The Golden Era

In 1947, the giant Chesapeake & Ohio Railroad absorbed the Pere Marquette Railway, and the service continued to expand for several more years. During the height of the car ferry era in the 1950s, seven ships sailed in and out of the Ludington harbor year-round, transporting rail freight and passengers across Lake Michigan to the Wisconsin ports of Manitowoc, Milwaukee and Kewaunee. The 410’ sister ships, S.S. Spartan and S.S. Badger, launched in 1952 and 1953, were the last — and largest — coal-fired, steam engine car ferries built in the United States.