Tuesday, June 23, 2015

Northern Alberta's Marine Heritage

Generally when you think about Northern Alberta, the idea of a ship yard doesn't exactly spring to mind.  And yet Fort McMurray is home to the only remaining shipyard in Alberta.  Granted there isn't all that much left to see of the yard itself which is why I find our newest museum so fascinating.  The Fort McMurray Marine Park Museum just opened last month and I had a chance to head down and check it out this morning.  

In this first photo you can see part of an old Northern Alberta Railways caboose built in 1899.  To the right, the Radium Scout (more on this one later.)


The recently-constructed visitors centre is designed after the old 1925 railway station that once stood in Waterways.


This is the bridge of the "McMurray".  Built in 1955, it was eventually assigned to push a giant dredge along the Athabasca.



And this is the dredge, known as Dredge 250.....all 250 tons of it.  I'm not certain exactly when or where it was built but it was only decommissioned in 1996.


This fuel barge acted as a storage vessel for the dredge.


Here is the Miskanaw Barge which accompanied the CCGS Miskanaw (see below).  It serviced the coast guard ship from 1962 until 1996.  I was told that this vessel is still in full working order.


Also still in full working order is this coast guard vessel, the CCGS Miskanaw.  It was built in Vancouver and plied local waters, placing and maintaining lights and buoys to assist with river traffic.  After it was built it couldn't exactly be sailed here from Vancouver given that Alberta is land-locked so it was taken apart, shipped by rail and then reassembled here.


The Miskanaw I greatly enjoyed because I was able to climb aboard and explore.   Walking along the deck of a ship sitting on dry land was an odd experience I must say.  I certainly got a better understanding of just how spartan living conditions were.  The one thing that surprised me was that there was no interior hallway access.  This room (and indeed all of them) opened up to the outside of the ship.  The quarters were quite tiny.  I'm not sure why I didn't just open the door to take a photo here but it does give you an idea of the cramped quarters.  I did try lying down on one of these bunks and while I'm not overly tall myself (I clock in at 5'10) I did find it a bit of a squeeze.  I counted two rooms with double bunks and two rooms with singles giving you a crew of 7 when you include the captain.


....whose quarters right behind the bridge weren't really any more spacious.


The view from the bridge....


Here is the "McMurray" taken from the bridge of the Miskanaw.


The oldest ship on display is the "Radium Scout", built in 1946 in Edmonton for the Northern Transportation Company.  Like the Miskanaw it was also shipped up here in pieces and then reassembled.  It was kept on display over at the local heritage park and now calls the marine museum its new home.


So there you have a taste of our newest museum honouring our local heritage.  It really is a great place to visit on a sunny day as it was this morning.  It definitely helped give me my local history fix as the heritage park and museum is undergoing extensive work after the devastation of the 2013 flood.  I've been told that this park should be opened again next summer and I can't wait to see it again.

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