Confederation Marine Modellers

Nautical Lore - Toronto's Atlantic liners

  Removing them from service on the Mediterranean for the North Atlantic trade required the ships to be modified for the colder climate, and it was not until 1910 that they took up their new route, patriotically named Royal Edward (formerly Cairo) and Royal George (formerly Heliopolis) with home port at Toronto! In reality the liners never even saw Toronto, but since the steamship line was based in Toronto, Toronto was the most convenient port of registry. Known as the "Royal Line,” the Canadian Northern steamers were placed in service between Montreal and Avonmouth, England, during the summer months, switching the Canadian port to Halifax during the winter, when the St. Lawrence was frozen over. Business was brisk, especially with the flow of immigrants to Canada, and soon a third ship was contemplated. But it was never to be, for the outbreak of the First World War halted almost all immigrant traffic.
            Shortly after hostilities commenced in August 1914, Royal Edward and Royal George were requisitioned by the Admiralty and were quickly converted to troopships. Just over a year later, on 13 November 1915, the Royal Edward was sunk by a German torpedo in the Aegean Sea. Almost 1,500 troops were on board at the time, and 200 were lost. The Royal George was luckier, for she was sold to the Cunard Line on 10 May 1916, with the Canadian Northern Railway and Cunard agreeing to co-operate in all future service on the Atlantic and Pacific oceans. Royal George then took up a new route between New York and Liverpool or Southampton but was laid up in 1920 and scrapped in 1922 when Cunard deemed that she was not up to their standards  -  Royal Edward and Royal George were well known for their excessive rolling.

It is interesting to note that Cairo and Heliopolis were built at the same in the Fairfields yard in 1907 as Canadian Pacific's Keewatin and Assiniboia. The Keewatin, of course, is still afloat, preserved at Port McNicoll.

Surprising thought it may seem, there were two, and only two, ocean liners registered at Toronto, a port they never even saw.

            The Canadian Northern Railway was originally projected as a complete transportation system along the lines of the Canadian Pacific, with a transcontinental railway linked to the four corners of the world by large, sleek passenger liners. Unfortunately too much optimism and too little funding prevented the company's plans from being fulfilled on all oceans but  for the Atlantic, for which Canadian Northern Steamships, Limited, was chartered on 21 October 1909, with headquarters at the railway's head office in Toronto, they had some luck. By good fortune, two ships built for the British-owned Egyptian Mail Steamship Company for service between Marseille, France, and Alexandria, Egypt, became available when that company went bankrupt in 1909. The ships were the 11,117-ton Cairo and the 11,146~ton Heliopolis, both constructed by the Fairfield Shipbuilding & Engineering Company on the RIver Clyde at Govan, Scotland, in 1907, and while small by North Atlantic standards, they were barely two years old, almost new, and were capable of speeds over 20 knots.