People can have short memories. So it normally comes as a surprise to many to learn how long Abitibi-Price moved pulpwood on the Exploits River to the Grand Falls mill. It is true that the practice became less common place in later years, compared to the heyday when just about every stream in this part of the country was dammed. After the 1960’s driving smaller streams became less prevalent, but the Exploits River and parts of its watershed served as a highway for pulpwood until about 1992.
Despite an extensive road building program and the proliferation of trucking, around 100,000 cords of wood still came to the Grand Falls mill by water well into the 1980’s. The main reason for this persistence was that dumping and floating the wood was just so cheap. A floating log burns no fuel!
Since I wrote the first part on this matter I have learned more and found more pictures. Then the a while back when I was compiling sources for a section on further reading I hit a jackpot.
I had been aware of two pieces done by Mr. Andy Barker on logging for man many years. One was an exhaustive compilation of interviews that he had done at the behest of Glen Stroud with the Mary March Museum back around 1979 and the other was his Master’s of Education thesis which basically outlines a social studies unit on logging in Central Newfoundland. I knew that the latter included slides. The last time I attempted to view those slides was probably 15 or 16 years ago at the MUN library, I think because of limited hours and technical issues I did not look at them then. Then the other day I discovered that they had been digitized. You may think I am nuts for being excited about photos of a logging operation in 1980, but I am. I haven’t seen many and they depict an era that has been rarely studied.
A few weeks later, somebody from Millertown sent me a picture of an old tug that was still up in the woods. It is not much more than a hull but it has the distinctive shape of a steel winch boat. It shouldn’t be a surprise that there are still a few boats up in the woods. It was reported that in 1959 there were 16 motorboats in use in conjunction with logging operations in Badger Division alone “on the river, its tributaries and lakes”Daily News 1959.
In the weeks previous I had also come upon a few other photos of the tugs that worked on Red Indian Lake in the post 1960 period, which has led to this reexamination of the use of boats and the movement of pulpwood by water.
I have also gained some valuable insight on some of the wooden boats that were in use in towing operations. I have mentioned the Sir Vincent and the Henry S. on South Twin Lakes. They were built in 1946-47 under the supervision of Andrew Manuel and launched for operations in the Spring of 1947. I had a chance to speak with Mr. Otto Verge, who worked at the South Twin Depot back when these boats were in operation. According to Mr. Verge, these boats were equipped with the the same engines that would be in a D-8 tractor, they were about 42 feet long and that they started to rot out within only a few years. Mr. Verge recounted a story of how the “grumps” were so rotted after only about 3-4 years that they were torn off one day when he was tasked with hauling a boom into the water. Both of these tugs were hauled up after about ten years of service. After the depot at South Twin Lake closed, around 1956-7, the tugs were hauled up and the large engines were cut out of them for future use. Reportedly the engines were shipped to Millertown where the were stored under the old shed that was used as a rink, and consequently rusted beyond repair.
From what I can gather, at least a couple of larger tugs were used on Red Indian Lake into the 1980’s. These were used in conjunction with a slasher that was cutting tree length logs into four foot junks and dumping them directly into the lake. The booms were, as had been done since 1908, towed to the Exploits Dam to be floated down the river to Grand Falls.
In addition to the Fleetway II there were at least a couple of other steel tugs used on Red Indian in the later years of towing. From what I can gather they were the Miss Millertown and the Shanawdithit. In consulting with Steve Briggs, an expert on Russel Boats, these later vessels were reported to have been war surplus “Ville” Class tugboats built for the Royal Navy during the Second Work War. The date in which AND/Price acquired these boats is unknown. The Miss Millertown may have been acquired the same time they got the Fleetway II in the mid-50’s. The Shanawdithit seems to have been brought in at a later date, probably after 1962. In October of 1968 the Grand Falls Advertiser reported that Price had acquired a new tug for work on the lake. The boat was reportedly the Canvik from Montreal Harbour. From what I can gather this might have been the Canvik No1, built by Canadian Vickers in 1956. I am not sure if this boat was renamed, and is one of the ones mentioned above, or not. All I can find was that she was reported to be 15 tons and had a innovative German propulsion system that allowed her to move sideways.
Besides the bigger boats there were an undetermined number of smaller boats. It would be impossible to note all of the smaller wooden boats used in towing and sacking on the smaller lakes in the A.N.D Company’s timber limits. Many of them were built in the lumberwoods or brought in from outport communities. from what I can gather and from the little photographic evidence I have most of them would have been built along the lines of a traditional trap skiff or rodney and usually powered by the same inboard engines as their saltwater counterparts. One such example was built at Sandy Dam in about 1960’s. It was 25 feet long and was used for towing on Three Angle Pond. A similar wooden boat still exists somewhere in the vicinity of Pamehac Brook. I have seen pictures of it. It’s a wooden boat that had an inboard motor. From what I can gather, it must have been used in the 1970’s when they started cutting around Pamehac and 5-Mile Lakes. It is in extremely good condition for something that must be close to 50 years old and should realistically be rotted away.
About fifty years previous to this there was, what was described as a tug boat, used to tow large dory like supply barges from Badger to a place called Black Duck Landing near Red Indian Falls. This would have been early in the 1920’s. (Andrew Barker, Logging History).
Besides the wooden boats there were an undetermined number of steel winch boats. By and large most of these appear to have been Russel Winch Boats. These workhorses, manufactured in Owen Sound Ontario were so common in Canadian driving operations that they even made it on to the old one dollar bill. I have yet to determine how many of these boats AND Co/Price acquired, but I have reports and evidence that there are still at least four of these at different places. One steel boat I am particularly curious about, was used on John Paul’s Steady and Noel Paul Brook. She was called the Ironsides. This boat dated from at least the 1940’s and there may be a possibility that it still be somewhere in the vicinity of Pine Falls or John Paul’s Steady on Noel Paul.
In the last decades the most common boat to be seen on the Exploits system would have been the Gander Bay or Gander River Boat. This adaptation of a locally designed wooden freight canoe was developed to move people and goods down the Gander River from Gander Bay to Glenwood. With the introduction of the outboard motor it was decided to adapt these boats by putting in a square thwart to mount the motor. The Anglo-Newfoundland Development Company started to use them in driving operations around 1960 and they would be used right up until the last river operations in the 1990’s.
In addition to all of this, through the work of Rev. Calvin Evans, I have come across the possibility that there was another large boat built at Red Indian Lake in 1917, thus being in between the Lady Mary of 1908 and the Fleetway of 1921. This boat was also built under the supervision of Adam Chaulk. Did the Lady Mary sink before 1917? or was this boat ever completed? Did it sink? of is this the boat the one in the background in the picture of the Lady Mary? If this is the case, how many boats are sunk in the debts of Red Indian Lake? How many old hulls are rotting on other lakes and rivers? are there steam boilers sunk or buried in the interior?