Constructing the Meteor

Constructing the Meteor

The Meteor began life in 1886 as La Minerve. Local shipwright Charles Morin built the steamer near Long Sault (South Temiskaming) for the Temiskaming Colonization Society. The double-decker, square-sterned steamer had a steel-frame hull and was planked in tamarack that was cut along the Blanch River. It was 104.6 feet in length, had a beam of 23.8 feet, a gross tonnage of 111.5, a 100 hp engine, and could move at 10 to 13 mph. The boiler used cordwood.

La Minerve was plagued with propeller problems and ran aground several times. When the steamer did so in front of Fort Temiskaming late in 1887 and damaged its propulsion plant the Temiskaming Colonization Society sold it to the Lumsden Steamboat Line. Lumsden towed the steamer to his shipyard at Opemican, rebuilt it, and renamed the steamer the S.S. Meteor. By July 1888 the new passenger vessel had a slimmer keel for greater speed, an open bow, a bank of cabins on the second deck, a round stern, measured 105 feet in length with a 23.8 beam, had a tonnage of 115.7, and was screw driven. It was licensed to carry 130 passengers.

The Meteor underwent several modifications over the next 35 years. Between 1895 and 1897 the steamer was remodeled and enlarged at Opemican to accommodate the growing numbers of immigrants into the area. The steamer was lengthened by 25 feet (to 130.5), with a beam of 29 feet; had a tonnage of 203. 6; the new 165 hp engine could power the boat at speeds up to 18 mph; and could carry 305 passengers. Wood was still the preferred fuel. The remodeling enclosed the entire main deck and covered and enlarged the second deck. The bow provided plenty of room for storing baggage, freight, and livestock. Steam winches at the bow and stern could pull in the steel hawsers (thick cables) used to moor the steamer. Two rows of round-iron columns supported the upper deck. The Meteor was by far the most impressive steamer on the lake.

Historian Peter Fancy described the revamped Meteor: “Climb the main stairway to the new passenger deck. Elaborate paneling painted matte-white covers the entranceway walls. A long corridor with doors to cabins and washrooms stretches back towards the stern. Above runs a long skylight with narrow windows on the sides and shining brass light fixtures. Over the bulbs are milk glass tulip shaped shades. Two corridors, one on either side of the funnel trunk, lead forward into the main lounge. Here against the front edge of the funnel trunk rises a low platform stage with an upright piano. On both sides of the room and at the bow end run bench seats and backs. Along the top of the seatbacks, at neck level, is a continuous row of perforated openings for steam pipe heat and another sky light canopies the entire length. Electric candelabra hang from ceiling supports; smaller ones stud the white walls. Heavy canvas protects the polished hardwood floor. Grey-painted canvas covers the outside decks where passengers can lean against a varnished teak-wood railing.” The Meteor had a five-foot flywheel, starboard water pumps for toilets and bathrooms, electricity and running water.  With a lounge on the second deck for music, cards, and an observation area, the Meteor was well-named the “Palace steamer.” The Meteor was the largest steamer on Lake Temiskaming.