- About Us
- News & Events
- Photo Gallery
Huron Cement and LaFarge
J.B. Ford in service for Huron Cement, 1972 - Roger LeLievre photo.
After spending 1957 and 1958 laid up in Buffalo, the E. C. Collins was taken to Sturgeon Bay, Wisconsin, where she was converted to a self-unloading cement carrier by the Christy Corporation (now Bay Shipbuilding) shipyard. The hold was reconfigured with hopper bottoms, and unloading machinery was added consisting of a system of augers and blowers to pump the cement powder into shoreside silos through a system of pipes.
During the conversion, her spar deck hatches and coamings were removed, with the openings plated over flush with the deck. In their place, new small circular hatches were added for cement loading. The doghouse was also removed from the spar deck and replaced by a new structure aft on the boat deck. Otherwise, however, her profile remained very much unchanged from her U.S. Steel and Kinsman days.
Renamed J. B. Ford, she emerged from her rebuild in 1959, and went to work hauling dry powdered cement from the Huron Cement plant in Alpena, Michigan to their distribution terminals around the Great Lakes. In 1965, Huron Cement became a unit of the National Gypsum Company, and the Ford’s hull color was changed from Huron Cement green to the beige color she still wears today.
Compared to her older fleetmate the E. M. Ford (built in 1898) which had her accommodations extensively rebuilt, the J. B. Ford was not heavily modified during her time in service for Huron Cement. She received a recessed anchor pocket on her starboard side early on in her cement-hauling career so that the anchor wouldn’t snag on the dock while maneuvering into the loading berth in Alpena. Over the winter of 1975-76, her boilers were converted from coal to oil firing. Finally, in the early 1980’s, a boxlike new cabin was added to the back of the pilothouse.
The J. B. Ford served the Huron Cement fleet for over a quarter century, before being sidelined with engine problems in the mid-1980’s. She last operated under her own power on November 15th, 1985, and was laid up in Milwaukee, relegated to spare boat status. In 1987, Huron Cement was acquired by the LaFarge Corporation, and a new subsidiary, Inland Lakes Transportation was formed to manage the fleet. The J. B. Ford never sailed under the new ownership, but the old steamer would prove that she still had some useful life left in her by serving as a cement storage barge, first at the LaFarge terminal in South Chicago, then from 2001 onwards in Superior, Wisconsin.
In 2008, the new self-unloading cement barge Innovation went into service for LaFarge, rendering the 1936-vintage steamer J.A.W. Iglehart excess capacity. The Iglehart was moved to Superior to take over the storage role from the J.B. Ford, and the Ford was moved to the nearby Municipal Terminal dock to await her fate. She remains there to this day.