There was a time when alligators roamed the bush lands of Georgian Bay. No, it wasn't during the Jurassic Age but in the late 19th century. And they weren't real alligators that slithered over lakes and portages but steam warping tugs, amphibious machines capable of operating on land and water alike.
ln the late 1800s and the first two decades of the 20th century, after the vast forests of the Ottawa Valley, Georgian Bay and the north shore of Lake Huron had been virtually logged out, less accessible stands of timber were left. But how to move logs in distant lakes and over difficult portages was a problem waiting to be solved. The solution came when two innovative entrepreneurs, John West and James Peachey, put their minds to work. The owners of a foundry in Simcoe in southern Ontario, this pair invented the Alligator Steam Warping Tug in 1889. The Alligator was an amphibious machine designed and patented in Canada. The warping tug was capable of towing a log boom across a lake and then portaging itself to the next body of water. Steam-powered and rugged, it was one of the pioneers in the mechanization of the forest industry. For more than 30 years the Alligator was ubiquitous in northern Ontario. This machine, made by West and Peachey was replaced by its worthy successor, the Russel tug - built in Owen Sound. But that is a story for tomorrow.