In May of 1940, four old lake steamers made the one-way trip through the Welland Canal bound for the Steel Company of Canada scrapyard at Hamilton, Ontario. All four ships were formerly operated by American fleets and for three of the four, this last trip was their first through the waterway.
On May 18th, the railway carferry TRANSFER (II) was towed down the canal by the McQueen tugs PROGRESSO and PATRICIA McQUEEN. TRANSFER was a former unit of the fleet of the Wabash Railroad and for many years she had served the railway on the run between Windsor and Detroit. Five days later, on May 23, the big package freighter MILWAUKEE passed down the canal in tow of the same two tugs. The MILWAUKEE had been owned by the Great Lakes Transit Company but had been laid up at Buffalo for a number of years.
The final member of the scrapyard foursome was the F. D. UNDERWOOD which made her final trip with the aid of the same tugs on May 30th. She had also been laid up at Buffalo and was yet another unit of the Great Lakes Transit Company's fleet. A craneship, she is known to have made a number of trips down the Welland Canal during the 1930's.
All four steamers were put to the scrappers' torches at the Stelco plant in Hamilton and their old steel was melted down to help produce much-needed commodities including new ships. This is one of the many ways that lake boats aided the war effort.
(Ed. Note: We thought that Al's article on these four almost-forgotten scrap tows was very interesting in view of the many tows involving old lakers sold overseas for scrapping since 1960. Observers tend to remember these recent tows very well, to have some knowledge of a few tows in the fifties, to have heard of but never to have paid much attention to the myriad scrap tows of U.S. Maritime Commission boats after the second war, and to know almost nothing at all about scrap tows prior to that. Al's contribution of this piece and his research of the tows is much appreciated. For the benefit of the record-keepers amongst us, there follows a thumbnail sketch of each of the four old lakers involved.)
TRANSFER (II) - (U.S.145503). Steel sidewheel carferry built 1883 at Cleveland by the Cleveland Shipbuilding Co. as Hull 3. 265.0 x 75.2 x 12.2, Gross 1511, Net 1060. Originally owned by the Michigan Central Railroad and later by the Wabash Railroad. Operated her entire life on Detroit -Windsor route. Sold to the Steel Company of Canada Ltd. and scrapped at Hamilton 1940.
MILWAUKEE (II) - (U.S.93265). Steel package freighter built 1902 at Chicago by the Chicago Shipbuilding Co. as Hull 55. 325.0 x 44.0 x 28.0, Gross 3327, Net 2424. Built for the Western Transit Co. (the New York Central Railroad) and sold 1916 to the Great Lakes Transit Co., Buffalo. Apparently idle from the Depression onwards. Sold to the Steel Company of Canada Ltd. and scrapped at Hamilton 1940.
EDWARD E. LOOMIS, (a) WILKESBARRE (20) - (U.S.81733). Steel package freighter built 1901 at Buffalo by the Union Dry Dock Co. as Hull 92. 381.7 x 50.5 x 28.0, Gross 4279, Net 3437. Built for the Lehigh Valley Transit Co. (the Lehigh Valley Railroad) and sold 1919 to the Great Lakes Transit Co., Buffalo. Collided with W. C. FRANZ, Lake Huron, Nov. 21, 1934 and severely damaged. Laid up at Buffalo and not repaired. Sold to the Steel Company of Canada Ltd. and scrapped at Hamilton 1940.
F. D. UNDERWOOD, (a) RAMAPO (10) - (U.S.111123). Steel package freighter built 1896 at Buffalo by the Union Dry Dock Co. as Hull 78. 330.0 x 44.8 x 24.0, Gross 3270, Net 2878. Built for the Union Steamboat Co., Buffalo, later known as the Erie Railroad Lake Line. Rebuilt 1903. Sold 1916 to the Great Lakes Transit Co., Buffalo. Rebuilt as craneship 1930 at Buffalo. In latter years chartered part-time to the Gartland Steamship Co. (D. Sullivan & Co., mgrs.), Chicago. Sold to the Steel Company of Canada Ltd. and scrapped at Hamilton 1940.
Reproduced for the Web with the permission of the Toronto Marine Historical Society.