C&O Railway Series #46: C&O Lake Michigan Car Ferries

  • Model: BK-24-502


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Chesapeake & Ohio Lake Michigan Car Ferries

By William F. Howes

This book features a summary history of the important Lake Michigan railroad car ferry service across Lake Michigan that was begun by the Flint & Pere Marquette Railroad (known as the Pere Marquette Railway (PM) after 1900). The book was developed from a manuscript prepared by the late Bill Howes (who was the last C&O/B&O passenger service director and later a CSX vice president) in the 1990s.

The PM’s operation was highly successful and by the 1930s was using five large modern ships (or “boats” as they were known on the lakes) that carried dozens of railroad cars per day from the port of Ludington, Mich. to the Wisconsin ports of Milwaukee, Manitowoc, and Kewaunee where connections were made with the Milwaukee Road, Soo Line, Chicago & North Western, and Green Bay & Western railroads.

The routing allowed freight to and from the Northeast and the Midwest to bypass the congestion and delays of passing through the complicated Chicago terminals. PM connected with the Northeast at Buffalo, N. Y., then used trackage rights across Ontario where it picked up its own line at St. Thomas. The freight then moved across Michigan to Ludington then across the lake on the car ferries.

C&O emphasized this service after it merged PM in 1947 and in 1952 installed the two largest and most modern ferries: Spartan and Badger. During the 1950s C&O was carrying over 150,000 freight cars across the Lake per year in seven boats. But with the B&O affiliation in 1964 new routes opened and the cross-lake traffic steadily declined, though the passenger part of the service remained strong. However, C&O finally existed the business in 1983.

This book gives a summary history of the service with emphasis on the two C&O-built boats of 1952 as well as the two most modern of the PM-built ships. Over 100 great photos. A complete roster of all the PM and C&O boats is included.

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