Alexander Henry

The Alexander Henry faces an uncertain future as the Marine Museum Of the Great Lakes has been forced to relocate. (http://www.kingstonmuseums.ca/)

A group of Thunder Bay residents is hoping the Alexander Henry — a decommissioned icebreaker built in Thunder Bay decades ago — will soon be back home.

The ship has been on display at the Marine Museum of the Great Lakes in Kingston for years. However, the museum no longer has the space needed to house the ship, leaving its future up in the air, with scrapping the ship or sinking it and making an artificial reef both possibilities.

However, the Lakehead Transportation Museum Society (LTMS) is hoping to step in, return the ship to Thunder Bay, and display it here, if they can find the money.

"We're budgeting for around the $250,000 mark as far as the actual tow and bringing it back," said Charlie Brown, president of the LTMS, adding that the ship itself will cost $1 to acquire.

Brown said the group is currently working to secure the necessary funding. Part of that process is appearing before Thunder Bay City Council and asking for financial support.

Brown wouldn't say how much the LTMS will be asking for during its council appearance, which they aim to make before the end of the year.

He did say they'll be seeking funds from more than one source, so the council request will not be for the full $250,000.

Seeking commitment from city

"What we'd need to do is have the city's commitment," Brown said. "The other thing that we're going to be looking for ... is hopefully a docking facility down on the waterfront."

Brown said the LTMS hopes that the Alexander Henry, should it return to Thunder Bay, will kickstart the Lakehead Transportation Museum itself.

"We're looking at it as the first phase," he said. "We're looking at it as a revenue base."

Brown said the Alexander Henry was a revenue source for the Kingston museum, where people paid to visit the ship.

The museum also ran a bed and breakfast on the ship for a number of years, Brown said, which is another possibility for Thunder Bay, Brown said.

The Alexander Henry was built in 1958 at the Port Arthur Shipyards, and commissioned in 1959.

The coast guard operated the icebreaker for decades, until it was decommissioned in 1984.

There was an attempt to acquire the ship for Thunder Bay then, but it was unsuccessful, Brown said.

"It's one of those iconic things," he said. "It's a great boat, it's in great shape, and we have an opportunity that I think we should seize upon."