S. S. Badger, last of its kind?

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Ispolkom

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Nov 27, 2007
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I'm going to visit in-laws in Michigan over the Labor Day weekend, and naturally we're taking the S.S. Badger. I've sworn that I'll never drive through Chicagoland again, and it's a long drive through the Upper Peninsula.

The S.S. Badger is a coal-fired railroad ferry, which now only carries cars and passengers. I'm wondering, is it the last remaining coal-fired, steam-driven vehicle in non-excursion service in the U.S.?

I know there are all sorts of steam locomotives, but aren't they all on tourist lines?
 

edding

Service Attendant
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Sep 4, 2007
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153
I'm going to visit in-laws in Michigan over the Labor Day weekend, and naturally we're taking the S.S. Badger. I've sworn that I'll never drive through Chicagoland again, and it's a long drive through the Upper Peninsula.
The S.S. Badger is a coal-fired railroad ferry, which now only carries cars and passengers. I'm wondering, is it the last remaining coal-fired, steam-driven vehicle in non-excursion service in the U.S.?

I know there are all sorts of steam locomotives, but aren't they all on tourist lines?
I can't answer your question but it reminded me of the trip I took on the Badger several years ago. Fantastic! Although I grew up in Detroit, I had never been to the UP. I conned my best friend from High School to drive across the state (from Port Huron), take the Badger, drive up Wisconsin to the UP and back agross the bridge( which obviously I also had never done) backl home to PH. Wow! Sailing across Lake Michigan is an incredible experience. I would heartily recopmmend that anyone who wants a unique( at least in this country) experience to take the Badger. Great memories. Thanks for the post.

Ed
 

MrFSS

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Here is that ship's website.

I rode that route in 1954 from Ludington to Manitowoc. They were having gale force winds and there wasn't a person on the ship who wasn't suffering from sea sickness. I vowed I'd never ride again. Funny how something like that can make up your mind for you. I also lived in Ludington when I was in 8th grade and even though our house was several miles away from the docking area, you could hear that ship whistle as clear as a bell. Some, even in those days hated it as much as train horns at crossings.
 

Ispolkom

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Nov 27, 2007
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Here is that ship's website.
I rode that route in 1954 from Ludington to Manitowoc. They were having gale force winds and there wasn't a person on the ship who wasn't suffering from sea sickness. I vowed I'd never ride again. Funny how something like that can make up your mind for you. I also lived in Ludington when I was in 8th grade and even though our house was several miles away from the docking area, you could hear that ship whistle as clear as a bell. Some, even in those days hated it as much as train horns at crossings.
We usually make the 12:30 a.m. crossing going east (we can leave St. Paul after work and easily make it), and always get a stateroom. I have never understood why they come and knock on your door to wake you up, because when the Badger blows its whistle coming into Ludington harbor you are either awake or already dead. Given that's at 5 a.m., I imagine they must get complaints.

I've been fortunate that all of my trips on the Badger have been peaceful, as I'm as lubberly as you'd expect someone from North Dakota to be. But if any ship were built to instill confidence, it's the Badger. I swear that even the doors to the stateroom bathrooms are made of 1/4 inch steel plate.
 

GoldenSpike

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Mar 18, 2009
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319
I'm going to visit in-laws in Michigan over the Labor Day weekend, and naturally we're taking the S.S. Badger. I've sworn that I'll never drive through Chicagoland again, and it's a long drive through the Upper Peninsula.
The S.S. Badger is a coal-fired railroad ferry, which now only carries cars and passengers. I'm wondering, is it the last remaining coal-fired, steam-driven vehicle in non-excursion service in the U.S.?

I know there are all sorts of steam locomotives, but aren't they all on tourist lines?
I also thought about that option later in September to avoid Chicago and throw in a different mode of transportation. Since I'm stuck with returning my rental car back in Milwaukee, I've opted to do second-best and take the 2.5 hour crossing on the Lake Express Ferry from there to Muskegon since I'm going to nearby Grand Rapids. From there, later I'll be meeting up with a fellow train-watcher for a few days of 'hot-spots' in IN and OH.
 

Green Maned Lion

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Dec 27, 2007
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They have, on and off, discussed the creation of something called the Strasburg Commuter Line, which would be a commuter spur between Strasburg and Paradise, PA, where passengers could ride and interchange cross-platform between the steam-fired Strasburg Rail Road train and the electric Amtrak Keystone trains. It is still being talked about- Amtrak is for it, SRR is for it, and many passengers in the area are for it. The issue is funding for the platform, which is not forthcoming. There are a few people who object to it as well, although as far as I recall, Strasburg was only asking for funding for the platform, not the service itself, which like the Strasburg itself, is supposed to be profitable.
 

rrdude

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Took the Ann Arbor Railroad Car Ferry before they laid up, while still a working RR Car Ferry. Sailed on the Badger last summer with family and the kids (12, 9, & 9) just loved it, surprisingly, so did my wife. Made crossing both ways, and agree, if you go at night, get a stateroom. If not, put your chair up on the bow, as far forward as you can, and you'll be out of the wind.

The staff and crew of the Badger do an EXCELLENT job of treating you as "Guests". (Unlike when the ferries were run by the railroads) If you like trains, you'll really enjoy the whole experience.........

Depending upon the wind, and where you are on deck, be prepared for a bit of coal soot thou.......... Din't bother me none.......... ;)
 
D

David M

Guest
I'm going to visit in-laws in Michigan over the Labor Day weekend, and naturally we're taking the S.S. Badger. I've sworn that I'll never drive through Chicagoland again, and it's a long drive through the Upper Peninsula.
The S.S. Badger is a coal-fired railroad ferry, which now only carries cars and passengers. I'm wondering, is it the last remaining coal-fired, steam-driven vehicle in non-excursion service in the U.S.?

I know there are all sorts of steam locomotives, but aren't they all on tourist lines?
The Badger is unique in two ways, it is coal fired, and powered by reciprocating steam engines (as opposed to steam turbines). It's days in my opinion however are numbered, as the current climate in Washington is vehimently anti coal. The EPA has currently got it in their crosshairs, and this year imposed new regulations/requirements on them including, but not limited to, monitoring rainfall on the ship in order to measure the amount of coal dust that washes overboard.

Your tax dollars at work, ride it while you can.
 

rrdude

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Aug 10, 2009
Messages
3,691
I'm going to visit in-laws in Michigan over the Labor Day weekend, and naturally we're taking the S.S. Badger. I've sworn that I'll never drive through Chicagoland again, and it's a long drive through the Upper Peninsula.
The S.S. Badger is a coal-fired railroad ferry, which now only carries cars and passengers. I'm wondering, is it the last remaining coal-fired, steam-driven vehicle in non-excursion service in the U.S.?

I know there are all sorts of steam locomotives, but aren't they all on tourist lines?
The Badger is unique in two ways, it is coal fired, and powered by reciprocating steam engines (as opposed to steam turbines). It's days in my opinion however are numbered, as the current climate in Washington is vehimently anti coal. The EPA has currently got it in their crosshairs, and this year imposed new regulations/requirements on them including, but not limited to, monitoring rainfall on the ship in order to measure the amount of coal dust that washes overboard.

Your tax dollars at work, ride it while you can.
Well then, let's get the boys in Ludington to unlock the Spartan, replace the physical power plant with something new, (doesn't the US Navy have a few mothballed nuke-powered ships in storage?) and replace the smoke stack with a rock climbing wall.........

OK Feds, time to do something CONSTRUCTIVE for once, maybe, just ONCE? It's not like there is a fleet of thousands of coal-fired ships polluting the Great Lakes..

.....Makes me wanna go Postal on someone.......Opps, that TOO is a fed agency. Weren't they supposed to "turn a profit............"
 

Ispolkom

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It's not like there is a fleet of thousands of coal-fired ships polluting the Great Lakes..
Exactly. I think the remaining coal-fired transportation is worth preserving for historical reasons.
Especially because the Badger isn't a museum or excursion, it's still an active transportation link, especially for those of us who have sworn never to drive in Chicagoland again. (Too many hours stuck on the Tri-State Tollroad.)

I agree with rrdude on the excellent customer service. We plan to continue to take it at least once a year while it still runs.
 
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