After three years of work, 71-year old carpenter Lyle Krumm will see his 22-foot long replica of the last sternwheeler to ply the Skeena River cruise down Lakelse Avenue during this year’s Riverboat Days parade.
“I like challenges, eh? The more challenges I get, the better I like it,” Lyle said, who has been woodworking for the last 23 years.
Lyle said he built this wooden Inlander to scale from the ground up, starting with keel and ribs of the hull, then fleshing out the bow and stern. Determined to make it look as close as possible to the real thing, he said he had to start over four times before he was satisfied with the way the vessel was coming together.
“The thing is it’s a lot of thinking and measuring. A lot of things on there I put together and I looked at it and it didn’t look right so I pulled it apart. Everything had to be near-perfect to perfect with me on something like this.”
Small wooden staircases lead up from the main deck to the passenger accommodations, continuing into the pilothouse, where a miniature captain’s wheel stands at the helm. The sternwheel at the back rotates when pushed, and the loading doors swing open and close along the sides. All the detail came from just a couple photos of the vessel, said Margaret Krumm, Lyle’s wife.
“He can take a picture of anything pretty much and put it on the floor and then build it,” she said.
The Inlander was used as a passenger and freight steamer for just two years from 1910 to 1912 during the Grand Trunk Pacific Railway construction. She transported passengers over 289-kilometres between Port Essington and Hazelton, working her way through the waters of the swiftest navigable rivers in the West at the time.
When the railway reached Hazelton from Prince Rupert, each of the 16 sternwheelers operating on the Skeena were rendered obsolete. The Inlander was the last one left when she made her final voyage, leaving at noon for Port Essington on September 10, 1912. Reaching its final destination, the 135-foot long vessel was simply pulled up onto a nearby beach and left abandoned, resigned to decay along the shores of the river she once navigated.
Now the Inlander’s compact twin, standing approximately six-feet tall from the bottom, rests on top of a float chassis in Krumm’s front yard in Thornhill, ready for its debut in the Riverboat Days parade on August 3. Lyle said this is the seventh boat that he’s built, most of them being old Skeena sternwheeler vessels. Another smaller 13-foot version of the Inlander sits on display at Heritage Park and often runs in the Riverboat Days Parade. But Lyle said he has frequently received requests from the community to build something larger for the parade.
“I was talking to this one and that one after I finished the Mount Royal, and they had been picking at me about making a bigger Inlander for the float,” he said. “I moseyed it on over in my mind for a while and I said, ‘okay, okay.’ So I seen a nice big spot and pushed my machinery on both sides of the shop down there, and I laid out the keel.”
Since he’s finished the replica, he said people have already been driving up to his home to ask questions about the replica sitting outside the front of his house.
“People would come up and they would see it, and they would stop and they would back up,” Margaret said with a laugh.
For Lyle, it’s those reactions that mean the most to him.
“I was thinking about the people, not the boats,” he said. “I like to see the smiles on their faces, eh? Excitement. That’s a reward to anybody in a lifetime.”
After she sails down Lakelse Avenue, Krumm said the sternwheeler will be up for sale to find a permanent home.