The last Surviving Steam Tug in the Interior of BC
Did you Know? The SS Sicamous Society has recently received grant funding from the Provincial Government to examine the hull, and begin repairs!
The S.S. Naramata was named after the prosperous fruit-growing community north of Penticton. Her main purpose was the transportation of fruit from the numerous packing houses along Okanagan Lake to the railway at Okanagan Landing, and later Kelowna.
The S.S. Naramata was similarly constructed to the S.S. Sicamous, with a prefabricated hull and boat works that were built in Port Arthur Ontario and shipped to Okanagan Landing for assembly.
The hull was painted green, with the rest of the ship a buff yellow. The hull provided sleeping quarters for the crew, bunkers for coal, as well as the boiler room and engine room. The galley with a small mess for the crew was in the first floor deckhouse. The pilot house was elevated to provide a good view of the lake and was close to the cabins for the captain and first officer.
Work began in the September of 1913, with as many as 150 men employed in its construction. The ship is over ninety feet long, weighs 150 tons, and has 150 horsepower. The total cost of the vessel came to nearly $40,000. The Naramata had a regular crew of a captain, first officer, two deckhands, a chief engineer, second engineer, two firemen, one bargeman, a cook and a pilot during the busy fruit season.
The tug was launched April 20th, 1914, into the Canadian Pacific Railway Lakes and River service to be the year-round tug. While she had a passenger capacity of 20, she was rarely used outside of barge service. The tug would start at 2:30 in the morning from Naramata, and get to Okanagan Landing around noon. The ship was capable of hauling two fully loaded steel barges moving the equivalent of a 16-20 car train. Moving fruit from the packing houses along the lake to the railway at Okanagan landing was the main purpose of the tug. Speed was integral to the service in handling the highly valuable and perishable fresh fruits, especially in the heat of an Okanagan summer. Fruit was often shipped at night, to avoid transit during the heat of the day. At the height of the season there would be around five to seven carloads of fruit. A carload was 840 boxes of apples, and each box was 40lbs. (18kg.) Early wooden barges were capable of carrying eight freight cars and the steel barges, in the later years of the service could carry ten cars.
During winters when the lake froze over, the S.S. Naramata would push through the ice to make a channel for the passenger steamers, including the S.S. Sicamous.
The S.S. Naramata was unglamorous, but essential to the lives of the orchardists in the Okanagan. The ten or so major lake shipping points of the lake contributed to about 20,000 tons of freight with gross earnings averaging around $600,000 during the late 1940’s and early 1950’s.
August 29th, 1967 was the final time the ship was used. With the tug and barge service in decline, the CPR decommissioned the Naramata. It was then sold privately until being transferred and placed under the protection of the S.S. Sicamous Restoration Society in 1991. Now resting beside the S.S. Sicamous, the Naramata looks right at home.
A cleanup began that included the removal of pigeon droppings and debris. After inspection, the steel hull was found to be paper thin in places and leaking. Repair work was far beyond the resources available and the tug was pulled onto the beach and back-filled with sand; made possible by a special fund from the Provincial Heritage Trust. The hull is presently protected by a cathodic protection system to help prevent further deterioration of the steel hull. This is not a long term solution however. With new funding from the Provincial Government, we can begin the process of repairing the hull, and making her “lake-worthy” once more.
Photos from the Penticton Archives
Information about the SS Naramata
- The only Interior steam tug preserved in the province of British Columbia.
- Built in 1914 in Port Arthur, Ontario along with the S.S. Sicamous for the cost of $43,000. The Boat was assembled in Vernon, and then shipped for service to Okanagan Landing, which was located just five miles southwest of Vernon.
- The Naramata was launched on April 20, 1914, and was named for the fruit-bearing community north of Penticton and in operation from 1914 until its retirement in 1965
- The boat spans 89.8 feet in length, 19.5 feet in width, with an 8 foot draft and a weight of 149.9 tons.
- The tug had a passenger capacity of 20, but served the main purpose of barge transportation.
- Comprised entirely of steel, with the exception of the finishing work. The hull was painted green, with buff colored trim and cabins, and a gold-leaf inlaid name board.
- The Naramata was sold to the Kettle Valley Railway Society in 1991, and moved to its present home on October 1st, 1991.
- In 2001 the S.S. Sicamous Restoration Society purchased the tug for $1.00. It is now under the protection of the Society
- Operated on a compound steel, twin-cylinder engine. Steam was pumped into the first cylinder, which would generate exhaust that would drive the second cylinder.
- The Engine measures 12 & 26 x 18 inches, with a single, 4 bladed-propeller.
- One engineer and two firemen were on duty in the engine room, which reached a temperature of 140 degrees Fahrenheit.
- The water used to drive the engine was removed from the lake.
- The Naramata contained a Scotch Marine Boiler, measuring 10 feet in length with a nine foot diameter.
- Operated at a pressure of 1103 kPa, with a 27.3 nominal horsepower capability. The boiler was coal-driven, and could propel the tug at a maximum speed of 12 miles per hour (19 km/h). The average speed of operation was 7 miles/hr, or 11.25 km/hr.
- During the initial recovery stage, 3 inches of asbestos were removed from the boiler. Underneath, the steel plating had rusted to the point of crumbling.
- The hull contained sleeping quarters for the crew with the capacity to accommodate eleven, coalbunkers, the boiler room, and the engine room.
- On the deckhouse, the crew had the “luxuries” of a small dining room where a full-time cook was employed, the engineer’s cabin that slept next to the Engine room, and a toilet and washbasin.
- Behind the pilothouse, on the top deck, were cabins for the captain, which lay on the starboard, and the mate, who boarded on the port side.
- The Galley, on the deckhouse, contained a coal-fired stove, cupboards, and tables.
- The stern of the ship contained empty space to carry cargo, and food supplies for the galley, while the engine and boiler were contained in the bow.
- The crew was comprised of the captain, one mate (or “first officer”), a pilot for the busy fruit season, two deckhands, a chief engineer, a second engineer, two firemen, one bargeman, and a cook, who worked in the galley and also served as a steward.
- Vital to the fruit industry, the Naramata was employed as a conveyance device for barges. The barges served to move carloads of fruit from ports such as Summerland, Naramata and Westbank to the railway at Okanagan Landing and Kelowna, with empty railcars dropped off along the way at packinghouses to be re-filled. In the peak season, the tug utilized a steel and wooden barge, which, combined, could carry 18 railcars. (Wood barges could transport 8 railcars, and steel cars 10 for a maximum capacity of a tug to carry a 20-car train).
- The Naramata served to break the ice in the lake for the sternwheelers. Lake Okanagan was usually frozen most solidly from the Summerland area down, and to simplify the return trip, the crew would throw cardboard into the water to mark the path of broken ice.
- The tug normally pushed the barge, with one or two barges carried at a time. When two barges were transported, the Naramata was wedged between them at the back, forming an effective “V”-pattern, which could be easily maneuvered.
- After retirement, the Naramata was preserved in good condition at Okanagan Landing, until the years of offshore storage began to take its toll.
- In 1991 the tug was moved to its present location, back beside the beached S.S. Sicamous, floating alongside her.
- In 1993, it was discovered that the tug was in a serious state of disrepair. It was believed that this was either caused by sulphur from the coal, or the run-off from ash. (Ash was kept in a 50-gallon barrel, the contents of which were hosed down and dumped into the lake, leaving a corrosive residue behind). Frightened that the tug would flood and sink, the Naramata was berthed on the beach, with sand around the hull.
- The tug was beached more than 20 years ago. We think it is high time that she was returned to the water!
The SS Sicamous Society has received grant funding from the Provincial Government to start explorations on the hull, so that we can examine the hull and begin repairing the damage.