377′ Incan Superior Railroad Ferry

The M/V Incan Superior operated from 1974 to 1992, transporting newsprint pulp and occasionally other cargoes between Thunder Bay, Ontario and Superior, Wisconsin.  The Incan Superior was a Canadian ship owned by Incan Ships, Ltd. and built by Burrard Dry Dock Company in North Vancouver, British Columbia. With twin propellors powered by twin General Motors diesel engines of 2,150 horsepower each, she was capable of reaching speeds of 30 knots, making her the fastest freight carrying ship on the Great Lakes. She was 373 feet long, 66 feet wide, with a gross tonnage of 3,838.

The N scale model is 718 mm (25.28”) long and 125 mm (4.95”) in beam: In Z scale the model is 522 mm (20.56”) long and 90.9 mm (3.58”) in beam. It carries five tracks that feed a matching loading bridge ending with three tracks. The stern alignment has been slightly altered to move the switches entirely onto the bridge, rather than split the points and frogs between bridge and ship. By happenstance, the alignment is perfect for Atlas Code 55 No. 7 switches in N scale or the equivalent in Z. Longer or shorter switches can be easily accommodated by trimming the grooves at the stern. N scale Code 40 rail (not supplied with kits) fits into grooves on the deck that are wide enough for precise gauge adjustments.

[The bulk of the ship’s history was adapted from Twin Ports Rail History: The Historic Railroads of Duluth & Superior by Jeff Lemke (Zenith City Press).] See http://zenithcity.com/book/twin-ports-rail-history/

The Incan Superior gave the Canadian Pacific Railway (CP) a revenue stream from the growing paper industry. Large quantities of newsprint paper were needed in the U.S. Although Thunder Bay’s Great Lakes Paper Company was producing paper and pulp needed south of the Canadian border, CP had no direct rail route into Duluth or Superior to ship those products to the U.S. Instead of building a new railroad line CP created a direct rail-water link using a car ferry system between Thunder Bay and Superior.

The CP handled the railroad switching chores in Thunder Bay, moving empty train cars off and placing loads back. The Lake Superior Terminal & Transfer Railway (LST&T or Terminal) in Superior performed the exact opposite task, taking the loaded cars off and replacing them with empties. The five tracks of the Incan Superior could carry up to 32 40-foot boxcars or 26 50-foot boxcars. Loaded cars carrying newsprint paper rolls would make the southbound trip from Thunder Bay to Superior; empty boxcars made the return trip from Superior to Thunder Bay. Chemical tanks cars and covered hopper carloads of grain and fertilizer occasionally made the trip as well, as newsprint revenue began to decline during the 1990s. Generally speaking it took about four hours for the railroad crews to unload and reload the vessel at either end of the trip. The Incan Superior usually left Thunder Bay at about 8 p.m., arriving in Superior pretty close to noon the following day.

The slip that Incan Superior operated into in Superior was known during its day as the Incan Railcar Transfer Dock. Prior to that it was known as Berwind Fuel Company Dock No. 1, where bituminous and anthracite coal was off-loaded from ships and stored on the ground for railroad, industrial and home heating use. Today this location is known as Hallett Dock 8 located just west of the huge Midwest Energy Resources coal trans-loading facility. Historically, railroad tracks of the Terminal, Great Northern, and Burlington Northern have served this dock.

The Incan Superior ended operations on Lake Superior on November 19, 1992. She had made 2,386 trips between the two Lake Superior cities. A competing land-based railroad route operated by Canadian National Railway became a less-expensive method of moving the same cargoes. A new U.S. federal tax was to go into affect, applied to each rail car carried over the water between the two countries by vessels such as the Incan Superior. The tax rendered the vessel unprofitable to operate, and the entire program was quickly abandoned.

In November 1992 the Seaspan Costal Intermodal Company became the new owner of the Incan Superior. Seaspan brought her back to British Columbia, again via the long trip through the St. Lawrence Seaway and Panama Canal. Renamed the Princess Superior she began car ferry operations for CP in the Straits of Georgia, hauling rail cars and road vehicles between Vancouver and Nanaimo on Vancouver Island. Her seagoing bow was cut down to allow loading and unloading from either end of the ship. She continues in this type of service today. The Princess Superior will be available on September 1, 2018; the third ship of the class, the Princess Carrier will be available shortly thereafter.

In the US the Incan Superior kit is $395 plus $30 shipping and handling. The accompanying Superior loading bridge is $79 plus $10 shipping and handling when purchased separately. Rail and railcars are not included.

In the US, a completed ship is $1250 with rails installed. A completed model of the loading bridge is $99 without track. Other options are available. Contact peterknolan@gmail.com. Payment via PayPal to peterknolan@gmail.com or other arrangements can be made.

6.2C. Incan Superior Railroad Ferry

Rear loading Incan Superior with Loading Bridge. Specify rail type (brand and height) when ordering; track is billed separately. Loading bridge is also a separate item. US shipping of $40 is included. International shipping contact peterknolan@gmail.com


6.2K Incan Superior Loading Bridge

Positionable loading bridge for Incan Superior. Includes $10 US shipping.