Cason J. Callaway

Cason J. Callaway


Cason J. Callaway on the St. Marys River, June 2, 2020. Photo by Roger LeLievre


Build Information

Year Built: 1952

Builder: Great Lakes Engineering Works, River Rouge, MI

Hull #297

Registry: U.S. 264349

IMO #5065392

Laid Down: January 3, 1951

Launch Date: March 22, 1952

Commissioned: September 16, 1952


The Cason J. Callaway was constructed in 1952 as a gearless bulk carrier by the American Shipbuilding Company at their Lorain, Ohio, shipyard for the Pittsburgh Steamship Division of United States Steel Corporation. She was the leading member of the AAA Class, or the “Pittsburgh” Class. The AAA Class ships were designed with refined hull streamlining and an asymmetrical stern to help improve water flow to the propeller. Adding to this, the rudder was slightly offset for more efficiency. All vessels of the class were originally 647’ long, 70’ wide, and 36’ deep with a cargo capacity of about 21,000 tons. The AAA ships were outfitted with oil fired boilers that provided steam for a large Westinghouse geared steam turbine, giving them around 7,000 HP. These engines pushed the ships along at around 16 MPH, making a round trip in just over 5 days, an improvement over the 6-7 day passages by older vessels. There were also some minor differences between the American Shipbuilding and Great Lakes Engineering Works units, those being that the Great Lakes Engineering ships had a slightly larger pilothouse but a slightly lower gross registered tonnage.

The Cason J. Callaway was the first of eight ships built along the AAA class lines, the others being the identical Arthur M. Anderson, Philip R. Clarke, Reserve and William Clay Ford, and the near-identical Edward B. Greene, Armco, and J. L. Mauthe.

The Callaway was originally constructed as a gearless bulk carrier, being designed with large box holds to make her an efficient carrier in the iron ore trade. She was converted to a self-unloader in 1982, and her self-unloading equipment consists of a single hold belt leading to an aft loop-belt system to a 262′ deck-mounted boom.


  • Modified for saltwater operations, 1962.
  • Bow thruster installed, 1966.
  • Lengthened by 120′, Fraser Shipyards, Superior, Wisconsin, 1974.
  • Converted to self-unloader, Fraser Shipyards, Superior, Wisconsin, 1982.
  • Stern thruster installed, Fraser Shipyards, Superior, Wisconsin, 1987.
  • Self-unloading boom lengthened by 12′, 1990’s.

General Stats

As Constructed

Length Overall: 647′

Length Between Perpendiculars: 629’03”

Breadth: 70′

Depth: 36′

Loaded Draft: 26’02”

Capacity: 21,000 Tons

Vessel Type: Gearless Bulk Carrier

Number of Cargo Holds: 3 [Hatch-Hold Arrangement: 6-7-6]

Number of Hatches: 19 [Dimensions: 46’x11′]

Primary Operations: Ore Trade

Propellers: 1

Rudders: 1

After Lengthening, 1974

Length Overall: 767′

Length Between Perpendiculars: 749’03”

Breadth: 70′

Depth: 36′

Loaded Draft: 27′

Capacity: 26,525 Tons

Vessel Type: Gearless Bulk Carrier

Number of Cargo Holds: 3 [Hatch-Hold Arrangement: 6-12-6]

Number of Hatches: 24 [Dimensions: 46’x11′]

Primary Operations: Ore Trade

Propellers: 1

Rudders: 1

After conversion to self-unloader, 1982

Length Overall: 767′

Length Between Perpendiculars: 749’03”

Breadth: 70′

Depth: 36′

Loaded Draft: 27′

Capacity: 25,300 Tons

Vessel Type: Loop-Belt Self-Unloader

Self-Unloading Boom Length: Aft-Mounted; 262′ [Lengthened from 250′ during the mid-1990’s]

Number of Cargo Holds: 7 [Hatch-Hold Arrangement: 3-3-4-4-4-3-2]

Number of Hatches: 23 [Dimensions: 46’x11′]

Primary Operations: Ore, Coal, Stone Trades

Propellers: 1 Controllable Pitch Propeller

Rudders: 1

Engineering Equipment



Engine Type: Steam Turbine

Engine Manufacturer: Westinghouse Electric Co., Pittsburgh, PA

Engine Model: Double-Reduction Geared Steam Turbine

Number of Engines: 1

Rated HP: 7700 SHP


Boiler Type: Oil-Fired Water Tube Boilers

Boiler Manufacturer: Foster-Wheeler, Baar, Switzerland

Boiler Size: 15466 sq. ft.

Number of Boilers: 2



Cason J. Callaway – 1952-1967

Owner: Pittsburgh Steamship Division, United States Steel Corp., New York, NY

Operator: Pittsburgh Steamship Division, United States Steel Corp.

Flag: United States

Home Port: New York, NY

Cason J. Callaway – 1967-1981

Owner: USS Great Lakes Fleet, New York, NY [U.S. Steel Corp.]

Operator: USS Great Lakes Fleet

Flag: United States

Home Port: New York, NY

Cason J. Callaway – 1981-1988

Owner: USX Great Lakes Fleet, Duluth, MN

Operator: USX Great Lakes Fleet

Flag: United States

Home Port: Duluth, MN

Cason J. Callaway – 1988-2004

Owner: USX Great Lakes Fleet, Inc., Duluth, MN [Blackstone Capital Partners]

Operator: USX Great Lakes Fleet

Flag: United States

Home Port: Duluth, MN

Cason J. Callaway – 2004-Present

Owner: Great Lakes Fleet, Inc., Duluth, MN [Canadian National Railway]

Operator: Key Lakes Inc., Duluth, MN

Flag: United States

Home Port: Duluth, MN

Her Story

In the summer of 1950, the Pittsburgh Steamship Company announced plans to construct three new ships. Two of the ships, the Philip R. Clarke and the Arthur M. Anderson, would be built by American Shipbuilding Company of Lorain, Ohio, leaving the final ship, the Cason J. Callaway, to be built by Great Lakes Engineering Works of River Rouge, Michigan. These ships were designated the AAA Class, which was a continuation of Pittsburgh Steamship’s class system for differentiating ship size. Nicknamed the “Pittsburgh” Class, eight vessels total were constructed to the lines of the AAA class plans.

Construction on Hull#297 began in mid-1951 at the Great Lakes Engineering Works yard. She was christened and launched as the Cason J. Callaway on March 22, 1952. The final of the three AAA Class ships built for Pittsburgh Steamship Company, she sailed on her maiden voyage on September 16, 1952 bound for Duluth, Minnesota. Common unloading ports for the Callaway consisted of Gary, Indiana, and Conneaut, Ohio. On August 21, 1955, the Cason J. Callaway was involved with a head-on collision with the B.F. Jones. Both vessels suffered heavy damage with the Jones being retired after the incident.

Starting in 1962, the Callaway and a dozen of her fleetmates carried ore from the Labrador Mines to the U.S. Steel mills on the lakes. Minor modifications to the vessels were made in order for them to run in saltwater, such as the installation of extra water tanks for the crew. Mates were assigned to sail on Canadian ships to become familiar with the eastern
part of the Seaway system so they could apply for Coast Guard pilot licenses for the region. The Seaway runs continued until the early 1970’s.

In 1967, the Pittsburgh Steamship Division and Bradley Transportation Line fleets were merged into one fleet under U.S. Steel (USS) management. The Cason J. Callaway locked through the Soo Locks on December 30, 1967, ending the locks’ longest season and beginning the first phase of U.S. Steel’s Extended Navigation Project. The project was a cooperation between U.S. Steel, the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, and the U.S. Coast Guard to test the efficiency of keeping Great Lakes shipping open year-long. By 1974, the Soo Locks were running year-round, with the experiment concluding in 1979 with the institution of an annual closing date and off-season for the Soo Locks.

In early 1974, USS approved a project to lengthen their AAA ships by 120’. The Cason J. Callaway was the first boat to enter the drydock at Fraser Shipyards on April 13, 1974. She was then cut in half just aft of midship, and her stern section floated out of the drydock. The new mid-body was floated in and lined up with the bow, followed by the stern section. The sections were then welded together and a new, larger rudder was installed to handle the vessel’s larger size. She was pulled from drydock on May 26, returning to service a few weeks later. After this modification, the Callaway could no longer navigate the Welland Canal as she was too long to fit in the locks.

In August 1981, the Callaway entered the drydock at Fraser Shipyards for a conversion to a self-unloader. Prior to her arrival, 23 sloped cargo hold bottom sections were prefabricated with the conveyor structure and utilities in place to be installed. Once in drydock, her cargo hold bottom was removed and the new sections were lowered through her cargo hatches and welded together. Her above-deck equipment was installed just forward of the aft deckhouse with a 250’ cargo boom to deliver the cargo to the dock. The Callaway was the first of the trio out of the yard at the beginning of the 1982 season, departing on April 20 to test her unloading system at the ore docks across the harbor. After testing she finished loading and headed on her way. The estimated cost for the project was $11 Million. The conversion cut her unloading time from 17 hours using shoreside gear to 6 hours using her own equipment. Due to economic recession, she laid up midseason in 1982. In 1987, the Callaway entered the Fraser drydock once again to have a stern thruster installed to increase maneuverability.

In June 1988, USS sold the majority stake of the Great Lakes Fleet to Blackstone Capital Partners. Diagonal black and gray strips were added to the ships in 1990 to signify the change in ownership. Over the winter of 1989-1990, her cargo holds were rearranged, giving her seven cargo holds to increase flexibility when carrying different cargoes. The Cason J. Callaway was involved in a ship-to-ship transfer when the Edgar B. Speer unloaded into the Callaway, which unloaded onto the dock at the C & P dock at Cleveland. The Speer was unable to unload at the dock because her boom was too short. Sometime in the mid-1990’s, the Cason J. Callaway’s self-unloading boom was lengthened to 262’. During the winter of 2000-2001, the engine room was automated by Fraser Shipyards, allowing direct control from the pilothouse and implementing a one-person watch in the engine room. She returned to service on May 15, 2001.

In late 2003, Canadian National Railway purchased Great Lakes Fleet from Blackstone for $380 Million. The fleet would continue to operate as U.S. flag vessels under the direct ownership of Great Lakes Fleet, Inc. Management of the ships was taken over by Key Lakes, Inc.

The Cason J. Callaway was the first commercial vessel to transit the Soo Locks for the 2008 season on March 25. She collided with the American Republic a few days later in the Straits of Mackinaw while in heavy ice.

The Cason J. Callaway continues to be a busy member of the Great Lakes Fleet every season, carrying numerous loads of taconite, coal, and stone.

Cason J. Callaway entered long-term layup at Sturgeon Bay, WI, on January 16, 2021. She is due for a 5-Year Inspection and is in need of major steel work before being able to return to service. Her fate is currently unknown.

Her Story article written by Brendan Falkowski, from #48 Freighters, January-February 2020

Compiled By Brendan Falkowski

Updated on December 28, 2021


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