On Friday, January 20, the ALLEN was lying in winter quarters alongside the Capital No. 4 grain elevator at Duluth. This elevator, operated by the Capital Elevator Division of International Multifoods Corp., Minneapolis, was one of the oldest elevators still in use on the lakes and a substantial portion of the structure was of wooden construction. On January 20, a crew of workmen was in the building attending to certain maintenance. Somehow there occurred an outbreak of fire which raged for three days and which not only left the elevator in ruins but also spread to HARRY L. ALLEN moored nearby. The ALLEN was totally gutted from bow to stern and preliminary estimates place the cost of repairing the boat in the $2.5 million range, a figure sufficiently large to render her a total loss. There is no question but that she has turned her wheel for the last time.
HARRY L. ALLEN dates back to 1910 when, as (a) JOHN B. COWLE (II), she was built at Lorain by the American Shipbuilding Company (Hull 379) for the Standard Transportation Company. This fleet was consolidated with the Great Lakes Steamship Company of Cleveland in 1911. She sailed for Great Lakes until 1957 when she was acquired by the Wilson Transit Company and resold to the Republic Steel Corporation for whom Wilson operated her. She was given her present name at the beginning of the 1969 season and in 1971 was sold to the Kinsman Marine Transit Company. She measures 531.2 x 58.2 x 27.0, 6945 Gross, with a capacity of 11,900 tons at midsummer draft. Despite frequent doubts about her future, she had survived quite nicely, operated in 1977, and was scheduled to run again in 1978. She was a very handsome ship and attracted a fair amount of attention in that she was one of the last few lake boats blowing a steam whistle. We shall miss her.
To the surprise of most observers, the National Steel Corporation has begun efforts to dispose of its steamer ERNEST T. WEIR (II), While it was thought in early January that the WEIR had actually been sold to the Columbia Transportation Division, Oglebay Norton Company, we understand that this sale has not yet been concluded due to the fact that attractive bids for the WEIR have also been submitted by the Ford Motor Company and by U.S. Steel. While details are naturally not known at this stage, it is thought that U.S. Steel probably has the best chance of obtaining the vessel. ERNEST T. WEIR was built at Lorain in 1953 and measures 671.5 x 70.3 x 32.3, her Gross being 12746. She is powered by a two-cylinder steam turbine. The WEIR is generally similar to National Steel's 1954-huilt flagship GEORGE M. HUMPHREY but is some 20 feet shorter. With Hanna's 1,000-foot self-unloader GEORGE A. STINSON now under construction at Lorain, the WEIR would soon have become excess tonnage to her present owner and for this reason her sale is not really as unexpected as might at first have been thought.
The self-unloading 1,000-footer under construction at Sturgeon Bay for the Bethlehem Steel Corporation will not be named BURNS HARBOR as announced but rather will be christened LEWIS W. FOY in honour of a corporation executive. The expected commissioning of the boat in 1978 will create an excess of tonnage in the Bethlehem fleet and the ship most likely to be released is SPARROWS POINT which suffered more than $1 million damage in a grounding this past fall at Beauharnois. It appears that she will most probably go to the Columbia fleet if Oglebay Norton does not obtain ERNEST T. WEIR.
The Interlake Steamship Company has contracted with the American Shipbuilding Company for a self-unloader slightly in excess of 1,000 feet in length. The boat, to be assembled at Lorain and prefabricated there and at the Toledo and South Chicago yards, will be of greater capacity than JAMES R. BARKER or MESABI MINER. Interlake meanwhile will proceed with plans to convert ELTON HOYT 2nd to a self-unloader, the work to be done in the spring of 1979.
The sale of IMPERIAL LONDON to Honduran buyers may once again have come to life. Marine Salvage Ltd. arranged such a sale during the fall of 1977 hut it was cancelled when the purchasers failed to produce sufficient funds. We understand that financing has now been arranged and that the deal may yet be concluded so that IMPERIAL LONDON may head southwards to the Caribbean.
The strike of Hamilton bridge operators has not yet been settled but negotiations have resumed and accordingly the bridgemen returned to work on January 12. The Upper Lakes Shipping Ltd. self-unloader CANADIAN CENTURY and straight-decker NORTHERN VENTURE, which had been bound for the Dofasco plant at Hamilton with coal when the strike began and which in the meantime had laid up at Toronto, were reactivated to deliver their cargoes. The two boats were hauled out of the Polson Street slip at Toronto on January 16 and despite the heavy ice cover on Toronto Bay, left port via the Eastern Gap and made their way up the lake. As they have not returned, we assume that they will spend the remainder of the winter at the Steel City.
Last issue, we reported that approval in principle had been given to a proposed merger between the Oglebay Norton interests and the Medusa Corporation. We now learn that the merger is being opposed by a number of Medusa stockholders who would have preferred to see their company merged with Moore McCormack Resources Inc. which had previously made an offer that was rejected by Medusa directors.
There has been a change in the ownership of Ideal Ship Repairs Ltd. of St. Catharines, the company started in 1977 by the Hindman Transportation Company Ltd., Westdale Shipping Ltd., and the Soo River Company. The Hindman interests have now retired from the enterprise and Westdale and Soo River have each taken on an additional one-sixth share of the company which they now own jointly on a 50/50 basis.
Not only is Hindman out of the ship repairing business but we understand that the company may soon be retiring from lake shipping as well. For, you see, it is the Hindman Transportation Company Ltd. of Owen Sound with which the Quebec and Ontario Transportation Company Ltd. has been negotiating these many months. Q. & O. has inspected the various Hindman boats and is apparently prepared to proceed with the deal but it seems that there has been a certain hesitancy on the part of the Hindman interests. Accordingly, no sale has yet been completed and it is entirely possible that it may never occur. We can do no better now than to sit back and see what may happen in the near future.
While on the subject of Q. & O., we would refer to certain comments which we made in the January issue concerning the steamer SHELTER BAY (II). It seems that the 71-year-old veteran is not in the best of condition and, as we had feared, may not have much of a future ahead of her. We believe that she will operate in 1978 but not likely thereafter and it is entirely possible that she may eventually be relegated to the status of a grain storage barge at Goderich.
Extensive repairs are underway this winter on the port bow of GEORGE HINDMAN as she lies in winter quarters at Owen Sound. The steamer chopped a 40-foot gash in her hull plating during the late autumn and temporary repairs were done by the Ste. Marie Yard and Dock Company at the Michigan Soo.
An unusual visitor to Montreal harbour in late December was FORT CHAMBLY, the former C.S.L. lake package freighter which for several seasons has been operating on salt water. She has reverted to her old name but is now sailing under the flag of Bermuda and is registered to Devon Limited. Her cohort ESKIMO has returned to the lakes and is spending the winter at Collingwood.
Many of our readers will not have heard of the Michigan Northern Railroad but this flourishing rail line based in Cadillac, Michigan, has certainly made its presence felt in the Straits of Mackinac area. In fact, the line is so successful that by early January, a backlog of 450 freight cars had built up at St. Ignace awaiting transit across the Straits. Such rail traffic has not been seen in the area for many years and, with the veteran steam carferry CHIEF WAWATAM normally making only one trip across the Straits each week, the backlog has been building steadily. On January 6, the Interstate Commerce Commission placed an embargo on further rail traffic until the mess can be cleared up. Michigan state officials then set the wheels in motion to permit the CHIEF to make two trips per day instead of only one a week to help move the cars and it is hoped that such scheduling changes can be put into effect by early February. Such unexpected traffic is serving to make sure that the CHIEF does not get to rest too much in her old age.
A recent issue of Marine News, the monthly journal of the World Ship Society, indicates that SEA TRANSPORT (II), the former Halco tanker sold about a year ago to Dannesbrog Rederi A/S of Copenhagen, Denmark, is now sailing under the name NAESBORG.
Last month we mentioned that the U.S.C.G. icebreaker WESTWIND had encountered trouble early in her winter tour of lake duty but we had few details. We have since learned that the accident occurred on December 13 when WESTWIND fetched up on Crab Island Shoal which lies just to the east of the entrance to Detour Passage. Despite efforts to free her, she remained solidly aground until the evening of December 17. She was in the midst of transferring bunkers to the MACKINAW in order to lighten her when she came free and as she did so, she struck the stern of MACKINAW causing what the Coast Guard described as "cosmetic" damage. Earlier the U.S.C.G. tug NAUGATUCK had herself grounded during the salvage efforts and was forced to return to the Soo for repairs. ACACIA and ARUNDEL assisted without ill effects. WESTWIND, however, was seriously damaged in the stranding and fled from the lakes before the closing of the Seaway so that repairs could be completed at a coastal yard. Her sister NORTHWIND was hurriedly reassigned to lake duty and is now attempting to aid late-operating vessels through the icefields.
Concerning winter navigation, there is not much that we can say that has not already been said many times in the public press. A record number of lakers are involved in late sailing and many problems have been encountered, particularly in western Lake Erie and in the St. Mary's River. We do not have space in these pages to recite all the various stories concerning each boat, but suffice it to say that almost every late-operating ship has been in difficulty somewhere during the month of January. The most widely publicized has been LOUIS R. DESMARAIS which is trying to run between Thunder Bay and the Algoma Steel plant at the Canadian Soo. Her icebreaking (?) bow has been of questionable value to her and on several occasions she has become stuck in embarrassing positions, holding up traffic in the process. On the Canadian side, assistance to ships has been rendered by WILFRED M. COHEN and by W. J. IVAN PURVIS, these two tugs working mainly near the Algoma plant. At the locks, the Bultema tug BARBARA ANDRIE has been assisting the freighters. She was first brought to the Soo in early January to help U.S. Steel ships but it was soon found that if nobody else's boats moved, then neither did the tinstackers and so the ANDRIE is now helping all of them. Additional muscle in the ice has been supplied by various Coast Guard units.
An interesting item recently reported by the World Ship Society was the dismantling of a salty named CANOPUS. She was sold in December 1972 by the Cia. Argentina de Transportes Maritimas, an Argentinian firm, to Acenaz Bragado who on December 17, 1976, began to cut her up at La Plata. This news would normally have passed unnoticed by lake historians were it not that CANOPUS was built in 1913 at Ecorse, Michigan, by the Great Lakes Engineering Works as the package freighter BOSTON for the Western Transit Company. She later sailed for many years as (b) J. M. DAVIS for the Great Lakes Transit Corporation. She was requisitioned in 1942 by the U.S. War Shipping Administration for salt water service and was taken down the Mississippi. She was later sold to the Pratt Steamship Company of Los Angeles and by 1950 was flying the flag of Argentina. As far as we know, she was the last of the former G.L.T.C. package freighters in existence and of the fleet is survived only by the passenger steamer JUNIATA.
A crisis for the residents of Wolfe Island near Kingston developed on January 13 when the ferry WOLFE ISLANDER III suffered engine problems and took five hours to complete the crossing which is normally a matter of minutes. The ferry was docked for repairs and in her absence the marooned islanders ran short of fuel and supplies. The small fishtug JOHN D., which frequently breaks ice for the ferry, was volunteered by her owner to carry passengers but she could not handle supplies. Several islanders lost their cars through the ice while trying to drive to the mainland. The ferry was expected back in service in a few days but meanwhile the islanders howled that the old WOLFE ISLANDER (II) should have been replaced by a bridge, not a ferry.
Recent reports indicate that another former canaller has bitten the dust, as it were. COL. ROBERT R. MCCORMICK, (a) MANICOUAGAN (II)(55), left the lakes in 1967 under the name (c) MONTAGU BAY after having been bought by operators in Nassau, Under the name LINDA, she grounded in May 1977 on Molasses Reef in the Florida Keys. Salvaged and taken to Miami, she again grounded. The Coast Guard stepped in to remove her from the channel but when her owner, All-Trading Company, was unable to retrieve her and post the necessary bond, the U.S.C.G. was forced to dispose of her. She was in such poor condition that it was decided to scuttle her and accordingly on December 21st she was sunk in deep water by a dynamite charge.
JACQUES GRAVEL, which for several years has been languishing on the west side of the Welland Canal at Port Colborne, just north of the Clarence St. bridge, was moved back to the Ramey's Bend scrapyard in late fall. We presume that it has been decided that she will not be used in connection with gas drilling in Lake Erie as earlier planned.
Reproduced for the Web with the permission of the Toronto Marine Historical Society.