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Grand Trunk Pacific Railway Steamships

R.L.Kennedy

Prince George Leonard Frank/Vancouver Public Library


Grand Trunk Pacific Railway beginning in 1910 operated a steamship service in British Columbia from the end of its railway at Prince Rupert. The first ship was the Prince Albert a second-hand 841 ton, steel-hulled vessel built in 1892 at Hull, England as the Bruno and operated to Vancouver and Victoria. It was followed by the Prince John, formerly the Amethyst built in England in1910, which operated from Prince Rupert to the Queen Charlotte Islands. Two new ships were the much larger Prince George and Prince Rupert both 3,380 ton 18 knot ships that could carry 1,500 passengers with staterooms for 220. These ships operated a weekly service from Seattle to Victoria, Vancouver, Prince Rupert and Anyox. This latter point on Granby Bay at Observatory Inlet served a copper smelter and mine fed by a unique narrow gauge electric railway of the Granby Consolidated Mining Smelting and Power Company.

A very busy Victoria Harbour! At right are Prince George and Prince Rupert at GTP dock.
At left, CPR's Princess Alice, Princess Adelaide, Princess Beatrice, Otter and Princess Victoria also;
City of Nanaimo departing. British Columbia Provincial Archives

Canadian National Railways took over Grand Trunk Pacific Railway in 1920 including its steamship operation which had been cut back to Vancouver. However, the CNR decided to go into competition with the Canadian Pacific Railway on the Triangle Route and for this three new ships were built by Cammell, Laird and Company Limited of Birkenhead, in England. Prince David, Prince Henry and Prince Robert were 366 foot long 3,892 ton turbine-powered ships capable of 24 knots. Prince Henry was the first to enter service in July 1930 on the Vancouver-Prince Rupert route with Prince David following the next month on the Triangle Route. Prince Robert joined the Triangle Route in May 1931 whereupon the two ships provided a twice daily return service. Unfortunately, the Prince Robert ran aground near Port Townsend on July 31st. The service on the Triangle Route was not profitable in the Depression and it was soon ended on September 15th. following which Prince David and Prince Henry were transferred to the east coast of Canada while Prince Robert joined the older ships Prince George and Prince Rupert sailing between Prince Rupert and Vancouver, the original Grand Trunk Pacific route.

All three of the new Prince ships were requisitioned by the navy in WWII as their original design which included four boilers and a high speed was for them to become cruisers in time of war. None were returned.

A second Prince George in 1948 replaced the first destroyed by fire in 1945, cruised to Alaska. She operated until the end of season in 1974 after which a fire damaged the ship causing it to be sold one year short of its planned retirement.

In 1955 CNR and CPR made an agreement to jointly operate a service to the north coastal settlements. The CPR provided the ship, Princess Norah which was renamed Queen of the North sailing weekly September 1955 calling at Westview, Ocean Falls, Kitimat, Prince Rupert and Ketchikan, Alaska. She was returned to the CPR December 31, 1957 and once again became Princess Norah. She was sold in July of 1958 to Northern Navigation Ltd. Canadian Prince. Out of service in October 1964 she was sold minus engines and was moored at Kodiak, Alaska as the Beachcomber restaurant and hotel. It was later scrapped.


Prince Rupert
Article 1911

 

 

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