For the return trip, I decided to take the Badger from Manitowoc, WI to Ludington, MI. The Badger is the last coal powered car ferry left on the Great Lakes. At one time Ludington was the busiest car ferry port in the world. The term car ferry refers to the train cars that they carried, not automobiles.
Railroads that didn't have passage through Chicago used the ferries to get to the other side of Lake Michigan and continue their transport of goods. After these railroads obtained rail passage through Chicago ferry traffic declined. The railroads wanted to discontinue service, but the government wouldn't let them. Gradually they reduced the fleet until there were only three ferries operating. The City of Midland, the Spartan, and the Badger, which was the last one built.
Finally the railroads were allowed to shut down the ferry service. The remaining ferries were purchased by Charles Conrad of Holland, MI. He returned the Badger to service transporting people and cars across the lake.
The future of the Badger is up in the air. The ship dumps it's untreated coal ash in Lake Michigan and the government has demanded that it cease this practice by the end of 2012. There are a number of options being considered, but it is not clear if any of these will be economically feasible.
If you're interested in the experience, do it now.
A truck backing a load of coal into the car deck of the ship. It will be offloaded into the bunkers for use.
A picture of the partially loaded car deck.
A picture of the truck being loaded with coal. In the background you can see the U.S.S Cobia, a WWII submarine docked at the Wisconsin Maritime Museum. The Cobia was built in Manitowoc with a number of other submarines that served in the war.
An old placemat from the days when ferry service was offered from more ports than just Manitowoc.
A bit of history from the ship's museum.
A freighter from Great Lakes Fleet, Inc that passed in front of us on the Lake. I was unable to make out the name of the ship.
The north pier light at Ludington.
The south pier light at Ludington.
Entering Ludington harbor.
The Spartan, the sister ship to the Badger. She is non-operational and there are no plans to restore her to service. She is currently used for spare parts for the Badger. Both ships are beautiful.