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JUNE 2013






The ninety-four year history of the Canadiana is both interesting and heartbreaking. She spent her first forty-eight years transporting passengers across Lake Erie. However, the next forty years proved more dismal including numerous ownership transfers and failed restoration attempts. Many knew what potential remained, yet reality was cruel and that potential was never capitalized. Ultimately, the headline-making passenger vessel was reduced to another ship lost in Lake Erie’s history.

The Canadiana was first built in 1910 by the Buffalo Dry Dock Co. of Buffalo, New York. The two-hundred-ten footlong, triple-decker vessel transported up to 2,500 passengers first between Buffalo and Crystal Beach, Ontario, and then later from Toledo and Bob-Lo Island. She also embarked on sunset and moonlight cruises. All of this took place until the 1950s when a series of unfortunate events put the ship on the market.

Over the next fifty years, ownership of the vessel transferred nearly a dozen times and each with their ideas of how to use her. Many owners hoped to return her to her fomer glory transporting and entertaining passengers; unfortunately, that never happened. One owner hoped to use the ship to take passengers between Cleveland and Cedar Point. There was not enough dock space at Cedar Point to make that a reality. Another hoped to transform the vessel into a floating night club, and later someone else wanted to create a restaurant. Again, the ideas never capitalized.

As if so many ownership transfers were not enough, the vessel experienced a number of unfortunate events in her history . On July 31, 1958, she crashed into the Toledo Terminal Railroad Bridge. While awaiting repairs from the collision, ice rammed the vessel resulting in an eighteen inch hole across the bow and almost caused the vessel to sink. Just when it looked like reconstruction was to begin in by the American Ship Building Co., the businesses ceased operations before the transformation could take place. In March 1963, the vessel washed up on the Niagara Thruway in Black Rock when warm weather caused the thickest ice in recent years to break, taking the boat ashore. In February 1981, she broke away from moorings and sank at Collision Bend (Cleveland, Ohio) and raised in June 1983.

Five years later, it seemed the Canadiana would finally receive the attention it deserved. In 1988, the vessel was towed back to Port Colborne and completely stripped with hopes to restore it to meet current standards. The first idea was to return her to Lake Erie transporting passengers, but plans were diverted to transform the vessel into a museum. In 1994, a grant was awarded for the restoration efforts; unfortunately, the funding was withdrawn less than a year later. The Canadiana’s met its fate in 2004 when she was dismantled and scrapped. The engine was sent to Buffalo, other parts, including the pilot house, were salvaged and turned into memorabilia.

by Jessica Maiberger