One of the most popular vessels ever operated to the Niagara area from Toronto was the steamer LAKESIDE which served the Toronto to Port Dalhousie route for more than two decades and proved to be a great favourite amongst Torontonians.
Intended for the service from Windsor and Detroit to Leamington and Pelee Island, she entered service in 1888 under the command of Capt. N. J. Wigle. She did not last long on Lake Erie, however, for later the same year Capt. Wigle brought her down the Welland Canal to Toronto. The Lakeside Navigation Company entered into direct competition with A. W. Hepburn's Niagara Falls Line when they placed LAKESIDE on the Toronto-Port Dalhousie run. The opposition line was operating the wooden sidewheeler EMPRESS OF INDIA (see Ship of the Month No. 19) on the route at the time and competition became fierce between the two steamers as the companies fought for the patronage of the crowds seeking relief from the summer heat of the city.
But if competition was fierce when only two ships were involved, it became deadly in 1892 when the newly-formed St. Catharines, Grimsby and Toronto Navigation Company placed its new steel-hulled sidewheeler GARDEN CITY on the Port Dalhousie route. During the course of the year, the S.G. & T. also chartered LAKESIDE for their service. In 1893, however, peace came to the route as the Niagara Falls Line and the S. G. & T. agreed to bury the hatchet and merge their operations, thus bringing to an end the cut-throat competition. A. W. Hepburn and Capt. Wigle shared the management of the pooled vessels, although in due course the actual ownership of LAKESIDE and GARDEN CITY passed to the Niagara, St. Catharines and Toronto Navigation Company Ltd., a subsidiary of McKenzie and Mann's Niagara, St, Catharines and Toronto Railway Company.
Hepburn withdrew his EMPRESS OF INDIA from the pooled service at the close of the 1898 season and from then the two U.S. & T. steamers carried on alone. LAKESIDE not only served the regular Toronto-Port Dalhousie run but on a number of occasions she carried excursions direct from Port Dalhousie to Toronto's Island Park. LAKESIDE was a very handsome little steamer with a square pilothouse and a raked funnel and, as our photo page shows, she proved to be very photogenic.
Around the turn of the century, there sprang up at Port Dalhousie an amusement park and bathing beach area located on the lake shore to the west of the piers. The park was the brainchild of the N. S. & T. railway and its local electric cars operated to it. The development was named Lakeside Park (a name its rather feeble successor still carries) and it is highly probable that it took its name not only from its location but also from the steamer that was operated by its owners and which served to bring pleasure-seekers to it. In the very early years, LAKESIDE had docked above Lock One at Port Dalhousie, but by the time the park was operating her dock had been moved to a wharf on the lower harbour's west pier immediately adjacent to the park and its rail connection. Passengers arriving at Port Dalhousie by steamer could board the electric cars and ride on into St. Catharines or over to Niagara Falls.
LAKESIDE and GARDEN CITY continued together on the route through the first decade of the new century and they proved very profitable for their owners. Not only did they have a great following amongst excursionists, but they also pulled in a goodly number of persons seeking a quick and easy route to St. Catharines in a day of poor roads and primitive road vehicles.
At the opening of the century's second decade, the N.S. & T. steamers had more passengers than they could handle and so the company ordered from the Collingwood Shipbuilding Company Ltd. a new steel screw day-steamer. The newcomer, 199.8 feet in length and christened DALHOUSIE CITY, made her appearance in 1911 and when she went into operation, LAKESIDE was retired from active service. She spent a short period of time in lay-up in Muir's Pond above Lock One at Port Dalhousie but mercifully she escaped the fate of so many wooden hulls for which the pond proved a final resting place.
In July 1911, LAKESIDE was sold to M. J. Hogan, a Port Colborne contractor, and she was used to carry supplies to various construction sites. It is not known how she appeared during these years, but it seems evident that she was not cut down and was probably used complete with her passenger cabins intact.
LAKESIDE was acquired in July 1920 by the famous John E. Russell of Toronto and he rebuilt her as a tug with dimensions of 118.4 in length, 25.9 in breadth and 9.0 in depth. The conversion job was done at Toronto in the Keating Channel at the yard of the Toronto Dry Dock Company in which John E. Russell had an interest. Fore and aft, she was cut down to the main deck, but amidships the main and promenade deck cabins remained, minus, of course, the sun shade which had covered the promenade. The pilothouse was moved down a deck from its former location on the hurricane deck. The steamer emerged with a tonnage of 200 Gross and 77 Net, and she was rechristened (b) JOSEPH L. RUSSELL in honour of her owner's father, a Toronto brick manufacturer.
In May 1929, Sinmac Lines Ltd. of Montreal was formed by the merger of Sincennes McNaughton Line, Montreal, the Donnelly Salvage & Wrecking Company, Kingston, John E. Russell Towing Company, Toronto, the Reid Towing & Wrecking Company, Sarnia, and the Dominion Towing & Salvage Company, Port Arthur. The officers of the new firm were James Playfair, President, John E. Russell, Vice President and Managing Director, Frank M. Ross, Vice President, and Capt. J. T. Reid in charge of wrecking activities. Directors of Sinmac Lines Ltd. were Senator Donat Raymond, Noah Timmins, Joseph Simard, Frank M. Ross, and J. C. Newman, all prominent Canadian businessmen. The fleet of tugs and salvage equipment formed by this merger was the largest such operation on the Canadian side of the Great Lakes. JOSEPH L. RUSSELL became a Sinmac unit in the merger and she was given the new company's colours - a brown hull, dark red cabins with white trim, and a black stack with red and white bands.
By this time forty-one years old, a ripe old age for a wooden hull, JOSEPH L. RUSSELL was taken in hand by the Toronto Dry Dock Company during the summer of 1929 and was given a complete refit. She returned to service in the autumn of the year but she was not to last out the season.
On November 15, 1929, under the command of Capt. Harry Finn, a rather well-known skipper who had been her master during most of her years under Russell ownership, JOSEPH L. RUSSELL was bound up Lake Ontario en route from Montreal to Toronto. In tow she had the barge AUGUSTUS, laden with lumber from British Columbia. Once out on the open lake, she encountered heavy weather and off Point Petre she began to take in water. Her pumps were unable to handle the inflow of lake water and she soon foundered. Her crew left the sinking tug in the lifeboat and managed to row ashore safely at Cobourg. Meanwhile AUGUSTUS, adrift on the lake, was picked up by the Canada Steamship Lines Ltd. canal package-freight steamer CALGARIAN and was brought safely to Toronto.
Reproduced for the Web with the permission of the Toronto Marine Historical Society.