The Decline

As the efficiency of railroad service around Lake Michigan improved, the C&O found it was no longer profitable to transport rail cars by ship. The company was granted permission by the Interstate Commerce Commission to abandon cross-lake routes beginning in 1980. The fleet’s three remaining ferries — City of Midland, Spartan, and Badger — were sold to two Ludington businessmen. Their private venture, the Michigan-Wisconsin Transportation Company, continued to focus on rail freight, but the steady decline in business forced the company to cease operations in November 1990. Railroad car ferries were no longer viable, and the three ships seemed destined for the scrap yard.