Leon Fraser

Leon Fraser – Alpena {2}

1942-Present

Alpena in the Straits of Mackinac, July 21, 2020. Photo by Brendan Falkowski

Specs

Build Information

Year Built: 1942

Builder: Great Lakes Engineering Works, River Rouge, Michigan

Hull #287

Registry: U.S. 241856

IMO #5206362

Laid Down: June 5, 1941

Launch Date: February 28, 1942

Commissioned: June 21, 1942

Construction

The Leon Fraser was constructed in 1942 as a gearless bulk carrier by Great Lakes Engineering Works of River Rouge, Michigan, for the Pittsburgh Steamship Division of the United States Steel Corporation.

The Fraser was the first of five members of Pittsburgh Steamship’s AA Class, nicknamed the “Supers” because of their massive size at the time. These ships were variations on Pittsburgh’s John Hulst and Ralph H. Watson, with more refined lines and a more powerful engine. The AA Class ships were constructed by two shipyards, with the Leon Fraser, Enders M. Voorhees, and A. H. Ferbert being built by Great Lakes Engineering Works and the Benjamin F. Fairless and Irving S. Olds being constructed by American Shipbuilding in Lorain, Ohio.

The Leon Fraser was originally constructed as a gearless bulk carrier. She was rebuilt in 1990 as a self-unloading cement carrier with airslide slopes in her cargo hold that feed a tunnel conveyor that runs to a forward-mounted bucket elevator system. The cement can be discharged to the shoreside terminal from the bucket elevator via an airslide unloading boom or Fuller-Kenyon powdered cement pumps.

Modifications

  • Bow thruster installed, American Shipbuilding, Lorain, Ohio, 1970.
  • Boilers converted to oil-fired, American Shipbuilding, Lorain, Ohio, 1970.
  • Hull bubbler system installed, Fraser Shipyards, Superior, Wisconsin, 1972.
  • Shortened by 120′, Fraser Shipyards, Superior, Wisconsin, 1990.
  • Converted to a self-unloading cement carrier, Fraser Shipyards, Superior, Wisconsin, 1990.

General Stats

As Constructed

Length Overall: 639’06”

Length Between Perpendiculars: 623’03”

Breadth: 67′

Depth: 35′

Loaded Draft: 25’08”

Capacity: 19,150 Tons

Vessel Type: Gearless Bulk Carrier

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

Number of Hatches: 18

Primary Operations: Ore, Stone Trades

Propellers: 1

Rudders: 1

After shortening by 120′ and conversion to a self-unloading cement carrier, 1991

Length Overall: 519’06”

Length Between Perpendiculars: 503’03”

Breadth: 67′

Depth: 35′

Loaded Draft: 26’05”

Capacity: 13,900 Tons

Vessel Type: Self-Unloading Cement Carrier

Number of Cargo Holds: 7

Number of Hatches: —

Primary Operations: Cement Trade

Propellers: 1

Rudders: 1


Engineering Equipment

Original

Engine

Engine Type: Steam Turbine

Engine Manufacturer: De Laval Steam Turbine Co., Trenton, NJ

Engine Model: Double Reduction-Geared Cross-Compound Steam Turbine

Number of Engines: 1

Rated HP: 4000 SHP


Boiler

Boiler Type: Coal-Fired Water Tube Boilers

Boiler Manufacturer: —

Boiler Size: 16,992 sq. ft.

Number of Boilers: 2


History

Lineage

Leon Fraser – 1942-1951

Owner: Pittsburgh Steamship Co., Cleveland, OH [U. S. Steel]

Operator: Pittsburgh Steamship Co.

Flag: United States

Home Port: Duluth, MN


Leon Fraser – 1951-1967

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


Leon Fraser – 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


Leon Fraser – 1981-1985

Owner: USX Great Lakes Fleet, Duluth, MN

Operator: USX Great Lakes Fleet

Flag: United States

Home Port: Duluth, MN


Leon Fraser – 1985-1989

Owner: Spitzer Marine LTD., Lorain, OH

Operator: —

Flag: United States

Home Port: Lorain, OH


Leon Fraser – 1989-1990

Owner: Fraser Shipyards, Superior, WiI

Operator: Fraser Shipyards [Conversion to a cement carrier]

Flag: United States

Home Port: Superior, WI


Alpena {2} – 1991-1996

Owner: Inland Lakes Transportation, Alpena, MI

Operator: Inland Lakes Management

Flag: United States

Home Port: Cleveland, OH


Alpena {2} – 1996-Present

Owner: Inland Lakes Transportation, Muskegon, MI [Andrie, Inc.]

Operator: Inland Lakes Management, Muskegon, MI [Andrie, Inc.]

Flag: United States

Home Port: Cleveland, OH


Her Story

The Leon Fraser was constructed in 1942 as a gearless bulk carrier to the plans of the AA Class ship by Great Lakes Engineering Works of River Rouge, Michigan, for the Pittsburgh Steamship Division of the United States Steel Corporation.

The keel for the first member of the AA “Supers” Class was laid on June 5, 1941, being christened Leon Fraser and launched into the waters of the Detroit River on February 28, 1942. The Fraser entered service on June 21, 1942, departing Detroit for Duluth, Minnesota, to load iron ore.

Starting in 1962, the Fraser 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. The last known time the Fraser passed through the Welland Canal on a Seaway ore run was on August 3, 1977.

In 1967, the Pittsburgh Steamship Division and Bradley Transportation Line fleets were merged into one fleet under U.S. Steel (USS) management.  In 1970, the Leon Fraser had a bow thruster installed and her boilers converted to oil-firing while in winter layup at American Shipbuilding in Lorain, Ohio.

During the late 1960’s and early 1970’s, the Leon Fraser participated in U.S. Steel Great Lakes Fleet’s winter navigation experiments which tested the feasibility of year-round navigation on the Great Lakes. A special hull bubbler system was installed on the Fraser at Fraser Shipyards in Superior, Wisconsin. The winter navigation project ended in 1979 with the implementation of an annual closing and opening of the Soo Locks.

While upbound on the St. Clair River near Port Huron, Michigan on June 6, 1978, the Fraser lost her rudder. The crew managed to use the bow thruster to steer the ship to get her out into Lake Huron to anchor and await tugboat assistance. She was towed to Lorain, Ohio, for repairs afterwards.

The Leon Fraser was laid up for the final time in U.S. Steel colors on December 20, 1981. She would remain there until 1985, when she was sold to Spitzer Marine for use in a shoreline redevelopment project, but, the project fell through and the Fraser was sold to Fraser Shipyards of Superior, Wisconsin, in 1989. The Leon Fraser was towed out of Lorain on October 29, 1989, to Fraser Shipyards in Superior, where she would be placed in drydock to be shortened. Her hull was cut in half and a 120′ section removed, and the bow and stern sections welded back together. Then, slopes and an unloading conveyor were installed, leading to a forward-mounted bucket elevator that transferred her cargo to an airslide conveyor boom or a pair of Fuller-Kenyon cement pumps. She was sold to Inland Lakes Transportation in early 1991 and was renamed Alpena {2}. She would operate under the banner of Inland Lakes Management, later under the ownership of Andrie, Inc.

The Alpena sailed on her maiden voyage as a cement carrier on June 6, 1991, heading out of Superior for Alpena, Michigan, to load cement. Christening ceremonies were held at Alpena on June 10, 1991.

Inland Lakes Transportation/Management was acquired by Andrie, Inc., of Muskegon, Michigan, in 1996. She was still operating under the management of Inland Lakes.

The Alpena lost her rudder in October of 2005, requiring repairs at Bay Shipbuilding in Sturgeon Bay, Wisconsin.

While in drydock at Bay Shipbuilding in Sturgeon Bay, Wisconsin, on December 11, 2015, a fire broke out in the Alpena‘s stern section damaging her crew’s quarters and a portion of the engine room. She was quickly repaired and returned to service in early summer of 2016.

The Alpena remains a busy vessel in the cement trade, serving Lafarge Cement terminals across the upper Great Lakes.


Compiled By Brendan Falkowski

Updated on October 5, 2020


Gallery


Sources

Bawal, Raymond A. Jr., Twilight of the Great Lakes Steamer. Inland Expressions, 2009. Pp. 14-20.

Berry, Sterling P. “Fraser, Leon” Great Lakes Vessel History: Vessel Histories of Sterling P. Berry. N.d. Accessed 5 October 2020. <https://www.greatlakesvesselhistory.com/histories-by-name/f/fraser-leon-2>

Devendorf, John F. Great Lakes Bulk Carriers, 1869-1985. John F. Devendorf, 1996. Pp. 164.

Greenwood’s Guide to Great Lakes Shipping 2016, Harbor House Publishers, 2016. Pp. 3.1.

Miller, Al. Tin Stackers: The History of the Pittsburgh Steamship Company. Wayne State University Press, 1999. Pp. 152-153, 200, 249, 281.

Reaume, Earl J. U.S. Freighters of the Great Lakes. Border Publishing, 2000. Pp. 3-4.

The Great Lakes Engineering Works: The Shipyard and its Vessels. Marine Historical Society of Detroit, 2008. Pp. 420-422.

Wharton, George. “Alpena (3)”. Great Lakes & Seaway Shipping Online. N.d. Accessed 5 October 2020. <http://boatnerd.com/pictures/fleet/Alpena3.htm>