SS Keewatin 1907
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With Reuben Goossens
Maritime Historian, CruisenShip Reviewer, Author & Lecturer
Please Note: All ssmaritime and my other related ssmaritime sites are 100% non-commercial and privately owned sites. Be assured that I am NOT associated with any cruise or shipping companies or travel/cruise agencies or any other organisations! The author has been in the passenger shipping industry since May 1960 and is now semi-retired, but continues to write article on classic liners and cruise ships in order to better to inform cruise and ship enthusiasts for their pleasure!
Note: All Photographs on this page are the property and are ©
Copyright Friends of
In Brief: The
Canadian Pacific Steamship Company operating
their famed CP Railways Great Lakes Steamship Service
ordered their new ship to be built by Fairfield Shipbuilding and
Engineering Company in Govan
She was launched from berth No 6 and officially
named Keewatin on July 6, 1907 and she headed to her fit out
berth to be made ready for her voyage to
The SS Keewantin is seen here as built with a dark hull
On October 1, she was officially registered in
Here we see the bow and forward half of the ship being towed toward her destination
Once she arrived, the two parts of the ship were joined together and she was a whole ship again
She was towed up the St Lawrence, across
The SS Keewatin is seen on a postcard as built and she was the known as the
Edwardian Schooner because she had three wooden masts
With restoration needed as well as other needs,
etc, on December 19, 1907 the SS Keewatin departed
Here we see
a more historic view of the
The Keewatin together with four other ships
carried passengers between the many
Old Canadian Pacific Railway Steamship Postcards
The elegant Drawing Room located forward of Upper Deck
The Observation Lounge located aft of Upper Deck
The Dining Room amidships on Upper deck
An officer chats with children up on Long Sun Deck at a Lifeboat
The Keewatin together with four other ships
carried passengers between the many
Here we see
that superb counter stern of the
Interestingly, as built the SS Keewatin
originally had three wooden masts and she was known as an
Edwardian Schooner because these masts could support
sails for use during emergencies. However, they were never used
and thus in 1950, they were replaced by two steel masts. The
original middle mast was moved to the stern in the
mizzen position in 1955. The middle mast supported
the Ariel for the radio room, which also was removed and the
radar installed in 1955. Making the SS Keewatin the very first
Her three beautiful designed passenger decks are as follows; Long Sun Deck, Upper Deck, with a Drawing Room far forward, followed by cabins, then the Dining Room, still ahead of the funnel a Lounge and Observation Lounge far aft. The next deck down the magnificent stairwell is Main Deck that was fully occupied by cabins. There were seven Deluxe double cabins having private facilities, four 4-berth cabins and the balance beingn2-berth cabins, whilst all outside cabins with a window/porthole had an extra sofa bed available, making it a 3-berth cabin.
Her luxurious fittings continue amid her cabins
Photograph by & © Martin Furyeit
In the last twenty years of the SS Keewatins working life, like many passenger ships of that era on the Great Lakes, both her and her sister ship the SS Assiniboia operated under very stringent regulations imposed for wooden cabin steamships, especially following the terrible SS Noronic disaster in Toronto Harbour September 1949.
Doomed by their wooden cabins and upper
superstructure, these overnight cruisers lasted through the
decline of the passenger trade on the lakes in the post-war
years. As passengers opted for more reliable and faster modes of
Although this special feature is all about the
SS Keewatin, but we should not forget her identical sister ship
the SS Assiniboia, which was launched first on June 25, 1907.
Both ships were built by the same builder and had all the
identical machinery and dimensions, the only difference being hat
the Assiniboia was 3,925 GRT. In addition five years both ships
had the three wooden masts removed and replaced by the two steel
ones, the Assiniboia was converted to oil firing during the
off-season (winter) of 1953/54. The
SS Assiniboia which was launched first operated as a passenger ship until 1965, then sailed with freight only until sold early in 1968
With the SS Assiniboia having been retired, she was set to be preserved as a floating Restaurant and a Tourist attraction, but tragically she caught fire and was burned out and gutted on November 8, 1969. As she had sunk, she was refloated in January 1970 and water was pumped out of her lower decks.
Here we see the very sad looking Assiniboia late in 1969
However, after having raised her and with
previous thought of restorations, but due to extreme damage on
board, it was considered that the cost of the work required would
simply be far too great, therefore with great sadness she was
sold to be broken up. She was scrapped at
In January 1967 the SS Keewatin was purchased
Keewatin is seen here at
The ship was known as the
Her Return Home to
It is at this point I would like to introduce
Captain Eric Conroy, for he worked on the Keewatin as a
17-year-old waiter, and
Eric became reacquainted with the ship in 1995 when he
commissioned a model of her to be built and the builder told him
that she was still around, but located in the
It is here where the story becomes even more interesting for when Mr. Eric Conroy retired, he befriended Mr. Gil Blutrich who like Eric admired the Keewatin, and they had learned that the American owner Mr. R.J. Peterson aged 87 felt that he could no longer maintain the ship and that he thought that he would like to see her go back to Canada. Thus in 2012, Eric and Mr. Gil Blutrich Chairman and President of Skyline Developments who owns the Port McNicoll land and the docks that once was the Canadian Pacific Railway Co operating centre for the Great Lakes voyages, decided to buy the ship. Eric was sent to negotiate the sale between Mr. Roland J. Peterson Sr., and Gil Blutrich provided the funds to purchase the SS Keewatin from Mr. Peterson, as well as dredge a good 137,000 cubic yards of silt from the Kalamazoo River where she had sat for 45 years, as well as to get her seaworthy and then to bring her home to Port McNicoll.
Captain Eric Conroy-
Thus the ship is owned by Skyline
Developments and she is rented by the special charitable
organisation that was set up by Eric Conroy that operates her for
a minimal sum per year. Money that has been raised from the
tourism that she has created as well as donations received, will
all go into the ship, and thus the four years have proven to be a
unique business model. Then, at the end of four years, being in
September 2015, the
It is rather amazing, but Eric, who once worked on this wonderful ship as a 17-year-old waiter, would never have thought back then that he would be the one who would become the ships negotiator and work together with Mr. Gil Blutrich and bring her back to Port McNicoll and return her to her original beauty and make such a great success of her as one of the finest Maritime Tourist Ventures in Canada, and of course today he had become the ships Captain.
It was in June 2012, when the SS Keewatin was
repatriated and returned undertow to
Keewatin is seen undertow from the
Photograph by & © Richard Weiss
As the Keewatin was being towed from
number of vessels of all sizes, only some are seen here as many more were ahead of her
As the S.S. Keewatin arrived home, it was to the great delight of well over seven thousand ship enthusiasts, joyful Canadians and other fans. In addition she was followed by an armada of around a thousand vessels of all sizes, thus it was a sensational homecoming for this great centenarian, the S.S. Keewatin!
In the photograph above we see Captain Eric Conroy during a press release and he announced that funds to refurbish the ship would be done through corporate sponsorships and per private donations.
The Keewatin is a multicultural showcase all by herself, for she was built in Scotland and registered in Montreal Canada, the ship retains so many of her original features, including her quaint rounded Bridge, her Lounge features intricately carved wood panels depicting the various Ethnic groups that came to Canada to forge a new life and work beside the French, First Nations and Métis that were already in this amazing country.
To date, now being July 2015, this amazing ship already become a floating set for a number of maritime-related documentaries as well as television docudramas, including subjects involving the torpedoed ocean liner the RMS Lusitania, the burned-out Bahamas cruise ship, the SS Yarmouth Castle, Canadian Pacific's SS Empress of Ireland, and even the RMS Titanic. The SS Keewatin was also used extensively in the opening episode of Season Seven of Murdoch Ahoy, of the Murdoch Mysteries series. Thus, she has become quite well-know in the media, film and TV circles!
CLICK on the poster ABOVE to enter the website
There is another LINK at the bottom of the page!
Keewatin is seen at her Home Base - Port McNicoll
A beautiful Grand Staircase
A view along what is called the Flower Pot Lounge on Promenade Deck with the fine stairs at the end
the original far forward Drawing Room as seen today
This was the original far forward Drawing Room as seen today
Here we see the original Observation Room that is located far aft, but in todays more casual style
Upper Deck Lounge and cabins along both sides
Here we see a typical 2-Berth outside cabin with a sofa bed, seen just to the left
And yes, if you look closely, that is a potty at the bottom of the bedside cabinet
The ex Canadian Pacific SS Keewatin is the very
last of those beautiful Edwardian Liners left in the World today
and I am sure that there are many ship lovers who will admire
The ex Canadian Pacific SS Keewatin is the very last of those beautiful Edwardian Liners left in the World today and I am sure that there are many ship lovers who will admire this greatcentenarian ship, for she is as worthy as any of the Atlantic Liners, for this ship has proved herself over the years, for believe me, the Great Lakes are not just nice calm and still waters, for at times it is more like very wild seas with huge waves! I recommend that you view the short film via the link at the bottom of the page, and see how rough it was so many times! Thus ship lovers, I am sure that you will be more than happy to play some sort of a part in her ongoing preservation!
Received an email from Mr. Eric Conroy with the following news update;
We are now
going into our 5th.season with the
The SS Keewantin is seen with her lifeboats back on board in 2017
In the meantime, we have spent our time rebuilding the 100 year-old docks as well as installing a beautiful park that will sport gardens and picnic areas.
There is no doubt that Eric and his amazing team has been doing a wonderful job as this wonderful historic ship is being restored to her original beauty and glory days, whilst at the same time achieving as much publicity as is possible.
For more information, the SS Keewatin website has a great deal of information available, and a link to this site is located at the bottom of this page.
However, should have an important or special question or a contribution to make, you may contact Eric Conroy; at: email@example.com.
Onlookers seen up on her bow, with one of the ships officers close by
Page Two will bring you up to date and there are photographs of the official opening of the SS Keewantin by a member of parliament, the Mayer of Tay, and other dignitaries, as well as bands and the unveiling There is a link below to this page! This page also contains a short history of the ship in a slightly different light!
Ordered: December 22, 1906.
Fairfield Shipbuilding & Engineering Co,
Contract Signed: February 20, 1907.
Launched & Named: July 6, 1907 - berth #6.
Sea Trials: September 12, 1907.
Delivered: September 14, 1908.
October 1, 1907
Voyage: October 7, 1908 Owen Sound to
Out of Service: November 29, 1965.
Tonnage: 3,856 GRT (Gross Registered Ton).
Length: 102.6m - 336.5ft.
Width: 13.53m - 43.8ft.
Draught: 8.11m - 26.7ft.
Propulsion: Quadruple Expansion Steam Engine & 4 Coal-fired Scotch Boilers.
Speed: 14 Knots.
Passengers: 220 in berths & an additional 64 sofa beds available.
Status: Museum ship, Port
Visit Page Two for a great day in June 2017
Visit: The Friends of Keewatin Website for further details
TO DONATE to The Friends of
Please Note: ssMaritime is not related to the above foundation, but fully supports it
Therefore I am delighted to provide this link!
Or email Eric Conroy at: .
view The Mighty Ship
May the great centenarian, the S.S. Keewatin live on for another 100 years!
Blue Water Liners sailing to the
I watched them come, I watched them go and I watched them die.
But thankfully some are Saved and Continue to live on for future Generations!
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