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North-West Mounted Police launch Gladys

by Murray Lundberg

    There are three historic boats lying on the beach at Atlin - the large and famous Tarahne, built in 1917, the launch Atlinto, built in 1906, and the the Mounted Police launch Gladys, built in 1899. Tarahne and Atlinto are located in front of the Atlin Mountain Inn, and Gladys is to the north of the marina.

    The Gladys arrived at Bennett, BC in September 1899, following a request by North-West Mounted Police (NWMP) Superintendent Steele in late 1898 for 3 boats for patrol work. The launch Jessie arrived at about the same time as the Gladys, the Tagish shortly afterwards.

    The Gladys is a screw propeller launch, 50.0 feet long, with a 12.2 foot beam. Her draft was 2.6 feet light, 3.0 feet loaded. She was originally powered by an alco-vapour engine. In alco-vapour propulsion systems, a kerosene flame is used to turn alcohol, which takes the place of water in the boiler, into vapour, which then drives the engine just as steam would. The alcohol is then condensed and reused. She may have been named for a famous Shetland pony brought to the Yukon at about the same time by NWMP Inspector Woods.

    It had been intended to take Gladys through to Dawson, but she drew too much water, and she was instead put on ways at Bennett for at least the winter of 1899-1900. She wasn't mentioned in the NWMP's Anuual Report for 1900.

    In 1901, she was still not in use. It was now stated that she drew too much water and her engines were not powerful enough to work the river effectively. Supt. Snyder recommended that she be replaced with a sternwheeler.

    In 1901-1902, Gladys was based at Whitehorse. Her engine was converted to burn wood, and she could now run from Whitehorse to Upper Laberge and back on 3/4 of a ton of wood. Her propeller, however, was the wrong design, being narrow at the tips instead of broad; although she could make 4-5 mph in still water, she still had to be lined up through swift spots on the river.

    In 1906, her engine was probably replaced with a gasoline model. She was launched in June, and moved to Carcross. In 1907, she was commanded by Staff Sergeant O. W. Evans. By 1908, the only police launch still in service in the Yukon, and in 1909, she was overhauled at Carcross. An article in the September 10, 1909 edition of the Whitehorse Star indicates that the engine in Gladys was now more than adequate:

That Launch Teal
Carcrossites Say it Cannot Outrun Driftwood

    Superintending Engineer H. J. Hutchinson of the White Pass fleet of steamers, accompanied by Captain Charley Bloomquist, took his launch, the Teal, to Carcross one day last week and furrowed the waters of the upper lakes for a couple of days or more, just to show the people of that rural burg what an up-to-date gasoline boat could do.
    But the Carcross people say the Teal cannot do much; that it required two hours and thirty-five minutes for it to run from that point to Tagish post, which distance the police launch, the Gladys, noted for her 'hesitancy' in the water, covers in two and a half hours. The Carcrossites go further and say they will race the police boat against the Teal for money, marbles or chalk and call in Charley Watson or Captain Martin from Conrad to hold the stakes. The Carcross people have long green and they will bet it all on the Gladys.
    Supt. Hutchinson has not been heard from on matters pertaining to speed, but if the Teal is loaded on a flatcar and billed to Carcross in the near future, it may be taken as an indication that the sports of the latter place will either have to put up or shut up.

    In 1910, Gladys was put on ways at Carcross and her machinery removed, available for quick re-assembly if needed. Re-assembly was required much sooner than had been planned, as in 1911, she was back on Windy Arm / Taku patrol. She was put on the ways at Carcross on September 15. Inspector J. A. MacDonald said that she needed about $200 worth of repairs, including steam fitting replacement, and hull oiling and painting. All the needed repairs were made in the summer of 1912, but she wasn't launched.

    In 1913, Gladys was sold to the Pine Creek Power Company for $780. She then pretty much vanishes from the historic records, though her use included work at the Engineer Mine for a while.

    In 2016, Gladys is still lying derelict on the beach at Atlin.

The historic photo below shows the RNWMP launch Gladys at Carcross on September 30, 1905. The photos of Gladys on the beach at Atlin were shot on April 20, 2003 - click on each to greatly enlarge them.
Historic police launch Gladys at Carcross, Yukon, in 1906 Historic police launch Gladys on the beach at Atlin, BC
Historic police launch Gladys on the beach at Atlin, BC Historic police launch Gladys on the beach at Atlin, BC
Historic police launch Gladys on the beach at Atlin, BC Historic police launch Gladys on the beach at Atlin, BC

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