Hamilton’s Glen Class Tugs

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Between 1943 and 1945, the Royal Canadian Navy ordered twenty diesel tugs all with names starting with “Glen”.  They were 80’ long with a beam of 20’ and a draft of 9’8” and displaced 170 long tons.  They were powered by a single diesel engine of between 320 and 400 bhp.  Four were built of wood, three on the west coast and one on the east; while the rest were of steel with eleven built at Russel Brothers in Owen Sound and five at Canadian Dredge and Dock in Kingston.

The war over, many were sold to commercial interests while others continued with the navy.  In 1979, Hamilton’s McKeil Marine acquired three:  GLENSIDE (YTB-500), GLENBROOK (YTB-501) and GLENEVIS ( YTB-502), and they were familiar sights around Hamilton for twenty years.

GLENSIDE (YTB-500) at her launch 22 August 1944
GLENBROOK (YTB-501) in McKeil colours
GLENEVIS (YTB-502) in the Welland Canal

They are all gone now but another Glen tug has made a permanent home in Hamilton and probably receives more visitors annually than the much more famous destroyer HMCS HAIDA, only a few blocks away.  Overlooking the water in Pier Four Park is a very popular gaily painted tugboat play structure.  Thanks to an article by Brian Roulston (North End Breezes, 13 July 2020) and an email from Wendy Hughes, whose uncle, John Fynn, served on her, we now know that the hull of the play structure is that of the Glen tug GLENELLA.

Play structure at Pier Four Park

GLENELLA was built at Canadian Dredge and Dock in Kingston but not completed till the spring of 1945.  She worked as a commercial tug in Halifax for fifteen years as BANSWIFT, was bought by Canada Steamship Lines with her name changed to THE BAYPORT and eventually reached the end of her active life in 1976 when her engine failed.  In July of 2007, McKeil Marine put the pilot house of the former Canada Steamship Line’s NORTHCLIFFE HALL on GLENELLA’s hull and donated it to the City of Hamilton.

GLENELLA in her sailing days
A typical Navy scene aboard GLENELLA
Perhaps commissioning day?
A wartime picture (note the “H.M.C.S.” cap tally of John Fynn of HMCS GLENELLA