The Remains of the S.S. Alpha

See the Alpha news clips ....1873 - 1885
The Alpha Story  :  False Starts: Settlement Stories From Western Manitoba

Update 2021: New photos.

The Alpha ran aground north of Cypress River in April of 1885. (PAM)

THis photo was taken by Chirs Vickers in 1958 (PAM)

The colour photos were taken on two visits in 2003 by Ken Storie

From the west. The hull is near the south bank.

From the east.

The rudder - formerly at a roadside park at Glenboro - now at the Marine Museum in Selkirk

Photos by Roy Brown - ca. 1970 (Daly House Museum)

The boat was embedded in the riverbank in 1970.

In 2021, with a very dry spring we tried to find the remains of the Alpha, without any luck on our first try.
There have been two serious floods, one a "flood of the century" and we didn't have GPS when I made the first visit.

The trails and field in the area have changed, as have the river channels.

This is all we found....

Alpha Site Update 2021

In mid august of 2021 Greg Mayberry visited the site and took these photos. The floods of 2011 and 2012 have changed the riverbank and the remains are in mid stream.  Considering the years of high water and changes it is amazing that anything is left.

Approximate site

4941'51.4"N 9902'30.8"W
49.697601, -99.041878

See the Alpha news clips ....1873 - 1885

The Alpha Story

An excerpt from the Isabella History...

We were a day and a night travelling from Winnipeg
to Brandon on the C.P.R. Express. There were
all kinds of delays, such as being held up by construction
trains and sometimes the coupling would
break. I remember one time the engine broke loose
and travelled some miles before the engineer discovered
that the rest ofthe train was not attached. We
would be on a siding for hours at a time to permit
construction trains to go back and forth, etc. Finally
we arrived in Brandon, which consisted of two or
three frame houses, the remainder of the population
living in canvas tents. We stopped at what was known
as the Palace Hotel, which was entirely of canvas and
divided into dining room, kitchen, sleeping quarters
and a common room. Bunks were tiered along the
canvas walls for sleeping. These were I think, three
deep. We were about three days waiting for the Assiniboine
River steamboat to take us up the river to
Fort Ellice. Where we decided to look for land.
The river at this time was in flood, in fact the
highest flood I have known it to reach. There were
two boats, the one we were to take being the "Alpha".
We started up the river on it and were about
two miles I should judge on our way, when it began to
sink, as it was overloaded. We heard the Captain
shout: "Blow the whistle like Hell for Heaven, we're
going down." He ordered one of the boat hands to
take soundings. This revealed the fact that the depth
at the point where the boat was, was forty feet. He
then ordered the Steersman to run her ashore. The
Steersman replied that it didn't answer to helm. All
this time the whistle was blowing continually. The
other boat that we had left in Brandon came to our
rescue, and as soon as they pulled along side they
threw ropes out and lashed the two boats together.
They cut the cattle loose on the 'f\.lpha", and they
jumped from her deck to the deck of the other vessel.
There were sixty head of horses and cattle aboard.
There was a wild scene for a time, throwing luggage
of all kinds from one boat to the other. I remember
one English fellow who jumped from the upper deck
to the lower one, to which things were being thrown,
and was repeatedly thrown to the floor by the luggage
that was pitched that way. Excitement ran high until
enough of the luggage and cargo was transferred to
lighten the boat so it could be towed back to Brandon
where the remainder of the cargo was transferred to
the larger boat. This took about a day.
We started again. The waters were so high that
the channel of the river could not always be followed
and we ran aground several times, and had to tie up to
a tree every night. We were four days on the trip to
the Sioux Reserve, southwest of Beulah. Instead of
going to Fort Ellice we got off the boat at the Reserve,
and walked across the prairie to Birtle, a distance of
perhaps fifteen miles. We had to go to Birtle because
the Land Titles Office was there and it was necessary
for us to obtain a list of the lands open for homesteadmg.