The S.S. Badger: Manitowoc-Ludington And Back

 
Published on Oct. 4, 2014

I hadn't traveled on the carferry in over 50 years. On recent trip back to my hometown of Manitowoc, I decided it was time to do it again. After all, This ol gal (S.S. Badger) is older than I am and may not be able to go on much longer. EPA has been trying to shut her down. It was a great day to be on Lake Michigan. Very cool and sunny. It was refreshing. It spent the night in Ludington and boarded back on in the morning for a return trip. This was a great idea. Glad I did it. Below are some stats on the Badger. The SS Badger is a passenger and vehicle ferry in the United States that has been in service on Lake Michigan since 1953. Currently, she shuttles between Ludington, Michigan, and Manitowoc, Wisconsin, connecting U.S. Route 10 between those two cities. She is the last coal-fired passenger vessel operating on the Great Lakes. The ship is named after the University of Wisconsin's athletic teams, the Wisconsin Badgers. The Badger runs on Michigan time (Eastern Time Zone, whereas Wisconsin is in the Central Time Zone) and riders pay Michigan taxes on their fares. She runs on a seasonal basis from May to October. The Badger was constructed as a rail car ferry in 1952–53 by the Christy Corporation of Sturgeon Bay, Wisconsin, along with her twin sister the SS Spartan (named after the mascot of Michigan State University) with a reinforced hull for ice-breaking. She was originally used to carry railroad cars, passengers and automobiles between the two sides of the lake all year long. Today, the ferry connects the eastern and western segments of U.S. Route 10 in the two cities from May to October. Launched September 6, 1952, the SS Badger entered service March 21, 1953, for the Chesapeake and Ohio Railway (from 1973 a subsidiary of the Chessie System). The C&O had acquired the rail car ferry operations in Ludington with its acquisition of the Pere Marquette Railway in 1947. After 1972, service was gradually curtailed; all but the three newest vessels were retired, and sailings to Milwaukee, Wisconsin, and Manitowoc, Wisconsin were discontinued, leaving only the route between Ludington and Kewaunee, Wisconsin. On July 1, 1983, the Chessie System ended its car ferry service when it sold the steamers Badger, Spartan, and City of Midland 41 to Glen F. Bowden of Ludington. He organized the Michigan-Wisconsin Transportation Company (MWT) to continue the operation. The railroad car ferry concept on Lake Michigan was facing serious economic troubles during the 1980s and by November 1988, the Badger was the only vessel running. She was the last of the 14 ferries since 1897 based in Ludington remaining in service. On November 16, 1990, facing bankruptcy, Bowden laid up the Badger, ending 93 years of railway car ferry service out of Ludington and 98 years on Lake Michigan as a whole. Name: SS Badger Namesake: University of Wisconsin Owner: Lake Michigan Carferry Service Route: US 10, Ludington, Michigan–Manitowoc, Wisconsin Builder: Christy Corporation, Sturgeon Bay, Wisconsin Yard number: Hull No. 370 Launched: September 6, 1952 Sponsored by: Mrs. Walter J. Kohler (wife of Governor of Wisconsin) In service: March 21, 1953 Homeport: Ludington, MI Identification: Official No. 265156 IMO number: 5033583 Nickname: "The Big Badger" (Charles F. Conrad's favorite description) Status: Active General characteristics Type: Passenger and automobile car ferry Tonnage: 4,244 gross tons Length: 410 ft 6 in (125.12 m) Beam: 59 ft 6 in (18.14 m) Depth: 24 ft (7.32 m) molded depth Installed power: Steam, coal-fired Propulsion: Two four-cylinder compound Skinner Unaflow steam engines, totaling 7,000 shp (5.22 MW); four Foster-Wheeler water-tube type D boilers, 470 psi (3.24 MPa) Speed: 24 mph (21 kn; 39 km/h) max 18 mph (16 kn; 29 km/h) cruise Capacity: 620 passengers, 180 automobiles, also tour buses, RVs, motorcycles, and commercial trucks Crew: 50–60 Notes: SS Badger U.S. National Register of Historic Places Michigan State Historic Site Location 700 S. Williams Street Ludington, Michigan Coordinates 43°56′57″N 86°27′04″W Significant dates Added to NRHP December 11, 2009 Designated MSHS March 6, 1997