St. Lawrence River Steamers

[click on any photograph to enlarge it]

The steamer Kingston was a regular visitor to Brockville and other river communities from 1901 to 1949

Picture taken about 1940

The SS Kingston was built in 1901 for the Richelieu & Ontario Navigation Co. Ltd of Montreal. It was the second in a series of three new paddle steamers built by the Bertram Engine Works Company of Toronto. Each steamer was built bigger than the one before. The “Toronto” was the first, in 1899; followed by the “Kingston“, and then the “Montreal“, in 1903.

The Kingston was characterized by her two round funnels and two side-paddle wheels. She was 288 ft. long, had a beam of 30.15 ft., a draft of 13.25 ft., and weighed 2925 tons gross.
The ship was designed by Arendt Angstrom, the naval architect of the Bertram company, assisted by L.E. Tornroos.

She was owned by the Canada Steamship Lines from 1914 to1948 and, along with the SS Toronto, operated on the Toronto-Rochester-Kingston-Thousand Islands-Prescott run. Following the tragic burning of the Noronic at Toronto in 1949, overnight lake service with CSL was halted, and the Kingston never ran again.

S.S. Toronto

From a postcard about 1913

Passengers on the S.S. Toronto enjoying the river cruise

From an early postcard
From a 1947 newspaper clipping:

“Hamilton, Aug. 25 — Once a queen of the great Lakes fleets, the 48-year old steamship Toronto has made her last trip to Hamilton, and today awaits the wreckers’ torches. pride of the Canada Steamship Lines fleet when when launched in 1899, she operated for many years between Toronto and Prescott, with calls at Rochester and Clayton, N.y., Kingston and Brockville. she has been purchased by the Steel Company of Canada for scrap.”

S.S. St. Lawrence

From an early postcard

S.S. Rapids Prince running the Long Sault Rapids near Cornwall

from an early postcard

A bit of history of the S.S. Rapids Prince found on the web site of the Canada Steamship Lines

Excitment mounts as passengers aboard the S.S. Rapids Prince see the ship approaching the Cedar Rapids

from an early postcard

The Island Wanderer was a smaller excursion steamer which ran amongst some of the notable islands and passed locations and sites of the Thousand Islands near Alexandria bay and Gananoque.

from an early postcard dated 1901

From a “Descriptive Time Table” leaflet published by the owners of the Island Wanderer and composed by the ship’s captain, E.W. Visger (no date):

Str. Island Wanderer on her forty mile trip among the islands.

Leaving Alexander bay at 8 a.m. and 2:15 p.m., Thousand Island Park at 8:35 a.m., and 2:50 pm, stopping at the Hub House, only a few yards distance, thence passing up the river for many miles among beautiful clusters of green-decked isles, crossing the boundary line between the United States and Canada, and stopping at the city of Gananoque, in Canada, reaching there at 9:50 a.m., and 3:50 p.m., leaving at 10 a.m., and 4:15 p.m., giving 25 minutes for a ramble in Canada on the afternoon trip.

Thence we go down the Canada side and among the Canadian Islands, passing among large groups of the most beautiful islands of the grand old St. Lawrence, and which has heretofore never been explored by a large steamer, nor has eye ever gazed upon from a steamer’s deck, also rounding the Fiddler’s Elbow, and passing through the Lost Channel, we enter the main channel of the Canadian waters, passing close to Echo Point (a place recorded in ancient history), reaching Westminster Park at 11 a.m., and 5:15 p.m.

From thence, we pass close to Sport Island, Summer Island, Hayden’s Island, Manhattan Island, Long Branch, Anthony’s Point, and Bonnie Castle, arriving at Alexandria Bay at 11:30 a.m., and 5:30 p.m.

We again leave Alexandria Bay for Thousand Island Park and return, after each round trip, leaving Alexandria Bay at 12 noon, and 6:15 p.m., returning leave Thousand Island Park at 12:35 p.m., and 6:50 p.m.

the Island Wander is the only boat that makes this trip, and she makes this trip twice daily, Sundays excepted. maps of the river and this trip may be found at all hotels and other public places along the river.

Fare for round trip, 50 cents. Tickets for sale by Cornwall Bros., and at the news stand at Thousand Island House, Alexandria Bay, at the Thousand Island Park, by our agent A.R. Irving, and at the Office, Fisher’s Landing, Hub House, and Westminster Park.

E.W. VISGER, Captain.

The Island Wanderer as it travels the narrow passages between the small islands of the Thousand Islands near Alexandria Bay, N.Y. and Gananoque, Ont.

from a postcard published around 1900.

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  • victoria  On 5 July 2009 at 10:10 am

    I have a key from the s.s.kingston room number i50

  • Rick Holahan  On 3 January 2012 at 3:08 pm

    I rode the Kingston with my family sometime after 1940, but never could find a decent photograph of her. Also rode both Cobourg boats, Ontario 1 and 2. Thanks for your fine site, and the rush of memories screaming through my head. Great stuff.
    Rick H.

  • Doug Rombough  On 15 October 2012 at 10:49 am

    Hi Doug:
    I found your “History Web Log” well done and your philosophy about sharing historical facts, photos, etc. encouraging. I wish this would be shared by more collectors (“hoarders”).

    My hobby is collecting old picture postcards and photos of Gananoque and steamers/boats that had a connection with Gan. I have recently prepared a 21 PDF presentation of my collection and have donated it to the Arthur Child Heritage Museum in Gananoque and to Queen’s University Archives. To each slide I’ve added a brief historical note and/or date of the view. This presentation is a work in progress that I’ll update whenever new views and/or information becomes available.

    If you can add to my collection I would most certainly welcome it and would of course give credit for anything I’ve used.

    Hope to hear from you. Take good care.

    Doug Rombough

  • Grant Rogers  On 14 May 2014 at 10:00 am

    Do you have any pictures of the “Victoria” or any other vessels that brought people, groceries and mail to the Gazelle Bay dock (just down river from Needles Eye) in the 1880’s?

    • Doug Rombough  On 15 May 2014 at 8:30 am

      Yes I have 2 images. An 1899 photo from the Public Archives of Canada (PA-25982) and an old postcard from Images, (Str. “Victoria” Rockport, Ont.). Let me know your email address if you want me to send them to you. Have a good day. Doug Rombough

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