The loss of the C.P.R. steamer ALGOMA was featured in our Ship of the Month No. 154 in the April issue, and we should like to thank the many readers who passed along such kind comments concerning this feature. Its preparation (working with such a goldmine of invaluable documents) gave us a great deal of enjoyment and we are pleased that our members got as much fun reading it. The story also produced some additional detail, which we now will share.
In the latter part of our feature, we mentioned that much of ALGOMA's machinery was salvaged from the waters off Greenstone Rock and was refurbished and placed in MANITOBA, which was completed in 1889 as a replacement for the lost vessel. We stated that "the engine and boilers of ALGOMA served MANITOBA until she received a completely new set of machinery in 1914... ALBERTA and ATHABASCA also had their old engines and boilers removed and replaced in 1913."
In making these comments, we were going by the best information which was available to us and which we had always believed was correct, but it now is obvious that we missed the mark. We are very grateful to Donald Page, Honorary Curator of the Marine Museum of the Great Lakes at Kingston, for sharing with us his knowledge of the situation so as to set the record straight. We can do no better that to quote directly from his letter.
"The following story was related to me back in the fifties by Mr. Tom Alexander, who was at that time master mechanic and chief marine engine constructor of the Port Arthur Shipbuilding Company, and probably the most experienced builder of ships' machinery in Canada.
"In 1913, when he had just completed his apprenticeship in the engine shop of that shipyard, the ALBERTA and ATHABASCA arrived to carry out extensive mechanical rebuilding during the winter of 1913-14. During this refit, both old four-furnace cylindrical (Scotch) boilers, of 100 p.s.i. working pressure, were removed and replaced with two new three-furnace boilers of roughly the same dimensions, but with the working pressure increased to 150 p.s.i. These new boilers were built by 'Portship'.
"In order for the engines not to be overloaded by this higher pressure, it was deemed necessary to fit bushes (very thick liners) in both the high and low pressure cylinders to decrease their diameter and, therefore, the piston areas on which the higher steam pressures would work. As well, these bushes tended to reinforce the cylinder wall against the higher pressures exerted.
"Accordingly, the two bushes (for each ship) were cast and machined to be moderate shrink fits in their respective cylinders. New smaller pistons were machined to suit the new bores, complete with rings. Thus, the engines formerly of dimensions 35" H.P. and 70" L.P., with 48" stroke, became 30" H.P. and 64" L.P., with the same stroke of 48". The I.H.P. of 1,225 on 64 r.p.m. remained about the same, and each engine enjoyed a much improved efficiency with the higher boiler pressure. This was a cheap and simple solution to the problem of contending with the higher pressures allowed by the progress of marine engineering. MANITOBA was dealt with in the same manner by the Collingwood shipyard, also in 1914.
"Thus the ships never were re-engined, but ran out their long lives with essentially the same two-cylinder, fore-and-aft compound engines, built originally by David Rowan of Port Glasgow, Scotland, with alterations as described herein. Tom Alexander's tale is borne out by entries in both the American Bureau of Shipping and Lloyd's registers."
True enough, but had Don Page not brought this information to our attention, we might never have realized that the engines were only rebuilt. We have verified this story with persons who sailed in MANITOBA in her later years and they have confirmed that they did indeed see the original ALGOMA engine builder's plate mounted on the machinery at that time. So thus endeth any suggestion that ALBERTA, ATHABASCA and MANITOBA ever received replacement engines.
Reproduced for the Web with the permission of the Toronto Marine Historical Society.