Ferry service on P.E.I. celebrates 100th anniversary

While the ferry between Prince Edward Island and New Brunswick is no longer running, it has not been forgotten.

Former ferry captain says service made Island feel connected to Canada

The S.S. Prince Edward Island made its maiden voyage across the Northumberland Strait on Oct. 17, 1917. (Contributed by Marine Atlantic)

While the ferry between P.E.I. and New Brunswick is no longer running, it has not been forgotten. 

For close to 80 years, it provided a vital link by connecting the Island from Borden-Carleton to the mainland at Cape Tormentine and changed how passengers and goods were transported to the Island. 

Oct. 17 will mark the 100th anniversary for ferry service on P.E.I.

"The government of Canada built that ferry to haul rail cars in an agreement of what P.E.I. had agreed on when P.E.I. joined Confederation that they were going to get a proper connection to the mainland,"  said Lloyd MacCallum of the Bedeque Area Historical Society and a former ferry captain. 

One hour voyage

The S.S. Prince Edward Island's maiden voyage took place on Oct. 17, 1917. It was a one-hour trip across the ice-filled Northumberland Strait.

Lloyd McCallum was a ferry captain and made many trips between Borden-Carlton, P.E.I., and Cape Tormentine, N.B. (Tom Steepe/CBC)
"The piers were finally finished and the Prince Edward Island finally made her first trip across," said MacCallum, noting that while there were few passengers on board, there were 24 rail cars.   

The ship was a large, powerful state-of-the-art steamer that offered a train deck that could transport railway cars. The vessel provided increased capacity and could carry more people, cars and freight than was previously possible. When first introduced, the vessel received high praise for its fast speed and ongoing reliability during its years in service.

Three transfers 

But before the ferry was put in place, goods shipped to the Island had to be transported by train to Cape Tormentine, unloaded, and then moved onto a steamer for the trip across the Northumberland Strait to Summerside, Cape Traverse, Charlottetown or Georgetown, and then re-loaded onto a freight car on the P.E.I. Railway.

With three transfers required, it reduced significantly to the speed and effectiveness of efforts to get goods to the province.

There were few passengers and 24 rail cars on the maiden voyage. (Contributed by Marine Atlantic)

MacCallum said the new ferry service changed things for P.E.I.

"We were able to send stuff ashore to Cape Tormentine and onto Upper Canada — like potatoes and things like that." 

"We became part of Canada then." 

With files from Tom Steepe