man the lifeboats!mmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmm
mmmmWx4 goes sailing on a Chessie ferry


C&O at Reed City, Michigan
C&O Index
Big Railroads



One night in early September, 1974, Wx4 staff had the occasion to ride the Chessie System's Badger, which along with the Spartan, was the largest railroad car / automobile ferry to ever ply the Great Lakes. The Badger sailed from Milwaukee at about 9:30 pm and arrived at the other side of Lake Michigan at Ludington at about 4:30 am (best recollection). The trip itself - in typical fashion, Wx4 traveled steerage - was unmemorable, but the before and after were fascinating.

With the arrival of the Badger in Ludington, all three Chessie boats were in port, having come in variously from Milwaukee, Kewaunee and Manitowoc. (at left is the City of Midland framed by the bow of the Spartan)

The next year, Cheesie began a campaign to drop the service, finally succeeding in 1983. A succession of private owners then tried their hands at operating the boats with mixed results as autos-only carriers. Today (2018) only the Badger survives, providing nearly 500 daytime crossings per Summer / Fall tourist season on the Ludington - Maniwotoc route, carrying both passengers and highway vehicles, but not railroad cars. Purportedly the boat, is the only coal-fired steamship still operating in North America. Marquette Rail now serves Ludington via the former C&O tracks.

For an online history of the Chessie , and predecessor C&O and Pere Marquette, boats on Lake Michigan, you can't do better than The Carferries of the Great Lakes.


Milwaukee: Loading the Badger


Ludington, Michigan, the next morning...




Unloading the City of Midland, at sunrise...



The Chessie yard and its tower...



The automobile ramp...


back to top

on to Reed City, Michigan


Lake Michigan, September 1974