Badger, at the dock in Ludington, MI, 7/18/2021. Brendan Falkowski


Build Information

Year Built: 1953

Builder: Christy Corp., Sturgeon Bay, WI

Hull #370

Registry: US 265156

IMO #5033583

Laid Down: April 19, 1951

Launch Date: September 6, 1952

Commissioned: March 21, 1953


Badger was constructed in 1953 as part of a fleet expansion program for the Chesapeake & Ohio Railway’s Lake Michigan cross-lake rail ferry fleet. She was built by Christy Corp. of Sturgeon Bay, WI. Her design was largely based on the City of Midland 41, with several improvements including a wide pilothouse and gravity davits. Original design specifications were prepared by C&O Marine Superintendent L. H. Kent, and detail design work was done by R.A. Stern.

She is an identical sister to the carferry Spartan.


  • Refurbished for passenger and car ferry service, 1990.

General Stats

Length Overall: 410’06”

Length Between Perpendiculars: 392’08”

Breadth: 59’06”

Molded Depth: 24′

Draft: 14′ [Light], 18’06” [Loaded]

Capacity: 32 Railcars

Vessel Type: Railroad Car Ferry / Passenger Ship

Number of Cargo Holds: Single Car Deck; 4 Tracks

Primary Operations: Lake Michigan Cross-Lake Railroad Ferry Service

Propellers: 2

Rudders: 1

Engineering Equipment



Engine Type: Reciprocating Steam Engine

Engine Manufacturer: Skinner Engine Co., Erie, PA

Engine Model: Steeple Compound Unaflow; 4-Cylinder

Number of Engines: 2

Rated HP: 7560 IHP


Boiler Type: Coal-Fired Water Tube Boilers

Boiler Manufacturer: Foster-Wheeler, Baar, Switzerland

Boiler Size: —

Number of Boilers: 4



Badger – 1953-1983

Owner: Chesapeake & Ohio Railway, Detroit, MI

Operator: Chesapeake & Ohio Railway, Marine Division, Ludington, MI [Later Chessie System]

Flag: United States

Home Port: Ludington, MI

Badger – 1983-1991

Owner: Michigan-Wisconsin Transportation Co., Ludington, MI

Operator: Michigan-Wisconsin Transportation Co.

Flag: United States

Home Port: Ludington, MI

Badger – 1991-2020

Owner: Lake Michigan Carferry Service, Ludington, MI

Operator: Lake Michigan Carferry Service

Flag: United States

Home Port: Ludington, MI

Badger – 2020-Present

Owner: Lake Michigan Carferry, Ludington, MI [Interlake Maritime Services]

Operator: Lake Michigan Carferry

Flag: United States

Home Port: Ludington, MI

Her Story

After the Chesapeake & Ohio Railway absorbed the Pere Marquette Railway in 1947, they looked to expand their marine operations for their Lake Michigan cross-lake rail ferry service. It was decided to construct two new carferries, so C&O Marine Superintendent L.H. Kent prepared the design specifications, and the design for the new ships was done by naval architect R. A. Stern. Christy Corp. of Sturgeon Bay, WI, was contracted to construct the new ships for a cost of about $5 Million each. The design of the ship was based off of the City of Midland 41, with a few modifications.

The second ferry was laid down on April 19, 1951, and was launched and christened Badger on September 6, 1952, in a joint ceremony with the christening of her older sister ship Spartan. Her name honored the mascot of the University of Wisconsin-Madison, and was christened by Mrs. Walter J. Kohler, wife of the Governor of the State of Wisconsin. Following her completion and sea trials, Badger entered service on March 21, 1953.

As demand for cross-lake rail services declined during the late 1970’s and 1980’s, C & O, recognized at this point as Chessie System, was looking to cease ferry services. In 1983, the State of Michigan finally allowed them to terminate service.

That same year, several Ludington businessmen formed Michigan-Wisconsin Transportation Company, in order to purchase the carferries and continue to operate them in cross-lake service. M-W purchased the City of Midland 41Badger, and Spartan in 1983. The City of Midland 41 remained in usual operation with the Badger coming out as needed. The Spartan remained in layup.

By 1988, the City of Midland 41 reached her time of retirement, and the Badger was brought out as the primary vessel for the M-W fleet. She sailed for Michigan-Wisconsin Transportation all the way until the end on November 16, 1990, when service was terminated.

Badger, along with her Michigan-Wisconsin Transportation fleetmates Spartan and City of Midland 41, were purchased by Charles Conrad through his newly-formed business, Lake Michigan Carferry Service in 1991. The Badger was refurbished for seasonal passenger and automobile service, while the Midland and the Spartan continued their long layup at Ludington. Service resumed on May 16, 1992, with the Badger returning to service following renovations to her passenger accommodations.

On September 7, 1996, the American Society of Mechanical Engineers designated the Badger‘s propulsion system a mechanical engineering landmark.

In December 2020, Lake Michigan Carferry, Pere Marquette Shipping, and the vessels Pere Marquette 41 / Undaunted, Badger, and Spartan were sold to Interlake Steamship Company. The Badger and Spartan remained under ownership of Lake Michigan Carferry, and the Badger continued normal operations.

Compiled By Brendan Falkowski

Updated on December 28, 2021


Berry, Sterling P. “Badger”. Great Lakes Vessel History: Vessel Histories of Sterling P. Berry. N.d. Accessed 23 December 2021. <>

Chavez, Art. S.S. Badger: The Lake Michigan Carferry. Arcadia Publishing, 2003.

Hilton, George. Great Lakes Carferries. Howell-North Books, 1962. Pp. 160-164.