All Aboard! Exploring the Newfoundland Railway

Railway / Coastal History

Railway/Coastal Boat Service

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S.S. Clyde

The S.S. Clyde, which first sailed across the Atlantic in 1900, was likely named for the river where most of the Alphabet Fleet ships were constructed. Built at a cost of $100,000, the S.S. Clyde measurements matched the S.S. Argyle's. On her Notre Dame Bay run, she stopped in such places as Beaver Cove, Kite Cove, Twillingate, Moreton's Harbour, Leading Tickles, and Fortune Harbour.

S.S. Dundee

One of the S.S. Dundee's jobs was to promote tourism. One article in Our Country reads, "The S.S. Dundee, well equipped with all modern requirements, plies on Bonavista Bay. Captain Darius Blandford is a genial host, and good humour beams from his countenance at all times. His principal aim is to make passengers enjoy the voyage. The scenery going down the bay from Port Blandford is very beautiful. A placid calm usually prevails on the water, and the green wooded isles clothed with verdue to the water's edge look like fairy abodes."

S.S. Ethie

The S.S. Ethie's arrival in St. John's, also in 1900, was greeted with enthusiasm by Harry Reid, Robert Reid's second son. Harry wrote to Flinthouse Shipyard in Glasgow, "The S.S. Ethie arrived on Sunday morning last at 4 o'clock. It was a very fair run and she beat the Allan boat by 36 hours. Everything aboard her appears to be first rate. Mr. Brown and I were all through her on Monday and the Engineer reported that the machinery worked first-class on the trip out." The S.S. Ethie would take on the Bonne Bay run, steaming up and down the Great Northern Peninsula and making occasional trips to Battle Harbour, Labrador. She also served in Trinity Bay, stopping in Ireland's Eye, Old Perlican, Trinity, and a host of communities.

S.S. Fife

The S.S. Fife, 155 feet long and 439 tonnes, was built in Glasgow, Scotland. She was lost on her maiden voyage on November 14, 1900 in the Straits of Belle Isle.

S.S. Glencoe

Built in 1900, the S.S. Glencoe would turn out to be the Alphabet Fleet's longest serving ship. By the standards of the fleet, the S.S. Glencoe was a mid-sized vessel; her gross tonnage was 769 and she cost $175,000. During almost six decades in Newfoundland's coastal service, there were few outports that did not have a visit from the S.S. Glencoe. But she was long associated with the South coast, where she stopped at Marystown, Burin, St. Lawrence, Grand Bank, Fortune, St. Jacques, Balena, Pushthrough, La Poile, Dublin Cove, Burgeo, and other ports.

Grand Bank Harbour, post WW II.
Longliner at the wharf in Grand Bank, post WW II. 30.13.001, Coll-137, Archives and Manuscripts, QEII, Memorial University.
The S.S. Ethie in Dockyard in St. John's.
The S.S. Ethie on the wooden dry dock, located at the western end of St. Johns harbour. It opened December 8, 1884. The Dockyard played an integral role in the repairs and ongoing maintenance of the Newfoundland Railway coastal boats. Provincial Archives, The Rooms.
The S.S. Glencoe at Hermitage.
The S.S. Glencoe at Hermitage. The bay and coastal steamers were welcome visitors, thought of as "ours" in each port of call. The Glencoe was the longest-serving of all the coastal boats - from 1899 to 1959. Provincial Archives, The Rooms.