Anyone traveling from Superior to Duluth during the past few years can’t help but notice a particularly striking Laker tied up near the Blatnik Bridge. The boat is the Edward L Ryerson, once labeled the “Queen of the Lake”.
Since today was a bright beautiful winter day, it was a perfect time to stop by the old girl and see how she was doing. Winter is a great time to walk across the frozen slips and get a better look at many of the boats layed up for the season.
The Edward L. Ryerson, is one of only two remaining straight-deck bulk carriers still part of the American fleet on the Great Lakes. Built by Manitowoc Shipbuilding Co., the new boat was launched January 21, 1960, and christened Edward L. Ryerson for the Inland Steel Co. of Chicago, IL. The new laker was the first of five American-flagged ships to be added to the "730-class" of lake boats in the early 1960's. The Ryerson became the third of thirteen 730' carriers to eventually share in the "Queen of the Lakes" title for being the longest ships on the Great Lakes.
The boat's namesake, Mr. Edward Larned Ryerson, was born in Chicago on December 3rd, 1886. He had been president of the steel service center Joseph T. Ryerson and Son, Inc. until 1935 when it was merged with Inland Steel. Mr. Ryerson was chairman of the board from 1940 until his retirement in 1953 of both Inland Steel and his original company. Mr. Ryerson died in Chicago on August 2nd, 1971.
The Edward L. Ryerson is among the most beautiful of all lakers, from her beautifully flared bow and the top of her pilot house to her significant but streamlined stack to her curved and tapered stern as well as her striking paint job, no expense or effort was spared during her building to achieve this goal. Over $8 million was reported to have been spent on the actual accommodations alone. The Ryerson was built to transport iron ore, fast at the expense of poor capabilities to haul other cargo. A conversion to a self-unloader was deferred because of excessive cost to retrofit the square holds.
The Ryerson is a fast boat and is able to reach speeds up to 19 mph earning her the nickname "Fast Eddie" as one of the quickest ships on the Great Lakes. She can carry approximately 24,869 tons, one third of today’s 1000ft lakers.
The Ryerson’s working career was placed on hold in 2009 when she laid up at Superior's Fraser Shipyard and has been on hold ever since. Economic conditions are still keeping this beautiful vessel from a return to service, but, someday, the lady may once again become a subject of delight for photographers and boatwatchers alike.