|This model boat is hand-crafted from hard wood with planks on frame construction and then the hull is painted as the color of the real boat. This model is fully assembled and ready for display.|
|Item CodeSpecificationsPacking VolumeFB0025W50L x 14W x 34H (cm)19.68L x 5.51W x 13.38H (inch)0.052 m³ = 1.83 ft³|
The SS Master was built in 1922 for Captain Herman Thorsen as a replacement for an earlier vessel. Very few ships were being built in the province during this period, (only 6 over 40′), and these were just about the last designed and launched with a steam plant installed; everywhere else steam and gasoline engines were being replaced by diesel engines. One of a trio of wood hulled tugs that were turned out at the Beach Avenue Shipyard in False Creek which were almost identical in design and size, the MASTER was, however, 5′ shorter than the other two, the SEA SWELL and the R.F.M. Arthur Moscrop, their builder, was Vancouver’s and British Columbia’s most notable tugboat builder, a man who had received his initial training from Arthur Wallace in his pioneer False Creek shipyard.
Moscrop went on to design and build a large number of outstanding wood hulled tugboats for coastal use, plus supervising the construction of the R.C.M.P.’s Arctic explorer, the ST. ROCH.
While several of Moscrop’s hulls are still around, they have been heavily modified structurally and all have been re-engined. The MASTER is the sole Moscrop built tug that is still close to her original design and which still operates with her original steam engine, and Royal Navy World War 1 surplus. The MASTER’s original cost is believed to have been around $34,000 and Captain Thorsen retained full ownership until 1927 when the Master Towing Company was incorporated and took title of the ship along with a mortgage for $23,000 back to Thorsen (This mortgage was transferred to the Home Oil Company in 1933).
First working for Fraser Mills and later chartered to the Lamb Logging Company, she put in general log and barge towing service from up coast to the mills in False Creek and elsewhere. In 1940, she was purchased by the Marpole Towing Company (joining her sister ship, the R.F.M.), and the Marpole colours, black diamonds on a white band on an orange stack were now painted on her colours that she wears to this day. The black diamonds, which had been the insignia of the firm since shortly after the turn of the century, signified the towing of coal barges from Vancouver Island to the company’s plant in Coal Harbor in Vancouver.
In 1947, control of the Marpole Towing Company was assumed by Evans, Coleman and Evans – although actual title to the ship was not transferred until 1959. Around 1951, she had become part of the operations of the Gilley Bros. fleet, another subsidiary of Evans, Coleman but her Marpole colours remained unchanged. By 1959, the parent company decided to dispense with its old timers and tied up a clutch of them, including the MASTER, at the mouth of the Brunette River and left them. Dilapidated and stripped, she was finally put up for sale or scrap. “Where is, as is”, in 1962. Here she was spotted by some members of the World Ship Society of Western Canada, a branch of an English based organization of ship-lovers. They decided to rescue and restore her as a tribute to the tugboat industry of British Columbia. For the full payment of $500, raised quickly among some members, the Society took over the MASTER on August 14, 1962.
Thousands of hours of volunteer labor, scrounged and donated materials, along with money raised by all sorts of means, resulted in the ship being cleaned up and repaired, equipment restored and replaced and steam being raised on April 23, 1963, the first time in several years. The MASTER now commenced a new career as the Society’s flagship, bringing to a new and old public, an awareness of the now vanished era of marine steam.
In April 1971, the World Ship Society, finding it increasingly difficult under its charter to maintain the MASTER, turned her over to a newly formed group called the Society for the Preservation of the Steam Towboat Master (in May, 1985, the name was changed to the ‘S.S. Master Society’), who have been her exclusive owners and operators ever since.
Many thousands of hours are put in each year to maintain her in a condition good enough to pass her obligatory annual Canadian Ship Inspection, and thanks to her faithful volunteer crew, she always passes with flying colours.
Since 1963, the MASTER has been in the forefront of marine happenings in the Port of Vancouver. She has participated in Vancouver’s Sea Festival and Nanaimo’s Bathtub Races for many years. She has served the Sun Fishing Derby and the Polar Bear Swim. She has carried the Canadian flag to steam meets in the San Juan Islands, to marine conventions in Seattle, and has raced American steamboats — and won! She started Vancouver’s now famed Christmas Carol Ship Parade by towing a scow with a lighted tree and recorded carols amongst ships at anchor off Spanish Banks in the early 1960’s. She has appeared on television on occasions, and in films shot on location in BC waters, once disguised as a paddle wheeler. She has carried groups of sponsors and friends on cruises. And, largely because she was the quietest ship available, she has also been employed as a hydrographic survey vessel.
In 1986, after a five year refit, she arrived at EXPO 86, taking her place as flagship of the Marine Plaza. That year she led more than 45 ships in the first Work Boat Parade in the Fraser River Festival, and she has missed only one parade since.
The MASTER is now more than the tribute to the tugboat industry that was envisioned by the World Ship Society in 1962. She is that, certainly, but she is also…
The only surviving steam powered, locally built, wood hulled tugboat in British Columbia, and (we believe) in North America. The closest to original state of any of the surviving hulls produced by BC’s master tugboat builder, Arthur Moscrop of Vancouver. Designated as a “Heritage Object” by the Province of BC, and the City of Vancouver.
The MASTER has survived by luck, not by planning, to become the sole representative early era of the tugboat industry and its concomitants, the forest and mining industries.
Before there was truck logging – there was just logging! And the essential component of logging was water transport of the logs to the mills. Whether by rafts or by barges, whether they were pushed or pulled, the raw material and by-products were moved by tugs. And the raw material from coastal mining operations was also moved by tugs. Tugs were, and in many aspects still are, the backbone of coastal industries, the industries that make up the raw foundation of our economy. The men, women and children who serve, and who have served, on them, are as much a part of our history and heritage as the ships they worked. In saving and restoring even one of these veteran craft, we are simply acknowledging our indebtedness to our pioneer industries and workers.
But, as our pioneers well knew, wood – especially wood boats, do not last forever. They need constant renewal and replacement; this is a basic fact of industrial life. Obsolescence planned or otherwise, is always just around the corner. There comes the day, to all man-made objects, when the cost of maintenance and repair has to be balanced against the cost of replacement. In most cases, the only sound course is to opt for replacement. But in some situations, cost is no longer a factor; other values come into effect – values such as history, record, survival, tribute, education, and entertainment. All these attributes are part of the intrinsic value of the old tug, the MASTER. She has long outlived her original designed service. With interest and witch are, she can, in her new role, survive for many more years and bring to generations down the years, the unique delight and information that is contained in the operation of a steam engined, wood hulled tug.
What was Master used for?
The tug Master worked from 1922 to 1959 and was a common site in Vancouver waters. It was originally built for Captain Herman Thorsen who was going to use it in a one-tug operation towing log booms from up the coast to the mills in False Creek, Vancouver. In1940 the tug was purchased by the Marpole Towing Company, and was used to tow coal barges around Prince Rupert and the Queen Charlotte Islands, as well as across the Strait of Georgia to Coal Harbor in Vancouver.
What happened to the tug?
After 37 years of service Master had traveled over a million miles. In 1963, after years of sitting unattended and dilapidated, it was put up for sale for scrap. Two members from a local branch of the World Ship Society purchased the historic tug and sold shares to help cover their costs. After thousands of volunteer hours and generous donations from local marine industries, the tug was restored and made sea worthy. Master was transferred to the SS Master Society. With the generous support of a dedicated crew of volunteers, and financial contributions, the Society keeps the historic wooden tug afloat.
Was Master the first Carol Ship?
Before the Carol Ships started their parade of decorated ships, Master made ‘Christmas Voyages’ out to the ships anchored in the harbor. The tradition started in 1963 when Master towed a large decorated Christmas tree out to the ships anchored in Burrard Inlet.
The intent was to bring a little Christmas to the many ships and their crew who were far from home during the holidays.
Where is Master today?
This tug still operates on the original steam engine and its distinctive whistle can be heard when it steams to various festivals and events. When Master is not participating in maritime festivals around B.C., it can be found at the Vancouver Maritime Museums Heritage Harbor from May to September. Look for its distinctive black diamond painted funnel, the signature logo of the Marpole Towing Company.