The Majestic

The steel hulled, coal burner the Majestic was built in Toronto in 1899 and first appeared on the St. John in 1902. She was 110 feet long and had a capacity of 156 tons. It was propelled by a single screw and originally had a compound steam engine.

For her initial 14 years she had seen service for varying amounts of time on the Saint John-Gagetown, Saint John-Fredericton, Saint John-Wickham, and Saint John-Coles Island runs. She was one of the steamers that established and pretty well held to a timetable. In the Saint John-Gagetown service, her operators issued a running card to the public giving the time for her arrival at the different landings. Nineteen of these stops would be made, yet the Majestic still made the run in the very fast time of 4 hours and 52 minutes.

In addition to the scheduled landings of course, there was the occasional "boat stop" and "scow stop". At times during the years following the First World War for example, as many as 4 or 5 rowboat loads of passengers were put ashore at Belyea's Point on Saturday afternoon and taken aboard on Monday morning. The scows in turn were used in ferrying freight. These craft were decked over and had a rail running along each side for the greater part of their length. The blowing of a steamer's whistle three times was a signal to those ashore that a scow was wanted to land freight. The scow would be sculled alongside, a line attached and the barrels, farming implements, hardware or whatever, or freight manhandled to the scow from the deck of the Majestic, which remained underway to maintain maneuverability and keep lost time by such stops to a minimum.

The Majestic had been kept in good repair over the years and she suffered relatively little misfortune compared to other steamers. It is true that her superstructure had been extensively damaged in a mid-winter fire in 1912, and when repairs were carried out her wheelhouse was raised from the saloon deck to the hurricane deck. Two years later, her boiler split so badly while being tested that it proved to be beyond repair. Valuable time would be lost in obtaining a new one, and another, somewhat smaller, boiler was located. To overcome this difficulty of size, another cylinder was added to the engine, thus converting it from a standard "compound" to a "triple expansion" type. The new high-pressure cylinder was installed on top of the intermediate. The smaller boiler was therefore able to supply sufficient steam power to propel the steamboat at a very good speed at a saving of fuel.

Only a few of the later riverboats had an engine room telegraph. The Majestic had a set installed around 1930 when her steam steering gear was installed. The engine room telegraph proved a gift to the man in the wheelhouse. Prior to that, for the great majority of steamboats, a system of bells or gongs was used by the wheelhouse to transmit signals to the engine room. This was accomplished by a hand operated bell pull in the wheelhouse, connected by wire to a gong in the engine room. When the engine was turning ahead or astern, one bell always meant STOP. When the engine was stopped, one bell meant to go ahead, and two bells meant to reverse or go astern. When approaching a stop, a "jingle bell" was used for reduction in speed, but when leaving a stop, a jingle bell meant an increase to normal speed immediately. Occasionally, the wires broke on the old bell system and the captain had to rely on the steam whistle signals to communicate with the engineer.

The Majestic ended her days in November 1942. She was the last steam driven steamboat on the St. John River. It was intended to be used as a dance hall near Hampton, but a storm carried her into Darlings Lake where she eventually burned at Nauwigewauk.