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Detroit River                         Paul C. LaMarre Jr., John Belliveau collection

Great Lakes Fleet Page Vessel Feature -- J.B. Ford

by George Wharton

This classic steamer was built in 1904 by the American Ship Building Co., Lorain, OH and was launched as the bulk freight steamer Edwin F. Holmes for the Commonwealth Steamship Fleet (one of the Hawgood fleets). She was powered by a triple expansion compound steam engine with 2 Scotch boilers each producing 170 pounds per square inch of pressure. The Holmes had 12 hatches feeding into 4 cargo compartments. She was named in honor of Edwin Francis Holmes who was an investor in the Hawgood & Avery Transit Co. and a director of the Hawgood & Avery Fleet in 1904. The Edwin F. Holmes sailed in the Commonwealth Steamship Fleet until 1911 when she was transferred to the Acme Transit Fleet (another of the Hawgood fleets).

With the demise of the Hawgood fleets in 1915, the Holmes was sold to the Pittsburgh Steamship Co. in 1916 when she was renamed E.C. Collins. The E.C. Collins remained with this fleet (subsequently the US Steel fleet) until 1959 when she was sold to the Huron Portland Cement Co. who had her converted to a self-unloading finished cement carrier and renamed J.B. Ford.

Now a member of the Inland Lakes Management, Inc. fleet of Alpena, MI; the J.B. Ford last operated Nov.15, 1985 with her 5-year Coast Guard survey expiring Nov. 1989. She served as a finished cement stationary storage and transfer vessel in Lake Calumet, South Chicago, IL.until a new cement silo made her capacity excess. In June 2001 the vessel was towed to the Lafarge dock at Superior, Wi.

Even though her sailing days are done; the J.B. Ford is still providing a valuable service to her owners and is the only remaining vessel of any of the Hawgood fleets still in existence on the Great Lakes. Considering her age, this is truly an amazing feat.

Historical Perspectives Gallery

Overall dimensions
Length 440'00"
Beam 50'00"
Depth 28'00"
Capacity (tons) 8,000

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