Keeping the light

June 2019

In the spring of 2018, the Canadian Lighthouses of Lake Superior (CLLS) approached two Thunder Bay high schools with a very special request – that of building two lighthouses for the Alexander Henry, the cornerstone of the waterfront’s Lakehead Transportation Museum Society. Intended to frame the bow and stern of the ship itself, the project was both historic and symbolic, as the former icebreaker was once tasked with tending the northern lighthouses of Lake Superior. Once ‘the guarded’, these replica lighthouses would now become ‘the guardians’.

“The Henry was an icebreaker and buoy tender,” says Charlie Brown, president of the Lakehead Transportation Museum Society, “But one of its main missions was to bring lighthouse keepers and their families to and from the lighthouses in the spring and fall, as well as bringing supplies. Since lighthouses were an integral part of shipping and safety on the Great Lakes, the Henry was instrumental in helping keep those lighthouses supplied and functional.”

With students from Hammarskjold’s wood-working program and Superior CVI’s metal-works program, work soon began on the Shaganash #10 Lighthouse replicas. Along with learning valuable skills, the students also learned some of the rich history of the lighthouses themselves, and within three months, the project was complete. Two 12-foot towers stood on wide concrete bases, each boasting working lights and commemorative plaques. They were installed on the LTMS property at Pool 6, one at the bow and the other at the stern of the icebreaker, and on July 18, 2018, the Alexander Henry opened to the public 60 years to the day of its original christening.

“We wanted to encourage a dialogue,” says Paul Morralee, Managing Director of the CLLS, “Of the fact that the ship was not just used as an icebreaker, nor was it just a Search and Rescue vessel, but an important navigation support vessel for the lightkeepers and their families. These model lighthouses are an opportunity to share that knowledge with the public.”

It was a great project for the students themselves, not only to learn new skills but to leave a legacy in the community. Last season, over 3,000 visitors went through the Alexander Henry, complete with its anchoring lighthouses, and the LTMS is expecting more this year.

“The public enjoys the lighthouses,” says Brown. “They add to the overall theme of the Henry and connection between them, keeping the largest waterway system in the world functional and safe for all who sail on it.”
It’s a significant piece of regional history that lives on, in part, by the hard work of the students, a fact that is forever acknowledged on the commemorative plaques that adorn the replicas themselves.

The construction of this No. 10 Lighthouse Model was made possible due to the hard work and dedication of the students from the Hammarskjold High School Woodworking Program and by the Superior C.V.I. Manufacturing Technology Program, Lakehead Public Schools.

Working together, the CLLS, LTMS and students from Hammarskjold and Superior are all keepers of the light that educates and ‘illuminates’ our storied, yet sometimes forgotten, past.

Canadian Lighthouses of Lake Superior (CLLS) is a not for profit incorporated charitable organization which started in 2014. It operates three lighthouse stations, and has been visited by over two thousand visitors over the past five years. You can find out more at The Lakehead Transportation Museum. Society (LTMS) is dedicated to promoting and archiving the transportation history in Thunder Bay. You can learn more at

Heather L. Dickson is a photoshop guru, zoologist and author of 6 novels.

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