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Steamship Northcote

In keeping with my objective of selecting ships I will model from those vessels that have a Canadian heritage I researched any that might have plied the rivers and lakes of Saskatchewan. It was with some surprise that I found there was a thriving steamboat industry moving people and goods up and down the Saskatchewan River in the later part of the 19th century and beginning of the 20th century.

The rivers and lakes of Canada have for centuries provided a means of traveling across regions of the country.  Our Native Peoples used canoes for transportation, fur traders used large canoes, bateau and York Boats to haul goods into the trappers and haul furs out.  When people started to settle the part of the country between Upper Canada and the Rocky Mountains much of the travel was done in wagons pulled by oxen or horses.  A means of moving larger amounts of  goods and people across the country was sought and steamboats that were being used on the Mississippi, Missouri and Ohio Rivers had proven to satisfy these requirements.  This technology then found its way onto the Red River, Lake Winnipeg and the Saskatchewan River.  With the coming of railroads and road transportation the steamboat era ended.

The Northcote was the first successful steamboat on the Saskatchewan.  She was built for the Hudson Bay Company in Grand Rapids Manitoba in 1874.  Her hull dimensions were: 150' long, 28.5' in breadth, 4.5' deep, gross tonnage of 461.34 and registered tonnage of 290.63.  She had a draft of 22" when carrying light cargo loads and 3.5' when carrying her maximum load of 150 tons.

The Northcote was launched August 1, 1874 and began her maiden voyage the third week of August.  This took her from Grand Rapids, to The Pas, Nepowewin Mission, and Carlton House.  At the start of the 1875 navigation season the Northcote made the trip from Grand Rapids to Edmonton in 14 days.

During the Riel Rebellion of 1885 The Northcote served as a troop transport and gunship at the Battle of Batoche then served as a troop and arms transport in the fighting against Big Bear and Poundmaker.   After the Battle of Batoche she carried the wounded to a field hospital in Saskatoon then returned to bring Louis Riel to Saskatoon on his final journey to Regina for trial and subsequent execution.

The water levels on the Saskatchewan were too shallow for the Northcote in the summer of 1886 which prevented her from navigating the river.  She was beached at Cumberland House and never sailed again.  Over the subsequent years she disintegrated until nothing remained but the boilers.

Photo of the SS Northcote                                                                                                                       Glenbow Museum


The Model

There are no detailed plans of the Northcote available so a significant amount of research was required to gather enough information to create an accurate set of drawings of her.  Books on Steamships, the Saskatchewan, Manitoba and Canadian Public Archives as well as the Glenbow museum provided me with a significant amount of information in the form of text, drawings, sketches and photographs.

The drawings for this model of the Northcote were initiated using the plans for the SS Idlewild drawn by Alan L. Bates.  The Idlewild's hull dimensions were similar to those of the Northcote so provided a reasonable basis for sheer, half-breadth and body plans.  A complete set of drawings was then created using historic information to provide a reasonably accurate represent the Northcote's details.

The model will be built to replicate architectural details of the original Northcote's construction and displayed as a static model while including a minimal amount of Remote Control equipment so it can be sailed.

Researching the Northcote was started in February of 2008, drawings were made towards the end of that year and the model completed September 15, 2011.