When Prairie grain was finally able to reach Thunder Bay by train, the first shipment left the Lakehead in 1883 aboard the 54-metre ship The Erin. The development of Thunder Bay's harbour into a grain port in the following years connected Western Canadian farmers to the rest of the world, allowing their grain to travel beyond domestic markets by water. With the completion of the St. Lawrence Seaway in 1959, lake vessels (lakers) and salt water vessels (salties) began to grow into huge bulk carriers. Terminal elevator technology developed in tandem with the ships that could now carry vastly larger loads of grain. These mammoth vessels still dot the Thunder Bay waterfront, carrying Canadian grain across the world. Use this section to explore the history of grain shipping by water through photographs and stories.
Ships at Thunder Bay Elevators
Browse photographs of grain ships stationed at terminals across Thunder Bay. Photos from the Onchulenko collection, Paterson Archives, and Zarowski collection.
Grain Shipping on Canada's Waterways
Learn the history of grain shipping on the Great Lakes, St. Lawrence Seaway, and oceans through stories and photographs.