CSL’s long-standing history with the St-Lawrence Seaway goes back to its very first day of operations.
On April 25, 1959, CSL’s bulk carrier Simcoe became the first commercial vessel to transit St-Lambert Lock. Simcoe was followed closely by Lemoyne, another CSL bulk carrier.
One of the most challenging engineering feats of its time, the St. Lawrence Seaway changed the course of shipping by opening up the Great lakes to global markets.
Gross registered tonnage for the Seaway’s first navigation season was 25.1 million. Since 1959, more than 2.5 billion tonnes of cargo estimated at $375 billion have moved to and from Canada, the United States, and nearly fifty other nations.
We wish all seafarers and the Seaway a safe 2019 navigation season.
The crowning moment in the fifty-three year career of Simcoe came on the morning of April 25, 1959. That day the eyes of the world watched as the small Canada Steamship Lines ship edged into the St. Lambert Lock at Montreal. The long heralded St. Lawrence Seaway was ready for customers and Simcoe was the first freighter to begin the new era on the Great Lakes.
Simcoe had formerly sailed in the Glen Line and George Hall fleets. The ship had been built by Swan Hunter and Wigham Richardson at Wallsend, UK, and launched on March 1, 1923, as Glencorrie. The 79.55 metre (261 foot) long bulk carrier came to Canada in the spring. It was delayed at St. John’s, NF, due to ice conditions but soon made the trip up the St. Lawrence to work in the canal trades.
In 1925, the 1,783 gross ton Glencorrie, now part of the Hall fleet, loaded the first shipment of pulpwood at Matane, PQ. The port was to become a major handling centre for pulpwood.
The vessel joined CSL in 1926 and became Simcoe the following year. Work was generally routine but during World War Two an anti-submarine gun was carried due to the menace of the enemy U-boats. The armament was removed at Toronto in 1945.
The opening of the Seaway, which brought Simcoe a moment of fame, also spelled the end of usefulness to CSL. No longer needed, the ship was laid up at Kingston. But instead of going for scrap like most of her running mates, Simcoe was sold to Northern Offshore Drilling in 1961 and converted for service as a gas drilling rig.
Renamed Nordrill, the vessel worked on Lake Erie in the search for natural gas. Initially powered by a triple expansion engine, and after reconstruction by marine outboards, the ship was pulled by a tug beginning in 1968.
Nordrill was idle in 1974 after being replaced by the Telesis. Following a sale to Marine Salvage, the hull was moved into Ramey’s Bend at Port Colbome on October 8, 1974, and dismantled there into 1975.
Lemoyne was probably the best-known Canada freighter on the Great Lakes in 1946. It had held the mark as the nation’s largest on the inland seas for two decades and possessed a number of cargo records.
This vessel was the last to be built for the Great Lakes Transportation Co. and had not yet entered service when CSL purchased their big lakers in 1926.
The Midland Shipbuilding Company constructed the giant bulker and it was launched as Glenmhor on June 23, 1926. The 192.93 metre (633 foot) long freighter was the first with a beam of 70 feet (21.33 metres) and the first with longitudinal side tanks extending to the spar deck.
The 10,480 gross ton carrier was powered by a war surplus triple expansion engine of 25 ½-41 ½-72×48 and four, coal-fired, scotch boilers. The latter were subsequently converted to burn oil.
The vessel began trading as Lemoyne and set a cargo record on August 19, 1926, loading 15,415 tons of coal at Sandusky, OH. This was followed on September 21 with a record 518,000 bushels of wheat out of Fort William.
By 1938, Lemoyne held standing records for wheat, coal, com, rye and mixed grains. An ore mark of 17,253 tons moved out of Superior for Hamilton in July 1942.
Lemoyne was the natural choice to officially open the Fourth Welland Canal on August 6, 1932. It was a festive occasion that included the Canadian Governor General and the celebrations continued when the ship arrived at the Kingston grain elevator bringing in 532,556 bushels of wheat.
In the post-war era, new additions to the CSL fleet pushed Lemoyne out of the limelight it had once enjoyed. It still made the news on occasion and was recognized for opening the second season of the St. Lawrence Seaway as the first upbound transit on April 18, 1960.
A collision with Martian near the Main St. Bridge in Welland on June 29, 1966, gained unwanted notoriety. The incident helped rally support for the need of a Welland By-Pass channel to eliminate the many bends and bridges of the existing canal. Lemoyne delivered a final cargo of 367,107 bushels of wheat to Kingston on October 24, 1968. This was unloaded in twelve hours, 45 minutes and the vessel shifted to the lay-up berth on the west side of the elevator.
Following a sale for scrap, steam was raised one last time and Lemoyne sailed from the Great Lakes under power passing through the Seaway on May 29, 1969. The tug Koral took over at Quebec City and pulled the former Canadian record holder across the Atlantic and they arrived at Santander, Spain, on June 27, 1969.