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50 Diefenbaker Dr.
Moose Jaw, SK

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The Gull - Workhorse on Water

Saskatchewan's first hydroelectric project was on the Churchill River, 400 kilometers northeast of Prince Albert. In the 1920s, Hudson Bay Mining and Smelting wanted to develop a smelter at its mining operations at Flin Flon, Manitoba, but it needed power. The company chose a site at Island Falls, Saskatchewan where the power of the Churchill River could be harnessed. The Churchill River Power Company was formed and construction of a 31 mega-watt plant began in 1929. On June 8, 1930, the station supplied power to Island Falls, and four days later, to Flin Flon.

The Gull was manufactured by Russel Brothers Ltd. of Fort Frances, Ontario, a boat builder for the logging industry. Literature of the day described the boat as all steel from cabin to keel and powered with the Russel heavy duty marine engine. Measuring 8.5 metres (28 ft.) long, it was a workhorse. When the Hudson Bay Mining and Smelting company decided to expand the Island Falls station in 1935, it purchased The Gull for $2,965 to haul sand and gravel barges during the construction of turbines and generators.

From 1935 until 1961, The Gull was one of six boats making the 115 km journey between Flin Flon and the Sandy Bay - Island Falls area. From mid-May to mid-October each year, it hauled passengers and cargo between the two locations, a round trip of 24 hours.

For passengers, a ride on The Gull was free. Often, The Gull was filled with children heading to camps along the reservoir and work crews, baseball teams and even bagpipe bands travelling to the once thriving community of Island Falls.

The Gull was removed from the water in 1961 and left in the bush. In 1985, SaskPower, Saskatchewan’s provincial electrical utility, officially took over the Island Falls station. The Gull was hauled out, refurbished and delivered to the Western Development Museum in Moose Jaw a year later.