It is our unpleasant duty to report that the last Canadian coal-burning lake steamer has been retired from active service. The vessel, of course, is the SPRUCEGLEN, (a) WILLIAM K. FIELD (34), (b) REISS BROTHERS (70), (c) GEORGE D. GOBLE (80), (d) ROBERT S. PIERSON (82), which was acquired by P & H Shipping during the summer of 1982 as part of that firm's purchase of the fleet of the defunct Soo River Company. As previously reported, it had been hoped to convert her to oil fuel in the near future, but this work was indefinitely deferred when the cost became evident, for SPRUCEGLEN was also found to be in need of new sewage treatment facilities. Nevertheless, P & H intended to retain SPRUCEGLEN as part of its active fleet. Then, late in the season, the 58-year-old ship was found to have developed cracks in her hull and, as a result, the cost of all of the maintenance and repair work that SPRUCEGLEN requires has become totally prohibitive.
The vessel loaded her last cargo for P & H at Thunder Bay on December 13 and sailed under her own power to Goderich, where she laid up. Despite reports that she has been sold to Goderich Elevators Ltd. (the firm that operates the grain elevators and storage barges at Goderich, and of which Mr. H. C. Heimbecker is a director), NO such sale has yet taken place. If, at some future date, SPRUCEGLEN should be sold to Goderich Elevators, her use there as a storage barge might well allow the sale for scrapping of one or more of the old hulls currently in use there, namely R. G. SANDERSON (MANTADOC (I) of 1903), LIONEL PARSONS (AGAWA (II) of 1908) or D. B. WELDON (SHELTER BAY (II) of 1907). Meanwhile, all that can be said with any certainty at present is that SPRUCEGLEN still belongs to P & H Shipping, and that she will not again operate for that fleet.
SPRUCEGLEN was built in 1924 as Hull 176 of the Toledo Shipbuilding Company, 588.0 x 60.3 x 27.7. 8195 Gross and 6369 Net. She was repowered in 1957 with a two-cylinder DeLaval steam turbine and new Foster-Wheeler boilers. Built for the Minnesota Transit Company, the steamer was transferred in 1925 to the parent Reiss Steamship Company of Sheboygan, Wisconsin. She passed to the American Steamship Company in 1969 as a result of the Boland and Cornelius takeover of the Reiss shipping interests and, as a result of subsequent divestiture orders levied against BoCo, she was sold in 1971 to the Kinsman Marine Transit Company. She stayed with the Kinsman fleet during its various reorganizations and, in December of 1979, was acquired by Pierson Steamships Ltd. for operation by the Soo River Company. Known far too well to repeat again at this time are the events of 1982 that brought the steamer under the management of P & H Shipping, the new marine transportation venture of Parrish and Heimbecker Ltd. We are indeed sorry to see SPRUCEGLEN retired, for she is an interesting vessel as well as a most handsome one. Perhaps her most impressive feature is her large triple-deck bridge structure which contains rather elegant guest quarters.
Back in October, we reported that the Erie Sand Steamship Company's 85-year-old diesel sandsucker NIAGARA had been put into an early winter lay-up at Erie at the end of August. For many years, the venerable canaller has served the automotive industry by digging sand in Saginaw Bay and taking it up the Saginaw River to a dock just above the Zilwaukee Bridge, but this trade has not been able to keep her busy lately as a result of the effects of adverse business conditions on the production of autos. Now we receive word that the foundries in the Saginaw area, to which NIAGARA'S sand went for the purpose of making moulds for auto parts, have been experimenting with bringing sand from Lake Michigan. If this experiment should be successful as to feasibility as well as sand quality, it might put a permanent end to NIAGARA'S Saginaw service and may well finish her whole career. It is interesting to note that NIAGARA has carried the same name ever since she was constructed in 1897, despite a chequered career, and that she is the last boat still active on the lakes that was built by the famous firm of F. W. Wheeler and Company at West Bay City, Michigan.
JOHN A. KLING, 438.3 x 56.2 x 28.4, 5412 Gross and 4003 Net, was built as a self-unloader in 1922 as Hull 204 of the Manitowoc Shipbuilding Corp. She was built for the Rockport Steamship Company, a Reiss subsidiary, and in 1940 she was taken back to Manitowoc and lengthened to 546.3 feet, 6829 Gross, 5413 Net. She was transferred to the Reiss Steamship Company in 1964 and, in 1966, was repowered with a twelve-cylinder Cooper Bessemer diesel engine, receiving a new and larger pilothouse at the same time. In 1969, the Reiss shipping interests were acquired by Boland and Cornelius Inc. and JOHN A. KLING joined the American Steamship Company. Late in 1980, she was acquired by Dale Transports Ltd., Mississauga, Ontario, for operation by Westdale Shipping Ltd. Laid up at Toronto for the winter of 1980-1981, she emerged as LEADALE (II) the following spring. We sincerely hope that this unfortunate accident at Thorold will not prove to be the end of LEADALE's 60-year career.
Back in 1961, the turbine steamer WHITEFISH BAY was completed as a straight-deck bulk carrier for Canada Steamship Lines Ltd., Montreal, as Hull 625 of Davie Shipbuilding Ltd., Lauzon, P.Q., 712.4 x 75.2 x 34.3, 17350 Gross and 13552 Net. Over the winter of 1968-69, WHITEFISH BAY was taken in hand by Port Arthur Shipyards and was converted to a self-unloader, 18370 Gross and 13002 Net, emerging in 1969 as (b) QUETICO. Since then, she has operated fairly regularly, although her equipment seems not to have been of the most reliable, and she has suffered problems with her unloading gear. She did not run in 1982, remaining idle all season at Ojibway where she had spent the 1981-82 winter. Just before Christmas, however, QUETICO was taken in tow by the tugs WILFRED M. COHEN and JOHN McLEAN, and was moved to Collingwood Shipyards where, during this winter, she will be converted back to a straight-decker. This move is apparently prompted by National Wheat Board demands that C.S.L. be able to provide a certain grain capacity in straight-deck boats, a requirement that C.S.L. has been taking most seriously in view of its desire to retain a contract for carrying government grain. It was only recently that we commented upon the fact that Canadian shipyards were again beginning to turn out straight-deckers as new hulls (witness LAKE WABUSH and ALGOWEST), something that lake shipping observers had never expected to see again. Now, for the first time in recent memory, we are seeing the reversal of a self-unloader conversion in a laker of relatively conventional design. If even five years ago we had suggested that such a development might take place, we would undoubtedly have been certified and sent off to a padded room. But now it has happened. Tough economic times can produce strange developments indeed in the shipping industry.
The only one of the six Kinsman Lines steamers that did not operate during 1982 was the 71-year-old C. L. AUSTIN, which remained idle at Duluth. She was loaded with a storage cargo during the summer, but this cargo was subsequently determined to "be of unsatisfactory quality and it had to be removed from the ship. No facilities were available to remove the grain at Duluth and, accordingly, the steamer was taken to Buffalo for unloading. The AUSTIN is overdue for her survey and inspection, and thus could not make the trip under her own power. The tugs BARBARA ANN and TUG MALCOLM handled the tow, bringing the AUSTIN down through the Soo Canal on December 3rd. It is to be hoped, of course, that C. L. AUSTIN will return to service in the future if business conditions improve.
A recent report indicates that the former steam sandsucker AMERICAN, or rather what is left of her after many long years of inactivity, is being broken up at Lake Calumet, Chicago. The work on AMERICAN apparently began during the autumn. Also at Lake Calumet for scrapping is the veteran tanker DETROIT, which was built in 1914 as the Royal Fleet Auxiliary steam tanker SERVITOR, came to the lakes in 1926 for the McColl Bros. Ltd., Toronto, as PULOE BRANI, and later served under a multitude of names (including B. B. McCOLL and A. J. PATMORE) and shapes, on the lakes, then on salt water, and then back on the lakes again. Her last operator was Michigan Tankers Inc. of Findlay, Ohio. The last we knew of DETROIT, she was owned by the Hannah Inland Waterways Navigation Corp., and had been taken to Lamont, Illinois, on the Illinois Waterway, for non-transportation use. We do not know when or how she came to Lake Calumet, nor the identity of the shipbreakers who apparently have now started work on her.
A recent report received via the World Ship Society serves to update the history of one of the lake tankers once operated by the Socony-Vacuum Oil Company. The motorship TRAVERSE CITY SOCONY, 280.3 x 49.6 x 20.4, 2031 Gross and 1215 Net, was built in 1938 as Hull 299 of the Manitowoc Shipbuilding Company. She ran on the lakes until sold in 1961, when she became (b) RAYMOND J. BUSHEY for east coast interests. She was owned by Diesel Tanker S.D. Maddock Inc. and then by Diesel Tanker Ira S. Bushey Inc. The present report indicates, albeit somewhat belatedly, that she was sold in 1980 to Bering Trader Inc. (also a U.S. firm) and was renamed (c) BERING TRADER. A most interesting typographical error (See! We are not the only ones who make them!) in the W.S.S. journal "Marine News" caused the tanker's original name to be recorded as "TRANSVERSE CITY SOCONY"!
Present indications are that the United States Steel Corporation will transfer the self-unloaders ARTHUR M. ANDERSON, CASON J. CALLAWAY and PHILIP R. CLARKE to the "Bradley" section of the fleet come spring. The change is not really surprising, as the "Steel Trust's" self-unloaders were for many years kept in the "Bradley" division. We presume that the change will result in the big trio being repainted with grey hulls.
As previously reported, efforts were made during the autumn to get the State of Michigan and the Upper Peninsula Shipbuilding Company hack on speaking terms again in the hope that U.P.S.Co.'s Ontonagon shipyard might be reopened for at least long enough to complete the first of the tug-and-barge carferry combinations under construction there. But any such hopes had been dashed by the end of November, as the parties seemed to have drawn even farther apart. The shipyard accuses the state of not paying for work done, while the state alleges that U.P.S.Co. has not permitted the authorities to perform the audit that the contract requires, and has not provided the state with a schedule for completing the one tug and four barges called for in the original agreement. If the Ann Arbor's Lake Michigan carferries were still running, this news might be considered to be good in as much as the tugs and barges were designed to replace the "Annie's" ferries. But the Ann Arbor boats themselves have not run since the spring as a result of disagreements between the State of Michigan and the Michigan Interstate Railway Company which operated the Ann Arbor. Incidentally, we have now heard reports, which are unconfirmed as yet, to the effect that the Ann Arbor carferry VIKING may be back in service on Lake Michigan in 1983, but in a cross-lake trade for passengers only! The Lake Michigan carferry situation is indeed most complicated these days...
But the news is much better as regards efforts by the state and other parties to put the venerable steam carferry CHIEF WAWATAM back in service at the Straits of Mackinac. Just beating a state time deadline, the Eastern Upper Peninsula Transportation Authority agreed to accept responsibility for the CHIEF and then turned the job of actually operating the ferry over to a new concern known as The Boat Company. This peculiarly-named firm has been created by the Michigan Northern Railway to run CHIEF WAWATAM under the terms of state requirements that her operating cost not exceed $45,000 per month. Michigan Northern, of course, has suffered badly during the summer of 1982 with the CHIEF out of service and with no direct rail connection available to link it with the Lower Peninsula of Michigan. The new agreements took effect as at December 1 and, with the U.S. Coast Guard agreeing to a deferment of a drydocking of the CHIEF until April, it seems that the steamer will actually be back in service this winter after all. CHIEF WAWATAM made her first trip of the new service on December 22 when she sailed from St. Ignace to Mackinac City to pick up a load of bunker coal. As she was making the crossing, however, it was agreed that she would take a partial load of railcars with her. Difficulties still lie ahead before the 72 year-old vessel can actually re-enter regular service, amongst these being the problem of obtaining a crew at reasonable cost. The Boat Company hopes to operate at least two trips per week, with more trips being added later should traffic warrant. But by April the CHIEF must go on drydock if she is to continue in service, and the authorities are committed to finding another way of cutting costs on the crossing. These problems will probably put CHIEF WAWATAM back into lay-up in the spring, and what will happen then is anyone's guess, although it has been rumoured that a barge service utilizing the former Grand Trunk and Ann Arbor ferry CITY OF MILWAUKEE might be considered.
Last issue, we mentioned that, during the coming winter, the C.S.L. package freighter FORT WILLIAM will be converted into a cement carrier for operation on behalf of the Lake Ontario Cement Company. FORT WILLIAM arrived safely at Collingwood on December 4 in tow of WILFRED M. COHEN, and was assisted in berthing by the McAsphalt tug TUSKER, which was at Collingwood for repairs to her barge, MCASPHALT 201. The barge was due off the drydock on December 8, with FORT WILLIAM scheduled to take her place there.
The new owner of HANKEY, (a) PRINDOC (III), who took the former Paterson motorship off the lakes and down to salt water early in the 1982 season, has been identified as the Southern Steamship Company, a firm operating out of the Cayman Islands.
Last issue, we mentioned that the sailing vessel (and former tug) EMPIRE SANDY was nearing completion of her conversion at Toronto and had been out into Lake Ontario on trials. Not all has gone well for EMPIRE SANDY, however, for she still has no canvas and her sails are still residing with their maker pending the availability of funds to pay for them. And six Polish shipbuilders, who had been working on the vessel, have filed complaints relating to layoffs without notice and non-payment of wages. On the morning of November 28, EMPIRE SANDY was again out on trials, under power of her diesel engine. The boat was performing rather unusual manoeuvres in the middle of the Eastern Gap when along came the Netumar salty ZEUS, which was outbound. Despite radio warnings and danger signals sounded by the salty, EMPIRE SANDY did not clear the channel and a collision was only narrowly averted. The incident resulted in formal complaints being laid against EMPIRE SANDY by both the master and pilot of ZEUS. Needless to say, EMPIRE SANDY did not get away from Toronto before the closure of the canals for the winter, and she remains tied up in the Jarvis Street slip.
The locks of the American canal at Sault Ste. Marie were officially closed on December 27. although no traffic passed through during the last two days the locks were open. Last boat through the canal was the Algoma Central Marine self-unloader ALGORAIL, which passed upbound during the evening hours of Christmas Day, pausing to lie awhile along the upper wall of the MacArthur Lock because of wind. ALGORAIL subsequently went into winter quarters at Thunder Bay.
The Shediac Tanker Corp.'s recently-lengthened east coast tanker METRO STAR is reported to have grounded on October 31 at St. Augustin, near Quebec City. She took water aft and was beached, fortunately without spillage of any of her cargo of gasoline and diesel oil. Lightering of the cargo was done by METRO SUN, and salvors later freed the grounded tanker, returning her to her owners on November 10 at Pictou, Nova Scotia. METRO STAR was then cleaned out and drydocked for inspection and repairs.
On December 17, the former Canadian National Railways steam sidewheel carferry LANSDOWNE was towed to what is intended to be her permanent home in front of Cobo Hall on the Detroit waterfront. The 99-year-old vessel has had a superstructure of sorts constructed on her cardeck and, with railway cars set on deck, will allegedly seat 900 diners. After the failure of her Detroit developers, LANSDOWNE was acquired by California interests who now hope that the restaurant will be able to open early in the summer of 1983.
Plans for cruise boats seem to pop up in the most peculiar places, and we now hear reports to the effect that a 166-foot vessel may eventually be operated out of Grand Haven, Michigan. The city council there has requested a state grant to cover the cost of studying the proposal, and a local engineering firm is hoping to build the boat, her delivery tentatively scheduled for 1984. Proponents of the scheme would like to name the boat GRAND EXPLORER and operate her in both day and overnight service.
As we have mentioned previously, the exit of the Moore-McCormack Lines salty MORMACLYNX from the lakes during the autumn of 1982 was an exercise frought with problems. The vessel had been lengthened at the Lorain yard of the American Shipbuilding Company during the summer but ran into all sorts of difficulties after the completion of the job. She attempted to pass downbound through the Welland Canal in early November but developed trouble in a propeller shaft bearing and returned to Cleveland on November 10, subsequently heading back to the shipyard. Repairs completed, she again tried to clear the lakes, only to encounter further problems downbound in the Welland Canal. She finally sought the assistance of tugs in an effort to ensure that she got out of the Great Lakes system before the closure of the canals for the winter months.
Reproduced for the Web with the permission of the Toronto Marine Historical Society.