“Bite-Size Bits of Local, National, and Global History”
“Bite-Size Bits of Local, National, and Global History”
Mackinaw City in Cheboygan County, Michigan — The American Midwest (Great Lakes)

Railroad Ferries

Mackinaw City Historical Pathway

Railroad Ferries Marker image. Click for full size.
Photographed By J.T. Lambrou, January 2, 2023
1. Railroad Ferries Marker
The construction of railroads into Northern Michigan closely followed the lumbering industry. In 1881, the Michigan Central completed its line into Mackinaw, and the Mackinac and Marquette reached St. Ignace in the same year. To complete the connection of the railroad lines, the Algomah, the first railroad ferry across the Straits, was built in Detroit. Later, two other railroad ferries, the Sainte Marie and the Chief Wawatam, were added to the fleet. The Railroad Ferries were built with thick hulls and powerful engines to serve as icebreakers to extend the shipping season as long as possible. The Wawatam was the last remaining coal burning ship on the Great Lakes when she made her final trip on August 21, 1984.

Around 1919, when almost anyone could afford to own an automobile, private auto clubs became very popular, and "Pike Trips" were organized, in which caravans of cars would make a long trip together. Mackinaw City became a major destination. Many of the travelers wanted to cross the Straits, but the only way to do that was to roll the car onto a railroad flat car and transport it on a railroad
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ferry. Complaints about the fare, forty dollars for a one-way trip, hastened the development of a state auto ferry service.

Source: Memories of Mackinaw, Judy Ranville and Nancy Campbell (Marker Number 10.)
Topics. This historical marker is listed in these topic lists: Railroads & StreetcarsRoads & VehiclesWaterways & Vessels. A significant historical date for this entry is August 21, 1984.
Location. 45° 46.792′ N, 84° 43.538′ W. Marker is in Mackinaw City, Michigan, in Cheboygan County. Marker is at the intersection of South Huron Avenue and Mackinaw Crossing Drive, on the right when traveling north on South Huron Avenue. Touch for map. Marker is at or near this postal address: 201 South Huron Avenue, Mackinaw City MI 49701, United States of America. Touch for directions.
Other nearby markers. At least 8 other markers are within walking distance of this marker. Mackinaw City Railroad Dock / USCG Cutter Mackinaw WAGB 83 (within shouting distance of this marker); British Colonial Shipbuilding Yard, 1761 - 1781 (within shouting distance of this marker); Commercial Fishing (within shouting distance of this marker); American Legion Memorial (about 400 feet away, measured in a direct line); Mackinaw City Veterans Memorial (about 400 feet away); Mackinaw's Civil War Dahlgren Cannons (about 400 feet away); The Meneely Bell (about 500 feet away); The Algomah (about 500 feet away). Touch for a list and map of all markers in Mackinaw City.
Railroad Ferries Marker image. Click for full size.
Photographed By Joel Seewald, August 16, 2019
2. Railroad Ferries Marker

Also see . . .  SS Chief Wawatam. Wikipedia article. This article states that the Wawatam "is believed to have been the last hand-fired, coal-burning boat in commercial service on the Great Lakes. Other coal-burning vessels that survived longer in revenue service, such as the SS Badger, had automatic stokers". (Submitted on August 27, 2019, by Joel Seewald of Madison Heights, Michigan.) 
Credits. This page was last revised on January 8, 2023. It was originally submitted on August 27, 2019, by Joel Seewald of Madison Heights, Michigan. This page has been viewed 165 times since then and 42 times this year. Photos:   1. submitted on January 7, 2023, by J.T. Lambrou of New Boston, Michigan.   2. submitted on August 27, 2019, by Joel Seewald of Madison Heights, Michigan.

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Nov. 29, 2023