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Canadian Pacific Railway
British Columbia Coast Steamships


All photographs British Columbia Provincial Archives unless otherwise credited.

The second Princess Marguerite on the Triangle Route from Seattle near Victoria. CPR

Canadian Pacific Navigation Company Princess Louise, formerly Olympia. Comox VI c.1890

The Canadian Pacific Railway announced in January, 1901 it had purchased controlling interest in the Canadian Pacific Navigation Company (no relation) and planned to make improvements. CPN had itself had been an amalgamation in 1883 of existing shipping operations some of which had served the earlier government construction of the Pacific Railway on the Columbia River. The CPR had created much of this new demand itself as it sought to move construction material up river to Yale.

CPN's fleet of 14 ships served 72 ports with scheduled services on seven routes: Daily between Victoria and Vancouver; three trips a week between Victoria and Westminster; three trips a month between Victoria and West Coast; likewise between Victoria, Vancouver and northern BC ports; and two trips a month between Victoria, Vancouver and Alaska. There were also daily trips between New Westminster, Ladner and Stevenston; and three trips weekly between New Westminster and Chilliwack.

Princess Victoria, first new ship for the BCCS she began a long and distinguished line of ships.

Captain James W. Troup, manager of the CPR's British Columbia Lake and River Service was reassigned as manager of the British Columbia Coast Steamships Service. He quickly set about making the much necessary improvements beginning with purchase of the 1880 built 1,708 ton Hating, originally the Cass and soon renamed the Princess May for the wife of the Duke of Cornwall and York. He also received approval for a new ship to be named the Princess Victoria. Built by Swann, Hunter & Company, Newcastle, England and powered by Hawthorne, Leslie and Company Limited 5,800 horsepower triple expansion engines fed by six boilers she was a speedy 20 knot 300 foot 1,943 ton steamer of great elegance and permitted to carry 1,000 passengers. Due to a pending strike in England, the wooden superstructure and passenger accommodations were completed at the British Columbia Marine Railways Company Limited in Esquimalt where the most of the CPR's repair work was done. She entered service between Victoria and Vancouver late on August 13, 1903 following a three hour cruise in perfect weather with two hundred and fifty guests during which time she raced along at 19 knots!

Note: Tonnage of a ship is not its weight, nor its carrying capacity; rather it is its size, a measurement of volume. One ton equals 100 cubic feet.

Princess Beatrice November 1903

Another new ship was underway in Esquimalt; the much smaller wooden hulled Princess Beatrice a single-screw 193 foot 1,290 ton ship having 40 rooms with 114 berths intended to replace the SS Islander lost August 15, 1901 when it hit an iceberg off Douglas Island while returning from Alaska with the tragic loss of 23 of its 110 passengers and 16 of her 62 crew. She had her sea trials in early November of 1903 and entered service not on the intended Alaska route but, between Victoria and Seattle on January 20, 1904 after the sinking on January 8th of the Puget Sound Navigation Company's new Clallam in rough weather while crossing the Strait of Juan de Fuca bound for Victoria with the loss of fifty-four persons mostly women and children in the sunken life boats. The Clallam was a jinxed ship, at her launch less than a year earlier, the champagne bottle missed her bow and did not break then, when the ensign was unfurled, it was upside down! The day before its sinking, a cargo of sheep had to be left behind when the bell-sheep refused to lead them onboard the ship.

Yet another new ship was quickly ordered for the Alaskan run, the Princess Royal, a larger wooden ship of 227 feet having 72 staterooms with 144 berths also from BC Marine Railways was fitted with large triple expansion engines designed for 15 knots. She made her maiden voyage on July 18, 1907 sailing to Alaska.

In May of 1903 Canadian Pacific Navigation Company was absorbed into the CPR.

In 1905 the CPR acquired the Esquimalt & Nanaimo Railway which served much of Vancouver Island since 1889, the CPR itself having nothing there. Along with the railway came a small marine fleet consisting of the Joan, a wooden-hulled twin-screw steamer of 831 tons which operated between Nanaimo and Vancouver, and the City of Nanaimo which operated along the east coast of VI. The tug Czar towed Transfer No. 1 a railway car barge that could carry twelve boxcars on the forty mile crossing between Ladysmith and Vancouver beginning December 2, 1900. The CPR soon ordered a new steel-hulled tug from BC Marine Railways ship yard for $75,000. 120 feet in length, she was powered by a single 600 hp engine and capable of 12 knots. Christened the Nanoose, she was ready for trials on July 11, 1908. Traffic grew from 3471 cars outbound and 2891 inbound during 1907 to 17,282 out and 7459 in during 1942. With car ferry operation which began in 1955 figures were 14,357 out and 13,019 in during 1956 changing to 11,504 out and 10,687 in for 1971.

Nootka was a 2,069 ton freighter that put into odd ports along the coast. CPR

Cargo, as freight is termed in marine language, though less glamorous was always an important factor in BC coastal shipping just as it has always been on the railway. All ships were equipped to handle cargo and packaged freight shipments however; freight only vessels were also part of the fleet. These were tramp steamers that worked their way along from port to port providing an essential service.

Nanoose at Ladysmith. BC Provincial archives

Tugboats Kyuquot, Nanoose and Qualicum handled five rail barges and two scows between Vancouver on the mainland and Ladysmith and Nanoose Bay on the island connecting the CPR with the Esquimalt & Nanaimo, the CPR subsidiary serving only Vancouver Island. Coal from the mines at Zeballos on the west coast of VI and forestry products including from the pulp and paper cities of Powell River and Ocean Falls were the main cargo. Prince Rupert, the fishing capital of BC and the fishing canneries at Butedale and Namu as well as Port McNeill and Port Hardy, were also served.

Tug Kyuquot and barge Transfer No. 4 leaving Vancouver.
Spanner May 1956 details of barge and facilities.
This last tug was sold in 1957 after which towing was contracted out to Island Tug & Barge Co. .

The first new freighter was added to the coastal service in late January 1908 built by Garston Drydock Shipbuilding Company, Garston, England. The Princess Ena was a 1,368 ton 10 knot ship capable of carrying the biggest size of lumber produced by the mills of BC and could accommodate 300 head of cattle.

Pacific Sound Navigation Company operated a fleet of ships in competition with the CPR on various routes including the popular Puget Sound service resulting in rate wars in 1907-08 that saw the regular $2.50 fare cut to $1.00 by PSN and later to 50 cents! The CPR fought back with rate cuts of its own that did not fully match those of PSN relying instead on its faster and more luxurious ships to win trade at times literally leaving them in their wake! They also joined up with Union Steamship Company, a well established business based in Vancouver that served coastal settlements all the way to Alaska providing through ticketing. Eventually, the rate war ended and things settled down however, PSN would continue in operation and years later would once again engage the CPR seriously, by then known as Black Ball Lines.

Grand Trunk Pacific Railway would also provide some competition for the CPR including after being taken over by Canadian National Railways. There were also other small ship companies operating in BC waters but, it would be the provincail government of British Columbia that would eventually take over from the CPR.

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

Coloured post card 1907 reverse
Old Time Trains digital archives

June 14, 1908 began the famed Triangle Route between Victoria-Seattle-Vancouver when the Princess Victoria carried 28,000 passengers during the season destined to become a very popular service for many decades. The following year three ships plied the waters of the Straits of Georgia and Puget Sound, the Princess Victoria, Princess Royal and the newest Princess, Princess Charlotte which began sailing on January 12, 1909.

Improvements went on with the disposal of PSN and E&N vessels (which went on to serve new owners under new names for many years) following acquisition of new and used ships and tug boats to serve as a lifeline to the many ports of mining, lumbering and fishing communities along BC's coasts. Canned salmon and barrels of whale oil filled the holds of ships until the mammals had been driven almost to extinction by whalers. The era of the paddle wheelers came to an end during this time as well.

Although many bore the Princess prefixes, others did not and almost all were of differing design and size. Although ships were acquired in response to a certain need on a specific route, they frequently were used on other routes especially at different times of the year as traffic ebbed and flowed with the seasons. Seven new and one "pre-owned" Princesses (Adelaide, Alice, Mary, Sophia, Maquinna, Irene, and Margaret along with Queen Alexandra renamed Princess Patricia) plus two used tugs were all acquired shortly before the Great War (WWI) began. Two of the ships, Princess Irene and Princess Margaret turbine powered and fast at 23 knots were both chartered by the British Admiralty before they entered service and fitted out as mine layers. Princess Irene was lost to an explosion in Sheerness Harbour, England on May 27, 1915 while arming 500 mines onboard for her first mine laying sortie killing all 225 officers and men aboard (except for three ashore) along with 80 Petty Officers inspecting the ship and 75 out of 76 dockyard workers. After the war Princess Margaret was purchased by the Admiralty for continued service thus never crossing the ocean to serve the BCCS.

Princess Maquinna docked at Bamfield on the west coast of Vancouver Island. BC Government

The Princesses Maquinna, Mary and Sophia were all designed to carry both passengers and cargo to the isolated coastal settlements. They operated the railway equivalent of a Mixed train. Princess Maquinna (named for the daughter of the famous Nootka Indian Chief Maquinna,) and Princess Mary served the less travelled routes while the Princess Sophia, the largest, was designed for the Vancouver to Prince Rupert and Vancouver to Alaska routes.

The Princess Patricia was acquired in 1911 having been built in 1902 by W. Denny & Bros, Dumbarton, Scotland as the Queen Alexandra and was the second steam turbine-powered passenger vessel in the world. Steam turbines were a great improvement providing fast, vibration free and economical operation. Her top speed of 21.6 knots made for a speedy crossing between Vancouver and Nanaimo where the "Pat" served for sixteen years from May 1912 to May 1928 making 7,324 round trips before going on to other service.

Little-known was the Island Princess a small wooden-hulled boat of just 116 feet formerly the Daily which was purchased in 1917 to serve the Gulf Islands from Vancouver and Victoria until it was sold again in 1930.

Conversion to oil from coal resulted in better steaming and timekeeping along with cost savings mainly due to reduced labour. A coal burning ship required up to 18 firemen and six to nine trimmers. Princess May was the first to be converted in March 1911 and Princess Alice was the first to be built (also, 1911) as an oil burner. Most others were converted as well.

From time to time there were marine incidents sometimes involving the loss of life mostly due to fog or bad weather, none compared to terrible tragedy of the Princess Sophia which grounded on Vanderbilt Reef in the Lynn Canal of Alaska. Setting out from Skagway, Alaska just before 11:00 pm on October 23, 1918 with 269 passengers and 74 crew members she soon ran into heavy snow squalls and near zero visibility leading to her running aground at 3:10 am. Continued bad weather prevented the life boats being used and although ships came to her aid none were able to assist in rescue. Rising tides did not dislodge the ship and eventually, after more than 38 hours aground she sank from sight with the loss of all life save for one dog! Even 50 horses were lost but later divers recovered about $100,000 in gold from the purser's safe along with some trunks of passengers.

Needing a ship to replace the Princess Sophia and with shipyards in England and Scotland backlogged by post war orders the CPR turned to a local shipbuilder, Wallace Shipbuilding and Drydock Company in North Vancouver to build the Princess Louise (named for the first Princess ship the side wheel paddle steamer Princess Louise of the CP Navigation Co.). She made her sea trials on November 30th. 1921; exceeding her designed 16 knot speed. The CPR returned to Great Britain for all its future needs except for one small boat the Motor Princess.

Motor Princess Not elegant but, very practical for the new service.

In answer to the growing demand for automobile travel the CPR decided to experiment with a new type of vessel, a small motor boat designed specifically for ferrying automobiles between the mainland and Vancouver Island. The Motor Princess was a wooden-hulled vessel 165 feet long powered by two McIntosh & Seymour Engine Company six-cylinder diesel engines designed for a speed of 14 knots and built by Yarrows Ltd. at their Esquimalt shipyards and was ready for service on April 7, 1923 in just over three months! This was the first diesel-powered vessel in the CPR fleet diesels having been chosen for their compact size for such a small vessel. She was designed to carry 45 automobiles on two decks and included comfortable accommodations for passengers including a dining room and two staterooms. It ran between Sidney, 18 miles north of Victoria on VI and Bellingham, Washington for three years after which due to stiff competition from Puget Sound Navigation Company it was reassigned to Nanaimo-Vancouver to aid the service provided by the Princess Patricia which had little provision for automobiles having been built too early. A new ship, the Princess Elaine with better auto capacity of 60 cars replaced the Pat and the little Motor Princess was reassigned to a new route between Sidney and Steveston on Lulu Island bridged to the mainland providing a fast convenient ferry service.

A new terminal building was constructed in 1923 next to the Parliament Buildings in Victoria. An imposing looking four-storey structure with concrete columns costing $200,000 it replaced an old wooden structure.

Empress of Asia docked (left) at Pier B-C and Princess Joan at Pier D. 1934
Leonard Frank/Vancouver Public Library

The CPR moved in 1925 from Colman Dock in Seattle to the more modern Bell Street Terminal to handle the two new larger Princesses. Following the loss of Pier D to fire on July 27, 1938 the Princesses were moved to the newer Pier B-C built for the new Empresses on the Pacific Ocean.

The ill-fated Princess Kathleen cruising to Alaska. CPR

Two new ships were ordered after the War and finally entered service for the summer of 1925 on the busy Triangle Route. The Princess Kathleen and Princess Marguerite were 5,878 tons 368 feet long licensed to carry 1,500 passengers with 290 berths in 136 staterooms and room for 30 automobiles, capable of running at 22 knots. Princess Marguerite was named after the daughter of Sir Thomas G. Shaughnessy, second President of the CPR. They replaced the Princess Victoria and Princess Charlotte, with the latter going to the growing Alaska cruise service.

More new ships were soon added to the fleet with the Princess Elaine a triple screw steam turbine ship of 2,027 tons, entering service in May of 1928 on the Vancouver-Nanaimo run replacing the older Princess Patricia. Specially designed for this service it accommodated 60 vehicles and operated at nearly 20 knots which meant she could make a crossing in a scheduled 2 hours and 15 minutes.

Princess Norah docked at Bamfield at the entrance to Barkley Sound on the west coast of VI. CPR

Another "mixed" service ship was the Princess Norah, 2,731 gross tons and 250 feet long with accommodations for 700 day passengers and 61 staterooms with 179 berths. Built in Scotland she arrived in Canada in early 1929. Equipped with a bow rudder to maneuver in confined waters she served the west coast of the Island in the high traffic summer season and Prince Rupert or Alaska during winter months. This allowed scrapping of the 25 year old wooden hulled Princess Beatrice.

Captain James W. Troup finally retired in August of 1928, eight years beyond the normal retirement age if 65, a testament to his stature within the CPR. He died some three years and three months later at age 76.

A major rebuild of the steel-hulled Princess Victoria was carried out in 1929 at Yarrows Ltd. Esquimalt shipyard where her hull was widened by 18 feet, and staterooms reduced to 48 with 92 berths (from 76/152), all to allow for accommodation of 60 automobiles. This was done for the increasingly popular Victoria-Seattle summer service.

Princess Joan departing from Vancouver. Leonard Frank/Vancouver Public Library

Two additional ships were ordered prior to the Black Friday October 29, 1929 stock market collapse on Wall Street which was the precursor to the Great Depression. Princess Elizabeth (Queen Elizabeth, wife of King George VI) and Princess Joan were built (at a cost of half a million dollars each) by Fairfield Shipbuilding and Engineering Company, Govan, Scotland. 5,251 tons with accommodations for 405 first class and 26 second class passengers on the night runs between Vancouver and Victoria they were built for (1000 day passengers) and 70 automobiles. They were powered by quadruple expansion engines fed by four oil-fired Scotch boilers at 250 pounds per square inch pressure with a normal speed of 16.5 knots. Both entered service in May of 1930.

A number of older ships were retired in the 1930's including the Princesses Ena, Patricia and Royal due primarily to the new ships recently received rather than greatly declining traffic with all routes being maintained since the costal communities were dependant upon the service of the CPR ships. In the 12 month period 1937-38 the Princesses Kathleen and Marguerite each steamed some 90,000 nautical miles. (They were soon both taken over by the Royal Navy on September 1, 1941 for use as troop transports in the Mediterranean and one never returned. The Princess Marguerite was lost to enemy action August 17, 1942 but, war time secrecy kept this a secret for two and a half years. Imagine that happening today!) In fact, with the aging fleet of 15 ships it was intended to order two more new ships in 1938 near the end of the Depression however, another war intervened.

Changing conditions brought about the end of the costly night service on the Triangle Route during the war years. It returned only in the summer months after the war.

The last complete pre-war year, 1938, the fleet steamed 676,984 miles, carried 878,290 passengers, transported 63,403 automobiles and handled 146,397 tons of cargo. Additionally, the transfer barges carried 256,696 tons.

The fleet by the end of World War II included a dozen Princess steamships from the 5,875-ton Princess Kathleen down to the 1,243-ton Motor Princess. Freighters, tugs and barges filled out the fleet.

Popular with tourists, the Princess ships were famous in their own right especially the Princess Marguerite (II) which became the last coastal liner operating from 1949 until 1985. Princess Kathleen in 22 years between 1925 and 1946 steamed 1,750,000 nautical miles without engine overhauls or failure. Returned by the navy to the CPR she was refitted, overhauled and back in service along with the Princess Charlotte on the Triangle Route beginning June 22, 1947 just in time for the busy summer season.

Unfortunately, what war could not accomplish, a little poor weather and poorer seamanship by the chief officer did when the Princess Kathleen was sunk on the last summer Alaska cruise of September 7, 1952. Off course, she ran aground on a reef at Lena Point, Alaska and 10 1/2 hours later sank in 130 feet of water, luckily with all 307 passengers plus crew safely ashore. Her position and age of 27 years made salvage too costly and she was left there. 300 of the passengers and crew sued the CPR for $1,119,000. Later, in May of 1954 the claims were settled with approval of a US District Judge for $190,000. Nowadays, each person would sue for $1 million! And, likely get it in the USA.

She was replaced on the Alaska cruise service by the Princess Louise which was removed from the regular Alaska service leaving only the Princess Norah serving both Alaska and the North Coast. Declining traffic as a result of improved roads, air and barge services along with declining population in isolated communities allowed this reduction of service.

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. re-named 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. Eventually, it was scrapped.

Changes were happening and the aging fleet no longer suited much of the needs of the public which was becomingly increasingly automobile oriented. Finally, after pressure from business interests to have the ferry service modernized, the CPR ordered two new ships for the Tri-City route as the altered Triangle Route was named. All service was now Vancouver-Victoria-Seattle. There was no longer any Vancouver-Seattle direct service.

Princess Patricia in CP Rail Multimark crusing in Tracy Arm, Alaska. CPR

Princess Marguerite and Princess Patricia built again by Fairfield in Scotland they were both 5,911 ton ships carrying 90 passengers in 49 cabins and 2,000 day passengers along with 50-60 automobiles. Speed was 23.5 knots by turbo-electric propulsion.

The Princess Patricia was christened by Lady Patricia "Patsy" Ramsay, the former Princess Patricia of Connaught, granddaughter of Queen Victoria. Princess Patricia's Canadian Light Infantry was named after her in February 1918. She was named Colonel-in-Chief and was actively involved until her death in January 1974. The famed Princess Pat's is one of the most decorated and remains one of Canada's most respected regiments.

Princess Marguerite was in service at the end of April 1949,;she was soon followed by her sister ship. This permitted the retirement of the Princess Alice and Princess Charlotte along with the reassignment of many other ships and route changes. The Princess Adelaide had already been withdrawn in 1938.

Princesses Alice, Adelaide and Charlotte were all sold in 1949 to a Greek shipping line where they served for another 15 years! They had all steamed for over 55 years! This was ample testament to their builders and the CPR for their longevity. The freighter Nootka was sold in 1950 to Peru. The Princess Mary was laid up in 1951 and sold in 1952 for use as a barge. The Princess Victoria "Old Vic" was also sold in 1952 for use as a barge after having been laid up since August 1950. Both were soon lost. Princess of Maquinna was sold in November 1952 also for barge use. This one fared a lot better as the Taku carrying ore concentrates for Consolidated Mining and Smelting Company from Tulsequah, north to Juneau, Alaska for nearly a decade.

The Motor Princess was relegated to freight service in 1952 between Victoria and Vancouver following her withdrawal from passenger auto ferry service in 1950 after changed regulations for wooden ships due to the infamous Noronic fire in Toronto that resulted in great loss of life. Sold in 1955 and rebuilt with steel for the Gulf Islands Ferry Company as the Pender Queen she carried on for many years even after the Ferry Company was sold in 1961 to BC Ferries. Eventually, on June 23, 2003 as the Pender Lady moored in Naden Harbour on the north coast of the Queen Charlotte Islands and used as a fishing lodge she unceremoniously sank. After 80 years she was finally scrapped.

Princess of Alberni was a small coastal freighter acquired secondhand in April 1953 from Mexico as the M.V. Pomare for Gulf Island and West Coast service. A wooden vessel of 140 feet and diesel powered she was capable of 12 knots but was a big comedown from the Princess Maquinna. She carried on for another 5 years until the service was ended in the summer of 1958 when it and the Queen of the North were sold to Northland Navigation Ltd., Vancouver which operated a tug and barge service along the west coast ports to the north.

Princess of Nanaimo Vancouver August 1951 Nicholas Morant/CPR

Princess of Nanaimo was another new ship, one designed to replace the aging Princess Elaine on the Nanaimo-Vancouver service a growing route that saw automobile handling double over the ten years 1939-49. Another order given to Fairfield she was 6,787 tons 358 feet long and 9000 hp steam turbine driven at 18.5 knots with two decks for 130-150 autos that could be loaded in only 20 minutes thanks to doors forward and aft for side loading from ramps dockside. 1500 day passengers were allowed onboard. She cost $4,500,000; more than double the cost of a competitor's ship. The American built and owned M.V. Chinook a diesel-powered ferry specially designed to permit fast handling of automobiles built two years earlier at a cost of only $2,000,000 could handle 100 autos and 1,000 day passengers (along with staterooms for over 200 and a large dining room) for Black Ball Line (Puget Sound Navigation Company). This represented a competitive advantage over the CPR when placed in service June 1947 on the Seattle, Port Angeles, Victoria route. Black Ball provided stiff competition for the CPR with 10 trips daily using only two vessels carrying about 1,000 automobiles a day. A number of their ships were transferred to Black Ball Lines Canada Ltd. established in 1951 and thus Canadian registry. These became available when the state of Washington took over ferry services in Puget Sound with Washington State Ferries being a division of their State Toll Bridge Authority. BC would do likewise a few years later.

Modern roll-on, roll-off ferry Princess of Vancouver 5,500 tons 420 feet long.

The last BCCS passenger Princess was the Princess of Vancouver a large diesel-powered ship built by A. Stephen & Sons Ltd., Glasgow, Scotland. Designed for the Vancouver-Nanaimo service which it entered in the summer of 1955 it provided three round trips a day, 362 days a year. In addition to carrying 115 automobiles and highway tractor trailer trucks or 28 boxcars and did so on night and off-season runs when there were less autos. This last feature made her unique to all exisitng vessels. There were accommodations for 770 passengers.

Trouble came May 17, 1958 when a strike by the Seamen's International Union hit the CPR stopping all ships. Two months later Black Ball was also struck by two different marine unions. BC quickly announced it would create its own government-owned ferry service. The provincial government ordered Black Ball's workers back to work and a few days later they complied. The CPR being a federal property could not be so ordered by BC. Struggling against declining profitability and stiff competition the CPR wanted out, it had better things to do with its money; like dieselize its entire railway. They promptly announced the sale of three ships, the Yukon Princess already out of service along with its two remaining freighters Princess of Alberni and Princess Norah thus ending service to Vancouver Island coastal communities and the north coast. In February 1959 night boat service between Victoria and Vancouver by the Princess Joan and Princess Elizabeth was ended along with the summer Victoria-Port Angeles run they also made. Both were sold in November 1960 to Greek shipping concerns.

British Columbia Ferries was soon up and running in 1960 with two ferries M.V. Sidney and M.V. Tsawwassen operating eight round trips a day between Tsawwassen, about 29 miles south of Vancouver, and Sidney on VI on a one hour and forty run. Two larger ferries were added in the spring of 1962, the City of Victoria and City of Vancouver. Two more were coming to provide hourly service between Horseshoe Bay and Departure Bay. These were the Queen of Esquimalt and Queen of Saanich. Previous ships were renamed as Queens. Expansion would continue and by 1975 BC had a fleet of 25 vessels.

Late in 1961 the BC government announced the purchase of Black Ball Lines-Canada Ltd. fleet for $6,700,000.

The Princess Patricia and Princess Marguerite continued providing day service between Victoria and Vancouver throughout the summer of 1960 and summer-only Victoria-Seattle. In 1961, the Princess of Nanaimo, Princess Patricia and Princess of Vancouver operated on the Vancouver-Nanaimo service. Princess Marguerite was on the summer-only Victoria-Seattle run while Princess Louise cruised to Alaska. Princess Elaine was laid up in Victoria. October 1, 1962 only the Princess of Vancouver would remain on the Vancouver-Nanaimo service. The Princess Patricia was rebuilt to replace Princess Louise on the Alaska cruise service. The Princess of Nanaimo was transferred in February 1963 to the east coast of Canada as the Princess of Acadia to replace the Princess Helene on the Bay of Fundy service.

Princess Elaine was sold to be a restaurant in Washington State but this failed and it was scrapped. Better luck awaited the Princess Louise being sold in 1964 to Shoreline Holdings in Vancouver and resold in 1966 to Princess Louise Corp. and towed to Long Beach, California where it became a restaurant. It was moored at Harbor Marine on Terminal Island where it operated as a restaurant for some years before eventually sinking when it was moved for a refit.

The Princess Marguerite "Maggie" made her last trip to Victoria September 15, 1974. Public interest in the ship resulted in it and 8.7 acres of CPR land at Victoria harbour being sold for $2.5 million in April 1975 to the province's British Columbia Steamship (1975) Ltd. created for that purpose and she continued to operate. Siteing age and condition the province tried to shut it down at the end of 1979 but, once again public interest, on both sides of the border pressured to government into refitting her including with new engines for $4.7 million. She returned to service again on May 8, 1981. A second ship, the Vancouver Island Princess was added to the run for 1987 and both got a casino! During the season they carried 275,000 passengers and 25,000 automobiles obviously good for tourism. Never-the-less, the government wanted out and she was sold for $6 million in July 1988 to Stena Lines, Sweden who operated it for one season between Seattle and Victoria under their BC Stena Line Company until September 9, 1989 when it ended due to losses. Efforts to sell the ship for continued local use failed and the company soon went out of business claiming losses of $10 million. It was sold to Sea Containers Ltd. and sent to Singapore for use as a floating casino. She was finally scrapped in 1997.

This picture of the Princess Marguerite (under provincial ownership) was taken looking south from below the Custom House when the ship was docked in front of the Victoria Clipper terminal. In the foreground is a float plane. Both modes of transportation would take you to Seattle WA but the ship was more fun. Jim Booth


One of the strangest vessels in the BCCS fleet was the MV Trailer Princess a converted US Navy LST from the Japan theatre of World War II. At 308 feet and powered by two GM 12cyl. diesels it began operating in 1966 between Vancouver and Swartz Bay on VI.

The success of the Trailer Princess led to the building of a new ferry, the Carrier Princess built by Burrard Dry Dock Company in North Vancouver. It was a 365-foot 4,353 ton vessel designed to carry 30 railway freights cars, 50 truck trailers or 150 automobiles. Strangely enough, it also included passenger accommodations for 260! This latter service quickly ended the following year. Four General Motors diesels generated 11,500bhp powering her at speed of 18 knots which allowed it to make three roundtrips daily starting in June 1973.

Princess of Vancouver August 1972 Phil Mason
Details including cut-away drawing of ship. Ross McLeod

Princess Patricia at Pier A1 with Carrier Princess at left rear at Pier A3 in Vancouver.

. N-yard downtown Vancouver. Three diesel units on shop track. White building with awning is the yard office. Burrard Street overpass and ferry wharves in background. Stanley Park in distant background.

Princess ships in Vancouver Harbour 1980's. Leo Bruce Hempell


British Columbia Coast Steamship became Coastal Marine Operations. In October 1995 it was relocated from Vancouver Harbour, near Canada Place to Delta on the shore of the Fraser River ending nearly a century of presence. Canada Place was built where Pier B-C once stood and where Canadian Pacific ships sailed to and from for many years.

It all finally all came to and end on November 17, 1998 when Canadian Pacific's Coastal Marine Operations was sold to Seaspan Coastal Intermodal Company, part of Washington Marine Group.

Over nearly a century of service the BCCS fleet consisted of many vessels including 14 taken over from CPN, 31 passenger ships and 11 freighters, tugs and barges, added by the CPR. A great part of Canadian history.

References: The Pacific Princesses, by Robert D. Turner. The definitive work on the CPR's BC coastal service. Canadian Pacific The Story of the Famous Shipping Line, by George Musk.

LINK Port-N-Starboard includes BCCS history and colour photographs.


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