Friday, March 9, 2018

CP Incan Superior Ferry between Superior and Thunder Bay


Carl Venzke posted
The Incan Superior, loaded with rail cars, navigates the Duluth Ship Canal as it leaves Duluth for Thunder Bay. (Image: Courtesy of Historical Collections.)
From 1974 to 1992, Incan Superior transported freight cars between Superior, WI, and Thunder Bay, ON, for the Canadian Pacific. "With twin screw propellers powered by twin General Motors diesel engines of 2,150 horsepower each, she was capable of reaching speeds of 30 knots, making her the fastest freight carrying ship on the Great Lakes....The whole reason for Incan Superior‘s existence was to allow the Canadian Pacific Railway (CP) to create a revenue stream from the blossoming paper industry. Large quantities of newsprint paper were needed in the U.S. Although Thunder Bay’s Great Lakes Paper Company was producing paper and pulp needed south of the Canadian border, CP had no direct rail route into Duluth or Superior to ship those products to the U.S. So instead of building a new railroad line CP created a direct rail-water link using a car ferry system between Thunder Bay and Superior." The Lake Superior Terminal & Transfer Railway in Superior removed the loaded cars and replaced them with empties in about four hours. The ferry would leave Thunder Bay around 8pm and arrive close to noon in Superior the following day.

The end came because Canadian National Railway built a land-based railroad route which was a less-expensive method of transport. And a "new U.S. federal tax was to go into affect, applied to each rail car carried over the water between the two countries by vessels such as the Incan Superior. The tax rendered the vessel unprofitable to operate, and the entire program was quickly abandoned."

The ship had a second life providing rail and car ferry service between Vancouver and Nanaimo on Vancouver Island.


So the US didn't get any tax revenue, and jobs were lost. That was a loose-loose.

The 2005 SPV Map shows the ferry used the southern entry channel and docked here. But the photo above shows it using the northern entry channel. ZenithCity mentioned that the maiden voyage did use the southern entrance.

I could find no evidence of the slip, apron, or rails where the SPV Map showed the CP route terminating. If it ran until 1992, I would expect to see something since this land is undeveloped.
Looking along the river bank, this location looks more promising. Looking at a 1991 aerial shows that those two piers held the sides of the apron and that the apron was hinged at the concrete abutment. If you zoom out, you can see the land scar of the tracks that fed this apron.

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