Spartan, in layup at Ludington, MI, 6/3/2011. Roger LeLievre


Build Information

Year Built: 1952

Builder: Christy Corp., Sturgeon Bay, WI

Hull #369

Registry: US 264500

IMO #5336387

Laid Down: December 19, 1950

Launch Date: January 6, 1952

Commissioned: October 23, 1952


Spartan was constructed in 1952 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 ship to the carferry Badger.

General Stats

Length Overall: 410’06”

Length Between Perpendiculars: 392’08”

Breadth: 59’06”

Molded Depth: 24′

Draft: 14′ [Light], 18’06” [Loaded]

Capacity: 34 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



Spartan – 1952-1983

Owner: Chesapeake & Ohio Railway, Detroit, MI

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

Flag: United States

Home Port: Ludington, MI

Spartan – 1983-1991

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

Operator: Michigan-Wisconsin Transportation Co.

Flag: United States

Home Port: Ludington, MI

Spartan – 1991-2020

Owner: Lake Michigan Carferry Service, Ludington, MI

Operator: Lake Michigan Carferry Service

Flag: United States

Home Port: Ludington, MI

Spartan – 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 first ferry was laid down on December 19, 1950, being launched on January 6, 1952. She was christened Spartan on September 6, 1952, in a joint ceremony with the launching of her younger sister ship Badger. Her name honored the mascot of Michigan State College, now Michigan State University, and was christened by Mrs. John A. Hannah, wife of the president of the college at the time. Following sea trials, Spartan entered service on October 23, 1952, delivering a load of rail cars to her home port of Ludington, MI, under command of Capt. Harold A. Altschwager.

On August 12, 1976, while in heavy fog, Spartan struck rocks near the harbor entrance to Ludington, MI, taking damage to about 120′ of her bottom. She was repaired at Bay Shipbuilding in Sturgeon Bay, WI.

Spartan was laid up for the final time on September 10, 1979, due to lack of demand. She was steamed up in the spring of 1980 in preparation to run on a lease to the Ann Arbor Railroad, but it was found that the harbor in Frankfort, MI, where the Ann Arbor fleet was based, was too shallow for her to enter and the plan fell through.

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.

On December 1, 1985, Spartan was blown off of her moorings in Ludington harbor and ran aground on the other side of Pere Marquette Lake. She was pulled off four days later with the assistance of several Canonie tugboats and the City of Midland 41.

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.

Spartan, along with her Michigan-Wisconsin Transportation fleetmates Badger 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.

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 Spartan and Badger remained under ownership of Lake Michigan Carferry, and the Badger continued normal operations while her sister Spartan lay at the dock, waiting for her turn to return to the lake. It is currently unknown what the fate of the Spartan will be.

Compiled By Brendan Falkowski

Updated on December 24, 2021


Berry, Sterling P. “Spartan”. 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.