As a great number of our readers will recall, the ship featured in our Mid-Summer 1986 issue was the Northwest Transportation Company's 1874-built propellor QUEBEC. Our records indicated that she was powered with a steeple compound engine which had cylinders of 34" and 34", and a stroke of 34", the equipment built by Burrows and Chapman of St. Catharines. However, a number of readers questioned the bore of the cylinders of this engine, commenting that the low and high pressure cylinders of a steeple compound engine would not likely be of the same diameter. We agreed with this reasoning but were unable to produce any correcting documentation.
George Ayoub writes that the steamer's registration document indicates that both cylinders were 34" bore and the stroke was 36", the engine producing 750 h.p. The registration also shows the engine builder as Oille of St. Catharines (although disguised in a mis-spelled version of the name).
The 1899 Great Lakes Register (Bureau Veritas), which we have recently obtained, states that the ship had a "double condensing" engine, both cylinders 34" in diameter, and with a 36" stroke, 350 h.p. at 65 r.p.m., built in 1874 by Burrows and Chapman, St. Catharines. It also shows that she had two firebox boilers, 8'0" by 15'8", generating 75 p.s.i., built by Oille in 1874.
Don Page writes to say that the 1913 American Bureau of Shipping Register describes the engine as a fore-and-aft (not steeple) compound engine with cylinders of 18" and 44", and a stroke of 36", built by Burrows and Chapman, St. Catharines, in 1874 and rebuilt in 1901. In the 1901 reconstruction, she got a single cylindrical boiler, 13'0" by 12'0", three furnaces, generating 140 p.s.i. This boiler was built in Manitowoc, Wisconsin, in 1901.
So where do we go from here? We now have several different versions of the machinery information, an unexpected problem! In fact, the steamer, as (c) HELEN C, was still classed by the American Bureau of Shipping at the time of the 1913 listing, so we really have little choice but to accept that as the true version of the engine description, and on top of that, it sounds as if it could have been real! We will then take the 1899 Great Lakes Register listing as accurate for the first boilers, and the 1913 listing again for the second set of boiler data.
Reproduced for the Web with the permission of the Toronto Marine Historical Society.