Namesakes of the Saginaw Region - Part 5
by Skip Gillham Last article in the series by the Great Lakes author.
During the early years of World War One, shipyards around the Great Lakes produced a number of cargo ships for deep-sea service. When the United States entered the conflict in 1917, close to 100 ocean-type ships were at various stages of construction at yards around the Great Lakes. These were requisitioned by the United States Shipping Board in May of that year and they sailed under American registry when they were completed.
At first many of these ships were given "war" names (e.g. WAR CLOUD). Later, these were changed to "lake" names (e.g. LAKE LINDEN). Others had names beginning with "C."
Once the U.S. was engaged in war, the Shipping Board awarded contracts to build 346 vessels for deep-sea duty.* Of these, the final fifteen were cancelled when the war ended.
Several plans were used for building vessels, but the design was always much the same. Basically, they were 253.5 feet long by 43.5 feet at the beam so that they could pass through the locks of the Third Welland and old St. Lawrence canals.
Most were designed with pilothouse amidships, but 24 of the later carriers had an engine aft design. These measured 261x43.5x27.5 and had a deadweight capacity of 4,000 tons.
After the war ended, the "lakers" were placed on reserve status and gradually sold to private concerns. In time these freshwater-built hulls saw service all over the world under a number of foreign flags. Some returned to the Great Lakes, but the bulk of these were broken up by Ford in the late 1920's.
One of the lakers to come back to the inland seas later worked for four years as the SAGINAW.
SAGINAW had been constructed by the Manitowoc Shipbuilding Company at Manitowoc, Wisconsin, in 1919. She was christened COPERAS and had the more traditional midship pilothouse. The vessel was equipped with a triple expansion engine of 20-33-54x40 and left the Great Lakes on completion in April, 1919, after hostilities had ended.
Following a stint in the reserve fleet, this freighter was sold and returned to freshwater in 1926 and carried bagged cement as AETNA.
The name SAGINAW was applied in 1937 following acquisition by the Saginaw Dock and Terminal Co. They used the vessel to carry autoparts for General Motors until World War Two required a return to salt water trading.
The ship served the U.S. Navy as U.S.S. MARTINICUS from 1941 to 1946. She was sold and renamed GEMINI about 1946 and apparently became RAMSDAL in 1948.
Under the latter name the ship sailed for the 0/Y Fenno Shipping Co., Ltd., and was registered in Abo, Finland. At this time gross tonnage was noted as 2,130 while the net was 1,060. She had a capacity of 3,130 tons deadweight.
She was sold again in 1965 and took the final name of TRANSDAL for Tramppilaiva 0/Y of Finland, but her working days were nearing an end.
Following a sale to Finnish ship-breakers, the 48-year-old hull arrived at Helsinki on August 26, 1967, to be broken up for scrap.
Also in 1967 the last of this class of ships to operate on the Great Lakes, the historic old tanker MAKAWELI, departed Montreal for a scrapyard in LaSpezia, Italy.
SAGINAW only spent four years as a local namesake, but had a long and interesting career on inland and deep-sea shipping routes.
(Note: The author wishes to thank Barry Anderson for research assistance.)