Sand Hill City

Grand Haven Tribune Article Compilation

Car Ferries

Keywords:  fer

From:  “Grand Haven – Day by Day” project

 By Bob Beaton     March 10, 2009


   The Toledo, Ann Arbor & Northern Michigan Railroad is about to build a large ferry steamer to test the feasibility of carrying trains of cars across lake Michigan from Kewaunee to Frankfort.  The new steamer will cost a quarter of a million dollars, and will be large enough to carry forty-eight cars, and she is fast enough to make the run across the lake between the points named in about fie hours.  The distance is sixty miles.  The ferrying of cars in this manner will result in a great saving, as it costs from $6 to $12 a car to make the transfer of freight from the cars to the steamers; and besides, the loss through breakage incident to such transfers will be prevented.  It is thought the experiment will prove successful, as freight trains have been thus transferred for years between Cape Charles city and Newport News, a distance of forty miles across the mouth of Chesapeake Bay, where the water is sometimes very turbulent.  This leads the Evening Wisconsin to say in an editorial “if the proposed ferry system should be successful, it will, without doubt, eventually be put on between Milwaukee and Ludington, Grand Haven and St. Joseph.



   The Detroit Free Press speaks deprecatingly of the car ferry scheme across Lake Michigan.  It says “The best talked of the Lackawanna route between Kewaunee and Frankfort is to have a capacity of 24 freight cars.  A freight car will carry a little over 500 bushels of wheat, say 600 bushels.  The 24 cars would therefore carry about 15,000 bushels of wheat.  Any vesselman knows that it would never pay to send a steamship across Lake Michigan with a load of only 15,000 bushels of wheat.  The steamer’s proportion of the freight money could not be much more than 1 cent a bushel, which would only give her $150 for the trip, scarcely enough to keep her in coal.  In taking a cargo of loaded cars over the lake the steamers would get paid for only a little over two-thirds of her cargo.  A 33-foot car weighs about 28,000 pounds and carries about 40,000 pounds.”



   One of the most curious craft ever built on the great lakes is the new ferry for the Toledo, Ann Arbor & Northern Railroad to run across Lake Michigan between Frankfort, Mich., and Kewaunee, Wis., now being made at Toledo.  She will be able to carry twenty-four loaded freight cars each trip and will be capable of breaking the heaviest ice with her powerful machinery.  The contract price is $150,000 and her dimensions are 250 feet over all, 51 feet beam and 17 feet depth.  A consort to be towed by this steamer and also carry twenty-four cars will nest be built.



   The experiment of ferrying loaded railway cars across Lake Michigan is soon to be tried by the Toledo Ann Arbor & Northern Michigan Railway company between Frankfort and Kewaunee, a distance of sixty miles.  Should the scheme be successful, the older lines  crossing the lake, such as the Flint & Pere Marquette and the Detroit, Grand Haven & Milwaukee, may be forced to construct similar boats for their winter business.―Evening Wisconsin.



   There seems to be a growing appreciation among railroad men of the advantages of connection with Milwaukee from the East.  The Michigan Central line is said to be preparing to compete with the Detroit, Grand Haven and Milwaukee route by establishing a line of steel steamers between South Haven and Milwaukee.  In time—as the ferry experiment between Kewannee and Frankfort—will undoubtedly prove successful—huge car ferries will be running out of Milwaukee for Grand Haven, Ludington, South Haven, and wherever railroads can secure connections with this port.—Milwaukee Evening Wisconsin.



  The lake car ferry scheme is probably not dead yet, but a few more mishaps to the Ann Arbor will probably crush the scheme completely.

   On her first trip across the lake between Kewannee and Frankfort the car ferry Ann Arbor No. 1 went ashore two miles north of Ahnapee in the thick weather last night.  She rests easy on a sandy bottom and has, as yet, sustained no serious damage.  Three tugs have been dispatched to her assistance from Sturgeon Bay, and wreckers Manistique and Favorite are on their way from Cheboygan.



   The combined efforts of powerful steamers and tugs, together with a judicious application of the best modern wrecking appliance, were effective in securing the release of the big ferry steamer Ann Arbor from the beach near Ahnapee. After lightening 100 tons of coal and about 400 barrels of apples.  The tugs Sea Gull, Favorite, Welcome, Charnley, Goldsmith and George Nelson and steamer Thomas H. Smith pulled the ferry boat into deep water at 1 o’clock yesterday afternoon.  She is but slightly damaged and will go to Kewaunee and probably resume her regular trip across the lake.  The Sturgeon Bay life-saving crew rendered valuable assistance to the wreckers.



  The principal boat engaged in pulling the big car-ferry Ann Arbor off the Ahnapee reef and taking her to Kewaunee was the wrecking tug Favorite, formerly on the Muskegon and Milwaukee line.



   Milwaukee shippers and transportation men say they know nothing about the Milwaukee & Grand Rapids Railway & Navigation Company, which proposes to ferry trains across the lake from Grand Haven to Milwaukee on boats similar to the Ann Arbor, of the Kewaunee line.


   The Ann Arbor No. 2 was launched at Craig’s ship yard yesterday in Cleveland.  She will be fitted out at once and will go to Kewaunee, Wis., where she will be towed between Kewaunee and Frankfort, Mich., in the car ferry service of the new Lackawanna Line to the northwest.



   The car ferry boat Ann Arbor, of the Toledo, Ann Arbor & North Michigan railroad, is again making regular trips between Frankfort and Kewaunee.



   The car ferry Ann Arbor is an expensive boat to run, about thirty men being employed on her.  Thirteen of these are in the engineer’s department alone.  She has averaged a trip a day up to Tuesday.  On that day she started out, but returned after getting away a short distance on account of the weather.



   The car ferry steamer Ann Arbor No. 2 left the Craig shipyard at Toledo, Saturday morning for Frankfort, Mich.  Her builders, John and George Craig, are on board.  The No. 2 is commanded by Capt. Frank Dority, who formerly sailed the steamer Osceola, and more recently the Colorado.



  A report was current at Detroit on Thursday that the car-ferry steamer Ann Arbor No. 2 which left Detroit Sunday morning, bound for Lake Michigan, got up as far as Saginaw Bay, where the ice parted the steel from her bow, and she put into Sand Beach and took on fuel enough to run back to Detroit.



   Car ferry No. 2 has reached Frankfort.



   Flour agencies at Buffalo are receiving consignments from Minneapolis, all rail, the cars mostly coming across on the ferry from Kewaunee to Frankfort.  They complain that all winter routes are slow.



   The car ferry No. 2 has already had the sheathing torn away from her bow by the ice.



   The car ferries are meeting with trouble in getting in Kewaunee and Frankfort.



   Some years ago the car ferry system was tried on Lake Champlain between Burlington, Vermont and some other point.  It proved to be a failure.



    According to the Toledo Blade the Toledo, Ann Arbor & Northern Michigan Railway Co. is about to test the virtue of oil in stilling troubled waters.  The harbor at Frankfort affords only a narrow entrance and the water over the bar is uncomfortably shallow.  Thus in rough weather the car-ferry steamers experience difficulty in getting inside.  The railroad authorities propose to calm the angry waves outside the piers and thus pass the boats inside with ease and safety.  It is claimed this can be done by sending jets of oil out into the lake.  Underground pipes will be laid and extended into the lake 1,000 feet in front of the pier.  An oil tank will be placed at the end of one of the two piers.  This will give enough bead to force the oil out into the lake.  The officials of the road think that the plan is feasible and will try the experiment.  Accordingly pipes will be laid and the tank built at once.  It will contain 3,600 gallons.  The pipe will have a dozen openings through which the jets of oil will be forced into the lake.  The new scheme will be in operation in a few weeks.



   The light on South Manitou Island will be kept burning all winter for the benefit of the ferry boat with cars from Frankfort to the Wisconsin shore.



   When the two pioneer ferry steamers took their places on the line between Kewaunee and Frankfort the Wisconsin predicted that should they prove successful they would mark the beginning of anew era in lake and rail transportation, and that eventually mammoth car ferries would ply between Milwaukee and Grand Haven and other Michigan ports.  The proposed Toledo-Buffalo ferry line is an enterprise that will advance that prediction toward fulfillment.  All that needs to be demonstrated to make the use of car ferry boats general among the lake and rail lines is that the transfer is economical as against the present method of trans-shipping freight.  And, according to the assertions of the officials of the Toledo, Ann Arbor & Northern Michigan Railroad this is being every day on the Kewaunee-Frankfort ferry route.―Evening Wisconsin.



  It took one of the car ferry steamers nearly twelve hours, one day last week, to cross the lake from Frankfort to Kewaunee.  Ice occasioned the delay.



   During the three days ending February 25, the car ferry steamers succeeded in making a round trip between Kewaunee and Frankfort every fifteen hours.



   During the month of February the ferry steamers made twenty-one trips across the lake from Kewaunee and Frankfort and transported about 70,000 barrels of flour from here.  [(Kewaunee)].



   “This has been one of the severest winters we have had in years,” said Capt. James Martin of Milwaukee master of the Roanoke, plying between Grand Haven and the Cream City, in the Morton Friday.

   “The weather has been terrible most of the time and the ice uncommonly bad.  Everything points to the fact that there will be an extraordinarily carrying trade this year.  I do not believe this car ferrying across Lake Michigan will amount to anything” said Capt. Martin in reply to a question.  “They can do all right, but the expense is enormous, and I doubt if it will be practicable on that account.  The Grand Haven harbor is all right. I came in this morning with a big load and was not troubled a bit.  The sand bar seems to have gone down.  At least it was not as bad as it was.”—G. R. Democrat.



   On March 26 the car-ferry steamer Ann Arbor No. 2 left Kewaunee for Frankfort at 5 a.m. with a train of twenty-four loaded cars, and returned light to Kewaunee at 5:10 p.m., having been absent just twelve hours and ten minutes.  She was loaded at once and by 12 o’clock at night had delivered a second train of cars at Kewaunee.



   The car-ferry steamers plying between Frankfort and Kewaunee are now handling large quantities of westbound coal.



   The carferry route between Kewaunee and Frankfort finds patronage so limited that only one of the ferry steamers is being run at present.  A light eastward movement of flour since the close of navigation has operated to bring about this condition of things.



   During the great gale of February 12 the ferry steamer Ann Arbor No. 2 crossed Lake Michigan from Frankfort to Kewaunee with a full complement of cars in five hours.



   Menominee papers state that the car-ferry steamers will commence running between Frankfort, Mich., and that city by about June 15th, this being considerably sooner than was expected.



Grand Haven Daily Tribune July 27, 1925

Jens Johanson, Age 26, Member of Grand Haven
Carferry  Crew Drowns While Swimming
Man Was Swimming Alone
Over Thousand Feet From Shore

    Jens Johanson, age 26, a member of the engine room crew of the Grand Trunk carferry Grand Haven, lying at dock here for inspection and repairs, drowned in Lake Michigan yesterday afternoon about three thirty while swimming at the State Park bathing beach.

   Johanson was claimed as a good swimmer and was disporting alone in the water about a thousand feet from shore when he encountered difficulty, presumed to be cramps.  His struggles were noticed by  by a few people who frantically signaled the United States Coast Guard for help.  The Coast Guards under Capt. Preston immediately responded.

Do Fast Work

   The power lifeboat went to the scene of the accident and started efforts to recover the body.  Within thirty minutes after the drowning, the body was was taken from the lake and efforts were made to resuscitate the man.  The work was done by coast guards and Dr. S. L. DeWitt was unsuccessful and the body was taken to the Kiel Mortuary.

   Johnson was drowned in about 18 feet of water and was alone, quite a distance from shore.  Capt. Preston has issued a warning to swimmers to observe the rules of common sense for safety while at the lake for swimming and not to go in the water to swim any distance unless they are really fit.

Parents in Norway

   Johanson was said to have been a water tender aboard the carferry.  No arrange­ments for his funeral have been made although a sister, living in Minnesota will be notified as soon as her address is known.  The man's parents are living in Norway, it is stated.




   The first fatality in several years occurred Sunday at a local bathing beach.  A young sailor, a powerful swimmer was the victim, because he took too great chances, over-estimating the dangers of the big lake as a swimming place.  It is said that the young swimmer plunged from the south pier of the government harbor revetment with the idea of swimming along the shore as far as Highland Park.  When about eight hundred foot from the pier, the young swimmer sank.  Just what happened to cause the accident may always remain a mystery.  Whether he was seized by a cramp, or whether the choppy seas worried him to such an extent that he exhausted himself trying to struggle against them, is not known.  He was all alone when the lake claimed him and there was not one chance in a thousand of rescuing him.

   As soon as the swimmer's plight was discovered , the U.S. Coast Guard Station on the north side of the channel was notified.  The crew launched a boat and hurried out of the harbor and around the south pier with all possible dispatch.  There was then no trace of the swimmer, and the coast guards were compelled to work blindly over the place, where the unfortunate man was last seen swimming.  Perhaps twenty-five minutes elapsed before the body was brought to the surface.  All efforts at resuscitation failed of course, although the coast guards and a physician worked unceasingly for a long time.

   The unfortunate young sailor, who was a member of the crew of the carferry Grand Haven, took a chance and lost.  Accustomed to the water, and with the confidence of youth, he set out on an adventure, which he had little doubt as to his ability to carry through.

   Today he is a tragic lesson to warn off those who have no fear of the deep water.  His young body, magnificent in physical power, is still in death because of that lack of fear of the danger of the water.  Yet he was no different than hundreds of other young people who frequent  popular resort  places like Grand Haven.  All of them take chances every day, and many times escape death by an extremely narrow margin.

   Very frequently one sees young swimmers venture far out beyond the safety lines at the Lake Michigan bathing beaches.  Those who watch from the shore realize, how dangerous is the venture.  But those who swim get farther than they realize.  When they begin their return swim they find the distance  very great back to shore.  Many a venturesome swimmer struggles back to shore with barely enough reserve strength to reach safety.  Had their been an undertow, any current at all, or choppy sea, the effort might not have been so successful.

   While it is doubtful, if the victim of yesterday's tragedy could have been saved in any event, there would have been a better chance for successful resuscitation, if the body could have been recovered sooner.  Whether the employment of beach guards at the state park could have averted the tragedy is not known, of course, but their might have been a better chance at least.  As far as is known there are no specially detailed guards on duty at any time at Highland Park or at the State Park beaches.  Life lines have been strung along the shore line, but the diving platforms are further out in deep water.  Should a swimmer, not understanding the tricks of the lake swells and currents, get in trouble outside the life lines , with no one near him, their might be another tragedy similar to that of yesterday.

   The U.S. Coast Guard station on the north side of the channel is too far away to assure protection to swimmers on the south beach, some of them a mile away or more from the harbor.   Yesterday's accident indicates how well they can work, even under the handicap of distance.  However, it indicates how much more could have been accomplished toward protecting the lives of bathers at the beaches, had the new station been built on the south side of the channel as was strongly urged a short time ago.

   It is not to be denied, however, that U.S. Coast Guards, beach patrols, etc. cannot assure protection to over-venturesome swimmers, who have no fear of deep water, canoeists and daring occupants of sailboats, rowboats and launches.  The danger of the deep water, the lake and the river, cannot be too strongly impressed upon the minds of those who play upon them.  Here is one place in which it never pays to take a chance.