The Robert Kerr on the Ways at the Esquimalt Marine Railway Ltd.

by John MacFarlane 2017

Robert Kerr

The Robert Kerr was the first vessel to go up on the ways at the Esquimalt Marine Railway Co. Ltd. (Photo from the John MacFarlane collection.)

W.F. Bullen, who was formerly the General Manager of the Albion Iron Works joined with his brother–in–law George Bushby to go into partnership in a ship repair facility at Esquimalt BC. In 1893 they formed the Esquimalt Marine Railway Co.

The chief asset of the yard was a 700 foot marine railway constructed by the Boston contractors H.I. Crandall & Sons. They constructed a cradle which could handle vessels up to 2,500 tons. The engine was constructed at the Victoria Machinery Depot and the gears were constructed locally. Sayward’s Mill provided the lumber and a repair shop was constructed.

The first vessel the yard handled was the Robert Kerr which went up for scraping and painting. The Robert Kerr was constructed in 1866 at Canada East (a Crown Colony now the Province of Quebec). She was operated by the Hudsons Bay Co. between the UK and the west coast. In 1887 she was taken over by the Canadian Pacific Railway, Montreal QC as a coal barge. She was wrecked near Danger Reef while in tow of the tug Coulti while traveling from Ladysmith to Vancouver with a cargo of coal. After stranding off the west coast of Vancouver Island she was purchased by Captain Soule then manager of the Hastings Mill Stevedoring Co. Afterwards she was a coal hulk in Vancouver harbour. She provided refuge for people in the Great Fire of 1886 at Vancouver BC.

Almost all of the early work was scraping, painting and re–sheathing hulls with copper. The yard was not on the approved Admiralty list so the valued naval work did not come at first. But there was plenty of local and US ships requiring repairs and refitting. When the Klondike Gold Rush started the company became a ship builder with the construction of the Casca.

To quote from this article please cite:

MacFarlane, John M. (2017) The Robert Kerr. 2017.

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