The CITY OF NANAIMO was built in 1892 at False Creek, Vancouver, for the Mainland and Nanaimo Steam Navigation Company
set up by the Dunsmuir coal mining company of Nanaimo on Vancouver Island. Their first coal-fired side-wheel steamship, ROBERT DUNSMUIR, was nicknamed "Dirty Bob" because of the coal dust and livestock on the deck.
The CITY OF NANAIMO was a more spacious vessel that competed directly with the S.S.Cutch, owned by the Union Steamship Company, for the runs from New Westminster to Vancouver, and New Westminster to Nanaimo, with syops at Steveston on the way. The rivalry and racing between these two ships ended in a collision in 1896.