Ludington Daily News Jan. 23, 1982
The recent abandonment of carferry service between Ludington and Manitowoc ended 92 years of passenger service and 85 years of carferry service between the two ports.
It was on Jan. 11, 1890, that the Flint & Pere Marquette Railroad inaugurated service between Ludington and Manitowoc. On Jan. 16, 1890, the following item appeared in the Manitowoc Pilot:
“Saturday of last week F&PM No. 1steamed up the harbor. She was greeted by cheers and booming of cannon and large display of bunting. Her flags were flung to the breeze and the docks lined with an enthusiastic crowd. A large quantity of flour from Minnesota was awaiting shipment and when the here steamer left with her cargo on Saturday, the bridges were crowed with people. She will make one round trip every two days. She arrived Friday and left on Saturday. This is known as the Manitowoc and Ludington Short Route.”
Carferry service came into the picture in 1896 when docks were built in Manitowoc by the Chicago & Northwestern and the Wisconsin Central and the old No. 1 slip was built at Ludington by the F&PM. The Ann Arbor No. 1, commanded by Capt. Peter Kilty, was the first to use the new slip at Manitowoc on Aug. 2, 1896.
The C&NW slip at Manitowoc (used until this year) was completed in January of 1897.
On Feb. 17, 1897, the new carferry Pere Marquette docked at the two slips for the first time. Like the F&PM No. 1 in 1890, she was greeted by cannon booming from the shore as she approached. On board the carferry was S. T. Carpo, the general manager of the F&PM.
The Pere Marquette added runs to Milwaukee in the fall of 1900 and to Kewaunee in the fall of 1903. After many years of service the terminal facilities were upgraded in 1955 with building of ramps at the C&NW slip at Manitowoc and No. 2 slip at Ludington for loading autos on C&O carferries.
Later, in 1960, similar ramps were built by the Chicago & Northwestern at Jones Island in Milwaukee and by the C&O at No. 3 slip in Ludington.
The C&O became the only railroad offering carferry service to Manitowoc in 1973 when the Ann Arbor Railroad laid up its old carferry, Arthur K. Atkinson, which had been built in 1917. Ann Arbor service continued between Frankfort and Kewaunee with the old Viking, which had been built in 1925.
But the Ann Arbor was merely biding time. In 1978 the Grand Trunk carferry City of Milwaukee (built in 1931) was placed in service by the Ann Arbor, which had purchased her. Then, in in the summer of 1980, the Atkinson returned to service after a major overhaul.
In contrast, both the Spartan and the City of Midland, much newer vessels, are out of service and the Badger made her last run to Manitowoc on Jan. 8. The end had come for Ludington's first carferry route, and the so-called “Kewaunee Plan,” approved by the Interstate Commerce Commission in 1978, specifies that the C&O can abandon the Kewaunee run on Jan. 1, 1983, if traffic is not substantially above 1976 level.
Mackinaw Helps Midland Through Ice
She has also been a leader in maintaining the Great Lakes for year-round shipping in recent years. Because of the efforts of her and other icebreakers, the Soo Locks open on April 1, 1974, and were open continuously for a year, a milestone that was reached April 1, 1975.
In December of 1976, the ore boat Cliffs Victory ran aground in the St. Mary's River, causing a massive traffic jam of ships at the locks. The vessel was freed only by the combined efforts of the Mackinaw, the 142-foot tug John Roen V, two smaller tugs, and the engines of the Cliffs Victory.
On Feb. 17, 1977, the City of Midland attempted to leave Ludington in heavy ice. She became stuck soon after sailing and in the process lost a propeller at 10:53 p. m. At 5 a. m. The next day, the Spartan also became struck in the ice.
At 11 a. m. That day, the Mackinaw arrived and proceeded to free the two carferries. Because of the loss of the propeller, the Midland could be steered properly and had to be towed into the harbor by the Coast Guard tug Raritan.
The Macknaw left Ludington at 5 that afternoon to go to Frankfort, where she assisted the cutter Westwind in freeing the Ann Arbor carferry Viking from the ice.
The Mackinaw last visited Ludington on Aug. 2, 1981, when she was opened for public inspection.
Today the future of the big icebreaker is uncertain. The Coast Guard is planning to replace her with 140-foot tugs. Hopefully, she will be placed in reserve and not scrapped because there are many ice breaking situations where a vessel of her size would be mandatory of effective operations.
Feb. 19, 1982 CSX abandons trackage from Manistee,MI to Petoskey via Traverse City. This was combination of Chicago & West Michigan and Manistee & Northeastern original trackage.(Michigan History.com)
April 5, 1982 Michigan Interstate ends operation of the former Ann Arbor north of the city of Ann Arbor. Operation will briefly resume at a later date.(Michigan History.com)
At Last, on April 5, 1982, the Kewaunee - Frankfort service ended amid the cries of the affected and staggering costs.
April 26, 1982 The Ann Arbor Railroad discontinues Lake Michigan car ferry service.
April 27, 1982 The Tuscola & Saginaw Bay Railroad gains control of the former Ann Arbor trackage north of Ann Arbor.(Michigan History.com)