Thursday, March 24, 2016

Rail Ferry (and Passenger) Operations in Mackinaw City (Chieve Wawatam)

(see below for satellite)

The ferries ran to St. Ignace, MI.

This ferry operation was the northern terminus for Pennsy's Grand Rapids & Indiana branch for NYC's Michigan Central.
MichiganRailroadHistory, p11
Loading trains on the railway ferry Chief Wawatam in Mackinaw City, Michigan.

Robert Campbell posted
The Chief Wawatam at the Mackinaw City dock in February 1977.
Christian A. De Kok: I think the steam engine at the museum in Manitowoc is from this ship.
Craig Fitzhugh: Christian A. De Kok It is in the museum in Manitowoc. They poured the cement foundation, installed the engine, then built the museum around it. I sailed on the Chief Wawatam back in 1980.
Dave Gottschalk posted
Detroit and mackinac 974 works the Chief in Mackinaw City. No date and I don't know who the photographer was for credit. I'm assuming late 70's early 80's.
Steve Hunter I had the pleasure of watching the Chief Wawatam being unloaded/ loaded in 1981... it was a huge pleasure as it brought me back to childhood memories of another steam carferry very close to my heart, CNR's SS Prince Edward Island. Thanks for posting!

Mike Harlan posted
The Chief
Mike Harlan The Staights, the Chief Wawatam , 1911 to 1984
Kerry McMillen Mackinaw city

Mike Harlan posted
Dennis DeBruler According to comments in another group: Chief Wawatam, 1911-84, in Mackinaw City.

Paul Rabenhorst posted two photos with the comment: "Carferry CHIEF WAWATAM."


Barry Sell posted two images.
Les Bagley
The Chief Wawatam was the 3rd railroad carferry designed by Frank Kirby for the Mackinac Transportation Company at the Straits. She entered service in 1911.
The first image is of federal troops who were transported by train across the ferry to help put down the copper strike on the Keweenaw Peninsula which ran from the summer of 1913 until spring of 1914.
The Chief was also the main rail connection for midwestern summer resorters and fall deer hunters heading for the UP. Her dock in Mackinaw City was also the jumping off point for the Island Transit Company’s Algomah to Mackinac Island and The Snows, so it could be quite crowded at times.
The Algomah had been originally used as a break bulk ferry by the railroad. She’s seen to the left of the pier in the second view.-


[This postcard faded more than the comparable one above.]

The dock still exists. The ferries also carried cars, especially in their later years.
Dave Gottschalk posted
I don't remember where I bought this slide at or who the photographer was to give credit too but here are a couple Detroit & Mackinac crews working Mackinaw City. I think this would be 1981 or 82.
Brandon Beaudoin Looks like an excursion train!
Dave Gottschalk If I remember correctly. was a special train for a candidate for governor.
Richard Fiedler I vacationed here around 1980 and was not aware of the ferry. I woke up I the morning went out of my motel room and saw bellows of black coal smoke. I'll never forget the Chief Wawatam and watching it get switched.
Dave Gottschalk Mackinac to st. Ignace. 1911 till 1984 I believe
Dan Coburn The Chief and the St,Marie used to be contracted out by the Coast Guard for icebreaking. These ships were famous for their icebreaking abilities. They broke ice as far north as above the Soo Locks and South as Lake Erie.

Grand Rapids and Indiana Railroad was one of the railroads that carried freight up Michigan to this ferry. posted
This abandoned train elevator in Mackinaw City was used by the railroad ferries when they ran across the Straits of Mackinac linking Michigan's Upper Peninsula and Lower Peninsula. It is right next to the Icebreaker Mackinaw Maritime Museum.
Kevin Toombs: It’s called a Dock Apron, levels and connects the tracks on land meet the tracks on the ferry.
Kelly Sandford Glover shared

Mary Cook commented on the post
Here is a picture of the apron in use as train cars come off the Chief in the mid-20th Century.

Greg Bunce posted
The railroad carferry Chief Wawatam ran between Mackinaw City and St. Ignace across the Straits of Mackinac between the two peninsulas of Michigan. It was the last hand fired boat on the Great Lakes. Coming into Mackinaw City August 1978.
Greg Bunce The engines are in the Maritime Museum in Manitowoc and the hull was cut down into a barge that worked out of The Soo. I was fortunate enough to be allowed down below when I worked for the Michigan Northern and it was like stepping in a time warp. Brass on everything in the engine room.
SS Chief Wawatam, Public Domain
Colorized postcard photo of the SS Chief Wawatam train ferry at Mackinaw, Michigan.
Mark Hershoren shared
Loading the Chief Wawatam with passenger cars bound for St. Ignace at Mackinaw City, Michigan.

Greg Bunce posted
The Chief Wawatam's arrival in Mackinaw City after it's maiden voyage October 8, 1911. Photo from the Marine Historical Society of Detroit.
Greg Bunce shared
Michigan National Guard troops on their way to the Copper Country during the Miners Strike of 1913.
West Michigan Post Card Club photo
Michigan (National Guard) Troops Crossing Straits of Mackinac for the Copperfields (during the great Keewenaw Copper Mine Strikes of 1913-14) - unused real photo postcard.
Don Harrison commented on the above photo
Here is a handsome shot of the Photographer Clyde Johnsons color printed version of this great image!!! :-) UNM UpNorth Memories Don Harrison Description: SHIP Mackinaw St Ignace MI c.1912 SS CHIEF WAWATAM Mackinac Transportation Co Steamer Railroad Car Ferry used to cross the Mackinac Straits before Mackinaw Bridge built Photographer Clyde Johnson of Mackinaw City MI.
Jackie Rowe I made trips to UP on that ship.

Barry Sell posted
Michigan Mackinaw City State ferry and Railway Docks
Les Bagley: The railroad ferry Sainte Marie (II) in the distance, and The Straits of Mackinac state auto ferry at the elevator in the foreground.

Mark Hershoren shared
"Loading trains on railway ferry Chief Wawatam at
Mackinaw City, MI".
(Photo by Clyde Johnson, Martin Bliss collection)
Mark Hershoren shared
Chief Wawatam, Mackinaw City, Lining the apron,
February 1969.
(Photo by Martin Bliss)
Mark Hershoren shared
Loading the Chief Wawatam at Mackinaw City as seen from the pilot house. Check those cars to the right.
(Photo by Martin Bliss)
Blane Jacobs provides a link that I think explains the two passenger cars on the side.

Greg Bunce posted
A great John W. Barriger photo of what appears to be a Michigan Central train on the boat dock at Mackinaw City, Michigan. On the left is the railroad car ferry Chief Wawatam and on the right a ferry for Mackinac Island.
Richard C. Leonard I watched NYC engines (2-8-0s) switching the ferry at Mackinaw City in 1945, and I can't place this scene. For one thing, I can't figure out how these stub end tracks would have been used since there had to be a clear passage from the ferry past the depot(which would be behind the photographer, on the left) into the yard. Also I wonder if passenger cars went across to St. Ignace on the ferry. Are you sure this is Mackinaw City? Can you identify the locomotive number? Of course track arrangements could have changed between whenever Barriger took the photo and 1945. I would be glad to see any explanation of this.
Greg commented on his posting
I think that this postcard can clear up some of your confusion. The Barriger photo is looking towards the depot from the end of the dock. The Chief Wawatam was loaded from the bow, not the stern like Pere Marquette, Grand Trunk and Ann Arbor ferries. The ferry did handle passenger trains, the Duluth, South Shore and Atlantic did originate and terminate trains in Mackinaw City with the car ferry carrying them between Mackinaw City and St. Ignace.Richard C. Leonard Then these are holding tracks at the very end of the dock (hence the wheel-arresting devices). The slip for the ferry then branches off to the left, from behind the passenger car. That does accord with my memory, because I recall the NYC 2-8-0s shoving cars onto the ferry on a curved track, using idler flats.

A comment indicates that this was really taken in St. Ignace.
Great Lakes Shipping History shared
John Campbell That’s the former Ann Arbor No. 4 in its latter years as the City of Cheboygan! Nice photo and thanks for sharing!

U.P. Michigan photo
Straits Car Ferry 1950.
Before the Mackinac Bridge was completed in 1957, you'd have to line up, sometimes the night before to catch the ferry and go across the straits to the Upper Peninsula.
Michele Jarvey-Maurina This photo brings back memory’s. Our dive club was involved in the “Intentional” sinking of the Straights of Mackinac. After a few years and a gazillion hours of preparation/cleanup we still couldn’t get the permits in Wisconsin, so worked with a Chicago group.
It was intentionally sunk in 2003 off Navy Pier. Here’s a link to the sinking
And here is what it looks like underwater:
Jerry Koryciak As I remember, there were three ferries named Mackinaw, St Ignace and Petoskey. I remember riding on the The Petoskey on our way to Minnesota in the summer of 1958, before the completion of the bridge.
Shirley Burnham I think there was one called, City of Munising.
ferries stopped running when the Bridge opened Nov 1, 1957.
Mary Whittaker Martzolf The last ferry used to cross the straits was called The Vacationland.
Joan Vinette Shirley Burnham two ferries became potato storage boats on Washington Island. These were The City of Munising and The City of Cheyboygan.
Les Bagley U.P. Michigan After 1951, Dock 3 was used in St. Ignace and Dock 2 was relegated to only coaling and winter layups.
Les Bagley There were a number of ferries in the State Fleet at one time or another but only 5 in the 1950s until the end:

Ariel - 1923 only
Mackinaw City - 1924-40
Sainte Ignace - 1924-40
The Straits of Mackinac - 1928-57
City of Cheboygan - 1936-57
City of Munising - 1937-57
City of Petoskey - 1940-57
Vacationland - 1952-57

In addition, at times the State leased the Chief Wawatam and Sainte Marie (II) Railway ferries to help with rush periods and winter service with icebreaking.
Vicki Shaw Mary Whittaker Martzolf I remember that the Vacationland was the best of the fleet. We were always pleased wen we got to go across on it.
Alice Bennett I paid my way to college selling popcorn in the lines.
David Finlay My grandmother went into labor with my mother on that ferry.
Les Bagley Sorry, that's not Mackinaw City. This is a photo of Dock 2 in downtown St. Ignace, where the marina is located today. The ship is the City of Cheboygan, formerly the RR ferry Ann Arbor 4. Photo was taken post-WWII, but before 1951 when Dock 3 opened south of town to accommodate the newly built ferry, Vacationland. It was probably taken from the upper floor of the building across the street.
Les Bagley Greg Torsky it’s Dock 2 in downtown St. Ignace.
Les Bagley That's a neat photo! Does anyone know the original source? Shameless plug: for more pictures of the ferries, check out the book "Michigan State Ferries" from Arcadia. (I wrote it.)
Marybeth Wohlfert The line started at Moran and took almost 2 hours to cross the bridge on July 8!
Robert Tiura I remember a headline in a Detroit newspaper saying that the line was 27 miles long the day before opening day of deer hunting. One year, about 1960, we were in line next to two flatbed trucks with Unlimited hydroplane boats that were going from Detroit to Seattle for the next races. The boats were tipped up at about 45 degrees to keep the load narrower than 12' so they could drive on two lane roads. It was a Saturday and the drivers had to get out of Michigan before midnight because Michigan didn't allow trucks on the highways on Sundays.

John F. Lawrence posted
A 1950 Life Magazine pic. It may have been around July 4th. Anyway, the caption on this shot says the wait was 12-14 hours. 
From the superstructure, she resembles the City of Cheboygan
This is how I got to my grandparent's house as a kid living in Flint.

Up North Voice posted
If you don't mind, please share this photo of the Mackinaw Straits Ferry to people who may be interested! This is a picture of Mackinaw City, Michigan - 1950. This was before the bridge was opened on November 1, 1957, ending decades of the two peninsulas being solely linked by ferries. A year later, the bridge was formally dedicated as the "world's longest suspension bridge between anchorages." -- Photo courtesy of Pete Ridlon.

U.P. Michigan commented on their photo

Before they figured out how to raise the bow so that cars could roll on they used an elevator to raise the cars upon the deck.
Kyran Clune posted
Bob Carr: I remember being in that tower.
Kyran Clune: Bob Carr Many Cars were elevated in that elevator.
Daniel A. Mitchell: Note the elevator tower for lifting cars to the upper deck of the older ferries. A slow cumbersome procedure.
Bob O'Donnell
Launched in 1903, the cross-lake ferry City of Munising was built in Cleveland, Ohio by the American Ship Building Co. The 350-foot vessel (LOA) was designed to carry rail cars and passengers across Lake Michigan. It was sold after completion to the Pere Marquette Steamship Co. which christened it the Pere Marquette 20.
In 1938, the ship was sold to the State of Michigan and converted into a ferry to transport automobiles and passengers across the Straits of Mackinac. The conversion work was done in Manitowoc, Wis. by the Manitowoc Shipbuilding Co. When work was completed, the vessel was renamed the City of Munising.
The ship was converted into a double entry ferry in 1948 and laid up in 1957 after the new bridge over the Straits of Mackinac opened to the public. In 1959, it was sold to K & K Trailer Service Co. which planned to use it to transport trucks and trailers between Muskegon, Mich. and Milwaukee, Wis. The service was never established.
In 1961, the vessel was sold to the Washington Island Storage Corp. for use as a storage vessel for potatoes. Its engines and propellers were removed at Benton Harbor, Mich. and what was now a barge was then towed to Washington Island, Wis. Unofficially renamed the No. 2., the vessel was sold for scrap in 1973 and towed to Italy for dismantling.
Mike Harlan shared

A description of the ferry service before the Mackinac Bridge was built.

John Campbell posted three photos with the comment: "All that remains of the railroad carferry slip in Mackinaw City. St. Ignace was the first railroad carferry to cross the Straits starting in 1888, followed by Ste. Marie, Chief Wawatam, and Ste. Marie (II). The Chief continued ferrying rail cars to St. Ignace until 1980’s until the apron there collapsed in August 1984."



Bruce Mcpherson commented on John's post
very's the remains in Frankfort, MI another big car ferry slip
John Campbell Bruce Mcpherson Thanks for sharing, Bruce! Not too many of these structures remain. Elberta slips are gone. I think Manistique slip is still there. The GT Milwaukee and GT Muskegon slips are in shambles, but I think still stand. Kewaunee slips long gone.

Street View
The icebreaker in the background is now a museum posted
Detroit & Mackinac RS2 #977 unloads the coal-fired "Chief" ("S.S. Chief Wawatam") at Mackinaw City, Michigan in June, 1979. These car ferry operations once afforded the D&M with a steady flow of traffic but by the late 1970s they were nearing the end. Rob Kitchen photo.
Brandon Lee You can still ride the Badger, a rail ferry converted to haul automobiles. Do it soon though, every year they fear might be it's last.
Billy Krieg With the popularity that the Badger has, I doubt that it will be taken out of service besides regular maintenance and dry-docking.
Brandon Lee Billy Krieg the environmentalists have been trying to kill it for a long time.
Billy Krieg Brandon Lee even with those concerns, retirement is far from the last option for the ship. they no longer dump their ash into the lake and they can switch to burning biofuel alternates compared to coal such as the fuel that was tested on the Everett railroad.
Randy Alan Brandon Lee, you are spreading old news. The Badger has been cleared by the EPA for operation into the foreseeable future. Move along, nothing to see here.
Mike Castellow At least one of the Triple Expansion steam engines from the ferry still exists.

Rchard McPhillips III shared
Brian Bernard By 1977 there was talk of cutting her down to a barge -of course that happened a few years later.
Joseph Seaman Brian Bernard it was never cut to a barge. It sat privately owned at detour coal dock for years before finally being scrapped. I was up close and touched it when I was a kid.
Brian Bernard Joseph Seaman I understood she was purchased by Purvis Marine and they used her as a barge but later scrapped her. My memory in the matter of the Chief Wawatam is a bit fuzzy, though! I photographed her at the Soo in the Summer of 1982.

Mike Harlan shared

Mike Crarnecki commented on Mike's share
here's another

Clyde Hendrickson posted
The Chief Wawatam ferry that crossed between Mackinaw City and St. Ignace, Michigan. From a postcard.

Clyde commented on his post
Engine from the Chief Wawatam now in a museum. It was a coal fired ship in operation from1911 to 1984.
[It is in the Wisconsin Maritime Museum in Manitowoc, WI.]

Clyde commented on his post

Clyde commented on his post
In the '50s they built the Mackinac Bridge, which provided an alternative to using the passenger train & ferry. [Opened in 1957.]

Greg Borgwald posted
Inspired by Clyde Hendrickson's post, here's a picture of the Chief Wawatam, Mackinaw City, MI, _8-26-78
James Hill: One of its engines is being put together on display going west on 2 just leaving Ignace. Another is restored and on display in wisconsin.

I don't know if it is docked here or at St. Ignace.
safe_image for a share by Eric Pieper
Chief Wawatam a car carrier in service from 1911-1968 where it was cut down and is in use today has a barge.
Brandon Adams: She was in use till about 1984, then cut down to a barge. She was scrapped in 2008 or 2009.

Mike Braybrook commented on Eric's share
One of her engines sitting next to US 2 in the UP.
[The comments indicate that the other engine is set up to function in the museum in Manitowoc, WI. And some of the parts of the ferry were used to make an art installation on the Canadian Soo waterfront:]

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