It often happens that Great Lakes passenger vessels are thought of in pairs. When we remember one particular steamer, another comes to mind along with her. The reason for this pairing is that few and far between were the passenger routes which, during their heyday, could be held down by one boat alone, most being served by two or more ships running opposing schedules. Also, this mental pairing is frequently the result of similarities in appearance or name between vessels which cause them to be connected in the minds of those remembering them long after their withdrawal from service.
Two such vessels were the Lake Ontario and St. Lawrence River steamers CAPE TRINITY and CAPE ETERNITY, which not only ran together on the same routes for many years, but which also had similar names at certain stages of their careers, running together as SYRACUSE and ROCHESTER in earlier years. In addition, they were both somewhat unconventional in appearance and could well be labelled as two of the most unlovely overnight passenger boats to operate in the Lake Ontario area during this century. CAPE TRINITY was the subject of the "Ship of the Month" article in our issue of May, 1970. Since then, we have learned more of the services that these two boats ran for so many years and we feel that the time is now right for us to bring you the story of the other ship, namely CAPE ETERNITY.
Our readers will certainly be familiar with the name of the Richelieu and Ontario Navigation Company Ltd., Montreal, a firm whose various services have frequently been mentioned in these pages. Not only was the R & O one of the oldest companies operating passenger service on the Great Lakes and St. Lawrence River, but in its heyday it was also the largest such organization. It was through the R & O that the empire was founded which eventually came to be known as Canada Steamship Lines Ltd. and which is still active in the movement of freight on the Great Lakes.
During the first decade of the twentieth century, Richelieu and Ontario was active in various passenger movements from Lake Ontario eastwards. It was proposed that the company operate a new service from Youngstown, New York, at the mouth of the Niagara River, where connections might be made for Toronto via the vessels of the Niagara Navigation Company Ltd. (which in due course also came under R & O control), to Prescott and Ogdensburg, where the boats would connect with the "Rapids Line" dayboats to Montreal. Way stops would include Charlotte, Alexandria Bay and Clayton, New York. Boats running on such a route would, in fact, be carrying out coasting service between U.S. ports, and vessels registered in Canada could not do this. Accordingly, in 1910, the R & O formed a subsidiary which was known as the Richelieu and Ontario Navigation Company of the United States.
The same year that it was formed, this new company let a contract to the Detroit Shipbuilding Company for the construction of an overnight passenger steamer which was to serve the proposed new route. The ship was built at the Detroit Shipbuilding yard at Wyandotte, Michigan, and was known as Hull 180 during construction. The steel hull measured 246.6 feet in length, 42.0 feet in the beam, and 14.9 feet in depth, her tonnage being registered as 2484 Gross and 1407 Net. She was christened ROCHESTER (U.S.207073) in honour of the large city on the south shore of Lake Ontario. This city was to be served by the boat through her call at Charlotte, Rochester's port.
The steamer's twin screws were driven by two four-cylinder, triple-expansion engines whose cylinders measured 1.6, 25, 31 and 31 inches in diameter, and which had a stroke of 22 inches. This machinery, built by the shipyard, gave the boat a speed of 17 m.p.h. Steam was provided by four coal-fired Scotch boilers which measured 11 feet, six inches, by 11 feet. The engines were somewhat unusual and our readers might be interested in knowing more about them.
The last two decades of the nineteenth century and the first two of the twentieth saw the development of the reciprocating steam engine reach its zenith. Triple or quadruple-expansion engines (where the steam would pass through either three or four cylinders, expanding and hence dropping in pressure at each cylinder) were normally chosen for propellor-driven lake passenger or freight steamers during this period. But engineers were constantly experimenting with variations on these "basic designs and from their drawing boards came such hybrids as the four-cylinder and six-cylinder triples, and the five and eight-cylinder quads, many of these engines being designed for deep-sea passenger liners or for warships.
As can be seen from the dimensions of ROCHESTER'S cylinders, a four-cylinder triple had two cylinders the same size, these being the low pressure cylinders. One might have expected that they would have been placed side-by-side but this was not the case. For balance, they were mounted at either end of the engine, with the high and intermediate pressure cylinders between them. Therefore, the steam did its job in the high pressure cylinder, was exhausted from there into the intermediate, and, on being exhausted again, was manifolded simultaneously into the two low pressure cylinders which worked in step. ROCHESTER's engines had a remarkably small stroke and worked at high speed. The smaller the stroke of a steam engine, the faster it turns, and although we cannot confirm this, we suspect that ROCHESTER's machinery would have turned some 200 - 250 r.p.m.
Why would machinery of this type have been placed in ROCHESTER when four-cylinder triples were most frequently used in shore plants and in warships with high-speed engines? The answer relates to two advantages possessed by such machinery. First of all, the four-cylinder triple was a space-saving device in that the two smaller low pressure cylinders took up less space than the single larger one which would be necessary in a normal triple, As well, having two low pressure cylinders would get more power out of the expanded steam and would increase the efficiency of the engine by assisting in evacuating the steam from the intermediate cylinder. ROCHESTER was not a large boat and the saving of space in the engineroom was necessary in or der to accommodate the two engines needed to drive her twin shafts.
Although many four-cylinder triples were used on salt water (and some may still be functioning there), the engine never achieved wide use on the lakes. None are still in service on our inland waters and, as far as we know, no such engine is preserved on display anywhere.
ROCHESTER, as completed, was fitted with 120 staterooms and 16 parlours located on the promenade and gallery decks. The staterooms were all outside rooms equipped with washbasin and running water, but toilet facilities were "down the hall". The cabins known as parlours contained brass bedsteads and had connecting bathrooms with complete facilities. Another feature of the parlours was that some of them had their own private deck spaces which might best be called small balconies in view of the rather strange design of the vessel which made her look something like a floating apartment building. One of the most striking features of ROCHESTER'S appearance was that her cabins above the hull were built right out to the sides of the ship, there being no open promenades around the decks. This marked lack of open deck area made the private verandahs much more noticeable than they might otherwise have been since they punctuated the rather-high and intimidating sides of the boat.
ROCHESTER carried two very tall masts which, like her two oval stacks set in tandem, were well raked. Her stacks, while not particularly tall, looked shorter than they actually were as they were perched high atop her rather overpowering superstructure. We do not know whether her hull was always black when she ran for R & O, but it was so painted towards The end of her R & O years, her cabins being white and the stacks red with a black smokeband. It is entirely possible that ROCHESTER's hull may have been white at some stage during this period, perhaps even when she was commissioned.
In any event, ROCHESTER was duly placed in service on her intended route, her owner being satisfied with her performance on builder's trials. She ran successfully for a while on the Youngstown - Ogdensburg service, her operation providing an American counterpart to the established R & O Canadian route between Toronto and Prescott which was served by the magnificent paddlers KINGSTON and TORONTO. These latter vessels also connected at their eastern terminus with the "Rapids" boats for Montreal. The American line was intended to serve residents of upper New York State in that they would not have to take the Niagara boat across the lake to Toronto before embarking on their voyage down the lake if travelling eastward.
After several years on the route, however, ROCHESTER was found not to be drawing as many passengers at Youngstown as might be desired. At the opening of the 1913 season, it was decided that the western terminus of the route would be changed to Charlotte. But the company had second thoughts, for before ROCHESTER was commissioned that year, it was decided that she would be operated from Toronto, making the crossing to Charlotte and thence down the lake and river as before. In this way, not only would she help with the Toronto - Montreal trade but she would also participate in the movement of Toronto residents to the vacationlands of upper New York. It should be noted that her passengers, unlike those of KINGSTON and TORONTO, boarded the connecting "Rapids" boats not at Prescott but rather at Ogdensburg, where they stopped prior to proceeding down the river. ROCHESTER made three round trips per week, leaving Toronto on Tuesdays, Thursdays and Saturdays.
The year 1913 was a momentous one for the R & O, for it saw the making of the final corporate changes that permitted the formation of Canada Steamship Lines Ltd. While the parent R & O was the principal firm absorbed into the new giant, its American subsidiary, the Richelieu and Ontario Navigation Co. of the United States, was transferred to a U.S.-flag affiliate of C.S.L., namely the American Interlake Line. It is unlikely that ROCHESTER yet received what would later be known as the C.S.L. livery, for the new company was remarkably slow in repainting its numerous boats and many of the R & O and Niagara Navigation ships maintained their old colours for several years.
ROCHESTER, however, was not long to remain on her old route. In 1915, she was chartered to the Indiana Transportation Company for service on Lake Michigan between Chicago, Saugatuck and Douglas. At the end of the season, she was laid up at Sarnia, the intention of C.S.L. being to operate her the following year in its Northern Navigation Division to replace the burned steamer MAJESTIC on the upper lakes run. MAJESTIC had been destroyed in a conflagration at Sarnia in December 1915, a fire that also spelled the end of passenger service for the famous SARONIC, (a) UNITED EMPIRE.
In the meantime, however, some rather strange litigation was taking place that was to block C.S.L. from pursuing its plans for ROCHESTER. It was in mid-1915 at Buffalo that several residents of the State of Rhode Island filed claims totalling $265,000 against ROCHESTER. The plaintiffs alleged that they had become ill during an outbreak of typhoid fever, supposedly the result of impure water, which had occurred aboard the ship during a 1913 excursion. The July, 1915, issue of Canadian Railway and Marine World quoted a C.S.L. Montreal spokesman as saying that, at the time in question, there were outbreaks of typhoid in several U.S. cities and that several U.S. soldiers on board ROCHESTER had been taken ill. He also threw in the observation that, as a result of an American government enquiry, the American Interlake Line had been exonerated of all blame.
Be this as it may, the civil courts were obviously not of the same opinion. We have not read the findings of the court, but it is obvious that C.S.L. lost the case because, in early 1917, the U.S. District Court of New York (Western District) ordered the sale of the vessel, presumably due to the filing by the owner of a motion to limit its liability in the event of judgment being found against it. As a result, the sale of ROCHESTER, which had lain idle at Sarnia all during 1916 due to the litigation, was scheduled by the court for April 17, 1917. This date was eventually postponed to May 1st, perhaps because nobody was sufficiently interested in ROCHESTER to put in a bid for her.
In what was little more than a shuffle from one hand to the other, ROCHESTER was purchased at the court-ordered sale by the Northern Navigation Division, Canada Steamship Lines Ltd., Montreal. She was reactivated for the 1917 season and was placed on the Northern Navigation service to Georgian Bay ports, despite the fact that she remained in U.S. registry. This operation was not long-lasting for, by 1919, she had returned to Lake Ontario and resumed her service between Toronto and Ogdensburg, running opposite SYRACUSE, the former GERONIA, which had been built at Collingwood in 1911 for the Hepburn interests of Picton.
CAPE TRINITY and CAPE ETERNITY were not really suited for a cruise service but they did manage to hold the line down until better tonnage could be obtained. The acquisition by C.S.L. of NARRAGANSETT, which would be renamed RICHELIEU for her new duties, and the building by Davie for C.S.L. of the magnificent TADOUSSAC, QUEBEC and ST. LAWRENCE, would obviate the need for any other tonnage on the Saguenay route, but the two "Capes" did their duty well for five years. It is interesting to note that, although CAPE ETERNITY sailed with that name on her and with the home port of Montreal painted on her stern, she actually remained on the U.S. register until 1922 as ROCHESTER. Whether the change was delayed in processing, or whether some civil servant in Washington simply neglected to record it, we do not know. Once she came onto the Canadian books, her official number was C.141863.
In any event, CAPE ETERNITY was returned to Lake Ontario in 1925 and was placed on a route from Toronto to the Thousand Islands of the St. Lawrence River via the Bay of Quinte. This was a particularly scenic trip and the ship operated successfully on it until business conditions deteriorated to the point that she could no longer be operated economically. Passenger revenue declined noticeably in the early part of 1929 and, during the month of July, CAPE ETERNITY was laid up on the north wall of the Toronto turning basin. She was subsequently moved to a spot about half way up the north side of the ship channel and there she remained until 1935, keeping company with other C.S.L. steamers, including her former running-mate, CAPE TRINITY, and the famous Niagara River Line paddler CORONA.
Seaway Lines tried a rather unusual paint scheme for GEORGIAN. When first placed in service, she was green up over the main deck cabin, grey for one more deck, and the rest of the upperworks were painted white. In due course, the green hull was to become black. Her stacks were painted buff and black and carried a flag and diamond incorporating the letters 'S' and 'L'.
GEORGIAN proved to be successful on her new run and the only major change to affect her during these years was that, in 1939, her owner changed its corporate name to Lakeway Lines. How long GEORGIAN would have been able to continue running profitably on her route we do not know, but her life in this service was limited to seven years. The involvement of Canada in the Second World War created an urgent need for tonnage of any sort to assist in the war effort on salt water and, in 1941. GEORGIAN was requisitioned by the Royal Canadian Navy for use as a floating barracks. In this capacity, she was first used at Halifax, Nova Scotia, and then later at St. John's, Newfoundland. While serving at this latter port towards the end of the war, she was renamed (d) AVALON II.
When the hostilities ended in 1945. AVALON II was no longer needed in her military capacity. She reverted to her former name of GEORGIAN and was towed to a lay-up berth at Sorel, Quebec. No doubt it was intended that eventually she would be scrapped there. Little did anyone suspect that not only was she not at the end of her tether, but that she would shortly be put into service on waters far distant from those for which she had been built.
On July 19, 1946, the idle GEORGIAN was sold by the Canadian government to the Wah Shang Steamship Company Ltd. of Shanghai, China. She was renamed (f) HA SIN and was reregistered at Shanghai. Suitably boarded up for the long voyage to protect her wooden superstructure from damage in heavy seas, she departed Sorel under her own steam. The trip was apparently accomplished safely and without untoward incident of any kind being reported.
However, although HA SIN had been able to make the trip safely all the way from Sorel to Shanghai, she was not able to cope with events which were to occur in the land of her new home. In due course, the Chinese Revolution became a reality and HA SIN had the misfortune of being caught lying at Shanghai during a bomb attack on the city's docks. She was so badly damaged by aircraft bombs that the repair of the old steamer could not be considered to be economically warranted. Although we are not certain of when or where she was dismantled, she was indeed broken up for scrap and, by 1962, her name had been dropped from Lloyd's Register of Shipping.
And so, in foreign waters, ended the career of yet another of the passenger ships which once served the Great Lakes. She could never have been considered to have been traditional or particularly appealing in design or appearance, and she never served long enough on any particular route to carve a secure niche for herself in the memory of the populace; but she did put in many good years of hard work for her various operators and generally managed to stay out of trouble. She did well in serving the needs of the travelling public.
Reproduced for the Web with the permission of the Toronto Marine Historical Society.