Well, the axe has finally fallen and a dark cloud of gloom has descended upon the world of the shipping observer. For, you see, the final curtain has been brought down on the career of the smallest American non-specialty bulk carrier operating on the Great lakes, the Kinsman Marine Transit Company's veteran steamer JAMES E. FERRIS. Built in 1910 at Ecorse by the Great Lakes Engineering Works as their Hull 71, she measured 444 feet in length, 56.2 feet in breadth, and 31 feet in depth. Her tonnage was 5494 Gross, 4153 Net. Christened ONTARIO, she was one of the three vessels built for the Northern Lakes Steamship Company of Cleveland, the other two being ST. CLAIR and CHAMPLAIN. In 1916 she was acquired by Hutchinson's Pioneer Steamship Company, Cleveland, and her name was changed to F. R. HAZARD. Renamed JAMES E. FERRIS in 1924, she served Pioneer until October 1961 when Hutchinson transferred her to the Buckeye Steamship Company. She remained with Buckeye until 1969 when she entered the Kinsman fleet. The FERRIS, in your editor's opinion one of the most handsome steel freighters ever built, seldom carried iron ore in her later years but could usually be found running grain down the lakes to Cleveland and Buffalo and returning upbound with salt for Lake Superior. She was rarely seen running light. FERRIS operated for the better part of the 1974 season but was due for her regular inspection this fall and, we understand, was in need of considerable repair work. As a result, she was sold to Marine Salvage Ltd., Port Colborne, and on October 10 and 11 she unloaded her last grain cargo at Buffalo. On the 12th she proceeded under her own steam to Port Colborne, passed down through Lock 8, and snubbed around on the Robin Hood elevator dock. She then backed down the west side of the canal and tied up in the old channel north of the junction with the new Welland bypass. There steam was let down, the cabins were shuttered up, and the crew left. And there she lies at the time of this writing, a cold ship waiting for the long tow overseas, her doors and ports all welded closed.
We don't really like to editorialize in these pages, but the retirement of the FERRIS means more than just the loss of a single steamer. It is symptomatic of an all too common lack of desire to do what may not be fashionable. Almost anything can be accomplished if a man sets his mind to give it a good try and maybe, just maybe, it is time that some vessel operators reassess their goals for the next few years. They might be shocked at the future that could lie in store for the smaller, older vessels.
Last month we reported that the Toronto steam sidewheel ferry TRILLIUM had been taken to Port Colborne for rebuilding by Herb Fraser & Associates. On our last visit to Port Colborne, we looked for her along the West Street wharf and were somewhat surprised that we could not find her there. We subsequently located TRILLIUM inside what used to be the E. B. Magee drydock at Barney's Bend, the drydock where the Beaconsfield canaller BELVOIR was built in the mid-fifties. There are several construction shacks on her deck as well as a crane alongside and it appears that the work of refurbishing her machinery is progressing. Fraser's contract only covers the machinery and the reconstruction of the main deck and the work on the upper superstructure will apparently be done when the ship returns to Toronto during 1975. The date for the completion of the rebuilding has now been pushed back to late in 1975 and it now looks rather doubtful that she will actually enter service during the coming season.
On October 9 the small sandsucker C. W. CADWELL was towed to Whitby by the tug LAC MANITOBA. The CADWELL, idle now for two full years at Toronto and fitted last year with the old Fairbanks diesels from the ferry SAM McBRIDE, is to be fitted now with a new propeller as her own, even with modification, was unable to perform properly with the new engine behind it. At the same time, we hear rumours to the effect that the vessel's new owners would not be averse to selling the ship and the whole episode leaves us much confused. We's just awaitin' for the day we see her come into port under her own power with a cargo of sand, but we are beginning to despair of ever seeing that day!
The Sun Lines' cruise motorship STELLA MARIS II made her last departure for the season from Toronto on Thursday, October 10th, and by now she will be heading into her winter schedule on the lower east coast. Once again her decks seemed particularly barren of the throngs of passengers one would expect to see, and we wonder whether she will be back in the spring.
We can now confirm the safe arrival of four more old lakers at European scrapyards after the long Atlantic tow. BEN W. CALVIN and JACK WIRT arrived at Valencia, Spain, prior to June 7, 1974. On June 16th, CRISPIN OGLEBAY arrived at Santander in tandem tow with LA, the former BETHLEHEM which had been sold for use as a grain storage in West Germany but which had been resold by Danish buyers to Spanish breakers. She was apparently renamed for the tow, although we do not know the reason for the change. Meanwhile we can report that the Spanish buyers who purchased HARRIS N. SNYDER and CLIFFORD F. HOOD have been identified as Hierros Ardes S.A., Bilbao
Reference the news item of last month, we have it on the best authority that ELMDALE has indeed been rechristened K. A. POWELL (II) by the Goderich Elevator & Transit Company Ltd. We have not as yet seen the ship with the new name on her and would appreciate hearing from anyone who may have observed her.
We goofed last month when we stated that the trip made by STEWART J. CORT to Lake Erie during the Welland Canal closure was her first revenue run to that lake. We have since been reminded that she took pellets to Lackawanna on her last trip of the 1973 season prior to going into winter quarters at Erie. We understand that since her summer trip down, she has made several other junkets to Lackawanna this year.
Bidding on the passenger steamer NORISLE, called by the Ontario Northland Transportation Commission, closed on October 15. Although we are not aware whether other bids were received, it was known that the City of Owen Sound was anxious to acquire the vessel. On October 22nd it was officially announced that the steamer is to be given to the city which was her home port and the idea apparently is that she be turned into a floating museum and/or restaurant. While it is pleasant to think that NORISLE will be preserved, we get the cold shivers thinking about her being used as an eatery. Such plans crop up a dime a dozen, but how many ever come to function? The market for such an eating place in Owen Sound must be extremely limited and NORISLE is too good a vessel to be relegated to such a sleazy future. On the other hand, we suppose that anything is better than seeing a twenty-nine-year-old vessel go to the scrappers.
Last month we reported the cancellation of the construction of Hull 202 at the Toledo yard of the American Shipbuilding Company. We have heard that the dropping of the order is due simply to the financial position of the American Steamship Company for whom the self-unloading stemwinder was to be built. Their expansion program was apparently just a bit too ambitious and their plans just could not accommodate the expenditure at this time. By way of contrast, Hull 712 for BoCo at Sturgeon Bay is progressing well and should be ready in 1975. This vessel will bear the unlikely name of SAM LAUD.
Contrary to our report in the October issue, Bethlehem will not peddle one of their new and ex-BoCo orders at Bay Shipbuilding to U. S. Steel. Both vessels will be built and delivered to Bethlehem and U.S.S. will have its own re-designed carrier to be known as Bay Shipbuilding Hull 718. It will be completed after the first of the Bethlehem boats.
Last month we tried to set our readers' minds at ease concerning the future of the Columbia craneship W. C. RICHARDSON. When we stated that she was likely to continue in operation, we were referring to the immediate future in an attempt to allay rumours that she was to be retired very soon. Nevertheless, all good things come to an end (a la FERRIS?) and it seems that the RICHARDSON is due for her five-year survey at the end of the 1975 season. Columbia will operate her for the remainder of 1974 and through the 1975 season, but after that her chances do not look good.
The United States Steel Corporation has decided to reject all bids on the veteran steamers HENRY H. ROGERS and GEORGE G. CRAWFORD which were to be disposed of for scrapping. It seems that the steel trust will cut the boats up themselves and we presume that this may also be the future which lies in store for other surplus units of the tinstack fleet.
It looks as if Lake Ontario's flirtation with the hovercraft is over, at least for the present. The service between Toronto, Niagara-on-the-Lake, and Youngstown, New York, was brought to a premature end in early October after the nearly tragic accident involving TORYOUNG 2, even though the run was originally to have continued through until October 15th. On October 11th the Toronto Harbour Commission seized the damaged vessel, then resting on the wharf at the foot of Toronto's Parliament Street where repairs wore to be done, in an attempt to collect reimbursement for the expenses incurred in towing the vessel to safety after her accident. Shortly thereafter, the principals of Can-Am Hover Express, the operating firm announced that they were in financial difficulties and that the line would cease operations. It is known that some of the crewmen on the two hovercraft were experiencing problems in collecting their wages, this despite the fact that the line appeared to enjoy good patronage from the travelling public during the summer months. Now if only we could get a steamboat running on the route...
We have received a report to the effect that the Halco tanker LAKE TRANSPORT is not destined to be used as a bunkering tanker in Spain but will instead be sold for breaking up in Canada. We find this rather surprising since we had been advised of a date for her fitting out for the transatlantic crossing and we knew several persons who were to be aboard as crew for the trip. More information is sought on this item.
The crew of the Compagnie Generale Transatlantique liner FRANCE finally ended their seizure of the vessel in mid-October and the ship was berthed at Le Havre after a lengthy ride at anchor in the harbour. The action by the seamen, although enjoying considerable support amongst the men of the French merchant marine, failed to force a return to operation for the famous vessel and it is apparent that FRANCE will soon be sold. It appears that a number of prospective buyers are interested in the ship and it is to be hoped that she will be returned to service even if not on the North Atlantic.
The Algonquin Corporation's canal tanker CARDINAL is fast disappearing at Strathearne Terminals in Hamilton. As of mid-October, most of her stern was gone and cutting was progressing up the deck towards the bridge structure.
The scrapping berth at Ramey's Bend (Marine Salvage Ltd.) is once again full and this time around the slip contains quite an odd assortment of vessels. On October 7th, the tug G. W. ROGERS arrived at Humberstone with the former L.S.M.187, latterly known as JACQUES GRAVEL, and the following day the former drill rig NORDRILL was brought into the scrapping yard. In addition, on October 19th your editor observed in the scrapping berth the half-gone carcass of the Canadian Dredge & Dock steam dredge LELAND. JACQUES GRAVEL, a former wartime landing craft, was once used on the east coast in the pulpwood trade and recently has lain mouldering away in the Canadian Dredge & Dock boneyard at Kingston where LELAND has also reposed for several years. JACQUES GRAVEL has just got to be the most ugly vessel we have ever laid eyes on and frankly we are not sorry to see her go for scrap. NORDRILL is the former Canada Steamship Lines steam canaller SIMCOE which for a decade served as a platform for a drill rig in Lake Erie. She did not operate in 1974 and is eventually to be replaced by CONISCLIFFE HALL. NORDRILL has not only lost her pilothouse (a new helmsman's cabin was erected aft) but she has also lost her steam plant and for the last few years of her active service she was pushed around by a Harbourmaster outboard engine.
A late report indicates that not only will the former Kinsman bulk carrier JAMES E. FERRIS remain in the old Welland Canal for the winter prior to going overseas, but that she will be joined soon by another laker which has also been purchased by Marine Salvage for scrapping. The ship has not yet been properly identified, but we assume that it will be KINSMAN VOYAGER.
A frequent visitor to the Welland Canal during the latter part of the 1974 season has been the small motorship J. A. Z. DESGAGNES which is carrying pitch to Baie Comeau from Detroit under charter to the Canadian Reynolds Metals Company. The DESGAGNES was built in 1959 as the pulpwood carrier LIEVRE CONSOL for Anticosti Shipping Ltd. and in 1962 she was renamed VISON CONSOL. Earlier this year Anticosti sold her to Rail & Water Terminal (Quebec) Inc. of Pointe au Pic, Quebec, and in addition to being given her current name, was converted to carry general cargo.
The newest Hall tanker, DOAN TRANSPORT, has now entered service. Your editor observed her upbound in the Welland Canal on October 19th. A stemwinder, she is not a bad looking ship at all, despite the fact that she has a transom stern. Her passage up the canal on the 19th, her maiden voyage in the service of her new owners, was delayed slightly because of winch troubles.
C. P. Steamships Ltd. has sold its containership C.P. EXPLORER, for many years a visitor to the lakes under the Canadian Pacific flag and carrying the name BEAVERPINE, "to the Arion Shipping Corp.," Liberia, and rechristened (c) MOIRA.
A recent report in the Toronto Globe and Mail concerning the imminent commissioning of the new Branch Lines tanker LEON SIMARD, mentioned that the old tanker SPRUCEBRANCH had been sold. While we had earlier known that the ship was sold for Mediterranean use, we had not been aware of the fact that the vessel was actually sold first to Marine Salvage Ltd. and then to the overseas buyers.
Living on borrowed time, the Chesapeake & Ohio Railway's steam carferry PERE MARQUETTE 10 is still shuttling back and forth across the St. Clair River between Sarnia and Port Huron, although it won't be long before her rather plaintive sounding whistle is stilled forever. The C&O is going the same route as Canadian National and converting to barge operation and with this end in mind the railway has had Defoe Shipyards at Bay City transform the former scow B&O 452 into a tow-boat named C&O 452. The pusher, equipped with an elevated pilothouse and powered by three diesel outboard units., was launched on September 20 and no doubt soon will make her appearance on the river. At that time, PERE MARQUETTE 10 will be reduced to a barge, presumably in the same manner as PERE MARQUETTE 12 which is now Canadian National's ST. CLAIR. It will be a sad day for steamboaters.
Meanwhile, the C.N. steam-powered carferry SCOTIA II, idle at Sarnia for several years and never actually used in regular service on the Sarnia crossing, looks more and more decrepit with each passing day. She has been severely vandalized and we have heard rumours to the effect that the railway may decide to dispose of her.
Reproduced for the Web with the permission of the Toronto Marine Historical Society.