THUNDER BAY – The steamship Keewatin, seen here at Fort William’s city docks, not far from the old Sask Pool 8 elevator, has just been moved from its long-time home in Douglas, Michigan, to a new berth in Port McNicoll, Ontario, where she will become a restaurant, museum and entertainment centre. Originally a Canadian Pacific Railway ship, the Keewatin was built in Glasgow, Scotland, in 1907, sister ship to the SS Assiniboia.
Because she was built to serve on the upper Great Lakes, she had to be cut in two once she reached North American shores so as to be able to traverse the Welland locks.
Reassembled on the other side, she began her long career a year later as a carrier of passengers and package freight between Port McNicoll and Fort William.
By 1965, however, the passenger ship business on the lakes was in a severe decline; travellers who could easily drive by car or fly quickly across the lakes, were in too much of a hurry to put up with ship travel.
Besides, the cost of retrofitting the ship to meet increasingly stiff safety regulations, sealed her fate. The Keewatin was taken out of service in 1965 and slated for the scrap yard in 1967, only to be rescued at the last moment by enterprising Americans. Today the Keewatin is said to be the last Edwardian-era passenger ship still afloat.
For a look at the detailed 2.4-metre manufacturer’s model of the Keewatin, drop by the Thunder Bay Museum.
A Moment with the Museum:
Text by Tory Tronrud, Thunder Bay Museum
Photo courtesy of the Thunder Bay Museum