Wednesday, February 14, 2018

SS Badger and C&O Car Ferry Dock in Ludington, MI

(see below for satelite image)
The Pere Marquette used to provide ferry service to Keewaynee, WI from Ludington, MI. The SS Badger now operates without freight cars to Manitowoc, WI.

"At one time, nine carferries sat in port....The 410' S.S. Badger is the largest carferry to sail the Great Lakes, and can carry 620 passengers and 180 autos. It travels at roughly 18 mph to make the four-hour trip, with nearly 490 crossings per year." [History of the S.S. Badger]

Carl Venzke posted
Ludington, MI C&O car ferry dock sometime in the late 60's or early 70's, I suppose.
Jan Germanotta That's B&O power. When did they start inter-operating?
Carl Venzke "C&O continued to be one of the more profitable and financially sound railways in the United States, and in 1963, under the guidance of Cyrus S. Eaton, helped start the modern merger era by "affiliating" with the Baltimore & Ohio. The two lines' services, personnel, motive power and rolling stock, and facilities were gradually integrated." source: wikipedia
Troy Nolen The C&O assumed formal control of the B&O in February of 1963
[Note the Chessie Cat logo on the smokestack.]
Satellite
Update:
Tom Carter posted
C&O NW2 5212 loading or unloading the Badger carferry at Ludington, Michigan, on September 10, 1980. Photographer unknown.
Al Koole Badger seems to be listing to starboard a bit
Matthew Alan The ferries on Lake Michigan had 4 rows of tracks inside and were loaded from the stern (The bow was closed off). Cars were usually loaded on the center tracks first, then the outer ones. Depending on the weight of the cars, the ferry could develop a slight to moderate list during the loading / unloading operations. Great care was exercised in balancing out the load to ensure too much weight wasn't on one side or another and by the time ferry was ready to depart, it was usually fairly level. Sometimes mistakes happened though... the Ann Arbor No. 4 rolled over on it's side in the dock in the early 1900s due to improper loading.
David Burhenn Matthew Alan Good analysis. In this shot, the Badger is listing slightly to starboard. I remember as a young kid being aboard one of the two Pere Marquettes while train cars were being loaded and felt her list. BTW, the locomotive never went onto the ship. There were flat cars which served as buffers (idlers?) which were coupled onto the cars to be loaded on the ferry. These ferries operated 24/7, 365 days a year at their peak, in ice storms and gales.
Matthew Alan David Burhenn that is correct. The engine never left the shore.... the idler cars (flat cars or in some cases empty box cars) were used to push the loaded cars onto the boat. There are some great images out there of these ships operating in some rough conditions... even days that most other ships would stay in port.[I read that these steam powered ferries ran long after they stopped carrying rail cars and were given a pollution exception for their smoke because they were such effective icebreakers.]
Wisconsin Marine Historical Society posted thirteen photos of the Badger's sister ship, Spartan, which is now permanently docked in Ludington as a parts supply, with the comment:
Although she no longer carries railcars, S.S. BADGER still sails between Ludington, Michigan and Manitowoc, Wisconsin. Always waiting for her at Ludington is her older twin, SPARTAN. And while BADGER is a National Historic Landmark, it seems few remember SPARTAN. Carferries.com is a wonderful source for information about Great Lakes carferries. Included are histories for many of the boats – but not SPARTAN. She is the forgotten twin.
On this day (01/04) in 1952, with little fanfare, the railroad carferry SPARTAN slid into the frigid waters of Sturgeon Bay. Built by Christy Corporation for the Chesapeake and Ohio Railway, SPARTAN and her sister ship, BADGER, would be the last and largest of the Lake Michigan carferries. SPARTAN laid up at Ludington September 10, 1979. She has never sailed again. Today SPARTAN remains tied up alongside the ferry dock in Ludington and does little more than provide spare parts for the BADGER.
John Ashley of the Ann Arbor Railroad had an idea. Instead of transferring cargo from railcar to lake boat to railcar, he would ship loaded freight cars across Lake Michigan. On November 27, 1892, twenty-two cars were loaded at Kewaunee, Wisconsin, and ferried across the Lake to Frankfort, Michigan. This was the start of cross-lake railroad carferry service.
The Flint and Pere Marquette Railroad began its own ferry service in 1897. F&PM was one of three railroads that were combined to form the Pere Marquette Railway in 1900. This new company would operate the largest fleet of Lake Michigan carferries. Pere Marquette was absorbed into the Chesapeake and Ohio Railway in 1947.
At mid-century, cross-lake rail traffic was strong. Having inherited the Pere Marquette fleet, C&O quickly moved to increase capacity. In May 1950, Christy Corporation of Sturgeon Bay was awarded a $4.5 million contract to build the world’s largest carferry. That October, C&O exercised its option for a second boat.
A relative newcomer, Christy Corporation had a long pedigree. Thomas Smith and John Leathem began repairing schooners and barges at Sturgeon Bay in 1881. Smith’s son took over the business in 1921 and formed what would become the Leathem D. Smith Shipbuilding Company. After Smith died suddenly in 1946, assistant general manager C.R. Christianson formed Christy Corporation and purchased the shipbuilding assets.
Christy Corp. would build two carferries for C&O. Because hauling coal was a substantial part of C&O’s business, these were coal-fired steamships. Departing from past practice, the new boats were named for mascots of state schools in Michigan (Spartan) and Wisconsin (Badger) instead of cities.
The first steel plates for SPARTAN were lowered onto keel blocks in December 1950. Originally scheduled for delivery the following October, problems getting critical materials because of the Korean War made that impossible. By the end of 1951, SPARTAN was almost 70 percent complete and ready to be launched.
Ignoring maritime superstition that launching on a Friday was unlucky, Christy decided to launch SPARTAN on Friday, January 4, 1952. There would be none of the festivities normally associated with such an event. The celebrations and christening could wait until her sister ship was ready later that year.
SPARTAN’s launch was scheduled for 11:00 AM. In preparation, the tug JOHN ROEN III broke up ice in the launching slip the previous day. That Friday, after an overnight low of 7, the temperature would not make it past 25 degrees. Undeterred, thousands gathered outside the shipyard to watch.
Launching was delayed until late afternoon. It took more than 200 men armed with sledgehammers and wedges to transfer SPARTAN from her keel blocks to the ways. At 4:06, the three-inch rope hawsers holding her back were cut and SPARTAN slid gracefully into the water, rocked a bit and then righted herself. For shivering onlookers who had waited for hours, things had gone so smoothly it was rather anticlimactic.
During the next seven months, work continued on SPARTAN. At the same time, her twin began taking shape. BADGER was launched and both ferries christened on September 6, 1952. Nearly 1,000 people attended the event as guests of the C&O. First on the agenda was the christening and launch of BADGER, which was scheduled for 11:00 AM. Other than a slight delay, things proceeded as planned.
Just before noon, as water flooding the docks following BADGER’s big splash poured back into the bay, all eyes shifted to the bow of SPARTAN. Nearly ready for service and gaily decked out for the occasion, she was christened by Mrs. John A. Hannah, wife of Michigan State College’s president (Michigan State became a university in 1964).
As her christening ended, Spartan’s whistle blew a roaring salute and scores of balloons were released. Many had complimentary tickets attached entitling the finder to a round trip for two on the “palatial ship.” Tickets were provided courtesy of the shipyard. Invited guests then enjoyed a luncheon and reception on SPARTAN’s car deck.
Speaking to the crowd, C&O’s president noted that tonnage between Wisconsin ports and Ludington had doubled in the past 20 years. Construction of two new ferries was part of a $15 million program to give C&O 35 percent more capacity on the Great Lakes. This included upgrading two boats at Manitowoc. PERE MARQUETTE nos. 21 and 22 were each lengthened to nearly 400 feet and new engines increased service speed from 14 to 18 miles per hour.
Designed to operate year-round, both SPARTAN and BADGER were 410 feet long with a 60-foot beam. On the car deck they carried 32 railcars or 150 automobiles. Passenger accommodations included 16 parlors, 44 staterooms, a spacious lounge, a dining room able to seat 52, and a promenade on the cabin deck. Two Skinner Compound Unaflow steam engines gave each vessel a service speed of 18 miles per hour.
After minor adjustments following sea trials, SPARTAN departed Sturgeon Bay on the morning of October 20, 1952. After visiting Kewaunee, Manitowoc and Milwaukee, she arrived at her homeport of Ludington three days later. Bringing her in was Captain Harold A. Altschwager along with his father Captain C.J. Altschwager (retired).
SPARTAN was the first carferry to enter Ludington’s harbor since a strike idled C&O boats on July 4. The strike ended at noon on October 25. Six hours later, SPARTAN entered service when she departed Ludington for Kewaunee.
The good times would not last. C&O acquired the Baltimore and Ohio Railroad in 1963 giving it direct access to Chicago. This made an all-rail route more appealing. Freight cars were getting longer reducing capacity on the ferries. And ferry operations were very labor intensive. It took 50 men to move 32 freight cars 90 miles by boat while three men could move 100 or more freight cars 300 miles by train.
In March 1975, C&O asked the Interstate Commerce Commission for permission to abandon its carferry service completely. Proceedings would drag on for 18 years.
On August 12, 1976, while entering Ludington’s harbor in dense fog, SPARTAN hit large stones protecting the entrance. There was damage to hull plates and frames. Many wondered whether the company would have her repaired. It cost about $300,000 but SPARTAN was back sailing in January 1977. Meanwhile, as a result of this incident, the Coast Guard charged her captain with two counts of negligence. An Administrative Law Judge found him guilty and suspended his license for a month. On appeal, this was essentially reduced to probation.
SPARTAN was laid up at Ludington in September 1979. Later that year, plans to have her operate out of Frankfort were dropped because the facilities were inadequate.
C&O sold its three remaining ferries in 1983. The railroad was finally out of the ferry business. Michigan-Wisconsin Transportation now owned CITY OF MIDLAND 41, SPARTAN, and BADGER. It operated CITY OF MIDLAND 41 until 1988 when bad boiler mounts forced her into retirement. BADGER was then put back in service for two years until M-WT ceased operations.
Ludington resident Charles Conrad formed Lake Michigan Carferry and acquired all three boats in 1992. Once again BADGER sailed between Ludington and Manitowoc, but she no longer carried railcars. She was designated a National Historic Landmark in 2016. CITY OF MIDLAND 41 was cut down to a barge in 1997 and sails today as PERE MARQUETTE 41. And SPARTAN? She remains tied up at Ludington only to provide replacement parts for her more famous twin.
NOTES:
The National Production Authority was created in September 1950 to oversee the distribution of materials necessary for defense mobilization. In November 1950, it allocated 10,000 tons of steel monthly to the building of twelve new Great Lakes vessels, including two carferries.
When SPARTAN entered service in 1952, it could take a week or more for a freight car to navigate its way through Chicago.
PHOTO CREDIT: Great Lakes Marine Collection of the Milwaukee Public Library and Wisconsin Marine Historical Society.

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Greg Crites commented on the above post
Waiting in line last June to ride the badger.
[The Spartan is on the left and the Badger is smoking in the background.]

Dan Barber posted (source)
1970s - Ludington Harbor.
Claude Greiner Is that the spartan or badger?
Lee Starks commented on Dan's post
Last night [Sept 2019]



The rail deck of the SS Badger is now used for oversize loads.

In the following video, it appears the truck came down the western Maritime Drive close to the lamppost on the right and then did a sharp U-turn so that he can back the rig onto the ferry. In addition to the truck driver, there is a steer man that controls the rear trailer. I have yet to see a cab on the rear trailer, so it appears that person is exposed to the elements. In this day and age of air conditioned cabs, I was surprised. But maybe a cab would limit their visibility.

Street View
(new window) At 2:03 you can see the steer man on the left standing on the rear trailer trying to get it as close as possible to the lamp post to give them the most room for the U-turn.


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This load seemed to come in on the eastern Maritime Drive and go around the buildings so that it did not have to turn as sharply. The ferry must not be in the dock yet because it went further away from the dock than I would have expected.
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(new window) Denna McDaniel's comment confirms that the steer man for the third unit was a woman.


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The Badger used to run 365 days a year. That means it was essentially an ice breaker. Now it runs just May to Oct. It is good to see that they take advantage of the maintenance window and are putting money back into the infrastructure.

S.S. Badger: Lake Michigan Carferry posted three photos with the comment: "Demolition of the Ludington wall is nearly complete, pile driving for the new wall begins next week! Steaming across Lake Michigan on May 10!"

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Another example of a large load that was kept off the Chicagoland expressways by this ferry

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