30 December 2007

Ship fans mourn scrapping of the Calumet:

ORT Colborne, Ontario - Killer and Cane, two menacing junkyard dogs, guard the gates to the afterlife for a Great Lakes freighter and regular Bay City visitor called the Calumet.

For many of its 78 years, the 603-foot Calumet hauled iron ore for the steel that girded the United States' prosperity. It helped make the steel of the World War II victory effort, the steel of Buicks and bridges, and the steel bones of the nation's great skyscrapers.

In this windswept International Marine Salvage yard in Ontario, the Calumet will complete the cycle of its life.

The 5,800-ton ship will become what it once hauled - a raw material to be made into new steel.

''She has finally come to the end of her useful life, and that's why she's here,'' said Wayne Elliott, who owns the salvage yard that Cane and Killer oversee.

The worn-out boat, owned by Grand River Navigation Co., was due for retirement late this winter, but the end came prematurely last month. On one of its 50 or so annual visits to Cleveland, the boat cracked into a concrete wall at the Cuyahoga River's mouth and split a side.

With so little time remaining in the shipping season, it was cost-prohibitive to do a full-fledged repair allowing the Calumet to reload with bulk cargo. So welders slapped on a patch secure enough to let the ship waddle up the lake on Nov. 18 to die in peace, or at least in pieces.

This month, a salvage crew hired by the Calumet's owners started stripping everything that may be useful to another ship or that has collectible or historical value.

Soon, Elliott's sons and hired hands will attack the bulkheads, decks and hull with cutting torches, reducing the ship to recyclable rubble - 2-by-4-foot plates that can fit into the charge box of a steel mill's blast furnace.

Great Lakes history torn asunder

The Calumet was a frequent plyer of the Saginaw River, having visited Bay City 18 times in 2006 and at least a dozen times this year. Her last visit was on Nov. 8, when she unloaded at the Wirt Stone dock before heading back out to the bay.

And as she dies, so too does another piece of the shipping heritage of the Great Lakes. For that reason alone, maritime buffs are morose.

''It's one of my favorite boats because it has classic lines and it had a good, proud history to it,'' said Todd Shorkey, who reports locally on Saginaw River shipping traffic for www.boatnerd.com.

Shorkey wishes the Calumet, and every ship, could be made into a museum, but he knows that's not possible.

''These boats are little pieces of history that are slowly fading away, because as they reach the end of their useful life they're sent for scrap and there are no new boats being built.''

Each season from the 1920s through the 1960s, in the heyday of the region's heavy industry, 300 or more American and Canadian freighters worked the Great Lakes. They moved back and forth from ore mines to steel mills and from coal docks to limestone quarries, loading and unloading 100 million tons or more of commodities in each 10-month season.

With the Calumet's demise, fewer than 140 freighters remain.

Those vessels, and the hundreds that have gone before them, draw a cult following of boat watchers - such as Shorkey - to the water's edge, or onto the lakes themselves, to chase the great freighters and photograph them.

Even the midsized ships like the Calumet hold enough cargo to fill a train more than a mile long. The biggest - the 1,000-footers with 68,000-ton cargo holds - carry the equivalent of seven 100-car trains.

The great ships' appeal is ''almost magical,'' said George Wharton, a Canadian shipping historian who travels to Cleveland occasionally to see freighters.

''When you see one, it's just this awesome mass of power,'' said Wharton, of Strathroy, Ontario. ''And when you envision what's inside and relate that to, say, your own body mass, it's just astronomical. And yet they go gliding by with hardly any noise at all.

''To me, these things all have a personality,'' he added. ''Some logical person would say, 'It's only a hunk of steel.' But when you get all the elements of that hunk of steel and put them together, it takes on a personality.''

It plied the waters with swagger

The Calumet slid from its construction berth in Detroit in 1929.

The newcomer was one of the biggest and grandest lake freighters. It entered service as the flagship of the booming U.S. Steel Corp. fleet.

At christening, the boat took the name Myron C. Taylor, honoring the company's newest board member, who went on to become U.S. Steel chairman and chief executive.

As flagship royalty, the Taylor had a unique profile: Other freighters' forward superstructures were two-deck affairs, with sleeping quarters below the pilothouse. But the Taylor sported an extra level of guest quarters just below the pilothouse, appointed with fine oak paneling and other luxuries.

Captains of industry and their friends and families enjoyed summertime pleasure cruises aboard the Taylor as it steamed from mines to mills and back, laden with 12,500 tons of bulk cargo - enough to fill 120 railroad cars.

But it was a Cinderella existence in reverse: Newer and better boats came along quickly. The Myron C. Taylor lost its flagship status in 1938 and went from being a princess to just another workaday servant.

In 1956, it drew attention by being one of the first ships retrofitted into a ''self-unloader.'' Conveyor belts ran below the cavernous holds, feeding a 250-foot-long cargo-moving boom that could swing to either side. That let on-board crew members unload the ship without help from shore-side machinery or workers.

The ship survived World War II, staying on fresh water while German torpedoes sank fellow Great Lakes ships pressed into wartime service in the Atlantic Ocean. It survived the 1980s collapse of the rust belt economy, when other freighters were being towed to scrap yards. It survived collisions and mishaps.

Yet it almost didn't survive the turn of the century. Its owners, now called the USS Great Lakes Fleet, were set to scrap the Taylor and two others.

Second life in a new century

Then, in 2001, Grand River Navigation bought the boat and repainted the maroon hulls gray. Grand River, an affiliate of a Canadian firm called Lower Lakes Towing Ltd., gave the Myron C. Taylor a new name: the Calumet.

It operated for most of seven seasons under its new handle, mainly carrying limestone and doing the dirty work of hauling steel-eating salt from Cleveland's Cargill mines.

That's where it was headed on Nov. 15. The Calumet had just dropped a load of limestone at Ontario Stone Co. in Cleveland and had pulled back into the harbor to turn around and back up to Cargill's docks. A strong gust of wind blew the ship's starboard side into a concrete wall near the old Coast Guard station.

Five days later it was moored in Port Colborne at the salvage yard of second-generation ship breaker Wayne Elliott.

Elliott expects the Calumet to yield 4,800 tons of steel and iron, give or take, by the time the four- to six-month scrapping process is done.

That translates to gross revenue approaching $1 million, at $200 per ton. But from that, he must subtract the cost of buying the boat, removing and disposing ''many tons'' of asbestos and other hazardous materials according to regulations and paying the employees who deconstruct and market the ship.

Elloit confesses to holding the great old ships in reverence even as he shreds them for a living.

''I love them all - the old ships,'' said Elliott, a big man with a longish silver mane peeking out from his hard hat. ''It gets in your blood.''

He looked out the Calumet's pilothouse windows where the oak-spoked captain's wheel once stood, and he took a drag from a smoke.

''Can you imagine 80 years ago, standing on this when it was brand new? There's a lot of history in these.

''But all metal is infinitely recyclable,'' the pragmatic romantic said.
''This may have been railway spikes in its last life. By next year, this could make 5,000 new cars.''

That, in addition to the millions it already helped make.

- Times Writer Patti Brandt contributed to this report.

Source: MLive.com. By The Grand Rapids Press. 30 December, 2007

The Calumet:

Scrapping progress at Port Colborne, ON. (Nov. 6, 2008)
The Calumet was built in 1929 by the Great Lakes Engineering Works, River Rouge (Detroit), MI as their hull # 269 and was launched as the Myron C. Taylor on July 15, 1929 for the Pittsburgh Steamship Company (the private fleet of the U.S. Steel Corp.). Constructed as a Great Lakes traditional styled straight decker, the Myron C. Taylor was 1 of 3 new vessels joining the Pittsburgh fleet that year; the other 2 being the William G. Clyde (now the Maumee) and the Horace Johnson (scrapped 1984). By the end of 1929, the Pittsburgh fleet consisted of 70 steamers and 14 barges.  Upon entering service, the Myron C. Taylor  was named the fleet's flagship, an honor retained until 1938 when the designation was passed to the William A. Irvin.  The title was inherited from the James A. Farrell which had been the fleet's flagship since 1913.  The vessel's namesake was Mr. Myron Charles Taylor; Chairman of the Finance Committee of the U.S. Steel Corp. from 1927 to 1934 and was their chairman of the board from 1932 through until 1938.  Mr. Taylor died May 6, 1959, remaining a director of the corporation until his death.

As built, the Myron C. Taylor was powered by a yard-built 2,200 i.h.p. (1,618 KW) triple expansion, 3 cylinder steam engine with 2 coal-fired water-tube boilers. The straight deck lake boat had a cargo capacity (dwt) of 12,500 tons (12,700 mt).  The vessel was built with an extra "guest" deck directly below the wheelhouse to accommodate company management and corporate guests.

The Myron C. Taylor sailed on her maiden voyage from Detroit, MI to Duluth, MN on August 27, 1929. The lake boat serviced the Pittsburgh fleet until the spring of 1956. Due to an increase in limestone demand, she was transferred to the Bradley Transportation Co. fleet out of Rogers City, MI (managed by the Pittsburgh fleet). Also transferred to the Bradley fleet at this time was the steamer A. F. Harvey.  Her early years on the lakes were untarnished by any major incidents.

On May 21, 1956, the Myron C. Taylor departed Duluth, MN with her last load as a straight decker arriving June 1, 1956 at the Christy Corp. shipyard in Sturgeon Bay, WI; emerging 4 months and 11 days later as a self-unloader. This was the fastest self-unloader conversion on record. Also included were the lengthening of the forward cabins and aft deckhouse to allow for the expansion and modernization of the crew's quarters. Her self-unloading system as installed consisted of pneumatically controlled gates opening to 2 four-foot wide (1.22m) rubber conveyor belts feeding a forward mounted bucket elevator leading up to a hopper. This hopper fed a bow-mounted 250' (76.20m) discharge boom that could be swung 110 degrees to port or starboard.  The Taylor left Sturgeon Bay in the fall of 1956 to pick up her first cargo as a self unloader from Michigan Limestone's new plant at Port Dolomite, MI.

The self-unloader had 4 holds serviced by 16 hatches where she was capable of carrying 12,450 tons (12,650 mt) at a mid-summer draft of 22' 02" (6.76m).  Her holds had the cubic capacity to handle 12,600 net tons (equivalent to 11,250 tons / 11,430 mt) of coal.  The Taylor was repowered during the winter lay-up of 1967/68 at Toledo's American Ship Building Co. with a new Nordberg FS-1316-HSC four stroke cycle 4,234 b.h.p. (3,114 KW) diesel engine burning intermediate grade 180 fuel, the power being fed to a single fixed pitch propeller.  A bow thruster was installed in 1988.

Following the break-up and sinking of Bradley fleetmate Carl D. Bradley on November 18, 1958, in a precedent for the shipping industry, the remaining 8 boats of the Bradley fleet tied up on November 22 out of respect for the lost crewmen.  Four the fleet tied up at Rogers City, MI where, at noon, remembrance services were held.  The Myron C. Taylor tied up at Conneaut, OH where arrangements had been made with local clergy to conduct similar services at noon to coincide with the Rogers City services.

The Taylor rejoined the Pittsburgh fleet on July 1, 1967 when the U.S. Steel Corp. announced the merger of the Bradley fleet and its Pittsburgh fleet, the merged fleets being renamed US Steel Great Lakes Fleet.  This combined fleet became a wholly owned subsidiary of U.S. Steel Corp. in 1981 thus becoming a common carrier. At this time, the fleet was renamed USS Great Lakes Fleet and consisted of 34 vessels. Considered huge at the time she was built, the Myron C. Taylor was now one of the fleet's smallest carriers.  The Taylor's  smaller size permitted her access to many of the smaller ports bordering the Great Lakes. Before her transfer to the Bradley fleet, the Taylor's activity was primarily focused in the iron ore trade. After becoming part of the Bradley fleet and its subsequent merger into the Pittsburgh fleet, the Taylor's cargoes changed to limestone, stone, aggregates, coal, and salt with only the odd spot load of iron ore.

On December 1, 1983, the Taylor transited the Welland Canal for the first time, the self-unloader being laden with sand for Hamilton, ON.  Then, on September 25, 1985, the Myron C. Taylor carried the first load of sand out of Brevort, MI.  On October 14, 1989,a reduction gear failure on Lake Huron 2 hours north of Port Huron, MI required the towing of the vessel to Calcite, MI for repairs.  The carrier returned to service on November 25, 1989.  An allision with a bridge abutment in Cleveland on July 2, 1997 resulted in leaky rivets, tripped and fractured frames necessitated the Taylor to go to Toledo for temporary repairs.

The Myron C. Taylor laid up for a final time in USS Great Lakes Fleet colors at 5:01pm on November 11, 2000 in Sarnia, ON.  Her lay up in Sarnia was a result of a pending sale to a U.S. affiliate of a Canadian shipping company. Late March, 2001; the sale of the Myron C. Taylor and her fleetmate Calcite II was announced: the vessels had been sold to Grand River Navigation Co., Cleveland, OH; an affiliate of Lower Lakes Towing Ltd., Port Dover, ON. On Saturday, April 21, 2001; the vessel was christened Calumet in honor of the Calumet River which empties into Lake Michigan at Chicago, IL. Also christened at this time was the Calcite II which became the Maumee. A third former fleet mate, the George A. Sloan, was reflagged Canadian and christened Mississagi as part of the same ceremony, being part of the initial sale.

After a refit including the painting of her hull Lower Lakes grey, the Calumet departed Sarnia May 10, 2001 on her maiden voyage under the management of Lower Lakes Transportation Co., Williamsville, NY in ballast to Calcite, MI where she loaded stone for Ontario Stone in Cleveland, OH. The Calumet's activities for her new owners continued to be concentrated in the limestone, stone, aggregates, coal, sand, and salt trades primarily on the lower lakes, servicing many of the customers she had previously serviced before her sale.

In early July, 2003, the end of the Calumet's self-unloading boom was damaged during a thunderstorm when a strong gust of wind  caught the boom causing it to strike the dock at Marblehead, OH.  The vessel went to Sarnia for repairs, returning to service on July 18, 2003.  On April 2, 2004, the Calumet ran soft aground on an uncharted shoal in the shipping channel while entering the harbor at Fairport, OH.  The vessel was drawing 21' (6.40m) at the time and shoaling had reduced the depth to 18' (5.49m) where the charts indicated there should have been in excess of 22' (6.71m) of depth.  The Calumet was not damaged.  While docking at Detroit's Motor City Intermodal dock # 2 on January 6, 2007, the Calumet struck a submerged object causing a 10 degree twist to the rudder stock.  The carrier laid up there for the winter and repairs.

On November 15, 2007, the Calumet struck a concrete wall along the Old River in Cleveland, OH after having offloaded stone at Ontario Stone.  The incident expedited the ending of the Calumet's years on the Great Lakes as it was expected that the veteran laker was to be scrapped at the end of the 2007 season.  After necessary temporary repairs were made to the starboard hull damage, on November 18, 2007 the Calumet departed the Ontario Stone Dock in Cleveland sailing to Port Colborne, where she was expected to be scrapped.  After arriving at Port Colborne's stone dock, the crew shut the Calumet down and left the vessel for the last time.  On November 20, the Calumet was shifted to International Marine Salvage's south salvage berth (in Port Colborne) where her final fate awaits her.

Source: By George Wharton