In our last issue, we featured two of the passenger ferries which once operated on the confined waters of Toronto Bay, so it seems only natural that we keep variety in these pages and move farther afield this time around. Accordingly, we now have chosen one of the many old wooden steamers which once were so common around the Great Lakes. This particular vessel operated all over the lakes, although she originally was "built for a very specialized trade, and her career lasted for almost four decades.
One of the many railways which operated in the State of Michigan in the years before the turn of the century was the Flint and Pere Marquette Railroad which originally was built to haul lumber from Ludington and Manistee to Toledo, the line having reached the town of Ludington (originally called Pere Marquette) in 1874. As the lumber trade gradually declined, the railroad turned to carrying any sort of freight that was available. To connect with its trains and provide through service, the F. & P.M.R.R. operated break-bulk service across Lake Michigan on a year-round basis. By "break-bulk", we mean that the boats were not carferries; instead, freight was unloaded from trains on one side of the lake, placed aboard a steamer for the lake crossing, and transferred back into railcars on the other side.
The F.&P.M.R.R. established a break-bulk line across Lake Michigan in 1875 using a single chartered steamer, and from 1876 through 1882 the railroad chartered ships from the Goodrich Transit Company for its main route from Ludington to Milwaukee. The railway, however, decided in 1882 to build and operate steamers of its own, and ordered two almost exact sisterships which entered service in 1883 as F.&P.M. NO. 1 and F.&P.M. NO. 2. It is the latter vessel to which we will confine our interest.
F.&P.M. NO. 2, which was enrolled at Milwaukee as U.S.120500, was a wooden-hulled, passenger and freight propellor, specially strengthened for operation in ice, and was constructed in 1882 at Wyandotte, Michigan, as Hull 60 of the Detroit Dry Dock Company. She was 142.0 feet in length, 30.2 feet in the beam, and 12.2 feet in depth. (As a result of her being rebuilt during her first year of service, we do not know her original tonnage.) She was powered by a fore-and-aft compound engine, with cylinders of 21 and 37 inches bore and a stroke of 36 inches, which produced 600 indicated horsepower at 87 r.p.m. Steam was generated by one firebox boiler, measuring 8'6" by l6'0", which had two furnaces. The engine was built by the Dry Dock Engine Works (a shipyard affiliate), while the boiler was made by Desotelle and Hutton, Detroit. Both were manufactured in 1882.
The ship boasted a pleasing sheer to her hull, with a counter stern, and a stem that curved backward toward its upper end. There was a heavy rail at the main deck and the entire cabin there was planked in, with four cargo ports and one engineroom gangway providing access on each side. Interestingly, the boiler was carried up on the main deck, so as to provide more space for the carriage of grain in the lower hold. The central part of the main deck was used for the stowage of general merchandise, and crew accommodations were located at the forward end of the deck.
On the upper deck was located a cabin in which stateroom accommodation was provided for twenty-five passengers, with natural lighting supplied by a clerestory. A promenade, protected by a high closed wooden rail, ran around the entire cabin. The pilothouse was located forward on the hurricane deck above, and it sported three large windows in its front, and a window and door in each side. The wheel was located inside the pilothouse but the ship was normally navigated from the roof above, helm orders being sent below by means of the traditional "cussing-box".
A fairly tall and raked stack was carried about three-quarters of the way aft, and two large ventilator cowls rose just forward of the funnel. Two lifeboats were carried on each side of the hurricane deck near the stack. Two tall and heavily raked masts were fitted, the fore just abaft the pilothouse and the main well behind the stack, and both were equipped with booms and auxiliary sail in schooner rig.
F.&P.M. NO. 2 entered service in 1883 but it was soon found that neither she nor her sister had sufficient capacity on the main deck for package freight, due at least in part to the location of the boiler up high to accommodate eastward grain movements. Rather than relocate the boiler on each ship and still be left with two steamers that were too small for the rapidly-developing service, the F.&P.M.R.R. decided to lengthen the vessels. Accordingly, after only a few months of operation, F.&P.M. NO. 2 was taken out of service and sent to the Burger and Burger Shipyard at Milwaukee. There she was lengthened by 35.7 feet to 177.7, which increased her tonnage to 771 Gross and 632 Net.
Both steamers returned to service soon after their rebuilds and ran successfully for the railroad thereafter, although F.&P.M. NO.2 spent most of the 1884 season running alone, her sister laid up for want of business in a year of depressed conditions. The line, however, was expanding its trade and added three more break-bulk steamers in subsequent years, F.&P.M. NO. 3 in 1887, F.&P.M. NO. 4 in 1888 and F.&P.M. NO. 5 in 1890. The original vessel, the NO. 1, was sold out of the fleet in April of 1896.
On January 1st, 1900, welcoming in the new century in appropriately optimistic fashion, the F.&P.M.R.R. merged with the Chicago & West Michigan and the Detroit, Grand Rapids & Western to form the Pere Marquette Railway, which eventually would operate the largest fleet of carferries ever to run across Lake Michigan. As a result of the merger, F.&P.M. NO. 2 was renamed (b) PERE MARQUETTE 2 in 1901.
The Pere Marquette Railway, however, was not interested in high-cost break-bulk operations, and was committed to the development of an efficient carferry service. Accordingly, in 1903, the railroad sold its break-bulk carriers to the Manistee, Ludington & Milwaukee Steamship Company, which was controlled by Otto and Gus Kitzinger of Manistee, Michigan, and which operated under the name Pere Marquette Line Steamers. Later in the 1903 season, control of the firm passed to W. S. Eddy and associates of Saginaw, Michigan, and it was reorganized as the Michigan Salt Transportation Company of Saginaw. The fleet continued to run under the Pere Marquette Line Steamers name, and the Kitzingers still operated it, but the registry of PERE MARQUETTE 2 was changed to East Saginaw. The company operated its boats in various passenger and freight trades around Lake Michigan, and often carried big crowds of excursionists.
The holdings of the Mackays were, in 1908, consolidated into one major firm, known as the Inland Navigation Company Ltd., Hamilton. A further reorganization took place in 1910, when James Playfair, of Midland, and his associates gained control of the Mackay fleet. At this time, ownership of the Mackay steamships, including DUNDURN, was transferred to a new firm, Inland Lines Ltd. Throughout this period, the steamer's hull was painted black, her cabins were white, and her stack was red with a black smokeband.
The ship had been lucky during her Lake Michigan years, avoiding the accidents that seemed to dog many of the vessels of the carferry fleets, and her luck seemed to hold after she came under the Canadian flag. Nevertheless, she was involved in an accident on September 9, 1912, when she was in collision with the Forwarders Ltd. canal steamer PORT COLBORNE whilst passing through the draw of the St. Dominique Bridge on the Soulages [sic] Canal in the St. Lawrence. We know of no other collisions involving DUNDURN, but PORT COLBORNE had a second collision that same year when, on November 16, she came together with the upper lake steamer BRANSFORD on the Buffalo River. In any event, DUNDURN appears to have sufferred [sic] no serious damage in her encounter with the steel-hulled canaller.
The merging of the Mackay and Playfair fleets was simply one of a great number of corporate shuffles that took place as Playfair and several other influential Canadian lake shipping figures progressed toward the formation of what was to be the largest fleet ever to operate on the lakes under the Canadian flag. It was in June of 1913 that these efforts reached fruition with the founding of Canada Steamship Lines Ltd., Montreal.
The Dominion list recorded DUNDURN's length as 190.0 feet (overall), her width as 30.2 feet and her depth as 12.2, her tonnage being 1120 Gross and 620 Net. During the winter of 1913-14, the steamer, which had reached the end of her usefulness as a self-propelled vessel, was cut down to a barge by Polson Iron Works at Toronto. The machinery which was removed from DUNDURN was immediately fitted into the steel ferry LOUIS PHILIPPE which was built in 1914 by the Davie Shipbuilding and Repairing Company Ltd. at Lauzon, Quebec, for Canada Steamship Lines. After her reconstruction, DUNDURN appeared on the register as 186.3 (o.a.) x 30.3 x 12.0, 472 Net tons.
DUNDURN remained active in the C.S.L. fleet as a towbarge until July 15th, 1919. On that day, whilst heavily laden with coal and bound across Lake Erie for Port Dover, Ontario, in tow of the tug HOME RULE, she was overcome by the high seas running on the lake, and foundered off Ashtabula, Ohio. As far as we are aware, there was no loss of life in the accident, but it did put an end to the career of DUNDURN, for salvage was not possible.
Ed. Note: For those wishing to learn more about the break-bulk and carferry operations of the Pere Marquette Railway and its antecedents, we recommend The Great Lakes Car Ferries by George W. Hilton, published in 1962 by Howell-North Books, Berkeley, California, and also the various writings of Capt. Arthur C. and Lucy F. Frederickson of Frankfort, Michigan.
We would appreciate hearing from anyone who might be able to confirm what colours F.&P.M. NO. 2 wore when running for the F.&P.M.R.R. Her hull and cabins were all painted in dark colours, but we are not certain what they were.
Reproduced for the Web with the permission of the Toronto Marine Historical Society.