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“Bite-Size Bits of Local, National, and Global History”
Milwaukee in Milwaukee County, Wisconsin — The American Midwest (Great Lakes)
 

Carferry SS Milwaukee

Historic Shipwreck

 

—Wisconsin’s Maritime Trails —

 
Carferry SS Milwaukee Marker image. Click for full size.
By Paul F, March 30, 2011
1. Carferry SS Milwaukee Marker
Inscription.
Type: railroad carferry, steel hull
Built: 1903, American Shipbuilding Co., Cleveland, Ohio
Sank: October 22, 1929 Lives Lost: 40-50
Length: 388’ Beam: 56’
Cargo: train cars (loaded), tubs, mixed freight, 3 automobiles
Propulsion: triple expansion steam engine, twin screw (propeller)
Depth of wreckage: 125’

The 338-foot railroad carferry SS Milwaukee was launched as the Manistique Marquette and Northern #1 in 1903. She was designed by the famed marine architect Robert Logan and built in Cleveland by the American Shipbuilding Company.

Acquired by the Grand Trunk Railroad in 1908, the Milwaukee shuttled freight cars between her namesake city and Grand Haven, Mich. Shipping freight cars across Lake Michigan bypassed the chokepoint of Chicago, sparing railroads time and expense. Carferries were the only ships on the Great Lakes built to operate year-round, and their crews were admired by vessel operators the world over for their rugged efficiency.

Powered by twin steam engines, the SS Milwaukee could carry 25 to 30 loaded boxcars in her cavernous hold. She served her owners faithfully until October 29, 1929, when she departed Milwaukee harbor into the teeth of a ferocious nor’easter. She and her crew of 40 to 50 never reached their destination. Five days later, a note washed
Carferry SS Milwaukee Marker image. Click for full size.
By Paul F, March 30, 2011
2. Carferry SS Milwaukee Marker
Close-up of text on main body of marker.
ashore near Grand Haven, Mich.:
SS Milwaukee, October 29, 6:60 p.m.
“The ship is taking water fast. We have turned around and headed for Milwaukee. Pumps are working by sea gate is bent in and won’t keep the water out. Flicker is flooded. Seas are tremendous. Things look bad. Crew roll is about the same as last payday.
-A.R. Sadon, purser
The SS Milwaukee now rests in 125 feet of water four miles east of Whitefish Bay with her bow facing southwest, confirming the ship had turned back towards Milwaukee harbor, exposing her low stern to the worst of the “tremendous” sea reported in the purser’s note.

Stripped of her upperworks, the wreck is a tangle of exploded deck gear, hull plates, and rail cars. The damaged sea gate (a four-foot highbarrier designed to prevent a following sea from swamping the cardeck) hangs wrenched from the stern, twisted in a crude “W” shape.
 
Erected by Wisconsin Historical Society, University of Wisconsin Sea Grant, Wisconsin Coastal Management Program.
 
Marker series. This marker is included in the Wisconsin’s Maritime Trails marker series.
 
Location. 43° 1.921′ N, 87° 53.884′ W. Marker is in Milwaukee, Wisconsin, in Milwaukee County. Marker
Carferry SS Milwaukee image. Click for full size.
By Paul F, March 30, 2011
3. Carferry SS Milwaukee
Photo in upper left hand corner of marker.
can be reached from E Chicago Street 0.1 miles from North Harbor Drive. Touch for map. Marker is located along the lake shore inside Maier Festival Park grounds, east of the main entrance at the end of East Chicago Street. Marker is in this post office area: Milwaukee WI 53202, United States of America.
 
Other nearby markers. At least 8 other markers are within walking distance of this marker. Hansen Storage Co. Warehouse #2 (approx. 0.3 miles away); First Milwaukee Cargo Pier (approx. 0.4 miles away); Blessed Virgin of Pompeii Church (approx. 0.4 miles away); A.W. Rich Shoe Co. (approx. 0.4 miles away); Phoenix Knitting Co. Plant #4 (approx. 0.4 miles away); S. Heller Elevator Company (approx. 0.4 miles away); Standard Bedding Co. (approx. 0.4 miles away); Goodyear Tire & Rubber Company (approx. 0.4 miles away). Touch for a list and map of all markers in Milwaukee.
 
Also see . . .
1. Wisconsin Ship Wrecks. (Submitted on April 4, 2011, by Paul Fehrenbach of Germantown, Wisconsin.)
2. Wisconsin Maritime Trails. (Submitted on April 4, 2011, by Paul Fehrenbach of Germantown, Wisconsin.)
 
Additional keywords. Shipwrecks
 
Categories. Waterways & Vessels
 
Capt. Robert McKay image. Click for full size.
By Paul F, March 30, 2011
4. Capt. Robert McKay
Believe he went down with his ship This is one of the last pictures taken of Capt. Robert (Bad Weather) McKay, who is believed to have perished with his ship, the carferry Milwaukee, which sank in the vicious storm which lashed Lake Michigan the forepart of this week. They said of Capt. McKay, “He never ran from a storm.”
Carferry SS Milwaukee Marker image. Click for full size.
By Paul F, March 30, 2011
5. Carferry SS Milwaukee Marker
Close-up of photos in lower right hand corner of marker.
Carferry SS Milwaukee Marker image. Click for full size.
By Paul F, March 30, 2011
6. Carferry SS Milwaukee Marker
Milwaukee lake front looking east.
Carferry SS Milwaukee Anchor image. Click for full size.
By Paul F, March 30, 2011
7. Carferry SS Milwaukee Anchor
located next to marker
Anchor Marker at base of anchor image. Click for full size.
By Paul F, March 30, 2011
8. Anchor Marker at base of anchor
Anchor from the carferry “Milwaukee” In one of the worst Lake Michigan tragedies in history, the “Milwaukee” sank with 59 crewmen aboard on October 22, 1929. This anchor was recovered by Roger Chapman in 1973 and donated to the City of Milwaukee.
 
 
Credits. This page was last revised on June 16, 2016. This page originally submitted on March 30, 2011, by Paul Fehrenbach of Germantown, Wisconsin. This page has been viewed 951 times since then and 26 times this year. Last updated on May 10, 2011, by Paul Fehrenbach of Germantown, Wisconsin. Photos:   1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6, 7, 8. submitted on March 30, 2011, by Paul Fehrenbach of Germantown, Wisconsin. • Kevin W. was the editor who published this page.
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