Tuesday, June 21, 2011

Canadian Shipbuilding Co.: 1905-1908

The death of John Bertram led to the takeover and acquisition of the Bertram Engine Works and the Shipyard in 1905, by Canadian Shipbuilding Co., founded by Frederic Nicholls in 1903. Arendt Angstrom, the general manager of the Engine Works, stayed on briefly to work for the new company.

Notice printed in the Globe, June 8, 1905

An impressive ship launched by Canadian Shipbuilding was the Cayuga, in March 1906. Though not as massive as some of the the Richelieu ships, the Cayuga's clean lines were a testament to the local shipbuilding prowess.

The Cayuga, launched March 3, 1906

A postcard view of the Cayuga, en route to Niagara

Another ship built by the Canadian Shipbuilding Co was the prosaically named Ontario No.1. It was was the basis for a car ferry company formed in 1905. It was the "Largest boat ever built in Toronto, biggest ferry steamer in Canada." It was 320 feet long and 56 feet wide. Its cost? $375,000. Launched in 1907, its route ran from Cobourg to Charlotte NY, daily.

Ontario No. 1 stern view

Postcard of Ontario No. 1
It was owned by a company formed in 1905 to ferry cars across the lake.

A dispute arose in late 1907 between the Grand Trunk Railway (the purchasers of Ontario No. 1) and the Canadian Shipbuilding Co. The GTR declared that the vessel was not completed within the contract time. The Shipbuilding company "did not desire the vessel to leave Toronto until a settlement of the amount in dispute was arrived at. The huge ferry, however, left port, and a settlement has not yet been reached."

The dispute foreshadowed financial difficulties that would soon arise.

Unfortunately for Frederic Nicholls and the other directors of Canadian Shipbuilding Co., shipbuilding was a precarious business outside of boom times. Competition from protected yards in the US, and from British firms that paid workers 70 percent less than Canadians, was extremely fierce. Ultimately Canadian Shipbuilding Co. struggled, and the number of ships under contract dwindled. [an order for the massive E.B. Osler in 1907 was built at the company's Bridgeberg shipyard].

The yard was "practically closed" in October 1907, and in 1908 the company shut the Toronto yard. The works were put up for sale at a meeting of the creditors:

From The Star, Jan 18, 1908

Anton Berg, a brick press manufacturer, was rumored to be the buyer.

The Works' Railway Siding
You might wonder how heavy boilers and other massive parts, once constructed, were transported down to the Bathurst street wharf (as mentioned previously, the Doty/Bertram/Cdn Shipbuilding shipyard was located at the Northern Railway wharves south of Portland -- about where Dan Leckie Way and the Gardiner sit today).

The answer is that the Engine Works had its own railway siding -- that is, a private set of separate tracks connected to the main railway track system. A diagram of the path of goods is shown below:

These Goads Insurance Maps are beautiful, don't you think?
View an unmarked one here

The entrance for the siding can be seen near the north end of the works. It has been bricked up, but it's obvious when you know to look for it:

Note the curved brickwork showing where the railway siding entered the building

The old siding path is still somewhat intact. In the next section, there is a fanciful depiction of this private siding, which was still in use by the Diamond Calk & Horse Shoe Co in the 1920s

Read the next section:

You're reading: Farewell to Rock Oasis, the secret history of my home climbing gym.   

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