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|Departing Gladstone, Mich. 2005
Great Lakes Fleet Page Vessel Feature - Cason J. Callaway
By Jody Aho
The Cason J. Callaway was one of the eight "AAA" class vessels which
entered service during 1952 and 1953. She was the last of the trio of
vessels in this class (the Philip R. Clarke and Arthur M. Anderson were
the first two) built for Pittsburgh Steamship Company, who originally
developed the blueprints used for all eight members of this class.
The Cason J. Callaway was Hull #297 of the Great Lakes Engineering
Works at River Rouge, Michigan. She was the only one of Pittsburgh
Steamship Company's trio in this class to be built by GLEW; the other
two were from American Ship Building Company in Lorain. There were
minor differences between the Callaway and the two AmShip units; the
Callaway has a slightly larger pilothouse but has a smaller gross
registered tonnage. Nonetheless, the Callaway and the other seven
members of the class all had the same original overall dimensions: 647
feet long, 70 feet wide, and 36 feet deep. At the time, it was believed
to be the largest sized vessel which could be turned around inside the
harbor at Conneaut, Ohio, a common U.S. Steel ore unloading port.
The Callaway sailed on her maiden voyage September 16, 1952 light for
Duluth to load iron ore. The vessel was involved in a notable accident
in the St. Mary's River on August 21, 1955, when the Callaway collided
with the B.F. Jones (I) of the Wilson Transit Company. Both vessels
suffered major damage, although the empty B. F. Jones fared worse. The
Jones was considered a total loss and was scrapped shortly thereafter,
while the Callaway was repaired.
By 1957 the Pittsburgh Steamship Division billboard lettering was gone
from the side of the Callaway, marking the last significant change in
the vessel's appearance for over fifteen years. In 1974, the vessel was
lengthened 120 feet at Fraser Shipyards in Superior, a career-extending
move which was carried out on most of the other vessels in that class.
Eight years later, the vessel was converted to a self-unloader at the
same shipyard. This conversion ensured that the Callaway would remain
competitive for years to come.
Initially, the Callaway was used almost exclusively in the iron ore
trade. In the early 1960s, the Callaway occasionally visited the St.
Lawrence Seaway, often hauling grain from Toledo to ports on the St.
Lawrence River and returning with iron ore. By the end of the 1960s,
the Callaway returned to the traditional U.S. Steel iron ore trade
route. She remained on this route regularly until her conversion to a
self-unloader. After the conversion, the vessel began loading a wider
variety of cargoes and visiting an even greater variety of ports. Ports
such as Ashland and Green Bay, Wisconsin and Ontonagon and Dollar Bay,
Michigan would occasionally become part of the Callaway's trade route.
By the late 1980s, the Callaway fell into a somewhat regular trade
route, including a trip from either Duluth or Two Harbors with iron ore
to a Lower Lakes port, often Lorain; one or two intermediate trips
between ports on Lakes Huron, Michigan, and Erie; and a limestone load
from quarries at Rogers City (Calcite) and Cedarville (Port Dolomite),
Michigan back up to Duluth. An occasional odd cargo or port remains a
possibility. The vessel has remained on a similar pattern during the
The Callaway has also regularly been involved in extended season
navigation. The vessel operated through the winter a couple of times in
the mid-1970s, and in the 1990s she has been among the first to fit out
and last to lay up most seasons. Oddly, in 1998, she was among the
first vessels to lay-up, and plans began to surface about her possible
conversion to diesel power.
The Cason J. Callaway remains an active member of USS Great Lakes Fleet. With various modifications, the vessel has always remained useful in her trade route, emphasizing iron ore in the first few decades and a greater variety of cargoes and ports in the last fifteen years.
|| 767' 00" (233.78m)
|| 70' 00" (21.34m)
|| 36' 00" (10.97m)
|| 25,300 tons (25,706
|Power (steam turbine)
|| 7,700 s.h.p.
Stern view. Mike Nicholls
Foggy loading. G. Blaszkiewicz
Detroit River. Mike Nicholls
Detroit River. Mike Nicholls
Detroit River. Steve Haverty Collection.
Ice covered decks in 1966. T.
Unloading at Gladstone, MI Jan./05. Scott Best
Bow profile. Scott Best
Leaving Gladstone with tug assist. Scott Best