Saugatuck Marine Museum STEAMSHIP KEEWATIN

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Throttle and reversing gear of KEEWATIN'S big c.
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Forward portion of KEEWATIN'S engine room showing starting platform and two steam-driven dynamoes. Picture by Bob Borkowski.
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A view of the handsome old KEEWATIN under steam in 1946. She is preserved literally unchanged where she is now open to the public. Photograph by Bob Borkowski.

Curator, Douglas, Michigan 49406

Your readers will be interested to know that a fine, operable
steam plant is preserved aboard the retired steamship KEEWATIN at
Saugatuck-Douglas, Michigan. The old ship is doubly significant
because she is the last of the Great Lakes’ overnight passenger
boats, and a coal-burner at that!

KEEWATIN and her sister ASSINIBOIA were the last of six handsome
propellers built for the Canadian Pacific Railroad’s Great
Lakes services, and both were withdrawn from passenger service, in
December, 1965. With their old wooden cabins, the CPR sisters were
simply passed up in the race for speed and safety; both the US and
Canadian governments passed legislation requiring steel
superstructure on all commercial passenger craft, and the last
remaining overnight boats in North America were all forced to
retire.

KEEWATIN was designed with ASSINIBOIA to replace three older
sisters on a run between Lake Superior and Georgian Bay. She was
built in 1907 by the Fairfield Shipbuilding Company at Govan,
Glasgow, a 350-footer of some 3,850 gross tons. The new sisters
were given accommodations for 288 passengers each, and they were
run by a crew of 86. Like their predecessors, ASSINIBOIA and
KEEWATIN were built to carry grain from Port Arthur to Owen Sound
along with their regular passenger load; each ship could handle
3,000 tons in bulk or sacks.

One of KEEWATIN’S most distinctive features is, of course,
her power plant. She is driven by a condensing quadruple-expansion
engine built by the Fairfield shipyards. Her cylinders measure 23,
34, 48 and 70-inches in diameter, with a stroke of 45 inches. The
engines develop 3,300 horsepower at 100 rpm, driving the old
steamer at speeds upward of 14 knots. Steam is supplied by four
Scotch boilers 11 x 14 feet, two of which have been dismantled and
removed since KEEWATIN was brought to Saugatuck two years ago. The
rest of the ship’s machinery is maintained in the same fine
condition in which it was left when engineer Gordon Gervais rang up
‘Finished with Engines’ for the last time on November 29,
1965. Plans for the ship include turning over the huge engines for
the visiting public, and that operation should become a reality in
1970. Most of KEEWATIN’s auxiliary machinery is also
Clyde-built, dating to the ship’s construction in 1907. This
marvelous collection of antiques includes her great steam windlass
with two deck winches, the steam steering-engine two small engines
driving twin 30-KW dynamos, eight steam pumps (for ballast, fresh
water, boiler feed and sanitation systems), and a cargo-hoisting
engine on her main deck.

The ship is now open to the public under the name of the
SAUGATUCK MARINE MUSEUM? She is maintained unchanged throughout,
and exhibits shown aboard KEEWATIN feature Great Lakes lore and
Saugatuck’s colorful local history.

We feel that KEEWATIN is quickly earning the prominence she
deserves as the last passenger steamer on the chain of the Lakes,
and the only marine Museum of any sort on the whole of Lake
Michigan.

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Dedicated to the Preservation of Vintage Farm Equipment