Much has been written over the years concerning the Anchor Line's famous "triplets" INDIA, CHINA and JAPAN which operated on the upper lakes passenger service between Buffalo and Duluth. But many people resident in the Lake Ontario - St. Lawrence River areas of Canada remember these vessels best for the years after they came into Canadian registry, operating respectively as CITY OF OTTAWA, CITY OF MONTREAL and CITY OF HAMILTON. It is because very little has been written about these ships in their Canadian service that we have chosen CITY OF OTTAWA as our feature this issue.
INDIA was a propellor and was powered by engines similar to those installed in many steamers of the period. She was fitted with fore-and-aft compound machinery with cylinders of 22 and 44 inches and a stroke of 36 inches. This power plant gave her Nominal Horsepower of 510 and an Indicated Horsepower of 405.
INDIA, CHINA and JAPAN all appeared from the builder's yard the same year (1871) and they made quite an impression on the travelling public. Long gone were the palace steamers of the 1850's and voyagers had once more got accustomed to the plain and simple furnishings found on the small propellors that replaced them. But the Anchor Line's triplets brought once again a touch of the elegant to lake travel.
From the exterior, the ships were nothing extraordinary although they were impressive. Their hulls, green up to the main deck and white above, were built with a graceful sheer. Side ports were fitted for the movement of freight. On the promenade deck was carried the passenger cabin, a long wooden structure which ran from far forward almost to the fantail. It came to a point at the forward end and over this point was carried a balcony-like bridge with wings extending out to the sides of the ship. Just aft of the bridge was an ornate octagonal pilothouse (quite frequently partially hidden by a large canvas dodger or weathercloth strung up on the bridge) and aft of that again was the texas cabin containing the officers' quarters. Behind the texas on the boat deck was a rather large skylight over the main cabin and on this passengers could sit in relative comfort, protected all the while from the elements by a large canvas awning. Each of the ships boasted a very tall and heavy fidded gaff-rigged foremast on which sail was originally carried. The funnel, tall, beautifully raked, and topped with a double cowl, was carried well aft and just ahead of it was a rather thin and short mainmast which apparently served no useful purpose. Six lifeboats were carried, three on each side of the boat deck.
The three ships did have one remarkable feature which was visible from a distance. Instead of the usual ornamental ball or eagle, each vessel carried atop her pilothouse a lifesize wooden likeness of a native of the country for which the ship was named. These statues were the treasured trademarks of the Anchor Line triplets and were retained until the vessels received new pilothouses in later years.
The passenger cabin of each ship was a veritable palace compared to other ships then operating. The staterooms opened off a long open passageway in which the dining tables were set at mealtimes. At the forward end of the cabin was the men's smoking room, while at the after end of the passenger area the cabin opened out into a spacious and luxuriously appointed ladies' cabin, complete with grand piano. The woodwork up to the level of the clerestory was varnished, while the deckhead was painted white. Woodcarvings were in evidence everywhere. The entire cabin was fitted with carpeting and an elegant companionway led down to the main deck where the purser's office was located. As usual for the period, bathroom facilities were not provided in the staterooms but each room did boast "running water" in that reservoirs mounted over the sinks were filled daily by the stewardesses and after that gravity did the rest. The galley was located on the main deck and the food (of excellent repute) was brought to the cabin by means of a primitive lift.
In 1872 the Anchor Line, along with the Union Steamboat Company of the New York and Lake Erie Railroad (later known as the Erie Railroad), formed a pool service known as the Lake Superior Transit Company to operate vessels between Buffalo and Lake Superior ports. INDIA was one of the Anchor Line steamers placed on the route in 1872. However, as poor business conditions prevailed in 1873 and 1874 INDIA did not operate in the pool during those years and probably spent much of her time laid up. She appears not to have re-entered service for the Lake Superior Transit Company until 1878. From then until the pool service was dissolved in 1892, INDIA was a very popular steamer on the run.
After 1892 INDIA continued in the Buffalo - Lake Superior service but under Anchor Line management. She ran opposite JAPAN on the Duluth route, each ship making a round trip every two weeks. There were scheduled way calls at Erie, Cleveland, Detroit, Mackinac Island, Sault Ste. Marie, Marquette and Hancock. CHINA during this period was on the Buffalo to Chicago service.
But the gravy days for the iron triplets were drawing to a close. The Anchor Line was doing a roaring business and the three small steamers just could not carry enough passengers or freight. At the turn of the century the company began to make plans for a new series of passenger ships, 340-foot steel vessels with much space for package freight. These new ships were named TIONESTA, JUNIATA and OCTORARA and they entered service in 1903, 1905 and 1910 respectively. Thus CHINA was withdrawn in 1904, INDIA in 1906 and JAPAN in 1910, although each may have been used for a short period in a special cruise service before being sold out of the fleet.
All three were sold to the same buyer, a Canadian firm known as the Montreal and Lake Erie Steamship Company Ltd., Toronto. A large interest in this company was held by Sigmund Samuel, a very prominent Toronto steel dealer and philanthropist. The old Anchor Liners came over in turn as they were replaced and in 1906 it was INDIA's turn to be transferred to Canadian registry. Enrolled at Ottawa as C.122018, she was renamed (b) CITY OF OTTAWA and was placed in the passenger and freight service between Montreal, Toronto, and Lake Erie ports. On this service she was joined by her sisters which were renamed CITY OF HAMILTON and CITY OF MONTREAL for the route. All three lost their "birdcage" pilothouses at this time, and hence also the famous statues formerly perched thereon, and they were fitted with more modern round-front pilothouses topped with the usual open bridge. The monkey's island was surrounded by a very high closed wooden rail and over the top a colourful awning was often spread to provide a bit of shade. In the case of CITY OF OTTAWA, two holes were cut in the rail to provide vision of the foredeck.
The Montreal and Lake Erie Steamship Company Ltd. apparently had some sort of working arrangement with the Merchants Montreal Line, a package freight pool service operated for many years by the Jaques family interests of Montreal. CITY OF OTTAWA was given the usual Merchants Montreal funnel colours, white with a black top. Her topsides were white as were her cabins while the hull below the main deck was a dark colour, probably either green or black. We have seen no actual description of the hull colour and we rather doubt that there are any observers still around who might remember. The name "Merchants Montreal Line" was carried in bold letters on the bows. Remeasured on entering Canadian registry, CITY OF OTTAWA was now shown as 1529 Gross and 838 Net.
The year 1913 was perhaps the most eventful in lake history, for on June 17. 1913 the incorporation of Canada Steamship Lines Ltd., Montreal, took place. The company was formed by a number of prominent gentlemen who had been working for years to acquire control of many large Canadian vessel operations. A number of mergers took place but the final amalgamation was the most spectacular, involving the giant Richelieu and Ontario Navigation Company Ltd. In this step, Merchants Montreal was brought into the fold and in this manner CITY OF OTTAWA and CITY OF HAMILTON became units of C.S.L. CITY OF MONTREAL did not make it into the merger at this time because she had been damaged by fire early in 1913 and the hull was sold prior to the incorporation of the new firm. Strangely enough, the name of the Montreal and Lake Erie Steamship Company Ltd. was continued as the actual owner of both OTTAWA and HAMILTON until about 1915.
C.S.L. placed CITY OF OTTAWA and her sister on the Montreal - Toronto -Hamilton express package freight line, each ship making a round trip between those ports once a week. Passengers were not carried after the C.S.L. takeover but for the remainder of their first year in C.S.L. colours, the ships kept their passenger cabins. One gentleman who served on CITY OF HAMILTON that year recalled that each of the crewmen had his own private cabin, making use of the passenger staterooms.
But very soon both vessels were cut down to a rig more suitable for their trade. The pilothouse and forward end of the main cabin (the section that had housed the men's smoking room) were retained, the latter providing the accommodation for the officers since the texas on the upper deck was removed. The after end of the main cabin remained to house the galley and crew's quarters but the entire midship section of the deckhouse was cut away. A small doghouse was built on deck midway between the second and third cargo ports and the space between this and the after house seems to have been used mainly for bunker coal which had overflowed the bunker hatch. Two lifeboats only were retained and these were carried one on each on deck between the forward cabin and the doghouse. The heavy fidded mast was replaced by a shorter and lighter pole mast located right behind the pilothouse, while a new and very thin main mast was stepped immediately forward of the funnel. The appearance of the pilothouse was greatly improved by the addition of a sunvisor and by painting the windowframes white, the latter action having the effect of making the windows look a bit smaller. The rebuild reduced her tonnage to 1323 Gross, 671 Net.
CITY OF OTTAWA and CITY OF HAMILTON remained on the lower lake express run until the mid-1920's, providing a fast and reliable scheduled service. But eventually they were replaced by a new fleet of steel "City" class package freight canallers and their days of usefulness to C.S.L. came to an end.
CITY OF OTTAWA was sold in 1928 to Charles F. Mann of Marine City, Michigan and he returned her to U.S. registry, giving her back her original name INDIA. She was registered at Port Huron but at the time of the transfer it appears that the officials did not bother to remeasure her. The U.S. Merchant Vessels listing of 1928 shows her with exactly the same tonnage as was shown at the time of her building, despite the extensive rebuild which she had undergone while under the Canadian flag.
But in 1929 INDIA came back to Canada. She was bought by the Algoma Steamship Company of Hamilton and was renamed (d) SAULT STE. MARIE. Her new owner placed her on the package freight service between Toronto and the Lakehead and she spent the rest of the year on this route. However, the service was not successful and again in 1930 she returned to U.S. registry as (e) INDIA when she was sold for $7,000 at a bailiff's sale in Detroit to the Pine Ridge Coal Company, Detroit. She was enrolled at Detroit, her official owner being Thomas H. Candler, proprietor of Pine Ridge Coal. She was cut down to a barge, 814 Gross and 805 Net, and was used in the coal trade.
In 1934 INDIA was sold to C.W. Bryson of Cleveland and he formed the India Navigation Company to operate the vessel. His other vessel at the time was the 1918-vintage 172-foot ocean-going steamer MARITA, a rather strange looking ship that had been built as a submarine chaser and which Bryson, under the name of the Copper Steamship Company, operated in the steel trade between Cleveland and Monroe, Michigan. MARITA came to the lakes in 1930 and it seems reasonable to assume that Bryson used INDIA on the same route in tow of MARITA.
But then came World War II and the need for every available bit of operable tonnage. The U.S. government in 1942 was requisitioning vessels for salt water service. At this time the U.S. Maritime Commission bought both MARITA and INDIA, the latter with the idea of rebuilding her and, presumably installing engines once again. INDIA was towed to salt water via the Illinois and Mississippi Rivers but she was never used again. When she reached New Orleans it was decided that she was not suitable for rebuilding and she was abandoned along the shore of Lake Pontchartrain, Louisiana, above New Orleans. INDIA was out of documentation by 1944 and it is believed that she was broken up about 1945.
Reproduced for the Web with the permission of the Toronto Marine Historical Society.