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THE MUSEUM SHIP NORGOMA

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The Norgoma's History

 

THE EARLY SETTLERS AT SAULT STE. MARIE AND ALONG THE NORTH SHORE OF LAKE HURON WERE DEPENDENT ON THE REGULAR VISITS OF THE NORGOMA AND HER PREDECESSORS. PADDLE, SAIL, STEAM AND DIESEL POWER ALL SERVED IN THEIR DAY.

 

The MS Norgoma, docked in downtown Sault Ste. Marie, Ontario, is dedicated to preserving the area's rich marine heritage. 

 

The Norgoma Arriving in Owen Sound on Launch Day

The Norgoma Arriving at Owen Sound May 1, 1950

When the Norgoma first sailed into her home port of Owen Sound on May 1, 1950, flags were flying and hundreds lined the docks to greet the new package freighter. The City's Mayor, Eddie Sargent, City officials and the Owen Sound Band were on hand.

Captain Morrison

 

In command of the Norgoma was Captain Robert Morrison who had been master of the Manitoulin since 1938. Morrison had his start on the Great Lakes in 1919 as wheelsman on the Manitou. He would remain with the Norgoma until his retirement in 1972. A complete crew list for the Norgoma's maiden voyage reveals that it carried a working team of 26. Nearly all of the crew listed a Grey or Bruce County address with representation from Owen Sound and Wiarton leading the way.

Her name "Norgoma" was taken from the prefix “Nor” used by the Owen Sound Transportation Company for ships of her fleet. The prefix was coupled with “Goma”, which refers to the Algoma District of Ontario.

 

Prior to 1963 there was not a completed highway system that connected eastern Ontario to western Ontario. From 1950 to 1963, the vessel was the primary means of transportation between Owen Sound and Sault Ste Marie and made a 5 day round trip every week. The Norgoma was the last of her kind, the sole survivor of hundreds of package freighters who, over a century, had served the needs of a far-flung population.

 

THE NORGOMA PLAYED MANY ROLES  DURING HER LIFETIME.

THESE INCLUDE:

  • a freighter carrying cargo from Owen Sound to Sault Ste. Marie, making many stops along the way
  • a cruise ship
  • a ferry between South BayMouth on Manitoulin Ave. and Tobermory on the Bruce Peninsula
  • Now a museum ship in Sault Ste. Marie, Ontario

The water route from Owen Sound to the Sault became known locally as the Turkey Trail.

WORKING THE TURKEY TRAIL DELIVERING FREIGHT AND PASSENGERS

A map of the Turkey Trail

Look closely to see the Turkey Trail Route

The Norgoma followed in a long line of passenger and freight vessels that were the “lifeline” of the North Channel communities along the “Turkey Trail”. This was the name given to the east-west water route from Georgian Bay along the North Channel, up the St. Mary’s River to Lake Superior. Some say this is due to the erratic route the ship followed to the various ports of call. Other say it was associated with the ship because of the turkeys it carried from the Manitoulin Island.

The ship began her life carrying freight and passengers along the Turkey Trail. The Norgoma ran the Turkey Trail route from 1950 to 1963.

 

The Norgoma docked in Little Current Manitoulin Island 

Delivery of passengers and freight at Little Current Manitoulin Island

 

STOPS ALONG THE TURKEY TRAIL

The Route Started at Owen Sound ending in Sault Ste. Marie 

​Visits are made to many communities on Manitoulin Island and the North Shore of Georgian Bay.

  • Killarney
  • Manitowaning
  • Little Current
  • Kagawong
  • Gore Bay
  • Meldrum Bay
  • Cockburn Island
  • Thessalon
  • St. Joseph Island Hilton Beach, Richards Landing
  • Sault Ste. Marie
  • Whitefish Bay
  • Back to Sault Ste. Marie 
WORKING AS A PASSENGER SHIP

Passengers on the sundeck

Passengers enjoying the Sundeck

For the next thirteen years, thousands of passengers would sail on the Norgoma, following the coastal route known as the Turkey Trail west to Sault Ste. Marie.

The Norgoma not only served the needs of an isolated region of the Upper Great Lakes, she offered an unparalleled opportunity to view some of the most striking scenery to be found in Canada.

 Sundown

SOME INTERESTING FACTS ABOUT THE SHIP

 

  • The ship is 185 feet long, 36 feet wide on the Main deck and draws 12 feet. 
    • The Norgoma contained sleeping accommodations for 100 people, a dining room that sat 50 people and a galley that could produce 144 meals three times a day.
      • Her cabins, lounges, tuck shop, washrooms and showers all reflect the style of a bygone era.
      • She was powered by a triple expansion steam engine that also powered her car elevator, heated the cabins and the food.
      • The ship’s superstructure, the main deck and Promenade Decks are made of steel but the Boat and Sundecks are made of 2 x 4 rough-cut tongue and groove wood.
      • The Norgoma was the last of a long line of passenger and freight vessels that were the lifeline of the North Channel communities located on the Turkey Trail.​ In 1963 after the Trans Canada Highway was completed, the Norgoma was operated as a car ferry between Tobermory and South Baymouth, until replaced by the Chi-Cheemaun in 1974.
      • In 1963 the steam engine was replaced with an 800 horsepower diesel, which gave a service speed of 13.5 knots.

THE CREW

Stewardess

The Crew included stewardess and Stewards

 

The number of crew varied but at peak was around 40. Originally accommodation for most of the crew was on he Main Deck.

There were three cabins in the aft section for 3 Firemen and 3 Oilers two cabins Midship for the Chief and 2nd Engineers.

Four cabins in the forward section for 6 waiters, 6 porters, 9 deck hands plus spares.

 

Captain

Captains cabin viewing the work area

Othe Bridge deck there were cabins for the Captain, 1st Mate, 3 wheelhouse men, the 2nd Mate and the bosun.

Six other crew cabins were on the B (Promenade) deck. These were for the Purser, the Steward, the 3rd Mate, two stewardesses and 4 cooks.

Crew Dining Room

Crew's dining Area

The crew had a small mess (dining area) located behind the galley. The aft section of this deck was also restricted for crew only and allowed them access to all decks.

When the ship was refitted as a car ferry, all the cabins on the main deck, between the fore and aft winches, were removed and the crew members were provided cabins in the renovated aft section of the Boat deck.

See deck plans below.

 

WORKING AS A CAR FERRY

The last run of the S.S. Norgoma as a steamship on the Turkey Trail from Owen Sound to the Soo took place on September 12, 1963.  The CPR railroad, new highways and bridges, bus service to the north shore and the rise of the trucking industry had eliminated the need for the steamers services.

Car boarding the Norgoma Ferry

Norgoma working as a Car Ferry

Cars and drivers waiting to board the ferry Norgoma

When purchased by Ontario Northland the Norgoma was renovated to operate as a car ferry between Tobermory and South Baymouth on Manitoulin Island. Her steam engine and boiler were replaced with an 800 horsepower diesel engine, which gave her a service speed of 13.5 knots. One of the stairwells and crew cabins on the main deck were removed to allow her to carry twenty-five cars on the main deck and a dozen on the lower deck. Along with her sister ship, the Norisle, the M.S. Norgoma (motor ship) ran twice daily on the ferry run from Tobermory to South Bay Mouth from 1964 to 1974. When they could no longer keep up with the traffic, they were retired to make way for the Chi-Chee-maun, with a capacity of 140 vehicles.

THE NEED FOR THE NORGOMA DECLINES

After World War II, shipping went into decline on the Upper Great Lakes.

The CPR railroad, improved roads, a car bridge to Manitoulin Island, bus service to the north shore and the rise of the trucking industry eliminated the need for steamer service.

The fishing industry also slowed down in the mid-1900's reducing one important type of return cargo.

While commercial shipping declined, cruise ships traveled along the Turkey Trail until 1967, when the Norgoma quit running.

 

 

It was relocated to Sault Ste. Marie in 1975 and was converted into a floating museum in 1977.

DECK DETAILS

The Cargo click to view

 

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The Norgoma with flags heading to Owen Sound

The Norgoma with flags flying on launch day.