Russel Brothers Limited   OWEN SOUND, ONTARIO   Steelcraft Boat Builders
1920's Russel Brothers Alligator

Steve Briggs notes (June 2nd, 2010): This is the oldest known example of a Russel Brothers vessel. After sitting derelict for many years on shore in a collapsed shelter in the bush near Connaught, ON, Ontario Parks moved the boat in the fall of 2007 to Marten River Provincial Park, with the intent of housing it in a permanent shelter. A year later then Natural Resources Minister Donna Cansfield declared the boat would be moved again, this time given over to the Connaught Historical Society, who also evinced plans to preserve it within a permanent shelter. It has sat out in the open in Connaught since then. I've left the information below in chronological order...

 

  Marten River Provincial Park Photo GalleryFall 2007: Marten River Provincial Park are restoring this old logging boat, for inclusion in their replica early 20th-century logging camp. It was likely built in the mid 1920's, as she has some Fort Frances markings, and also Owen Sound marked Russel equipment, likely from servicing after 1945.

43 feet long, 11 feet high, 10 feet wide; engine plate: "Cummins Engine Company, Indiana",another plate reads "This equipment sold and serviced by Russel-Hipwell Engines Ltd. Owen Sound, Ontario"; engine block number: 61645 H100 78NCi11. The MG126 plate: pat.# 2077663, 2127713, and 2164135 as well as serial #77914, also "Forward Ratio 2.04 to 1, Reverse Ratio 1.96 to 1". There really is nothing left in the pilot house except the pulley, which has hack saw marks (we assume the steering wheel was stolen from the boat after it was left in the bush).

 
Diane Wayda of Marten River Park notes (Sept. 25, 2007): here are photos of the Alligator, from the first time we saw it in the bush under a shed on the shore of the Frederick House River near Connaught, to its transportation more than 200km to Marten River Prov. Park (56km north of North Bay). On July 8th, 2007, Mr. Bob Watt attended one of my tours of the Logging Camp Exhibit and mentioned he remembered playing on the alligator when he was about 13 in 1963. The boat was owned by Woollings Mill, which had then recently burned down. Bob recalled seeing the boat working when he was about 5 years old, toting logs to the mill. Three weeks later, he led us to the boat itself. The Gator sat on crown land and was classed as salvage. It arrived at Marten River Sept. 6th, 2007. We are trying to determine the boat's name, and more of its history. We plan a roofed structure to house the alligator in our Logging Camp Exhibit. There is some evidence the engine is not the original. There is an adaptor labelled R-H Owen Sound between the engine and the MG126 transmission. We also found the maintenance manual authored by Twin Disc Clutch Co. of Racine, WI in the bow of the boat. After faxing the serial numberws to Twin Disc, they replied the unit was built in early 1945 intended for boats to be used in invading Japan. The units ended up as surplus and this particular one was sold to "Navy Surplus" which could have been the Canadian Navy. The trails stops there.  
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Fort Frances Museum Collection

Photos courtesy Joe Major & Diane Wayda, and Tom Russel.
Site of the Woollings Mill, abandoned in the early 1960's, where an old winchboat is known to lie.
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Site of the Woollings Mill, abandoned in the early 1960's, where an old winchboat is known to lie.
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Found on the riverbank under a collapsed wooden shed
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The boat is examined, information and photos sent to Steve Briggs of Owen Sound, he confirms that it is a Russel Brothers Aliigator from the mid 1920's. A road must be cleared.
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In order to remove the Alligator from its riverside shed, a rough road had to be cut through the bush...
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The boat is examined, information and photos sent to Steve Briggs of Owen Sound, he confirms that it is a Russel Brothers Aliigator from the mid 1920's. A road must be cleared.
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Transport to the park
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Transport to the park
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Top of cabin behind wheelhouse looking aft
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Top of cabin behind wheelhouse looking forward
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Looking forward over rear cabin mounted roller
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Port side of engine block, Cummins Engine Company, Indiana
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MG 126 Marine reverse gear
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MG 126 Marine reverse gear
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Plate reads Russel Owen Sound and Halifax, so after 1944
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Tattered marine gear manual
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Tattered marine gear manual
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Winch set stamped Russel Brothers Fort Frances
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Winch set stamped Russel Brothers Fort Frances
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Transport to the park
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The Woollings Mill in 1940.
 
The Woolings in Forestry:   In 1918 T.S. (Thomas) Woollings began purchasing timber for American companies from an office in Timmins Ontario . In 1940 TS died and his two brothers Albert and Englehart (the first baby born in Englehart, 1907) formed Woollings Forest Products Ltd, one of many Woollings family enterprises. Woollings Forest Products operated 3 sawmills and daily, between 1922 and 1956, transported a trainload of pulpwood to clients in the U.S., Espanola, Thorold and Abitibi. One of their most renowned clients was the Saturday Evening Post that was printed in Johnsonburg Pennsylvania. In 1967 the last Woollings brother passed away and Tom Woollings began managing until 1990 when the reigns were passed to his son Greg.

 

 

 

The Marten River Logging Camp will take you back in time and show you what it was like to be a lumberjack.
Around 1915, logging companies began to cut the large stands of virgin white and red pine in the area
of what is now Marten River Provincial Park. This camp is a replica
of a pine logging operation in the first half of the century.

 

For more on 1920's Russel boats see
CLICK TO OPEN
A TUG FOR EVERY JOB, A CAMPBELL ENGINE FOR EVERY BOAT:
A Picture Story of Warping Tugs and Power Winch Boats

10 pages. A VERY early and water damaged brochure showing wooden boats. Features single and double drum designs.

OSMRM Collection

 

CLICK TO READ ARTICLE   Frank Spence of Kitchener writes (Mar. 31, 2008): "If you are not already aware, the Ontario Historical Society published an article (written by me) in its February editon of the OHS Bulletin. I have attached a copy for your information."

 

Alligator shipped north; Marten River
group sad to see boat go
North Bay Nugget (ON) Thu 16 Oct 2008

A Russel "alligator" logging boat was spirited away as people exercised their democratic right Tuesday. The Marten River Provincial Park attraction changed course and was returned to Connaught. "So they've gone and done it behind everybody's back . . . That is pretty sneaky," said Bill Campbell, a frequent camper at the park, who fought to have the boat stay in Marten River.

1920's Russel Alligator at Marten River Prov. Park Sept. 2, 2008. Photos by Frank Spence.

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But the man hired to move the boat said it was a coincidence that it happened on the day of the federal election. "This was the day we were able to do it," Wayne White, owner of White Crane Rentals in Timmins, said in a telephone interview Wednesday. White said he planned to move the 14-metre tugboat to Connaught last week, but was unable to assemble a team. "We postponed to Tuesday because we didn't want to interfere with weekend traffic," he said.

The boat has become the centre-piece of a tug-of-war between groups in Marten River and Connaught since September 2007, when the park group recovered the alligator from Crown land in Connaught. The battle is summer until Natural Resources Minister Donna Cansfield declared Connaught the winner. "Ontario Parks spent about $20,000 to get it to Marten River, to clear land and get the site ready for the building they were going to put the boat in and had the design work done for the building," Campbell said.

But the Connaught Historical Society had its own vision. When we first started talking about building a museum about nine years ago, our main goal was to have the alligator as the main attraction," said Rheal Dupuis, historical society president. We are very happy it is back. We are going to have an unveiling sometime soon."

1920's Russel Alligator at Marten River Prov. Park Sept. 2, 2008. Photos by Frank Spence.

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Joyce MacKenzie, who works at the Trapper Trading Post in Marten River, said seeing the alligator leave on a transport truck was a sad sight. "It's a piece of history and I think it belongs in the park because of the logging museum and the history of the area", she said.

Campbell said more than 27,000 people visit the park each year and it doesn't make sense to move the boat to a community of 300 people. Timmins MPP Gilles Bisson, a key player in getting Connaught the boat, said that argument doesn't stand. "If we took the position you got to be big to showcase something, Toronto would have everything, he said. Every community does what it can. In this particular case, this is part of what Connaught is doing."

FAST FACTS
* This alligator was built by Russell Brothers in Fort Frances sometime between 1913 and 1925.
* It was used by the T. S. Woollings mill near Connaught.
* It is called an alligator because of the way it could work on waterways or tow itself with cables and winches from one waterway to another.

 

June 3, 2009: Russel Alligator in Connaught, Ont.
Photos by Frank Spence. After being wrested away from Marten River Park last fall, this unique oldest known sample of a Russel vessel sits out exposed to the elements.
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June 1, 2010: Frank Spence took these photos May 29 of the Russel Alligator in Connaught, Ont. After sitting in the open for 2 years, perhaps the steel piled alongside means a shelter is finally in the works...
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For more Russel exhibits visit Owen Sound Marine & Rail Museum 1165 1st Ave West, Owen Sound, ON N4K 4K8
(519) 371-3333     http://marinerail.com