Last month on Memorial Day weekend I worked W8CJQ, a special event station aboard the passenger ship SS Keewatin. The W8CJQ operation from 26-28 May 2012 was the last US amateur radio operation aboard the ship from it’s homeport as a museum in Douglas, Michigan before she moved to her new home port of Port McNicoll, Ontario as a museum. US hams have operated aboard the Keewatin in the past for the Museum Ships weekend and a group of Canadian hams are supposed to continue the tradition beginning in 2013. The contact with W8CJQ caught my attention so I decided to do a bit of research on the SS Keewatin.
The SS Keewatin was a combined passenger liner/freighter that carried passengers and freight between Thunder Bay (then Port Arthur/Fort William) on Lake Superior and Port McNicoll on Lake Huron for the Canadian Pacific Railway. She was built by the Fairfield Shipbuilding and Engineering Company in Scotland; launched in 1907, she operated until 1966. After construction in Scotland, the Keewatin crossed the Atlantic to begin service in the Great Lakes. In Quebec City, the ship had to be cut into two pieces to get past Montreal before being welded back together. After retiring from service as a passenger and cargo ship, the Keewatin moved to Douglas, MI where she became a museum ship. The SS Keewatin is considered to be the last remaining Edwardian era Steamer left in existence, making her a significant museum ship, representative of ships like the Titanic and Lusitania.
In 2011, the Keewatin was sold and the decision was made to move her back to Port McNicoll, her home port with the Canadian Pacific Railway to be restored and continue operation as a museum ship. The move began on 31 May 2012, just after the last W8CJQ operation. She arrived back in Port McNicoll on 23 June 2012, 100 years to the date she had arrived there to make it her home port. It is expected that the SS Keewatin will reopen for tours in April 2013. Hopefully this means that amateur radio operators will be able to operate from aboard her in the 2013 Museum Ships weekend. I would love to have the opportunity to QSL the Keewatin for not only her last US operation but her first Canadian operation!