Thunder Bay

Fort Frances to refurbish second tugboat, Owandem for its waterfront

Another community in northwestern Ontario wants to display a big piece of its history along the waterfront.

Sandblasting and painting to cost $20-30k

Sherry George, the curator at the Fort Frances Museum says the organization will spend $20k-$30k to sandblast and paint the tug Owandem. (Jeff Walters/CBC)

Another community in northwestern Ontario wants to display a big piece of its history along the waterfront.

The Fort Frances Museum acquired the tugboat Owandem. The town now needs to sandblast and paint the boat, before being put on display along the shore of the Rainy River. The tug was used by the mill to haul logs from the bush to the pulp and paper operation in Fort Frances.

The display of the Owandem is one of a string of boats to be acquired by communities in northwestern Ontario. The Marathon Museum hopes to display the Peninsula, while the Alexander Henry is docked in Thunder Bay.

Fort Frances already has one tugboat on display at the Sorting Gap Marina, the Hallet.

"Certainly it's going to take a bit of work," said Sherry George, the curator at the Fort Frances Museum.

"Just to do the sandblasting and the painting, we'd like to paint it to the colours of the mill, the green and white, it's a big expense."

George estimates it will cost between $20,000-$30,000 to sandblast and paint the boat. She said it also weighs several tons, so moving the boat from one storage facility to another is a big endeavour.

She said the Hallet, which has been on display for years, makes up a big part of the visitation to the Fort Frances Museum.
The Hallet tug is docked along the Rainy River in Fort Frances, Ont. The Fort Frances Museum expects to add another tug to its waterfront collection, the Owandem. (Jeff Walters/CBC)

"It's part of our history. Logging in this area was big, it still is important to a lot of people. These particular boats, the tugs, both the Hallet and this tug that we have now, both were built by the Russell Brothers, who originated in Fort Frances."

"The Russell Brothers company, they started in Fort Frances, they ended up moving to Owen Sound, and that's when the mill bought these boats," she said.

The boat was donated to the museum by its previous owner, who lived across the river in International Falls, MN.

"I think most people are very much in favour of it. We do have a few people who really wish we could have saved one of the Gators, which were boats from an earlier era, that were manoeuvrable across land as well. But, none of those have survived, so this is what we're trying to save now."


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