The parade of old lakers to European scrapyards is continuing and, if it holds for the rest of the year, 1973 will go down in the records as being one of the worst years ever for those who, like your Editor, dislike seeing our old familiar steamers disappearing across the Atlantic at the end of a towline. Marine Salvage Ltd. has been very active recently and in early July purchased the barge WILTRANCO from the Industrial Fuel and Asphalt Company of Grand Rapids, Michigan, who had intended operating the barge but found her to be in too poor condition. In addition, on July 10, 1973 Marine Salvage purchased the self-unloaders HURON and WYANDOTTE and the straight-deck bulk carrier J. CLARE MILLER from the Columbia Transportation Division, Oglebay Norton & Company. Two of these vessels have since made the trip down the Seaway.
Since our last report, six more vessels have gone east towards the Atlantic, these being JOHN P. REISS (towed from Hamilton June 19 by HELEN M. McALLISTER and SALVAGE MONARCH and passed down the Seaway the following day), CITY OF SAGINAW 31 (taken down the Welland by the same tugs on June 25 after being "sealed" at Port Colborne), UHLMANN BROTHERS (down the Welland July 10 with G. W. ROGERS and SALVAGE MONARCH, she too having been sealed at the West Street Wharf in Port Colborne), OTTO M. REISS (from Hamilton on July 21 in tow of SALVAGE MONARCH and HELEN M. McALLISTER and down the Seaway on July 22), WILTRANCO (down the Welland on August 13 although we are not sure of which tugs were involved), and J. CLARE MILLER (down the Welland on August 17 with G. W. ROGERS and SALVAGE MONARCH).
It is interesting to note that, although CITY OF SAGINAW 31 had her ports closed up, no effort was made to seal her stern which was, of course, completely open with the exception of the normal carferry seagate, a barrier which would have no effect whatsoever if the ship were caught in an Atlantic blow. In addition, the ferry was in exceedingly bad condition due to the very extensive fire damage to her upper deck and bridge which were almost completely gutted, the hurricane deck having collapsed in several places. Unless more work was done on her at Quebec before the long tow, we would not give a plugged nickel for her chances of making it across! One more of the scrapper deserves special attention, this being UHLMANN BROTHERS. Around the turn of the century, Captain John Mitchell of Cleveland built a rather large fleet of exceedingly handsome steamers, most of which enjoyed long lives. As a class, they were undoubtedly the most handsome lake freight vessels ever designed, being notable for their finely raked funnels and masts, their indented boilerhouses, their turret forward cabins, and the very fine lines of their hulls. Of the whole class, all the smaller steamers (such as those we knew best latterly as SASKADOC, WINDOC, etc.) have since been retired and, there being only two larger vessels of the class and the other, JOSEPH SELLWOOD, having been scrapped in 1962, the passing of UHLMANN BROTHERS (built in 1906 as LOFTUS CUDDY) brings down the curtain on these famous "Mitchells." (Readers may wish to note that, although this class of vessel has now disappeared, there are still in operation three other but not similar ships which served in the long-gone Mitchell fleet, these being BEN W. CALVIN, DIAMOND ALKALI and J. F. SCHOELLKOPF JR., built respectively as WILLIAM C. AGNEW, FRANK H. GOODYEAR and HUGH KENNEDY).
Two more lake vessels currently under the wrecker's torch are the tankers TAURUS and COMET formerly of the Cleveland Tankers Inc. fleet. TAURUS, of the canal motorship type and latterly owned by Harold Weiner of Milwaukee, was towed from Manitowoc to Kewaunee in late May and cutting should be well advanced by now. COMET, idle for the last few years, was sold by Cleveland Tankers on July 5th to Acme Iron and Scrap Metal Company and on July 17th arrived under tow at Ashtabula where cutting was started on the following day.
Another pair of vessels sold for scrapping comprises SHIERCLIFFE HALL and STERNECLIFFE HALL which had lain idle in Toronto's Turning Basin since 1968. Looking much the worse for their lengthy period of inactivity, they were towed from Toronto on June 21st, SHIERCLIFFE by the tug LAC COMO and STERNECLIFFE by ARGUE MARTIN. They were removed to the Strathearne Street slip in Hamilton where cutting has begun. In the case of the disposal of these two vessels, your Editor feels that he cannot let the matter pass without comment. When a vessel of fifty or sixty years is scrapped, we may sometimes regret the passing of a familiar name, but we must admit that such a vessel has had a long life and has served well. In the case of the two Halco canallers, such a comment would be most inappropriate, for SHIERCLIFFE was only completed in 1950 and her sister in 1947, both coming from Canadian Vickers in Montreal. Granted, they were both steam powered, but we see no reason why a vessel of only twenty-three years should be cut up for scrap. It is a sad commentary on the current state of lake shipping that such ships, which could be adapted to serve a specialty trade at considerably less expense than would be involved in building a new ship, are left to moulder away and are then whisked off to the junkyard. The three other sisterships of the scrapped pair are still in operation, two as tankers in the Hall fleet, and one, which Hall dieselized, lengthened and converted to a self-unloader, is serving (with even a bowthruster added) on the North Traverse dredging project. Why not the other two?
The Lake Michigan carferries PERE MARQUETTE 21 and PERE MARQUETTE 22 which have been lying idle and which were for sale, have now been sold (in July) to the Construction Aggregates Corporation, Chicago. They will be used in other than self-propelled transportation services. With the sale of these vessels by the Chesapeake & Ohio Railroad, the once common "Pere Marquette" name disappears from Lake Michigan and, with the exception of one other vessel, from the entire Great Lakes area. Read on for other alarming news.
The one remaining "Pere Marquette" ship is PERE MARQUETTE 10, the steam-powered river carferry which the C & O operates on the St. Clair River between Sarnia and Port Huron. Although the vessel, the last self-propelled river carferry on the Lakes, seems to have been busier than ever this summer, the railway is on the verge of taking the same step made by the Canadian National and the Norfolk & Western namely, the cutting down of steam ferries to barge carfloats. Earlier in the year, it was reported that the 10 was to go to Toledo for the job on August 9th, but fortunately the evil day has been postponed and it is said that the cutting down will not be done before next February. There's still time, photographers!
The American Steamship Company (Boland & Cornelius) sold its veteran self-unloading steamer J. F. SCHOELLKOPF JR. to the Erie Sand Steamship Company in late June and, like JACK WIRT, she is currently operating with the Erie Sand funnel colours, but with the old black hull. No rename is planned, at least for the present.
The reconstruction of the Toronto Eastern Gap is progressing quite rapidly now and the McNamara dredge CANADIAN is hard at work digging the new channel and pumping the sand onto the shore of the Eastern headland. In addition, the south (lake) end of the western pier of the old channel has been demolished in preparation for the realignment. One rather sad part of the work is that the very scenic treed area which contained the lightkeeper's residence (to the east of the channel) has been cleared of its stately willows and poplars and the large wooden house has been razed.
The Great Lakes Dredge & Dock Company's large dipper dredge MOGUL finished her work in the Middle Neebish Channel of the St. Mary's River in August and the remainder of the work necessary in the Johnston's Point area is being completed by smaller pieces of equipment. The other major St. Mary's dredging job, the cutting back of the curve in the channel above Mission Point at the head of Little Rapids Cut, has not yet begun due to the objections of a certain group of ecologists who feel that the project will disturb fish that may inhabit the area!
Readers of these pages are undoubtedly familiar with the growing public interest on both sides of the border in the preservation of the river sternwheel passenger steamer DELTA QUEEN which was once again facing retirement at the end of 1973 due to the imminent expiry of her exemption from the conditions of the Safety at Sea Law. We are most happy to report that, despite the usual objections from the U. S. Coast Guard, legislation to permit DELTA QUEEN to operate until November 1st, 1978, has been unanimously passed by both the U. S. Senate and the House of Representatives. It now requires only the signature of the President. The legislation will allow the D.Q. operate during the construction of the new Greene Line passenger steamer (yes, a steamer!) which is currently being built by Jeffboat Inc. While we are happy that a new boat is on its way, we sincerely hope that the Greene line will not cast DELIA QUEEN aside once her successor is operating.
The newest unit of the fleet of the Kinsman Marine Transit Company, the stemwinder self-unloader WILLIAM R. ROESCH was christened at Lorain by the wife of her namesake on June 22nd. She passed up the Detroit River on her maiden voyage to Duluth on July 7th. Despite the fact that the ROESCH is a product of "modern marine architecture" and certainly leaves much to be desired, she is at least a cut above the J. W. McGIFFIN in appearance in that she has a traditional laker bow and a reasonably attractive pilothouse. We can forgive her transom stern since shipbuilders seem unable to build things with rounded plates these days, but we must say that her appearance is not helped by her two funnels which resemble a pair of cardboard cartons set atop the aft cabin.
Immediately upon the entry into service of the ROESCH, Kinsman's steamer SILVER BAY was taken out of service and she arrived at Toledo on July 9th where she is now laid up alongside KINSMAN VOYAGER. The latter vessel began operation in the spring but was laid up in late May and her crew went over to MERLE M. McCURDY which had been undergoing extensive refitting.
Although the summer has seen its usual share of minor groundings, there has been one serious accident which has resulted in the retirement of one of the older American steamers. On July 12th, the 1906-built United States Steel bulk carrier HENRY H. ROGERS was leaving her dock at Gary, Indiana, having unloaded an ore cargo. Her Master attempted to back her out past the breakwater (an operation which has been forbidden by U. S. Steel fleet management) and in so doing tore her bottom plating when she struck the breakwater. She was taken to Duluth for another cargo and it was only when it was found that her tanks could not be pumped out that it was realized how severely she had been damaged. She was placed on the dock at Fraser Shipyards and once the damage was visible, her owners decided that she had sailed her last. She was laid up along with the other idle U.S.S. steamers at West Duluth and her crew fitted out J.P. MORGAN JR. which, after considerable refitting, is now in operation after several years of inactivity. With the retirement of the ROGERS, there is now in operation only one of the "beetle-browed" Pittsburghers, this being HENRY PHIPPS, since PETER A.B. WIDENER is also laid up. We understand that the Master of the ROGERS was "allowed" to take an early retirement after the accident. The situation does have its humourous side since, as reported by Lake Log Chips, the following advertisement appeared in the Duluth Herald of July 20th, just about the time the HENRY H. ROGERS was laid up: "Leaving for Seattle, Must Sell. 1905 ship in good running shape. Needs a little body work. Extras, iron deckhand, AM-FM radio. Contact Fraser Shipyard, ask for Henry Rogers."!!
At the time of this writing, we are expecting very shortly the emergence of C.S.L.'s FRONTENAC from Collingwood Shipyards after her conversion to a self-unloader. We understand that her unloading boom is hinged aft a la TADOUSSAC but that her appearance is not unpleasing.
Also due to come from Collingwood later in the season is the newly-built self-unloader for C.S.L, which has been christened H.M.GRIFFITH in honour of the recently-retired Chief Executive Officer of the Steel Company of Canada Ltd. In case anyone was expecting an improvement in appearance over J.W.McGIFFIN, don't hold your breath waiting......
It has been learned that Kinsman's newly-acquired bulk carrier J.BURTON AYERS is scheduled to go to the American Shipbuilding Company's Toledo yard during the month of September for conversion to a self-unloader. Those who have not yet captured her on film as a straight-decker in Kinsman colours had best hurry, as her present colours suit her much better than the Wilson black she carried for so long.
At Sorel, Quebec, scrapping of the former Quebec-Levis steam ferry BIENVILLE has been completed and next in line for the torch is the bunkering barge HALFUELER from Halifax. The latter is, of course, the former Transit Tankers & Terminals steamer TRANSLAKE, a familiar sight on the lower lakes and St. Lawrence for many years prior to the opening of the Seaway. Scrappers are busy at Ile aux Coudres as well and they are currently disposing of the remains of MICHEL P., formerly FORT PREVEL of the Agence Maritime. Awaiting the same treatment is PRINCE LOYS which we saw in the lakes a number of years ago as STE. MARGUERITE.
For a number of years, the Port Lambton Ferry Service has operated two small (37 tons each) carferries, the LARRY and the LU, on the run between Port Lambton, Ontario, and Algonac, Michigan. Now they have purchased the 55-ton, 1939-built diesel carferry HARSENS ISLAND from Champion Auto Ferry of Harsens Island, Michigan. The vessel will remain in U.S. registry but will be renamed ONTAMICH . The LARRY and LU will be sold if possible.
The craneship CAMBRIA, latterly used by Miller Compressing Company at Milwaukee as a transfer vessel, has been sold to Elizabeth River Terminals which apparently is a wholly owned subsidiary of the Borden Company. Towed by the G-Tugs SUPERIOR and MARYLAND, she passed down the Welland on July 24 and 25 and arrived at Montreal on the 28th where she was drydocked by Canadian Vickers. She will reportedly resume her duties as a transfer lighter, only this time at Norfolk, Va. WILLIAM H. DONNER remains at Milwaukee and is, we understand, still used.
The job of converting ENGLISH RIVER to a bulk cement carrier is now underway at Port Arthur and, once the job is completed, she will be operated for Canada Cement LaFarge Ltd. by C.S.L, in much the same way that they run METIS carrying for Lake Ontario Cement. We presume that ENGLISH RIVER will be painted gray and that she will carry the Canada Cement insignia on her bow. Now, this has interesting possibilities.....Will C.S.L. now take over the ownership and/or operation of CEMENTKARRIER?
The veteran cement carrier SAMUEL MITCHELL of the Huron Cement fleet is about to embark on a new phase of her long career (she was built in 1892). Since her retirement as an active steamer about a decade ago, the MITCHELL has been used as a storage barge by Huron in the Duluth area except for a short period during the construction of the new Poe Lock at Sault Ste. Marie when she was moored at the lower entrance of the lock to store the cement being used on the jobsite. Earlier this year, the MITCHELL was sold to the Selvick Marine Towing Corporation of Sturgeon Bay, Wisconsin, and on July 28th, in tow of the tug JOHN ROEN III, she cleared Duluth bound for Lake Michigan where she will be operated as a barge in the same service as the tug LAUREN CASTLE and barge SEA CASTLE (ex JOHN L. A. GALSTER). Prior to her departure from the Lakehead, the MITCHELL was put into the drydock at Fraser Shipyards and necessary repairs were completed.
The Algoma Central Railway's semi-annual Report to Shareholders for the six months ended June 30th, 1973, not only paints a rosy financial picture but also contains notice to the effect that on August 15th, the A.C.R. was to acquire all shares of Herb Fraser & Associates Ltd. of Port Colborne. In this manner, the A.C.R. will not only have facilities for repairing its own vessels in the Toronto-Hamilton-Welland Canal area, but will also be taking over a ship repairer who gets much business from other fleets. Readers will remember that Herb Fraser owned and operated the tug HERBERT A. for several years.
We have learned more about the upcoming conversion of the Ford Motor Company's diesel bulk carrier HENRY FORD II to a self-unloader. The vessel is currently scheduled to go into the Lorain yard of AmShip on November 1st, and when she emerges, she will be fitted with a Stephens-Adamson loop belt type rig with a reclaiming machine. The FORD was built by AmShip at Lorain in 1924 and, while it may seen odd that a ship would be converted so late in life (she's coming up on her fiftieth year), the records show that there are at least four self-unloaders still operating on the lakes which were converted later in their lives. These vessels are HENNEPIN, converted at age 52 in 1957; NICOLET, converted in 1965 at age 60; SYLVANIA, converted in 1958 at age 53 and G. A. TOMLINSON, converted in 1960 at age 53.
Two strange visitors to Toronto Harbour on July 2nd and 3rd respectively were the tankers TEXACO-CHIEF and ARCTIC TRADER. The CHIEF has not been here since shortly after her commissioning in 1969 and, as a matter of fact, this was, to the best of our knowledge, only her second visit to Toronto. ARCTIC TRADER had never called here before.
Cleveland Tankers Inc. is constructing two self-propelled tankers for use in the Great lakes. The vessels will be named SATURN and JUPITER and are both being built off the lakes in the SBA Shipyard at Jennings, Louisiana. The first ship will be an asphalt carrier, while the second, to measure 392' overall x 60' x 25', will be a regular oil tanker. SATURN may see service in the lakes as early as this fall.
The new barge building at Erie Marine is still unnamed and the identity of its operators has not as yet been revealed, but it is generally thought that it will be for U. S. Steel. The barge, 975 feet long and 105 feet in the beam, will be pushed by a 152 foot tug which will be hydraulically locked into a notch in the stern of the barge. The barge will have a self-unloading boom of the usual kind (as opposed to the CORT and the BLOUGH) and the boom will be hinged aft. The tug-barge unit was to have been in operation in October but it is doubtful whether the unit will be operative this year as there seems to have been a delay in the construction of the tug at Halter Marine Services Inc., New Orleans.
In a few of the June issues of this Newsletter, we managed to insert a small item to the effect that P & O Lines had announced the withdrawal from service of the passenger vessel CANBERRA, her last trip being a cruise from New York in September to be followed by a one-way transatlantic trip at the conclusion) of which she will be laid up. CANBERRA has not exactly been a resounding success since she was transferred to the cruise service out of New York and her main problem is that she is too deep for many of the Caribbean ports she serves. Her owners are considering re-engining the vessel if it can be demonstrated that this procedure would reduce her draft by three feet, but your Editor suspects that very soon we shall see CANBERRA flying another flag. As witness to her problems, we can report that the ship ran aground at the island of Grenada on July 12th and was there for three days before she could be refloated.
The Great Lakes Towing tug LAURENCE C. TURNER made two very interesting passages through the Soo Locks in June, one upbound with the smaller tugs KENTUCKY, NEW JERSEY and RHODE ISLAND in tow for Duluth, and the other in the opposite direction with the tugs ARKANSAS, VERMONT and ILLINOIS bound for Cleveland. The three tugs which had been at Duluth were in need of refitting and hence their voyage under tow to Cleveland where the company's yard is located. The other tugs will take their place during their absence.
The steamer GEORGE HINDMAN is now completely painted in the colours of the Hindman Transportation Company Ltd. and we must say that she looks much better than she ever did in the C.S.L. paint scheme. Now if we could only arrange for her to make herself a bit more available to photographers.......
The tug QUEEN CITY, latterly used as the pilot station in Toronto, departed for Detroit on July 6th. We have not yet discovered what use her new owners may have for her, but it seems evident that she will have to remain under Canadian registry at least for the present. Meanwhile, her place in Toronto has been taken by the wooden diesel coasting vessel AVALON VOYAGER brought up by Waterman's Services Scott Ltd. from Newfoundland. The vessel does not operate but is simply used as shore base for the pilots and the firm's tugs. Vessels calling for a pilot, however, still call "Queen City" on the radio!
The 65-foot tug TIPPERARY, owned by the Capital Dredge & Dock Company of Lorain, sank on June 10 in 25 feet of water alongside the Port Huron Seaway Terminal Company dock. The tug was raised on June 14th.
Things seem to be getting lively again around Sugar Island, near Sault Ste. Marie, Michigan, and the action once again centres around the carferry SUGAR ISLANDER. The ferry was sold by the Wellington Transportation Company earlier in the year to Poirier Marine Inc., a firm fronting for the owner of a complex currently under construction on the Island. Former owners of the ferry, Captains James and John Wellington, remained as operators for a short period but have since left. Meanwhile, the new owner is beginning to feel pressure from the "concerned citizens" of the Island, who once again are up in arms over rates and schedules. When the winter comes, we shall see what the Coast Guard and the Corps of Engineers think ........
The former Quebec-Levis steam ferries CITE DE LEVIS and CITE DE QUEBEC, notable for their rather unusual appearance caused by their fitting for use on the winter service, have been scrapped at Montmagny, Quebec.
The new American Steamship Company self-unloader ROGER M. KYES was christened at Toledo on July 28th by the wife of her namesake. The 680-foot vessel cleared Toledo on August 22nd at 11:30 p.m. on her maiden voyage bound for Escanaba. The second new BoCo self-unloader, CHARLES E. WILSON, was christened at Sturgeon Bay on August 30th.
Detroit is on the verge of replacing its aging but interesting steam firetug JOHN KENDALL. The KENDALL, now 44 years of age, apparently represents quite a large operating expense for the city which is not at the moment in the best of financial shape. A preliminary contract for the new boat was let in June and, if work proceeds, the new boat might be ready in 1974. The new vessel will undoubtedly be a diesel and will be only about half the length of the KENDALL. The new boat is expected to produce a sizeable saving in crew costs.
As this is written, the tugs G.W.ROGERS and GLEN ROVER are in the act of pumping out the steamers LACKAWANNA, RIDGETOWN and KINSMAN VENTURE which have for several years been resting on the bottom of the harbour at Nanticoke during the construction of the new Ontario Hydro generating plant there. We understand that the ships are being raised complete with the cargoes of stone and that they will be brought to Toronto where the stone will be unloaded. The stone has been bought by the Toronto Harbour Commission and our guess is that it may be used in connection with the Eastern headland or the realignment of the Eastern Gap. As a matter of fact, the hulls of the vessels themselves may be used for breakwater service. As we go to print on the evening of August 30th, we have just heard the tug SALVAGE MONARCH call in on the radio off Port Colborne piers, downbound with KINSMAN VENTURE in tow.
By way of further late news, we can report that Wednesday, August 29th, was a busy day at the Welland Canal for scrap tows. The former Ford Motor Company coalboat ROBERT S. McNAMARA. passed down in tow of the tugs TABOGA and BARBARA ANN en route to Hamilton, having been purchased by United Metals. The same day, the SALVAGE MONARCH, HELEN M. McALLISTER and G.W. ROGERS were busy bringing HURON and WYANDOTTE from Toledo and mooring them on the West Street Wharf in Port Colborne where they will be made ready for the Atlantic tow.
Fraser Shipyards of Superior, Wisconsin, have obtained a contract to lengthen the U.S.Steel bulk carriers CASON J. CALLAWAY, PHILIP R. CLARKE and ARTHUR M. ANDERSON from their present 647 ft. to 767 ft. and this work will be done at virtually the same time that Fraser is lengthening Columbia's ARMCO and RESERVE. We understand that the schedule will be something like this: ARMCO will go to the yard this fall for her job and at the same time, prefab work will be underway on the CALLAWAY mid-body. CALLAWAY will go into the yard at the close of the winter sailing season and will be ready in June 1974 after ARMCO is already in service. CLARKE will go in for her midbody in September 1974 and will emerge in November 1974. RESERVE will go to Fraser's in the late fall of 1974 and will be finished by spring 1975. ARTHUR M. ANDERSON will not make her way to Superior until the fall of 1975.
It was announced toward the end of August that Bomar Navigation Ltd. of Montreal, has bought the 4,835 deadweight ton Australian-owned motorship ARIBA and will operate her in the newsprint trade between Thunder Bay and the U.S. east coast under a contract being negotiated with the Abitibi Paper Company Ltd. The vessel, built at Varna, Bulgaria, is currently trading in the Far East.
Reproduced for the Web with the permission of the Toronto Marine Historical Society.