The SS Badger getting underway from Manitowoc, Wisconsin
|Namesake:||University of Wisconsin|
|Owner:||Lake Michigan Carferry Service|
|Route:||Ludington, MI–Manitowoc, WI|
|Builder:||Christy Corporation, Sturgeon Bay, WI|
|Yard number:||Hull No. 370|
|Launched:||September 6, 1952|
|Sponsored by:||Mrs. Walter J. Kohler (wife of Governor of Wisconsin)|
|In service:||March 21, 1953|
|Identification:||Official No. 265156
IMO number: 5033583
|Nickname:||"The Big Badger" (Charles F. Conrad's favorite description)|
|Type:||Passenger and automobile car ferry|
|Tonnage:||4,244 gross tons|
|Length:||410 ft 6 in (125.12 m)|
|Beam:||59 ft 6 in (18.14 m)|
|Depth:||24 ft (7.32 m) molded depth|
|Installed power:||Steam, coal-fired|
|Propulsion:||Two compound Skinner Unaflow steam engines, totaling 7,560 hp (5.64 MW); four Foster-Wheeler water-tube type D boilers, 450 psi (3.10 MPa)|
|Speed:||18 mph (15.6 kn; 29.0 km/h)|
|Capacity:||620 passengers, 180 automobiles, also tour buses, RVs, motorcycles, and commercial trucks|
|Location:||700 S. Williams Street
|Added to NRHP:||December 11, 2009|
|Designated MSHS:||March 6, 1997|
The SS Badger is a passenger and vehicle ferry in the United States that has been in Lake Michigan service from 1953 until the present. Currently, she shuttles between Ludington, Michigan, and Manitowoc, Wisconsin. She is the last coal-fired passenger vessel operating on the Great Lakes.
The boat is named after the University of Wisconsin's athletic mascot, "Bucky Badger". The Badger runs on Michigan time (Eastern Time Zone, whereas Wisconsin is in the Central Time Zone) and riders pay Michigan taxes on their fares.
The Badger was constructed as a rail car ferry in 1952–53 by the Christy Corporation of Sturgeon Bay, Wisconsin, along with her twin sister the SS Spartan (named after the mascot of Michigan State University) with a reinforced hull for ice-breaking. She was originally used to carry railroad cars, passengers and automobiles between the two sides of the lake all year long. Today, the ferry connects the eastern and western segments of U.S. Route 10 in the two cities from May to October.
Launched September 6, 1952, the SS Badger entered service March 21, 1953 for the Chesapeake and Ohio Railway (from 1973 a subsidiary of the Chessie System). The C&O had acquired the rail car ferry operations in Ludington with its acquisition of the Pere Marquette Railway in 1947. After 1972, service was gradually curtailed; all but the three newest vessels were retired, and sailings to Milwaukee, Wisconsin, and Manitowoc, Wisconsin were discontinued, leaving only the route between Ludington and Kewaunee, Wisconsin. On July 1, 1983, the Chessie System ended its car ferry service when it sold the steamers Badger, Spartan, and City of Midland 41 to Glen F. Bowden of Ludington. He organized the Michigan-Wisconsin Transportation Company (MWT) to continue the operation.
The railroad car ferry concept on Lake Michigan was facing serious economic troubles during the 1980s and by November 1988, the Badger was the only vessel running. She was the last of the 14 ferries since 1897 based in Ludington remaining in service. On November 16, 1990, facing bankruptcy, Bowden laid up the Badger, ending 93 years of railway car ferry service out of Ludington and 98 years on Lake Michigan as a whole.
After sitting idle for a year, the three ferries were purchased by entrepreneur and philanthropist Charles F. Conrad of Holland, Michigan, (and a native of Ludington). He undertook a major overhaul and refit of the Badger exclusively for carrying passengers and automobiles. Returning to service May 16, 1992, on the Ludington–Manitowoc route, the vessel has carried hundreds of thousands of passengers and vehicles across the lake. She is the only operating ferry of her kind in the world and is an icon of car ferry heritage on the Great Lakes. Conrad retired as president of Lake Michigan Carferry Service in 1993. He died on February 9, 1995. Since 1993 the company has been headed by his son-in-law, Robert Manglitz.
The Badger is the last large coal burning steamship in the United States and is one of the last vessels in service on the Great Lakes to be powered by Skinner Unaflow engines (manufactured by the Skinner Company of Erie, Pennsylvania).[a] The Badger makes a dock 490 times a year on her schedule as of 2009, an exceptionally large number of dockings for a merchant vessel.
On average, the Badger completes a trip across Lake Michigan in about four hours, covering 60 miles (97 km). The ferry saves about three and a half hours of travel time compared to the 411-mile (661 km) drive from Manitowoc to Ludington via Chicago. The ferry offers a number of entertainment options and eating facilities on board, as well as passenger staterooms equipped with sleeping berths. Because of her size and strong construction, the SS Badger rarely misses a sailing due to weather.
The SS Badger is also unusual in that it is a registered historical site in two states. The Michigan Historical Commission and the Wisconsin Historical commission each named the Badger as a registered historical site in 1997. She was listed as of national significance on the National Register of Historic Places on December 11, 2009.
On August 9, 2008, the Badger suffered a stern bearing failure, causing the company to cancel the ferry's sailings for nearly a week. It was the first time the ship had ever experienced a stern bearing failure. On August 10, she sailed under her own power to the Bay Shipbuilding yard in Sturgeon Bay for repairs. As there was no opening at the time for the work to be done in the dry dock, a team of divers was flown in from California to assist in the repairs. Regular sailings resumed August 15, 2008. It was the first time since 1994 (when she struck a rock at Ludington) that the Badger was laid up for unscheduled repairs and the first time since 2005 that the company canceled a sailing because of mechanical failure.
The Badger's large deck space allows it to transport tractor trailers and larger commercial loads. In 2012, it carried more than 1,000 commercial loads. The ship carries wind turbine components from Wisconsin, some 150 feet (46 m) long and 150,000 pounds (68,000 kg). The Badger's fall season was extended two weeks into early November to carry additional wind turbine loads.
The SS Badger came under fire from the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) and environmental groups in late 2008 because of its daily practice of dumping untreated coal ash from its boilers directly into the waters of Lake Michigan. Burning 55 tons of coal a day produces 4 tons of ash. Coal ash is a byproduct of the Badger's propulsion system.
The Badger had earlier been the subject of EPA Clean Air action but was granted an exemption from regulation. Lake Michigan Carferry President and CEO Bob Manglitz has rebuffed the EPA demand that Badger find a way to capture and safely offload ash, change the fueling configuration of the ship, or cease operations by 2012. Manglitz has frequently equated coal ash to "harmless sand" and vowed to keep the Badger in its original coal-burning configuration. In an effort to continue to minimize the environmental impact to the lake, the SS Badger has explored a number alternatives including, storing the ash on board and unloading upon arrival in Ludington. Another option being considered is the use of compressed natural gas, this would allow the historical boiler system to be maintained and making the SS Badger the first "green" ship on the Great Lakes.
Lake Michigan Carferry plans to start their 2013 sailing season in May. They signed a proposed consent decree with the DOJ and EPA in March, 2013 to end ash discharge within two years, utilizing a new ash retention system. As of 17 April 2013[update] that proposal is open to public comment until April 26, 2013. Lake Michigan Carferry also paid a $25,000 civil penalty for violating mercury water quality standards in 2012.
Dock ticket office in Manitowoc, Wisconsin.
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