The major shipyards of the Canadian Great Lakes ports were busier during the years of the first World War than they had ever been before. As the American shipyards were turning out hundreds of "Lakers" during this period, so the Canadian yards were building hulls for salt water service to assist in the war effort. These hulls came from many different builders, some of which did not normally produce vessels of this size, staying under more usual circumstances with smaller ships such as ferries, tugs, scows and dredges.
After the cessation of hostilities in 1918, several Canadian lake shipyards continued to turn out vessels intended for salt water service. It was thought that such steamers could be sold, upon completion, to operators who could make use of them in deep-sea trades despite the fact that their size was limited by the dimensions of the locks of the old St. Lawrence canals through which they would have to pass in order to reach the Atlantic. Several larger steamers were also built, and they had to be taken through the canals in sections and rejoined at Montreal, but these boats were all constructed to the order of the Canadian Government Merchant Marine.
TORONTONIAN was a steamer designed for ocean service and was built as Dominion Shipbuilding's Hull No. BX7. She measured 251.0 feet in length, 43.0 feet in the beam, and 26.0 feet in depth, her tonnage being registered as 2239 Gross, 1349 Net, and 4300 Deadweight when she was enrolled at Toronto in June 1920 as C.141663. TORONTONIAN was powered by a triple-expansion engine whose three cylinders produced 1,300 i.h.p. The engine was a product of the shipyard. Steam was produced by two coal-fired Scotch marine boilers which were built at Toronto by the John Inglis Company Ltd.
The keel for the hull that was christened TORONTONIAN was laid during 1919 and she was launched on January 17, 1920. She was completed in June of 1920 to the shipyard's own account, whereupon her builder attempted to sell her to a deep-sea operator. Unfortunately, difficulties were encountered in this regard and, to make matters even worse, the financially beset Dominion Shipbuilding and Repair Company Ltd. was liquidated on July 31, 1920. The company had built a number of vessels similar to TORONTONIAN and all of them lay idle at ports on the east coast, to which they had sailed under their own power after completion, while the receivers attempted to sell off the various assets, including the ships which were registered in the shipyard's name.
At long last, in 1922, TORONTONIAN was sold to the Equitable Trust Company of New York, Toronto, although this sale may actually have been little more than a step in the shipyard's bankruptcy proceedings. In any event, in 1923, TORONTONIAN was sold to the Black Sea Shipping and Mercantile Company Ltd. of Newcastle, England. When she was transferred to the ownership of this firm, her tonnage was noted as being 2038 Gross and 1195 Net. TORONTONIAN was removed from Canadian waters and was placed in service by her new owner, presumably trading between the British Isles and the ports of the Black Sea.
TORONTONIAN was a steamer typical of what came to be known as the "Frederick-stad" class, that is, she was a three-island vessel with raised forecastle quarterdeck and centre bridge structure. She was navigated from an open bridge with teakwood-enclosed rails and with covered docking shelters at the end of each bridgewing. Over the bridge area, a large awning could be erected in order to shelter the officers on watch. TORONTONIAN was equipped with two masts, each of which sported cargo booms, the foremast stepped atop the short forecastle and the main just forward of a small house on the quarterdeck. In addition, she carried four kingposts, two athwartship forward of the bridge structure and two more immediately abaft the centrecastle.
When TORONTONIAN ran her lake trials and subsequently left the lakes, she was painted black with a white forward rail and white cabins, her stack black with a large white 'H' . It is assumed that these were the colours of some operator to whom Dominion had originally hoped to sell her. The colours had nothing whatever to do with the Black Sea Shipping and Mercantile Co.
In 1929, TORONTONIAN, still bearing her old name, was sold to the Societe Commerciale de Navigation Maritime "Navmar", Marseilles, France. The manager of this concern was one E. Spoliansky. Placed on the French register as (b) SPOLANNE, her tonnage was remeasured as 2023 Gross and 1175 Net.
The steamer remained under French ownership for only a short period of time, however, for in 1933, according to Lloyds Register of Shipping, she was sold to Yih Zui Fong of Shanghai, China, and renamed (c) HAI WAH. Her tonnage at this time was recorded as 2103 Gross and 1216 Net. The "Shipowners" section of Lloyds showed her in the fleet of the Wah-Shang Steamship Company Ltd., which undoubtedly was an affiliated concern. On the other hand, Bureau Veritas showed her owner in 1934 as Yi Zeu Fang, Shanghai, and in 1935 and 1936 as the Wah Shang (without the hyphen) Steamship Company, Shanghai. The listings in Lloyds continued as before through 1935, but thereafter she no longer appeared in the Register.
Taking into consideration all available sources of information, it would appear that HAI WAH was broken up somewhere in China in 1935 or 1936. Records of Chinese-owned vessels are, understandably, rather limited but, there being no evidence to the contrary, it seems that TORONTONIAN enjoyed an operating career of only about twelve years. This was rather a case of adding insult to injury, considering the fact that her first three years after completion were spent in idleness. It seems, in fact, that TORONTONIAN was a ship that probably should never have been built at all, this despite the fact that she carried a name which honoured the city in which she had been built and which was, at that time, the second largest city in the Dominion of Canada. We could have wished better things for her.
Reproduced for the Web with the permission of the Toronto Marine Historical Society.