The S.S. Keewatin has a very deep history as it was operated by the Canadian Pacific Railway (CPR) from 1907 until 1965. The Keewatin was one of five ships CPR had commissioned for running cargo and passengers through the Upper Great Lakes. For almost 60 years the Keewatin ran from Port McNicoll to Port Arthur/Fort William (Thunder Bay). Now it’s a floating museum in its hometown of Port McNicoll. Open everyday from mid-May until Thanksgiving weekend, 10-3:30. Tours run every 30 minutes.
“The Friends of Keewatin” is the non-for-profit charity that operates the museum and is almost 100% done by volunteers that are passionate about the Keewatin. Some are even former crew members or family of some. In addition to being 111 years old, there is always ongoing restoration work that is being done to preserve this important piece of history and further improve your tour experience.
Before you go, it’s important to note that the Keewatin is not accessible to those with mobility issues. A ramp with an approximate 13 degree incline is required to get inside, guests can expect at least two flights of stairs during the upper deck portion of the tour. However, a photo tour of the ship can be done from the lobby if guests would like to see the ship, but are physically unable.
Visitors who decide to take a tour of the Keewatin have the option of the Upper Deck tour that costs $15 + HST and will take about an hour; or the Full Tour with the Engine Room for $20 + HST and takes approximately 1 1/2 hours. Children under 15 are free. All admission is the revenue the Keewatin uses to restore and operate.
All tours are guided and bring you to through all the main passenger areas, crew’s quarters, dining room, kitchen, ballroom, lounges, and the engine room. Overall, the ship weighs 2466 tons, is 350 feet in length and is 43 feet wide. Originally berthed for about 195 people, it was later changed to 288 and a crew of 86 would be enlisted to operate it. All necessary to transport the cargo and passengers across the Great Lakes, to help settle the West and bring grain to the East. Any questions can be answered by the tour guides as they are extremely knowledgeable about the Keewatin and other important history.
Seeing the original dish-ware and some of the other artifacts is really a step-back in time. Not only is the tour jam-packed with knowledge, there are plenty of interesting things to look at in the lobby area. Including a growing collection of model ships, maps of the area, and a display of artifacts found in shipwrecks in the Great Lakes.
Throughout the tour you will see and experience the history of the ship and be thrown back in time to the days of first-class sailing on the Great Lakes. Almost half of the 105 staterooms on the Keewatin are available for viewing, and all staged to represent a year the ship was in service. All of the period clothing and furniture on the Keewatin has all been donations from people who have.
There are so many stories and interesting facts about the Keewatin and the passengers that once cruised on it, that everyone can learn something new. The area of Simcoe County is full of wonderful museums and this one is certainly unique in every sense. As the last known Edwardian Schooner to exist, it’s well worth the once-in-a- lifetime opportunity and would recommend you experience it for yourself.
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