50th Year of Service
S.S. Badger 43

The S.S. BADGER 43 was built by Christy Corp. in Sturgeon Bay Wisconsin. She was the second of 2 ships launched in 1952. She is named in honor of the University of Wisconsin and is 410 feet in length. BADGER was christened by Mrs. Walter J. Kohler, Jr., wife of the governer of Wisconsin.

She is the last coal-fired, steam-powered passenger ship on the Great Lakes.

Call Whistle -- Long-Long-Long
Captain -- Bernard "Bunny". Robertson
Chief Engineer -- Sylvester Larson

From the Ludington Daily News, March 1953:

"L.H. Kent, superintendent of steamboats for Chesapeake & Ohio Railway Co., announced that Capt. Bernard Robertson was to be master of the new trainferry SS BADGER, John Turner first mate, J.E. Holden second mate, Willis Cross Jr. third mate, Sylvester Larsen chief engineer, Warren Genson first assistant, Raymond Hall second assistant, and Kenneth Cartier third assistant."

S.S. Badger History

  • April 9, 1951 -- The keel was laid for the BADGER.
  • December 10, 1951 -- The Ludington Daily News reported that the names for the carferrys that were under construction in Sturgeon Bay had been selected:  S.S. SPARTAN and S.S. BADGER.
  • September 6, 1952 -- The S.S. BADGER was launched at Sturgeon Bay, WI.  She was christened by Mrs. Walter J. Kohler, Jr., wife of the governer of Wisconsin.

  • March 11, 1953 -- The crew of the BADGER was announced.
  • March 21, 1953 -- The BADGER made her maiden voyage to Ludington.
  • March 21, 1953 -- The Ludington Daily News reported that the BADGER's first load was to be a ship load of paper from the Wisconsin Paper group in the  Fox River Valley.  The paper was brought from Manitowoc.

First Load
  • June 25, 1960 -- The Ludington Daily News reported that the upper auto decks were recently added to the SPARTAN and BADGER.
  • February 4, 1963 -- For the first time in their careers, the SPARTAN and BADGER had trouble with winter ice.
  • 1964 -- The BADGER's superstructure was raised 18 inches to allow for a taller rail car.

At Ludington
  • November 2, 1971 -- The Badger was laid up due to coal strike
  • October 4, 1980 -- The BADGER left Milwaukee for the last time, ending service there.  Captain John Bissell in command.

At Ludington
  • June 11, 1981 -- The Badger steamed out of Ludington enroute to Milwaukee under an MDOT subsidy that was approved earlier in March.
  • August 25, 1981 -- Famous "Love Boat" cruise.  Carried 520 passengers, the largest number of passengers for a carferry up to that time.  It was sponsered by the Ludington Area Ambassadors.
  • January 9, 1982 -- The BADGER left Manitowoc for the last time for the C&O.
  • July 25, 1983 -- A wedding aboard the Badger during the sailing of "Love Boat II".  Chris Gebhart and Pat Sroka of Ludington were married by Rev John Christensen.
  • January 29, 1987 -- The BADGER almost capsized at her dock due to a broken water intake pipe.
  • November 21, 1988 -- The BADGER was placed back into service to replace CITY OF MIDLAND 41.
  • November 16, 1990 -- The BADGER made her last run as a carferry because of alledged incidents in which she "touched bottom" at Kewaunee.
  • July, 1991 --  Holland, Michigan resident Charles Conrad purchased the BADGER, SPARTAN and CITY OF MIDLAND 41 and re-established carferry service for Lake Michigan Carferry  in May of 1992.
  • May 15, 1992 -- The S.S. BADGER was rededicated and began a new career as a non railroad carferry.
  • August 15, 1992 -- The BADGER carried it's 80,000 passenger of the season.  The 80,000 marker was the goal set the new Lake Michigan Carferry Service for the entire first season.
  • September 7, 1996 -- The American Society of Mechanical Engineers designated the propoulsion system of the BADGER  a mechanical engineering landmark.
  • August 29, 1998 -- designated a spur route of the Lake Michigan Circle Tour at dedication ceremonies in Manitowoc and Ludington
  • October 24, 2000 -- The Ludington Daily News reported that presidential canditate Al Gore was to be a passenger on the BADGER.  Scheduling conflicts forced the cancelling of the cruise, however.
  • May 15, 2003 -- The BADGER was re-christened during a ceremony celebrating her 50th year of service.

More Photos

Photos by Dan Cramer
Fall, 2003

For S.S. Badger sailing information and reservations, visit Lake Michigan Carferry -- The S.S. Badger

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