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Collections Insights Blog Series mini headerThe Steamship Princess Maquinna was built and designed specifically for service on the West Coast of Vancouver Island. She was launched from the British Columbia Marine Railway Shipyard in Esquimalt, BC, on Christmas Eve – December 24th, 1912. Her maiden voyage was the next year in July of 1913. She was not a large vessel, approximately 230 feet or 80 meters in length, with accommodation for up to approximately 300 passengers, and also ample cargo space.  She was also almost dowdy – not a pretty ship with her long stove-pipe like funnel, and very, very limited superstructure, or deck houses.

Nevertheless, what she lacked in aesthetic, she more than made up for in her stout construction. Bearing in mind that she was designed to service the extremely challenging conditions on the West Coast of Vancouver Island, bearing in mind it was often called the Graveyard of the Pacific with some horrendous storms.

Nevertheless, she began service on a route which barely changed in nearly thirty-nine years of service. That was originating in Victoria on day one, taking three days to reach her terminus in Port Alice BC, before returning for another three-day trip down the Coast. Interestingly, up to forty flag stops were often scheduled for the trip. The ship was very much loved, not only by the passengers she served but by the crew. Her  service regularity and schedule integrity was quite incredible throughout the years.

So, given this amazing situation of service, it is rather sad to learn that following World War Two, with the advent of more roads, which of course brought the delivery of goods by truck, also the advent of air travel, the need for the Princess diminished over the years. In the early 1950s, Canadian Pacific decided it was time to retire the old girl. Her final trip was scheduled for September 3rd, 1952, and with a full load of passengers and cargo, everyone was ready for this important final trip. Unfortunately, it had to be cancelled, when the poor old Princess Maquinna could not raise enough steam in her boilers to drive her engines, and therefore ignominiously the trip was cancelled. Needless to say, the passengers were not amused.

However, she was a tough old bird and amazingly, she was converted subsequently into a barge called the Taku. She had ten more years of service before finally being scrapped in Vancouver in 1962.