SS Lansdowne

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The SS Lansdowne was a railroad car ferry built in 1884 by the Wyandotte Shipyard of the Detroit Dry Dock Company. It was used from 1884 until 1956 between Detroit, Michigan and Windsor, Ontario across the Detroit River, although there are reports of its sporadic use until the early 1970's. At the time of its construction it was the longest ship on the Great Lakes at 312 feet (95 m).[1] It was a sidewheeler paddle boat and at the time of its retirement it was the last sidewheeler serving on the Great Lakes.[2]

In the 1980's Lansdowne was converted to a floating restaurant and was moored just East of Hart Plaza in Downtown Detroit. A pair of Milwaukee Road "SkyTop Lounge" railcars were brought onto part of its deck while the remainder was occupied by additional restaurant structure. Patrons of The Lansdowne had a front-row view of the Detroit street circuit that hosted the Formula One United States Grand Prix East.[3] The restaurant in Detroit shut down in the late 1980's or early 1990's. In 1999 it was towed to Erie, Pennsylvania where much of its superstructure was removed and the SkyTop Lounge cars were stripped to bare shells while owned by Specialty Restaurants of Anaheim, California with the intent of making it a riverfront restaurant in Erie. It sunk at its moorings on December 25, 2005 and the City of Erie issued an order that it be removed by March 1.[4] On July 16, 2006 it was removed from Erie and towed to an industrial part of the Buffalo River in Buffalo, New York.[5] On January 30, 2008 it again took on water during a storm at its moorings in Buffalo and began to list.[6] Specialty Restaurants' owner died in 2008 and whatever remaining effort to restore the Lansdowne died along with him. With pressure from Buffalo city politicians to remove the "eyesore" from its shores, the SkyTop Lounge cars were cut off of their trucks and shipped to a railroad museum in Montevideo, Minnesota and the rest of the vessel was broken up for salvage in April 2009.[7]


  1. Frank E. Kirby, Bob-Lo Island Pamphlet, 1990, retrieved 2010-07-06
  2. unknown title of work, Toronto Marine Historical Society Scanner, March 1970, Retrieved 2010-07-06
  3. Casino Jones. Detroit Grand Prix 1987- Course and Lansdowne at Riverfront, Flickr, Published August 3, 2008, Retrieved 2010-07-06
  4. Lansdowne's time running out, Erie Times-News, January 15, 2006, Retrieved 2010-07-06
  5. Lansdowne Ready To Leave Erie, Your Erie, Retrieved 2010-07-06
  6. Storm Aftermath Raises Questions About Old Relic, WGRZ, February 2, 2008, Retrieved 2010-07-06
  7. Skytop hulks bound for museum, Trains Newswire, July 19, 2009, Retrieved 2010-07-06