The First Car Ferries

The first Ludington car ferry, the steel-hulled Pere Marquette, was added to the Flint & Pere Marquette fleet in 1897. Along with limited passenger accommodations, she boasted four sets of railroad tracks on her deck, allowing loaded rail cars to be shipped across the lake. This eliminated hand loading and unloading of the earlier wooden-hulled freighters and helped coin the term “car ferry.” In 1900, the F & PM merged with other rail lines to form what would become the Pere Marquette Railway Company. The new company operated cross-lake car ferry routes successfully for the first half of the century, which led to the construction of ten new vessels.