Friday, November 6, 2015

Another Lost Rail Bypass Around Chicago

The Wisconsin terminals for the ferries from Ludington, MI, were in Kewaunee, Manitowoc, and Milwaukee.

Shawn Keith posted
The Indiana, Illinois & Iowa was a railroad that went around Chicago so that through freight could avoid the congestion in Chicago. I learned from Shawn and some of the comments for these photos that car-ferry floats run by the Pere Marquette Railroad provided another bypass around Chicago.

Shawn Keith posted
Shawn's comments:
Two of the three carferry dock in Ludington MI. In the first photo (ca. 1960) one of their two railyards is clearly visible. The boats are pointing roughly WNW, you can see the tracks leading to a 3rd dock at the top of the pic. By the mid 1970s the third dock was out of service completely and removed soon after. In the 2nd pic you can see that all of the rails have been removed. Of the two boats (which carried the rail cars) one has been tied to the dock since 1979. The tracks have been pulled up to a point about a mile east where there is another large yard still served by Marquette Rail. Originally the line ran pretty much straight across the state to Port Huron, where river floats carried the cars to/from Canada. Today the line goes about 40 miles east then turns south toward Grand Rapids. No idea who took the pix, the top one is an old postcard image.
Other comments on Shawn's posting that I found interesting:

Mitch Kennedy: deregulation helped kill the floats. The carriers using a float could charge way less because of the time involved versus all-rail.. once carriers could set their own rates it changed everyone's game...
Shawn Keith: That, and better traffic control through Chicago, which eliminated the bottlenecks there. That was the original reason for the boats to exist in the first place. Traffic that didn't need to stop in Chicago could be routed on the boats and help alleviate congestion.
James Ridgway Jr.: All that prime waterfront property? Wasted on a Railroad?
Shawn Keith: Back in the day it wasn't considered healthy to live along the water, and with a prime harbor like ours it was a big shipping port. Lumber first, then freight beginning about 1879 when the railroad came through. Lumber waned after a while, probably about 1915. Freight continues today but not by rail, and not in the quantities we once knew. Now it is mostly passengers.
Steven Myers: The Badger is still running, it is now a motor vehicle ferry (though rails are still embedded into the deck). It is popular with truckers who want to avoid driving through Chicago. It also recently carried giant windmill blades and other parts to avoid having to bring them through Chicago. The Spartan, the boat tied up to the dock provides needed parts for repairs to its twin.

Mark Hershoren shared Keith Meacham's photo
PERE MARQUETTE 21 is unloaded by C&NW Fairbanks-Morse model H-16-66 #1677 in 1972 at Manitowoc. This was Don Manlick's stomping grounds.
Carl Venzke posted a video about the rail car ferry service across Lake Michigan with the comment:
My brother found this promotional film for the C&O railway's carferry operation based out of Ludington, Michigan. This film was made in 1960 during the peak or golden era of the carferries on Lake Michigan. During this era, 6 carferries were running in and out of Ludington. Pretty nice video...
To finish the quote from You Tube: "Today, only the Badger remains in service. However, it no longer carries rail cars, but carries leisure passengers and automobiles. You can ride the Badger from May to October. The Badger runs between Ludington and Manitowoc, Wisconsin." It is coal fired and ran with special dispensations from the EPA.

The video is an interesting history lesson. The flatcar loaded with automobile frames reminded me that uni-body construction  was developed in the 1960s and 1970s.

Update: there are other steam ships still working on the Great Lakes: "In Duluth, Minn., the biggest offseason project is the conversion of the 56-year-old, 690-foot steamer Herbert C. Jackson to diesel power at Fraser Shipyards. The 63-year-old, 768-foot steamer John G. Munson is being converted to diesel power at Bay Shipbuilding Co. shipyard in Sturgeon Bay, Wis." [mlive]

Dennis DeBruler shared Dan Cary's post.
Dan's comment: Ann Arbor & "The Badger" ... Northern MI
Dennis' comment: I can't believe how much that ferry is tilting. It looks like seasickness could be a job hazard for this switching.
Michael Matalis They would load (or unload) half of one track, then half of the other, and then repeat. One switch crew on another railroad made the mistake of shoving in an entire cut of loaded iron ore cars planning to uncouple half of them and capsized the ferry.

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