SS Keewatin museum ship is moving to a new home

The SS Keewatin museum ship, an Edwardian Great Lakes passenger steamer, is moving from her current home in Port McNicoll on Lake Michigan to the Marine Museum of the Great Lakes at Kingston on the St. Lawrence River.

The 103m long ship was purpose built for the Great Lakes by the Fairfield Shipbuilding and Engineering Company in Govan, Glasgow, Scotland, but once across the Atlantic she had to pass through the 26 locks of the Welland canal to reach the Lakes. At that time the locks were just wide enough for her (by 0.4m) but 20m short, so she had to be cut in half to make her way through.

Once re-assembled, SS Keewatin began her working life carrying up to 288 passengers + 86 crew, and freight between the Canadian Pacific Railway’s depots at Thunder Bay (then Port Arthur/Fort William) on Lake Superior and Owen Sound. A few years later her eastern terminal was switched from Owen Sound to Port McNicoll on Lake Huron.

Her four coal-fuelled boilers powered a steam engine delivering 3,000 hp to her single screw, which gave her a cruising speed of 14 knots. The journey from Thunder Bay, through the Soo Locks at Saulte St. Marie, to Port McNicoll took 2½ days.

Keewatin operated this route from 1910 for decades before steamship traffic on the Great Lakes declined as passengers and freight switched to faster and more reliable road & rail routes. She was eventually retired in 1965, and became a museum ship in 1967.

This current re-location is not Keewatin‘s first. She was originally berthed on the Kalamazoo River at Saugatuck, Michigan. Then, in 2012, 100 years after she first started working from there, she returned to Canada and her former operational port, Port McNicoll.

Announcing this move, the Marine Museum of the Great Lakes’ chair, Chris West said: “We’re pleased to steward the Keewatin through the next phase of its life here in Kingston. The story of the Keewatin is a story of Canada’s creation as a country. It is vital that the ship, which is the last of its kind, be preserved for current and future generations, and our museum has the expertise, facilities and funding to be able to do this.”

SS Keewatin is expected to arrive in Kingston in the early autumn.

UPDATE (24/04/2023): SS Keewatin is on her way. She left her berth at Port McNicoll under tow, yesterday evening. See comments below following her progress.

MarineTraffic app mapUPDATE (27/04/2023): In response to Margaret’s comment below, I was trying to post a screenshot of her tug’s  location as at 13.53 UTC in the comments, but it won’t display properly, so here it is.

Photo: SS Keewatin, UpNorthMemories (CC BY-NC-ND 2.0)



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  1. Sitting outside Heddle Marine Servivces yard in Hamilton ON and see rhe Keewatin on the hard, most probably getting a refit.

    Paul Readings / Reply
  2. We will be visiting family in Canada in mid September. Will this ship be at the museum by then?

    Jeanette Benner / Reply
    • Hi Jeanette, I’m afraid it’s all gone a bit quiet. I can see no prediction other than “the fall”. I suspect it’s more likely to be later fall than early fall. You could email the museum and see if they can give you a better estimate.

      Alastair / Reply (in reply to Jeanette Benner)
  3. We are in St Catharines, Ontario
    Any time suggestion for Keewatin to be passing through the Welland Canal?

    Margaret / Reply
    • Hi Margaret,

      I’m afraid I don’t have an ETA at the Welland canal… BUT, thanks to this FB post from Mayor Bill Gordon, we now have an identity for the tug: Molly M I which means we can track her on the Marine Traffic app (Free on Android/iPhone). So right now 14.53 UK time, she/they are here… Marine Traffic screenshot

      Alastair / Reply (in reply to Margaret)
      • … Ah, that screenshot doesn’t want to open in a comment. I’ll post it up above

        Alastair / Reply (in reply to Alastair)
  4. I live in Michigan along the St Clair River is there anyway to fine out when. The SS Keewatin may be passing through on its way to Hamilton this is Tues April 25 2023

    Rosemary Griffiths / Reply
    • Hi Rosemary, What a good question! It would be great to see her go past.
      I’m really not sure. I can’t see any details of the journey. It’s the kind of thing your local TV/newspapers should be reporting. If we could find the name(s) of her tug(s) we could track her progress on the MarineTraffic app, but I think the most likely way to get a quick & useful answer would be to email the Marine Museum of the Great Lakes at Kingston ( or phone them and ask. Of course, they are not expecting to receive her for a few months. She’s going into a shipyard somewhere near the Welland canal for refurbishment. But they should have somebody there who will know exactly where she is and when she’ll pass by. 🙂

      Alastair / Reply (in reply to Rosemary Griffiths)
    • From Lake St. Clair FB group:

      Historical Ship – SS Keewatin 🛳️🛳️

      Update: She will be in this area around noon today April 26.

      Sometime during the next few days, river watchers may get to see this. The museum ship SS Keewatin is being towed to its new home in Kingston, Ontario. Five years older than the Titanic, this fully restored vessel represents Great Lakes passenger service during the Edwardian age.

  5. Such a shame she will not be there until the autumn. We are flying out to Kingston in August to sail in Canadian Empress as part of our Voyage of a Lifetime series of magazine features that will later be included in our Ultimate Voyage Guide book that will be published by Bloomsbury in 2025

    Michael / Reply
    • Dang! That’s unlucky, Michael!
      I didn’t know about the Ultimate Voyage book. You must tell me about it when next we meet. Are you going to IMM? (I won’t be in Malta)

      Alastair / Reply (in reply to Michael)

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