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The 80-ton steam engine from the SS Canadiana has been recovered from a Ontario salvage yard and will be towed to Buffalo in the spring for display on the waterfront.

That is, if there are no more misadventures on the horizon for perhaps the most troubled project ever undertaken by area marine preservationists.

The 1,450-horsepower triple-expansion steam engine will be restored for public display, possibly in or near the marine museum that is to be built as part of the Bass Pro complex in Memorial Auditorium. The engine may be powered by compressed air for public demonstrations.

The Niagara Frontier's love affair with the 214-foot steamer goes back to its launching in 1910, when the Canadiana began ferrying passengers between Buffalo and Crystal Beach, Ont. It stopped running in 1958.

Its 48-year career on Lake Erie has been followed by 46 years of public nostalgia that at one point brought about the Canadiana's rescue from the bottom of Cleveland's Cuyahoga River. After being towed to Buffalo's Fuhrmann Boulevard -- where it sank again -- it was towed in 1988 to the Welland Canal at Port Colborne, Ont., until funds could be raised for restoration.

The ship was never launched again. A $400,000 state grant fell through in 1996, when the "Crystal Beach boat" failed to meet historic guidelines. Now it has been turned into scrap.

"We separated the engine from the hull today," Harvey Holzworth, vice president of the Canadiana Preservation Society, said Wednesday after returning from Port Colborne. "The engine is 20 feet high, 21 feet long and 11 feet wide."

Now in his 80s, Holzworth runs Buccaneer Marine Co. and has the distinction of being the last captain of the Canadiana.

"He was the salvage master that raised her when she sank in Buffalo," said Caleb Basiliko, a Buffalo boatwright who is working with Holzworth. "The Coast Guard wouldn't let them transit the lake without a captain on board when they brought her to the Welland."

For the past several days, Holzworth and a host of other volunteers struggled to tear the massive engine from a piece of the ship's dismembered hull. Using cutting torches, sledge hammers, jacks and a borrowed bulldozer and 240-ton crane, the workers finally saw light between the engine and hull and planned to return today to hoist the engine onto dry land for the winter.

The Dawes Marine Tug & Barge Co. of North Tonawanda will transport the engine across the Niagara River in March and deposit it at Buffalo Industrial Diving Co. off Ganson Street, on the Buffalo River.

"The irony," Holzworth said, "is that the engine will come home to where the Canadiana was built, at the old American Shipbuilders yard." The Canadiana was the last major vessel built in the city's largest and last major shipyard.

BIDCO will also be the temporary home for other scattered parts being brought back together for public display. Among them are the anchor windlass, the power capstan, half a dozen mooring bollards and a steam-powered electric generator.

Basiliko is working on a separate project to restore the ship's pilot house, now sitting at RCR Yachts on Fuhrmann Boulevard. Pinto Construction is expected to move it to BIDCO in January.

"Harvey also has some wood from the Canadiana in his back yard," Basiliko added with a chuckle.


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