Original crew member at the helm with 10,000 expected at the community welcoming ceremony
TORONTO, June 4, 2012 /CNW/ - An illustrious and rare example of Canadian maritime history is finally coming home.
The S.S. Keewatin — the crown jewel in the Canadian Pacific Railway's once-mighty Great Lakes Steamship fleet — is being repatriated by Skyline International Development Inc. (www.skylineinvestments.com/) and will arrive at its original home in Port McNicoll, ON, June 23, 2012 as part of a community celebration.
In 2011, Skyline's Chairman and President Gil Blutrich announced an agreement with Peterson following four years of negotiation to purchase and repatriate Keewatin to its original home in Port McNicoll, where the R.J. and Diane Peterson Great Lakes and S.S. Keewatin Foundation will operate and maintain the vessel as a maritime museum. The Keewatin will be moored in a new waterfront park in Port McNicoll — steps from the original location where it was originally tied. The park will feature a replica of the town's original train station and surrounding English Royal gardens. Once there, restoration work will be completed to return the ship to her original early 20th century grandeur.
"This vessel is one of a kind," said Eric Conroy, author of the book A Steak In the Drawer, which details his experiences working on the Keewatin as a 17-year-old. Conroy, a long-time Keewatin volunteer who worked with Blutrich to negotiate her repatriation, will chair the R.J. and Diane Peterson Great Lakes and S.S. Keewatin Foundation.
Constructed five years before the ill-fated voyage of RMS Titanic, the Keewatin is the last surviving vessel in the Great Lakes Steamship fleet and features many of the same design and construction features of her cousin Titanic, including a quadruple expansion steam engine and "Scottish" boilers, as well as a grand staircase, Edwardian dining saloon, hand painted Italian glass and oak trim throughout. Strict regulations were imposed on wooden cabin steamships on the Great Lakes after the 1949 S.S. Noronic fire disaster killed 118 passengers and one crew member, making the financial viability of the overnight cruiser difficult. New modes of transportation also made the vessel largely obsolete.
Launched July 6, 1907, the Keewatin was retired in 1966 after almost 60 seasons ferrying passengers from Port McNicoll on Georgian Bay, to Port Arthur (Thunder Bay) on Lake Superior.
Built by the Fairfield Shipbuilding and Engineering Company in Scotland as Hull No. 453, the 350-foot long Keewatin carried 288 passengers with a crew of 86, and cruised at a top speed of 14 knots. Along with her sister ship S.S. Assiniboia, Keewatin was the first Great Lakes ship to boast radar.
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