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Port Severn’s Big Chute Marine Railway Attracts Tourists to Muskoka

The historic Big Chute Marine Railway at Lock 44 of the Trent-Severn Waterway is a major Muskoka, Ontario tourist attraction, entertaining Muskoka vacationers and drawing visitors to the Port Severn, Georgian Bay area.

Port Severn, Ontario – The Trent-Severn Waterway, one of Canada’s most spectacular waterways, meanders some 386 km through south central Ontario. Operating from May until October with roughly 32 km of man-made channels and 45 locks, the Trent-Severn begins at Trenton on Lake Ontario and ends at Port Severn on Georgian Bay. The Waterway’s historic locks and canals link lakes and rivers to form an inland water route that has been called “one of the finest interconnected systems of navigation in the world”. Of the many remarkable locks and noteworthy sites along its path, the most extraordinary is at Lock 44. The magnificent Big Chute Marine Railway is so impressive it has become a popular Muskoka tourist attraction.

The Big Chute Marine Railway is the most significant of the engineering marvels along the Trent-Severn System that also includes the world’s highest hydraulic boat lift located at Lock 21 in Peterborough, and the slightly smaller Kirkfield Lift Lock near Canal Lake. The only marine railway of its kind in North America still in use, the Big Chute Marine Railway is a virtual roller coaster for boats, lifting vessels and their occupants to a height of about 18 metres or 60 feet between the Severn River and Gloucester Pool. The railway works on an inclined plane to carry boats, both large and small in a sling cradle over the Big Chute.

The Trent-Severn Waterway was built as an efficient way to transport lumber. Construction began in 1833 and it wasn’t until 1920 that a boat could travel the entire route. When the Big Chute Marine Railway was built, it was only meant to be a temporary solution until a conventional lock system could be built to replace it. This however did not happen. The initiative to replace the railway disappeared as the lumber industry went into decline and the original marine railway is still in use today transporting pleasure boats instead of logging barges.

To put the importance of the lock system into perspective, when the swing road bridge at Lock 45 required rehabilitation work, the Waterway Commission made the decision to leave the swing bridge open to allow boat traffic during the approximated construction period of one year. This decision was controversial and upset some local car drivers but the decision was consistent with the mandate of the Trent-Severn Waterway as a transportation corridor link for boats making the journey to and from Georgian Bay.

Maintained and operated by Parks Canada, a federal government agency, the Big Chute Marine Railway at Lock 44 has large grounds for picnicking so that visitors can spend some time exploring the area and watching the boats. Visitors to this National Historic Site are invited to take a self-guided tour of the old and new Big Chute hydro generating stations. As well, the Nautical Nook Gift Shop is open for tourists to purchase souvenirs. The main attraction is the railway itsself and watching the boats get loaded onto the railway car to make the slow ascent out of the water, across the road, and then down the Big Chute to the water below. Less than 30 minutes later, the process begins again in reverse when boats at the top of Big Chute make their slow descent down into Gloucester Pool and the waters of Georgian Bay. Approximately 7 thousand boats used the Big Chute Marine Railway in 2008. The number of visitors to the Lock 44 and its park were many times more.

“It’s not only boaters who visit the Big Chute Marine Railway. Many of our resort guests take the short drive to Lock 44 to watch the Marine Railway in operation. Vacationing families especially find it both interesting and educational. It really is a great Georgian Bay tourist attraction that most everyone finds fascinating,” states Rick Breckbill, the owner of Severn Lodge, a traditional Muskoka resort on Georgian Bay, located close to Big Chute. “Many of the boats that come through the Trent-Severn Waterway pass by our lodge. It is fun for our resort guests to watch the boats go by and wonder where they came from and where they are going,” adds Breckbill.

About Severn Lodge: Since the 1930’s, Severn Lodge has been a favourite Muskoka family resort for memorable family vacations, couple’s romantic getaways, business conferences and weddings. With 700 metres of private shoreline on the Trent Severn Waterway near Georgian Bay at Gloucester Pool, Severn Lodge offers 46 luxury lakeside rooms and suites, waterfront housekeeping cottages, fine dining and a wealth of recreational activities. For information on Muskoka resort vacations & affordable getaway packages, call Severn Lodge toll free 1-800-461-5817 or visit their website

Wedding Parties Arrive In Style on Classic Muskoka Boat

Severn Lodge, a historic Ontario resort located in the heart of the world famous Muskoka ~ Georgian Bay Lake District on the shores of Gloucester Pool, offers Ontario brides a traditional Muskoka wedding venue that combines old world charm, breathtaking scenery and the unique opportunity to arrive in style for their wedding ceremony on a classic Muskoka motor yacht.

Muskoka, Ontario – Weddings in Ontario are big business. It is an industry that generates millions of dollars every year. Today’s bride is no longer content with the ordinary. They want their wedding to be a uniquely memorable event and many resorts in Ontario are more than willing to accommodate. For many Ontario resorts, attracting their share of the ever-growing wedding market is tremendously important as resort weddings can be a very lucrative business that can supplement resort revenues over the slower and less prosperous swing seasons. Not surprising, competition to attract brides is heating up. Severn Lodge ({CCM:BASE_URL}), a traditional Muskoka resort that has been operated for over 80 years by the Breckbill family, offers brides a unique service to ensure that their Muskoka wedding is very special. It is a wedding feature that is not offered anywhere else.

Severn Lodge’s classic Muskoka boat, Sevlo, which has been lovingly restored and maintained, is available for resort weddings to transport the bride and her bridal party to the ceremony or reception. This very special added touch, allows brides to make a spectacular entrance that will be long remembered by the bride and groom and wedding guests alike. Built for Lady Eaton of the prominent Eaton department store family by the Ditchburn Boat Company of Gravenhurst, Ontario in 1922, Sevlo is a 37’ Ditchburn sedan motor launch that has been owned by Severn Lodge since 1944. Its primary use is to take their resort guests on scenic cruises of Gloucester Pool and to transport wedding parties and wedding guests.

“The Sevlo is an important piece of Muskoka’s history. In the past, boats much like the Sevlo were commonly used by wealthy cottagers to get to their palatial summer homes in the area and by many of the classic resorts of yesteryear that dotted Muskoka shorelines. Today sadly, not only have the classic motor yachts all but disappeared, so have most of the beautiful old Muskoka resorts,” states Rick Breckbill, owner of Severn Lodge. “We’ve hosted many weddings over the years at Severn Lodge. We have found that when a bride selects Severn Lodge for her wedding it is either because she has a connection to the Muskoka area or because she wants a wedding venue that offers the beauty and singular charm of a traditional Muskoka lodge. Incorporating our historic motor yacht into the wedding festivities adds an additional touch of class and makes the day truly memorable. As well, the Sevlo provides many spectacular photo opportunities. Some beautiful wedding photos have been taken of the bride and groom on board. I don’t know of any other resort in Ontario that offers a vintage boat for wedding parties”, adds Breckbill.

Today, Severn Lodge is one of only a few long-established Ontario resorts to continue their long tradition of exceptional resort wedding services; catering to weddings, offering wedding packages, and the services of an onsite wedding coordinator to ensure that every detail of the wedding ceremony, the wedding reception, the wedding dinner and dance is taken care of. There is nothing more romantic than a beautiful Muskoka resort wedding, especially when the bride and bridal party arrive for the wedding ceremony in style on a classic mahogany motor launch.

About Severn Lodge: A Muskoka landmark, famous for its luxury accommodations, fine dining and spectacular waterfront, historic Severn Lodge has been a favourite lakefront resort for Ontario weddings, family vacations, romantic couple’s getaways and corporate retreats. Perfect for both discriminating vacationers and business travelers, and one of Georgian Bay and Muskoka’s premier full service resorts, Severn Lodge offers a variety of charming rooms, suites and cottages, as well as a wide-range of recreational facilities, conference facilities, and wedding facilities to hold the ultimate Muskoka resort wedding. To learn more about weddings at Severn Lodge, call toll free 1-800-461-5817 or visit the web site.

Historic Muskoka Motor Yacht Part of “Women on the Water” Exhibit at the Muskoka Boat & Heritage Museum

Selvo, a 1922 Ditchburn Sedan Motor Yacht rich in history and owned by Muskoka resort Severn Lodge  is part of a display featured at the Muskoka Boat & Heritage Centre in Gravenhurst called “Women on the Water”.

Muskoka, Ontario – Originally built by the Ditchburn Boat Company of Gravenhurst, Ontario in 1922 for Lady Eaton of the prominent Eaton department store family, Sevlo, a 37’ Ditchburn Sedan Motor Yacht, was used to transport family and friends to the Eaton cottage near Cognashene, on Georgian Bay just north of Honey Harbour, Ontario. Today, Sevlo is still in service. Its present day owners, Severn Lodge, a Muskoka resort that has been serving Muskoka vacationers for four generations, offer their resort guests scenic cruises on Gloucester Pool aboard this classic Muskoka boat. Lovingly maintained by the Breckbill family who own Severn Lodge, Sevlo is currently featured in a display called “Women on the Water” at the Muskoka Boat & Heritage Centre in Gravenhurst, honouring women that played a significant role in boating in Ontario.

“I have been working to supply information and display items of the Sevlo that will be displayed through to the end of September,” states Severn Lodge’s Rick Breckbill, present co-owner of the Selvo. “The Toronto chapter of the Antique & Classic Boating Society (ACBS) will be hosting the annual international meeting of this organization, so there will be hundreds of members of this society here from all over North America. We are pleased that the Selvo is part of this exhibit. It is a fine example of the beautiful wooden boats that Muskoka is famous for,” adds Breckbill.

After the Selvo was sold by the Eaton family to Mr and Mrs Norman Gray, she was moved to the Gray’s cottage “Glen Ness” at the south end of Gloucester Pool near Port Severn, Ontario. Mrs. Gray was a cousin to Lady Eaton. When her husband died in 1941, the boat was sold to William H. Breckbill for $600, to transport guests and supplies into and out of Severn Lodge from Port Severn, the nearest road access at that time. William Breckbill renamed the boat “Sevlo” which was short for Severn Lodge. Although her original hull number (#2522) is known, her original name has been lost. After the road was built into Severn Lodge, the Selvo’s service was changed from that of a water taxi to a cruise boat. The yacht has remained in the family and is co-owned by Rick Breckbill and his brother Ron.

Over the years there have been many significant repairs to the boat. She was originally powered by a 6 cylinder Sterling marine engine of approximately 250 hp. This motor was replaced in 1946 with a 100 hp Buchanan 6 cylinder Meteor marine engine. Then, in 1968, a 230 hp Buchannan V8 (Chevy 327 block) marine engine was installed which still powers the Sevlo today. The original cabin was furnished with an attached driver and passenger seat and 4 movable wicker chairs. In 1946, the cabin was replaced with a larger cabin that increased seating capacity to 18 passengers under roof.  Fortunately, several of the wicker chairs, the original dashboard, and parts of the original cabin were kept and stored in the attic of the boathouse at Severn Lodge. The new cabin matches the style of the boat and has 6 Model T type roll down windows, a light, a sign, and a luggage rack on the roof. Many have said that these modifications made the boat very handsome. In 1970 a new keel was installed. In 1982 minor plank replacement was done and in 2001 major work was done that included a complete re-ribbing with a new bottom, a new keel, a new transom, new motor beds, and new mahogany planking up approximately 1/3 of the sides of the hull.

“The Sevlo really is our pride and joy. Not only is it an important piece of Muskoka history, it’s an important piece of our family history as well”, states Rick Breckbill.  “Over the years we’ve hosted many weddings at Severn Lodge. Brides love to incorporate our historic motor launch into their wedding, adding a touch of class to the festivities.  Some beautiful wedding photos have been taken on the Sevlo. I am unaware of any other Ontario resort in Ontario that continues to run a vintage boat for cruises,” adds Breckbill.

About Severn Lodge: Since the 1930’s, Severn Lodge has been a favourite Muskoka family resort for memorable family vacations, couple’s romantic getaways, business conferences and weddings. With 700 metres of private shoreline on the Trent Severn Waterway near Georgian Bay at Gloucester Pool, Severn Lodge offers 46 luxury lakeside rooms and suites, waterfront housekeeping cottages, fine dining and a wealth of recreational activities. For information on Muskoka resort family vacations & affordable getaway packages, call Severn Lodge toll free (800) 461-5817, or visit their web site.

Federal Budget May Assist Canadian Tourism Industries

Increased economic benefits would be quickly realized with money invested in the Canadian Tourism Industry through the Canadian Federal Government’s Stimulus Package.

Muskoka, Ontario – What’s green, creates enormous job opportunities and spins billions into local economies at relatively low cost? Here’s a hint – it’s not Tourism is one of Canada’s top industries in job creation, business capitalization and overall economic benefit to society.

The nice thing about tourism is that it’s green and has a soft impact on the environment when compared to the resource sectors. It not only builds jobs in the service sector directly related to restaurants, resorts and hotels but the hospitality tourism sector also pumps money back into the economy through mega expenditures on infrastructure, commodity supply and contract services etc.

Tourism is a win/win industry. One of the most important factors when you attract tourists into the country from other destinations around the world is that you accomplish several goals:
A/ Bring new money into the economy rather than just recycling dollars inside the country.
B/ Reduce our trade deficit.
C/ Introduce visitors who are potential investors to other Canadian markets and services that they may not have considered before visiting Canada.
D/ Spread international goodwill and the positive word of mouth that can only help re-enforce a positive image of our people, customs and economy … and everyone knows a fresh look at international hospitality diplomacy is in order following the Bush foreign policy doctrine. Tourism and hospitality are synonymous in the truest sense.
E/ Let’s face it, Canada has a lot to offer and is one of the most desirable countries in the world to live, work and play ….we need skilled labour to compete and tourism is the first step to attracting skilled resources to our country.

Canadian’s are anxiously digesting the outcome of the Jan 27th/09 Conservative budget. While we know that well in advance, sources have leaked out the overall pot of available funding with certain expectations of infrastructure money and tax relief, the specifics are less than clear and may take some months to understand and work their way into the Canadian economy. One thing is for sure, almost everyone is in agreement that some measure of economic stimulus is in order. You would also be hard pressed to find an economist that wouldn’t agree that increasing tourism expenditures is one of the most effective and timely ways to disperse money throughout the economy with little or no lag time on the resulting economic stimulus. “It’s a race car revved up and ready to go,” says Mark Coles, a web based marketing expert with many hospitality industry clients. “It’s market ready and just needs an injection of advertising dollars – the positive economic results will cascade across the economy,” adds Coles.

Some areas like Ontario are facing a manufacturing meltdown due to offshore competition, high energy costs, labour costs, inability to secure operating capital, and in some cases, simply bad management and poor planning. The nice thing about the tourism economy is it is well diversified and has beneficial effects on all of our lives as Canadians. Most importantly, it has low environmental consequences and it benefits the socio-economic groups that have the highest potential of spending earned money into a plethora of other economic sectors.

Ontario by example is a popular tourist destination from many national perspectives. Our dollar is low and an advantage for most out of country visitors and Ontario has a wide mix of outdoor adventure, cottage country resorts, as well as big city conference, shopping and hotel facilities. Ontario is also blessed with a number of world class destination attractions to market. Of importance to many offshore markets, Ontario has easy travel access – you can land in Toronto and be in a pristine lakeside wilderness setting in less than two hours. Good examples are world renowned Algonquin Provincial Park and the well branded Muskoka travel region.

“We’re hoping that the Federal budget investment in stimulus will include infrastructure dollars and direct marketing dollars that filter into the tourism sector where we already have some momentum, but with existing capacity to grow. In Ontario the tourism sector is a huge economic benefit that can fill the gap and create massive employment opportunities at the same time. Tourism is always a great creator of wealth for all classes of society,” says Rick Breckbill the owner of Severn Lodge, an exclusive traditional Muskoka Resort on Georgian Bay. “We’re expecting that this economic downturn is a great opportunity for resorts and hospitality in general to take advantage of low cost money and stimulus incentives to recapitalize tourism infrastructure while at the same time, providing an economic injection of new jobs as a direct result of government increases in tourism marketing,” adds Breckbill.

The formula bears consideration. It’s clear that if we can attract a bigger slice of the tourism pie from increased marketing of tourism product the resulting hospitality related new construction, renovations and purchasing of products and services will achieve a fast and far reaching boost to the economy. “This isn’t just about service jobs,” says Breckbill … “this is also about attracting new money, infrastructure development in the private sector and spreading the wealth throughout the Canadian economy in a very green and environmentally friendly way”.

Many economists would support the premise that tourism provides perhaps the largest potential for stimulus and most certainly the quickest and widest broadcast method to pump money into the economy and get things flowing again. Hospitality operators, associations and developers are pouring over the fine print of the budget hoping in earnest that it will help their industry and allow them their contribution to help bring this economy out of its’ economic funk.

About Severn Lodge: A Muskoka resort famous for its luxury accommodations, delicious meals and spectacular waterfront setting, the historic Severn Lodge has been a favourite Ontario resort for family vacations, romantic couple’s getaways, corporate retreats and wedding receptions. One of Georgian Bay and the Muskoka Lakes tourist region’s premier full service lakefront resorts, Severn Lodge offers a variety of charming rooms, suites and cottages, as well as extensive recreational facilities, complete conference facilities and fine dining, perfect for both discriminating vacationers and business travelers.  For information on all inclusive resort vacation packages & other affordable getaway packages call Severn Lodge toll free at (800) 461-5817, or visit their web site.