Monday 1 September 2014

Packet Freight & Ferry NORGOMA

It's hard to believe it's almost a year since we did our "Whirlwind Tour to the Soo and Back". We got lots of great snaps along the way and including a few thousand footers from waterfront walk on the Canadian side of the Soo like my favourite the downbound AMERICAN CENTURY exiting the Poe Lock
In fact, while waiting for the CENTURY to motor out of the lock, I got a snap of Janie & Tanner near the former packet freight and passenger ferry, NORGOMA which is currently a museum ship at Roberta Bondar Park. The 150'x36' NORGOMA was built in 1949 at Collingwood Shipyards for the Owen Sound Transportation Company. Though the terrain along the North Channel of Lake Huron and Manitoulin Island is very picturesque, it's also quite rugged and back then there weren't a lot of good roads to service the many villages and fishing ports along that shoreline. Therefore shallow draft packet freighters like the NORGOMA were used to transport essential goods which sometimes included livestock. The five day and approximately 300 kilometre trip between Owen Sound and Sault Ste. Marie included stops in Killarney, Little Current, Gore Bay, Meldrum Bay, Cockburn Island, Thessalon, Hilton Beach, and Richard's Landing. Her cargo was known as "packet freight" because the goods (with the exception of the cattle) were packaged in crates or skids, and instead of being lowered into a hold, they were fork-lifted through wide doors along her hull that were located near her stern and midsection (cattle probably just walked on board, told them they we going to the zoo). The doors now appear to be welded shut but if you look closely you can see them in my snaps below? Once on board, the crates would be stacked much like that in a moving van and positioned for quick access during her many short port of call visits. The NORGOMA was "life-line" for so many isolated communities along the East-West route which was also known as the "Turkey Trail", perhaps because of her erratical course changes needed to service all of the ports or because the NORGOMA was also known to transport "turkeys" to Manitoulin Island. Therefore, even when the channel was calm,  the journey had to be pretty fowl when those turkeys were on board, and that's no bull!! c):))

Meanwhile, back at the blog, as new bridges were built for the railways and  TransCanada highway, the NORGOMA's outport services ended in 1963 as the transportation of goods and passengers could be done more effectively and less costly by trucks, trains and buses.
After being converted to a diesel motor ship and renovated to increase her capacity to carry cars, the NORGOMA started her new career in 1964 as a car and passenger ferry for Ontario Northland Railway. Transiting twice daily between Tobermory, at the tip of the Bruce Peninsula and South Baymouth on Manitoulin Island,  NORGOMA, along with her sister NORISLE remained in service until 1974 when they were replaced with the larger and more modern CHI-CHEEMAUN which could carry more passengers and cars than the sisters combined.

Since 1975, the proud NORGOMA has been toured by many Sault Ste. Marie visitors. Meanwhile, her sister NORISLE is also a museum ship at Manitowaning, on Manitoulin Island, and smaller fleetmate NORMAC, was the original Captain John's Floating Restauarant in Toronto Harbour, until it was accidentally rammed by the Toronto Island ferry TRILLIUM and sank at her berth (I remember that when we lived in TO). After being raised and refurbished, NORMAC apparently now services as a restaurant and cocktail lounge while parked in Port Dalhousie, Ontario. Oooo, we'll have to check her out during our upcoming whirlwind tour to Niagara, Southern Western Ontario, and the Detroit and St. Clair rivers. I can hardly wait. Really!! c);-b 

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