. Lawrence Seaway Authority. The lock at Sault Ste. Marie will be shut down at noon on December 12th, while the St. Lawrence Canals will close on December 18. The Welland Canal will, as usual, remain open longer and is not scheduled to close until December 30. It is to be assumed that if the weather is kind and traffic conditions warrant, the closing dates for the St. Lawrence and Welland Canals may be put back somewhat, although the date of December 18 for the lower canals is the latest on record and judging by the past few years we should be due for a long cold winter this time around and the early formation of heavy ice could cause much trouble in this section of the Seaway.
The steamer PIERSON DAUGHTERS, formerly CHARLES M. SCHWAB, is the perfect illustration of the change in appearance that a bit of paint can make. In Interlake colours she always looked the part of the misfit, as physically she was with the bow of a twenties laker and the stern of a T-2 tanker. The all-red hull did nothing to hide her atrocious lines. But now that she is in Pierson colours, complete with the name "Soo River Company" on her bows, you would hardly know that she is the same ship. The white band around her raised stern and the silver and black funnel colours tend to cover up her failings as does the white forecastle and she looks much better for it. In addition, the shamrock on her funnel is of somewhat better design than that on JUDITH M. PIERSON and is more recognisable as something other than a huge blot of ink on a piece of paper. Incidentally, we still have no firm word about the acquisition by Pierson of further ships.
The Interlake steamer HERBERT C. JACKSON entered service in September after her conversion to a self-unloader, but her recommissioning proved to be something less than a complete success. On her second trip after being placed back in service, she lost all power while on Lake Superior, this happening on September 23. She was taken in tow by the now-venerable (1916) United States Steel Corp. steamer D. G. KERR which brought the JACKSON in to anchor behind Whitefish Point. There she was met by the U.S. Coast Guard tug NAUGATUCK from the Soo which assisted JACKSON to the point where she could continue on her own. Hardly an auspicious start for the JACKSON! Incidentally, although the JACKSON has her new boom hinged aft, she looks considerably better than WILFRED SYKES and despite the fact that the boom hangs down a bit, it is not nearly so noticeable as that on SYKES. The elevating device, while rather ugly and sprouting from a new deckhouse, is not so massive as to hide her funnel from sight.
The vessels of the Great Lakes fleet of the U.S. Steel Corp. continue to trade down the Seaway with grain. LEON FRASER, BENJAMIN F. FAIRLESS, IRVING S. OLDS and ENDERS M. VOORHEES have all made trips down the river and are continuing to do so. Of course, the former Seaway visitors ARTHUR M. ANDERSON, PHILIP R. CLARKE and CASON J. CALLAWAY are now too large to fit the locks of the lower canals.
We are given to understand that the Steinbrenner interests have formed yet another affiliated company to which have been transferred the steamers HARRY L. ALLEN, CHICAGO TRADER and KINSMAN ENTERPRISE. It thus appears that these three veterans will remain available for service for the foreseeable future instead of having the shadow of the cutting torch hanging over them. Unfortunately, at the time of this writing we are not entirely certain of the correct name of the new company and we shall therefore not report on same until we have received confirmation.
Reproduced for the Web with the permission of the Toronto Marine Historical Society.