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Hercules tug on Kootenay Lake
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Tugboat Hercules. Image courtesy of Kootenay Lake Archives

Tugboats & Barges

Hosmer tug wreck

Years of Operation 1899-1929
Structure Wood hull, screw tug

The SS Ymir was built in 1898 in Nelson by J.M. Bulger for the CPR. It transported rail cars on the Nelson - Kootenay Landing barge run until 1909. After that, it was used as a relief vessel for newer more powerful tugboats. It burned in 1909 and was rebuilt and refitted in 1914 with more space for passengers. It relieved the Moyie on the Crawford Bay run from 1923 to 1929 when it was scuttled in front of the Nelson Shipyard. Today, the wreck is a popular dive site.


Years of Operation 1900-1921
Structure Wood hull, passenger screw tug

The SS Procter was built in 1900 in Nelson by J.M. Bulger for the CPR with engines from the burnt tug Kaslo. The Procter worked on Kootenay Lake until 1904 when it was moved to Trout Lake. It was transported overland along the Lardeau River by rail on two railcars from the North end of Kootenay Lake to Trout Lake. The service on Trout Lake was cancelled in 1915 and the Procter was sold to Wm. A. Foote in 1919. It stopped work in 1926 and sank near the remains of a sawmill at Trout Lake City.


Years of Operation 1901-1931
Structure Wood hull, screw tug

The Valhalla was built in 1901 in Nelson by J.M. Bulger for the CPR. It was rebuilt twice during its work life, in 1910 and 1922, with an additional deck added to improve the visibility from the wheelhouse during one of the renovations. When the boiler burst during a pressure test in 1930, the Valhalla was retired. It was sold to Reg. Dill in 1931 for use as a beached houseboat on the waterfront opposite Nelson. In 1993 it was burned to make way for a new house. According to a past resident of the houseboat, the wind blew right through and one was lucky not be blown away during a winter storm.


Years of Operation 1909-1931
Structure Wood hull, screw tug

The Hosmer was built 1909 in Nelson by J.M. Bulger for the CPR. It was the largest tug for the CPR barge service on Kootenay Lake. It worked from Procter to Kootenay Landing from 1909 to 1930, when the rail line was completed between Procter and Kootenay Landing. The Hosmer went through two major rebuilds, first in 1918-19, and again in 1925 after it burnt to the waterline. Rebuilt then by John Stobo with an additional deck to improve visibility from wheelhouse, the Hosmer was relaunched on October 2. The rebuild recycled used doors, windows, and the searchlight from the tug Castlegar, and installed a new boiler. It was sold to Bob Moon in 1934 for $762 for use as a houseboat at Bealby Point. Shortly after it was moved, burned to the waterline. The boiler is still visible today, and the hull can be seen from shore during low water levels in the spring.

Grant Hall

Years of Operation 1928-1958
Structure Steel hull, passenger screw tug

The Grant Hall was a steel hulled screw tug, built for the CPR in 1928. It worked on the Procter- Kootenay Landing barge run alongside the Hosmer until 1930. It was then placed on relief for the Moyie on the Procter- Kaslo - Lardeau run. In 1958, after the Moyie was retired the Grant Hall was sold and remained at the Nelson shipyard awaiting payment from the purchaser. In 1985 it was shipped to New Westminster, the next year it was refitted into a fish barge. The Grant Hall was later scuttled at Porteau in Howe Sound for use as a breakwater.

Melinda Jane

Years of Operation 1958-1977
Structure Steel tug

The last ship built at the Nelson Shipyard, the Melinda Jane was a diesel powered tug that worked on the Kaslo - Lardeau runs. The end of barge service on Kootenay Lake came on December 16, 1977 when rail service was discontinued to Kaslo and Lardeau.


Years of Operation 1898-1921
Structure Wood hull, screw tug

The Hercules was built for Angus Campbell by Hale & Elliott in 1898. It worked as a jobber, barging ore and lime rock for the Kootenay Railway & Navigation Co. The Hercules was sold in 1910 to the Yale-Columbia Lumber Co., and resold in 1913 to Forest Mills of BC. In 1916, it was laid up and later put to work on the Kootenay River for Clarence Ogilvie. It was laid up in 1921 for a final time. The remains of the hull lay east of the Nelson City Wharf for many years. They are no longer visible.


Years of Operation 1892-1900
Structure Wood hull, screw tug

Named after the town in which it was built for James Buchanan, the Kaslo was first wrecked in a storm while towing a barge loaded with horses from the city of Kaslo to Lardeau. The Kootenay Mining and Smelting Company used it in 1895 to tow barge loads of concentrate from Riondel to the Pilot Bay Smelter. In 1896 it was sold to Bob Yuill and then resold in 1898 to R.P. Rithet. It was then chartered by the CPR to tow railway car barges from Kootenay Landing to Nelson. On January 14, 1900 it burned to the waterline at the Nelson barge slip. Its engines were later installed in the tug Procter.


Barges were an essential part of the transportation on Kootenay Lake. They enabled railcars to bridge the gap in rail lines between Nelson, Procter and Kootenay Landing, and the rail line north from Lardeau to Gerrard. The barges also hauled ores from the mines to the nearest rail line where they were loaded into railcars and shipped to smelters.

Some of the barges were constructed of wood. They had large bulkheads, hog posts and chainstays on each side for support, and a small pilothouse to aid in navigation. Prior to 1899, barges had two tracks for railcars. From 1900 on, they had three tracks, with room for 15 cars. The steel barges built after 1911 no longer needed the extra supports. The tugboats were later modified with extra decks to allow the captain to navigate the lake with a barge. There were also specialized barges: the ice-breaker barge was outfitted with iron cladding to prevent the ice from damaging the hull, and deck barges were used for transporting ore, wood, livestock, hay and sometimes household furnishings.

The increased demand for supplies by the smelter in Trail justified the completion of the rail link from Procter to Kootenay Landing. This was the end of barging on the south arm of Kootenay Lake. Freighting with the SS Moyie continued on the north arm of the Lake until 1957, and by tugboat until 1977.

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