TimeLinks: The Winnitoba and the Bonnitoba

Search | Image Archive | Reference | Communities | POV | Lesson Plans | Credits

No Image AvailableThe Winnitoba, built in Winnipeg by the Hyland Navigation Company in 1909, was one of the largest and grandest ships to ever ply Manitoba waters. The 57-metre long ship was different than most on the river as it was propelled by two side “paddle wheels”, opposed to a single large wheel astern. She could carry 1,500 to 2,000 passengers for day excursions, with 225 sleeping berths for longer trips, and still had space for 35 carloads of freight. This was a period when scores of ships powered by steam traveled the inland waters of Manitoba. The Winnitoba was intended for the summer “excursion” or passenger service down the Red River from Winnipeg to Hyland Park. These outings were often planned by local companies for the amusement of their employees, and their families. The normal course of events was for the Winnitoba to travel down the river to a designated park and there the passengers would disembark and picnic until the evening. On the return voyage home, as an orchestra played, a dance would be held on the boat’s deck. A barge was lashed alongside, if there was not enough dancing room for all passengers.

The Winnitoba was launched in Winnipeg on 7 July 1909, after being christened the previous day three year old Miss Leonora Margaret, daughter of the owner John L. Hyland, speeches being provided by Premier R. P. Roblin among others. It was said that the side-wheeler was overloaded at its launch and had to be towed into the water by the stern-wheeler Alberta, itself an excursion boat. In 1910, Prime Minister Wilfred Laurier officially opened the St. Andrew’s Locks (now Lockport) by sailing through on the Winnitoba. The same year the Hyland Navigation Company launched a second ship, the smaller Bonnitoba, also intended also intended for excursions to Hyland Park. However, the glory days of these two Hyland steamships was did not last long. In the early morning of 29 September 1912, the Winnitoba burnt at its moorings, in mysterious circumstances, and the hulk sank to the bottom of the harbour. Destroyed at the same time were two barges, the Hyland wharf and pavillon, and some furniture from the Bonnitoba. Part of the wreck of the Winnitoba is said to still be visible in the Red River near Hyland Park. The Bonnitoba was crushed in the ice near Winnipeg in 1913.

Click to enlargeClick to enlargeClick to enlargeClick to enlargeClick to enlarge

See also: The Sinking of the SS Princess | Winnipeg’s Fortune family and the RMS Titanic


This page was written by Brian Hubner.

Page revised: 23 October 2012