Over the years there has been a great variety of stack colours seen on Great Lakes vessels, some of them being very pleasing to the eye and others somewhat less than successful. To our way of thinking, one of the best stack designs among the Canadian fleets has been that of the Quebec & Ontario Transportation Company Ltd. Their colours have for many years been buff with a wide red band and a black smokeband, the intertwined letters "Q & O" (or in the case of Comet Enterprises ships, a large "C") in white on the red band. But now for some reason the company has decided to foresake these colours which have been so distinctive in favour of a design which to us seems far less impressive. Those of the company's vessels wintering at Toronto now have the new colours and we assume that all ships in the fleet will soon have the change made. Gone is the monogram from the funnels, while the smokeband is now a vivid bright blue, the band now white, and the lower portion of the funnel a bright apple green shade. The new colours don't look too bad on the ships with short, squat funnels, but on the tall-stacked SHELTER BAY the effect is a bit overpowering and we hesitate to guess how it will look on HERON BAY. We have yet to hear any official announcement from the company as to why the change was made and what the company hopes to gain from the change.
At long last there has been a significant development in the Kinsman Transit situation and a very pleasing one it is. Many observers had been worried that the veteran Kinsman steamer SILVER BAY would be scrapped as she is only 532 feet in length and has seen but sparing service since she was purchased from the Republic Steel Corporation in 1971. It has now been confirmed that the handsome 58-year old ship has been sold to Robert Pierson Holdings Ltd., a St. Catharines firm controlled by one of the grandsons of Capt. Robert Scott Misener and backed by a number of former Misener stockholders. SILVER BAY has been placed under Canadian registry and her new name is JULIUS A.PIERSON. The vessel will be managed for her new owners during the 1975 season by the Reoch fleet and early indications are that she will spend her time in the grain trade. Her first few trips will see her carrying soya beans to Toronto. At the time of this writing we do not know what colours will be given to the steamer, but we should know very shortly as she is scheduled to begin service soon after the Welland Canal is opened for the season.
More good news comes to us in the form of word that Interlake's 1927-vintage steamer SAMUEL MATHER will operate this year. The MATHER sustained engine damage in an incident occurring on her last trip of the 1974 navigation season and for a while there was considerable doubt as to whether she would be repaired. Repairs are apparently less costly than was earlier anticipated and hence the decision to return the vessel to service. Her sister ROBERT HOBSON will also run in 1975 but is due for inspection prior to the 1976 season and will not likely be retained since considerable outlay would be required to repair bow damage suffered several years ago in an accident at Port Huron.
The earlier suggestion by her owners that C.H. McCULLOUGH JR. would not run again until such time as she may be converted to a bulk cement carrier may be reversed. The original decision to lay the steamer up was based upon current ore rates which make her operation in that trade uneconomical, but it seems that there is considerable grain to be carried and the McCULLOUGH may be put back in service to take advantage of this situation.
By the time these words appear in print, the 1975 Welland Canal season will be well under way. After an extremely late closing in January, the canal was originally scheduled to reopen on April 1st, but because of the mild weather and the early completion of the winter's maintenance program, the St. Lawrence Seaway Authority agreed to requests from several companies who asked that the waterway be opened earlier. As a result, the Welland opened for business on March 25, the earliest opening on record.
After a number of years of trying to run upper lakers through the winter months, a 12-month navigation season has finally been achieved but only thanks to the co-operation of Old Man Winter. The bulk carriers of the United States Steel Corporation's Great Lakes Fleet had been scheduled to run as late as they could but the mild weather conditions and the resultant lack of heavy ice combined to permit the ships to run right through to spring. In March, the various vessels began to run off so that they might be given their normal winter maintenance and as they ran off, other ships were brought out to take their place, namely, HOMER D. WILLIAMS, THOMAS W. LAMONT, SEWELL AVERY, EUGENE W. PARGNY and EUGENE P. THOMAS. Eight of the fleet's vessels managed to operate through to March and these were LEON FRASER, BENJAMIN F. FAIRLESS, IRVING S. OLDS, ENDERS M. VOORHEES, A. H. FERBERT, CASON J. CALLAWAY, PHILIP R. CLARKE, and JOHN G. MUNSON. ROGER BLOUGH made her last trip through the Soo on March 1st and then laid up at Milwaukee, her lay-up being forced by the closing of the Poe Lock for maintenance. The MacArthur Lock was reopened at the same time, however, and thus navigation was permitted to continue. It was apparently with some great difficulty that the lengthened CASON J. CALLAWAY and PHILIP R. CLARKE were squeezed into the "Mac" but they made it and did not have to be withdrawn from service as was earlier feared.
Back in the late fifties, there were some nasty rumours circulating to the effect that the U. S. Steel fleet was planning on dropping all its ships rating on the company's seniority list behind JAMES A. FARRELL, in other words, all vessels measuring 580 x 58 or smaller. At the time, we could hardly believe that this could come to pass, even in the hard years of 1957 and 1958, but the dreaded day has finally come. On checking the Steel Trust fit-out listing, we notice that nothing lower than the FARRELL will start this season, although we are pleased to note that the FARRELL herself will run after sitting out the 1974 season. This means that, in addition to ROGERS and CRAWFORD which are already being dismantled, the following will not fit out, at least to start the season; EUGEINE J. BUFFERINGTON, THOMAS F. COLE, ALVA C. DINKEY, WILLIAM J. FILBERT, J.P.MORGAN JR., WILLIAM P. PALMER, HENRY PHIPPS, PERCIVAL ROBERTS JR., WILLIAM B. SCHILLER, RICHARD TRIMBLE and PETER A.B. WIDENER, To this list should probably be added the self-unloader W. F. WHITE, although we have yet to see a fit-out listing for the "Bradley" boats. No doubt this thinning out of the fleet is due to the great quantity of cargo carried by the winter sailing vessels and we presume that if demand is heavy during the year (an unlikely chance in this year of "recession") some of the idle carriers may be reactivated.
Will wonders never cease! It looks as if the little sandsucker C. W. CADWELL will actually operate this year, despite the fears of many observers who had despaired of ever seeing her sail again. It was two years ago that her owners gave the CADWELL the diesels out of the ferry SAM McBRIDE but even though blessed (?) with this new power plant in place of her quaint old steam machinery, she has not moved under her own power since. Last year she was towed to Whitby for fitting of a new propeller but still she did not go into service. It will be strange to see the CADWELL coming across the lake from the Niagara Bar without the old familiar cloud of coalsmoke that perpetually followed her wherever she went.
We don't quite know what to make of a recent news article which indicated that money had been found to save the veteran passenger steamer SOUTH AMERICAN. The report indicated that the ship had been purchased for use as a tourist facility at Mackinac Island and that the funds had been put up by certain unidentified backers. The SOUTH has been lying at Camden, New Jersey, where a scrapper has been waiting to break her up. Fortunately the work had not commenced, although we are certainly not prepared to accept the scrapper's explanation for this as reported in the press. The firm was obviously anxious to avoid the troublesome job of scrapping the ship and would jump at the chance to make a good profit on her resale, and you can bet your boots that if this sale has actually gone through, the ship wasn't sold at any bargain price. Meanwhile, such pedestrian consideration aside, it looks as if the SOUTH will be returning to her home waters, this despite an earlier effort by parties in Holland, Michigan, who also wanted to bring her back to the lakes but who had trouble in obtaining the necessary support. We have some knowledge of the present condition of the SOUTH and all we can say about the refurbishing job is that whoever undertakes it will have one hell of a job on their hands. In addition, the SOUTH is minus her machinery which had been removed earlier.
Despite the fact that neither ship appears on the fit-out list for the Columbia Transportation Division, Oglebay Norton & Company, we have a report from one of our spies who indicates that both WILLIAM A. REISS and THOMAS WILSON have received Columbia stack colours while in winter quarters at Toledo. Meanwhile, WILLIAM R. ROESCH and PAUL THAYER, the other two Columbia acquisitions from the Kinsman fleet, have not as yet been fully integrated into Columbia operations because of a squabble between unions over the question of which will represent their crews.
March 14th, 1975, was a day on which history was made on the Detroit River. For on that day, the oldest carferry operation on the Great Lakes became a memory as Canadian National Railways abandoned the crossing between Windsor and Detroit. The last crossing was made by the once-proud ex-sidewheeler LANSDOWNE, long-since stripped of her stacks and pilothouse and pushed back and forth across the river by the diesel pusher tug MARGARET YORKE. The abandonment was precipitated by the necessity of vacating the premises on which the Detroit dock was situated, premises which are needed in connection with the construction of the city's much-heralded Renaissance Centre. Canadian National rail traffic will now move through the Penn Central tunnel and outsize loads will be rerouted to Sarnia for handling by the C.N. ferry service on the St. Clair River. We rather doubt that the future holds anything good for the historic LANSDOWNE or for her running mate HURON which was taken out of service some time ago.
Readers will no doubt recall our previous report on the retirement of the steam canal tanker TEXACO-BRAVE. Despite the fact that we knew that her owners were looking for scrap bids on the vessel, the hope had still lingered that some buyer might be found who would operate the BRAVE. Sadly, this is not the case. It is our duty to report that during the second week of March, the vessel was sold to Marine Salvage Ltd. We understand that she will be taken to Ramey's Bend for scrapping shortly after the Welland Canal opens. On a somewhat brighter note, we can advise that a substantial amount of equipment and fixtures has been removed from TEXACO-BRAVE for placement aboard the ferry TRILLIUM, so a part of the old girl will live on.
It seems that Upper Lakes Shipping Ltd. is giving serious thought to a complete rebuilding of the bulk carrier WHEAT KING, the job possibly being done at Port Weller next winter. While nothing seems to be formalized as yet, it is known that the company would like to lengthen the ship and convert her to a self-unloader.
Normally we are able to report the sailing of the first vessel from Toronto each spring but this year three ships all sailed on one day and should really share the honours of being first out. Canada Steamship Lines' METIS together with Upper Lakes Shipping's CANADIAN LEADER and RED WING cleared port on Sunday, March 23rd, the former for the Bay of Quinte for a load of cement and the latter two for the Seaway with transit grain cargoes. However, if we were to record the actual first harbour clearance for the 1975 season (even if she was not on a revenue run), the hat would have to go to HERON BAY. She spent the winter at Toronto with a load of storage beans for Victory Mills. The cargo was unloaded and on March 4th, the Q & O steamer was towed across the lake by the tug G. W. ROGERS. She was taken up through Lock One in the Welland Canal and was placed on drydock for her regular inspection.
The tug CATHY McALLISTER which sank recently in Montreal harbour was raised on February 12 with the help of the tugs JAMES BATTLE and HELM M. McALLISTER, two scows and four shore cranes. She was taken on February 13 to Sorel for drydocking and the necessary repairs.
We now learn that, once sold off the lakes, SCOTIACLIFFE (ex SCOTIACLIFFE HALL) was reregistered at Nassau. Presently owned by Forell Inc., a Liberian company, she will be converted to a drill rig by the Gotaverken yard at Gothenburg. It is intended that she should be managed by Olsen & Ugelstad (The Fjell Line) and by the French oil prospecting company, Cosifor. Once converted the ship will be able to work in depths of 200 metres and will be capable of further adaptation for depths up to 330 metres.
The St. Lawrence Seaway opened as scheduled on March 25th. The first downbound vessel was LAKE WINNIPEG while heading up at St. Lambert was RICHELIEU. The Welland Canal section was opened by ISLAND TRANSPORT downbound and by H. M. GRIFFITH upbound.
It looks as if we overlooked reporting one fairly major accident occurring back on February 12. The Algoma Central self-unloader E. B. BARBER was lying in Port Colborne harbour when she suffered a fire in her engine room. The local fire department managed to keep the fire from spreading, but damage to the machinery is rather heavy and an early guesstimate on the cost of repairs was $100,000.
Once again this spring there have been circulating the annual rumours that one or more of the Paterson canallers will be sold. This year the talk has centred around LACHINEDOC and CALGADOC which were allegedly being looked over by prospective purchasers (presumably for off-lakes service) but we have yet to hear any official announcement of a sale.
Reproduced for the Web with the permission of the Toronto Marine Historical Society.