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Group planning to bring other pieces of transportation heritage to waterfront

Brill trolley buses, James Whalen tugboat could make their way to Pool Six in the near future.
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Alexander Henry 2
The Alexander Henry arrived back in Thunder Bay in June 2017. (tbnewswatch file photograph)

THUNDER BAY – The Alexander Henry could have some company at Pool Six next summer.

The Lakehead Transportation Museum Society, which led efforts to have the decommissioned icebreaker brought back to Thunder Bay, is pursuing plans to have a pair of Brill trolley buses and the James Whalen tugboat relocated to the waterfront later this year.

Charlie Brown, president of the Lakehead Transportation Museum Society, on Monday night told Thunder Bay city council discussions have been ongoing with administration to have the other historical pieces incorporated as a complete site.

“The Brills themselves, we could bring them over actually very quickly if we can extend our area on the lease in a small way and set some pads down. We could set those up and enclose them in a fence protected area,” Brown said.

“We do have the room to shift the (Alexander Henry) back about 30 feet and we believe there’s enough room and enough water we can bring over the James Whalen.”

The Brill trolley buses, built at the former Canadian Car Foundry at the current Bombardier plant location just after the Second World War, were brought back to Thunder Bay in 2001 after being rescued from a scrap yard in British Columbia.

The restored vehicles have spent the past several years in storage at the Thunder Bay Transit garage awaiting a permanent home.

The 112-year-old James Whalen tugboat is moored at the Kaministiquia River Heritage Park on the south side of the city.

Kelly Robertson, the city’s manager of community services, said administration has some work ahead before considering a relocation, including tracking down the ownership documents of the ship to pave the way for a potential transfer to the museum society.

“I also need to follow up with the (museum society) on the current mooring of the James Whalen tug,” Robertson said. “It’s appended to the existing dock so I’m not sure what the implications are going to be of removing the ship from that dock. We have to do some homework on that.”

While the status of those two transportation heritage artifacts remains up in the air, Brown said the Alexander Henry is being targeted to be open to the public in late May and a ceremony is planned for July 18 to mark the 50th anniversary of the ship’s dedication at the former Port Arthur Shipyard.

The former Canadian Coast Guard icebreaker arrived in the city in June after being towed across the Great Lakes from Picton, Ont. However, the ship was temporarily docked at the old iron ore pier during a four-month delay while a lease agreement between the museum society, city and Thunder Bay Port Authority was ironed out.

The Alexander Henry was finally brought to Pool Six in November.

While the group is planning to host tours and other events onboard the former icebreaker, they have ruled out following the lead of the previous owners of the ship and converting it into a bed and breakfast.

“She’s in excellent condition but the restrictions put on us to run it as an actual hotel, it’s not feasible for us,” Brown said. “Certainly, with the tours we have planned plus the special events, I think we’ll still be doing extremely well as far as the budget is concerned.”