It’s Wayback Wednesday, sponsored by Jamie Lockwood, broker/owner of Sutton Group Muskoka Realty!
In this ca.1930 photo, the steamers Iroquois and Mohawk Belle await passengers from the Portage Railway.
Both boats plied the waters of Lake of Bays, ferrying passengers to and from the South Portage dock, where they met the Portage train.
Although the steamer Algonquin spent most of its life in Huntsville’s lakes, it was originally launched in Lake of Bays in 1905. A year later, C.O. Shaw, then-owner of the Huntsville and Lake of Bays Navigation Company, decided the Algonquin should serve the Huntsville area instead. In the spring of 1906, a system of rollers and pulleys winched the Joe and the Florence Main across the Portage road, with the Algonquin heading in the opposite direction. It was an engineering feat, but not without mishap. The Algonquin’s keel snapped in the move, but reinforcing timbers got the ship back into the water later that year.
The steel frame of the Iroquois arrived in March 1907 by rail, and was carried by sleigh to South Portage where it was fitted out by local carpenters. More than 500 spectators attended its launch on July 22, 1907.
Shortly after that launch, Shaw put crews to work refitting the Florence Main. He extended the hull by three feet and added a second deck, and later began calling the ship the Mohawk Belle. In 1913, the boat was lengthened again and completely rebuilt with a steel hull.
The Mohawk Belle was sold to the owners of Bigwin Inn in 1945-46. In the winter of 1949, the boat filled with water at drydock at the rear of Bigwin Island and sank. It remained there until 1999 when its remnants were removed.
In December 1949, the Iroquois, which by that time had been retired, sank at the South Portage dock where its hull remains to this day.
The tiny Portage Railway, which opened to passenger service in 1905 to carry people from Peninsula Lake to Lake of Bays, briefly continued running as a tourist attraction after the last of the steamers stopped running in 1958, but it too would be gone by the end of 1959. The rolling stock went to an amusement park in St. Thomas, but later returned to Huntsville and now resides at Muskoka Heritage Place as the popular Portage Flyer.
Photo: CN Images of Canada Collection; details courtesy of Huntsville: With Spirit and Resolve
See more Wayback Wednesday photos here.
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