Very detailed video of the SS Keewatin in 1950s…
Touring the SS Keewatin museum today…
Have you ever wanted to see the Titanic?
Although possible at a price these days the wreck would never be like seeing the real working ship unless you went to Michigan where a stunning example of an Edwardian passenger liner floats to this day and can be visited and explored. With an identical engine, grand staircase, luxurious dining saloon, well preserved staterooms and public galleries you can experience Titanic only two hours away from Chicago. There is even a Marconi Room, identical to the one on Titanic.
In 1967 RJ Peterson from Douglas Michigan bought the SS KEEWATIN – an old Edwardian decommissioned passenger ship from the Canadian Pacific Railway Steamship Company and towed it to Lake Kalamazoo. Peterson owned a large marina in the very small lake. As luck would have it, The Corps of Engineers had dredged to 18 feet that summer and it was enough to get the 350-foot, 300-passenger ship into the harbor where it has served as a floating museum for 44 years.
The SS KEEWATIN was built in Govan Scotland in 1907. She took her sea trials in the River Clyde along side the RMS Lusitania, (sunk by a German sub which resulted in the United States joining WWI).
The SS Keewatin sailed to North America and went to work sailing between the tops of the Great Lakes on Superior to a small port just north of Toronto in Canada. From the 1800’s and into the 1950’s many ships plied the inland seas moving freight and people between west and east.
As highways improved, railways proliferated and airplanes filled the skies these behemoths of commerce slowly retired, were scrapped or in some cases sank. By the 1960’s they were essentially gone with an era of elegance and simplicity. Except the KEEWATIN, hidden as a tourist attraction in a small town, on a small lake and fed by a small river.
But now at 104 years old her big story is being told. In 1963 and 1964 a 17-year-old high school student was fortunate enough to get a summer job on the SS Keewatin. The experience changed his life and now as a retired and successful adult he has found that his stage for youthful adventure is alive and well and living in Douglas. Eric Conroy is the youngest surviving crew member from the SS Keewatin and he has written a book about what happened to him in two of his most educational summers.
It is called “A STEAK IN THE DRAWER” and it is great read about the early days of travel and a young man’s experiences’ coming of age. There are lots of pictures and a detailed description of the parts of the ship, the passengers and other crew he had contact with. All proceeds will go toward the SS KEEWATIN Restoration Fund, which this year is focused on rebuilding the Life Boats. For information call (416) 318-7186 or write…SS KEEWATIN MUSEUM PO Box 638 Douglas Michigan 49406 USA.
The SS Keewatin once sailed between Port Arthur / Fort William and Port McNicoll in Ontario, Canada. She carried passengers between these ports for the Canadian Pacific Railway’s Great Lakes Steamship Service. The Keewatin also carried packaged freight goods for the railway at these ports.
Built by Fairfield Shipbuilding and Engineering Company in Scotland as Hull No. 453, the Keewatin was launched 6 July 1907 and entered service in the following year. She ran continuously for almost 60 seasons, being retired in 1966.
Like many passenger ships of that era on the Great Lakes, the Keewatin and sister ship SS Assiniboia operated under stringent regulations imposed for wooden cabin steamships following the SS Noronic disaster in 1949. Doomed by their wooden cabins and 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 travel, the Keewatin and her sister ship were withdrawn from the passenger trade in 1965, continuing in freight only service for another year.
The S.S. Keewatin was a luxurious ship for its time. The ship boasted running water and electric lights. The ship had 105 staterooms on two decks. Seven deluxe suites had private baths. The dining room had gold leaf around the ceiling, as did most of the public areas. In the Mens Lounge there are hand-carved oak paneling, the ballroom served many purposes other then being a dance area.
The Keewatin was originally designed to complete the link in the Canadian Pacific Railway’s continental route. She served this purpose by linking the Railroad’s Port McNicoll on Georgian Bay and Fort William on Lake Superior. The ship took 2 1?2 days to make the trip each way, including half a day traversing the Soo Line Railway.