Canadian National Tug Boat No. 6 was the last tug boat to operate on Okanagan Lake. It was removed from service in 1973, marking the end of an era in the valley. The Tug arrived in Penticton in 2007, and is now in the care of the SS Sicamous Society. Volunteers are out on the tug every week during the summer, working in the engine room. The generators are now repaired, and are able to provide electricity throughout the tug. The next project is repairing the main diesel engine.
About the Canadian National Rail (CNR) Tug Boat Fleet
The intense rivalry that gripped the CPR and CNR for the first half of the 1900s extended beyond the rails to the waters of Okanagan Lake. While the CPR Lake Service is more well known, with its glorious paddle wheelers and numerous work boats, the CNR also ran vessels on Okanagan Lake to serve their customers and link rail lines. One such vessel was the CN Tug No. 6.
The all-steel, 89.5 foot Tug No. 6 was launched in 1948 and sailed the waters of Okanagan Lake until 1973 when Canadian National discontinued its lake service. Back in the 1940s and 50s when the roads were rough and there was no Okanagan Lake bridge, No. 6 and her siblings were an essential part of the valley’s transportation system and critical to the fruit industry.
With freshness and time-to-market absolutely essential for the fruit industry, No. 6 would push or two barges loaded with railcars full of the fruit crops to Kelowna where they joined trains headed for west and east coast ports and thence to foreign markets. It’s likely that without the lake vessels there would have been no Okanagan fruit industry in the early days and it was the ability to get the fruit crops to their destinations swiftly that helped create the world-wide renown of Okanagan fruit.
- Canadian National Railway reached Kelowna in 1925.
- Passenger service started with M. S. Pentowna in 1926.
- This connected Penticton and Kelowna
- The name derived from PENTicton and KelOWNA.
- Attempt to duplicate the passenger service of the Sicamous but was withdrawn in the 1930s.
- CPR and CNR maintained its own barge slip at Kelowna, Westbank and Penticton
- Shared barge slips at Summerland and Naramata
- In 1950 the lake froze over. The CPR was able to maintain the water-way from Kelowna to Westbank.
- Penticton and Okanagan Centre were the last communities to be reached on March 11-12.
Important Dates for Tug #6:
- Launch Date: 1948
- Last Operated: 1973
- Moved to Penticton: June 16th, 2007