Russel Brothers Tugs

Russel Brothers Limited (known as Russel-Hipwell Engines from 1950-1961) built some 1,000 steel vessels of various types and sizes from 1909 to 1974, first in Fort Frances, Ontario, and starting in 1936 in Owen Sound, Ontario. Most notably, Russel Brothers built a very large number of tugs used in the logging industry on various inland lakes and rivers throughout Canada. As logging has subsided, many of these tugs have found their way to the Great Lakes for different uses. Russel also built multiple types of tugs for the Royal Canadian Navy during World War II, many of which still survive. Barges, passenger vessels, fish tugs and Coast Guard vessels also emerged from the famous yard before it stopped building boats.

Russel Brothers tugs have proved to be long-lasting, and many of them are still in commercial and recreational service on the Great Lakes & St. Lawrence. All the Russel tugs featured on this website are listed below, but this is not meant to be a list of all tugs constructed by the yard; many exist on Canada’s east and west coasts, as well as inland lakes and rivers not considered to be part of the Great Lakes/St. Lawrence system.

Russel Tugs:

*Indicates currently inactive tugs

2 thoughts on “Russel Brothers Tugs

  1. Russel boats were important. They were the first company in North America to electrically arc-weld all steel hulls. A Russel design was adopted by the British (and Canadian) Navy as its main class of small harbour tug (the “Ville” class). Their logging boats were designed robustly for prolonged heavy use in remote areas, and pretty much defined this genre (the winch boats and warping tugs). This well deserved reputation for quality and value carried over into their larger tugboats and later Coast Guard ships. Russel innovative expertise was recognized when Niagara Falls needed two Maids of the Mist in 1955, and Toronto needed a fireboat in 1964, both of which are still in use today! The company exported boats into Canada’s north, and internationally to Vietnam and Africa. They became masters of shipping boats in sections on rail cars and re-assembling them at the final destination. Though by no means the only activity of this eclectic and vibrant company, the boats are the focus of this unofficial archive.

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