Re: C&O Lake Michigan Ferries, was Crappy Job

Daniel A. Mitchell

Nice report. At some time I must get over there and see this exhibit. Thanks,

Dan Mitchell

On Sep 12, 2019, at 3:04 PM, Alex Huff <dsrc512@...> wrote:

One of the Chief Wawatam's many claims to fame is that it was the last hand-fired coal burning vessel in US commercial service.  Normally, as Dan posted above, the forward pair of boilers which supplied steam to the front prop were not used except in the winter to break ice.  Since the Chief loaded from the bow, which had a hinged sea gate for rough weather crossings, the forward prop also helped remove ice from the ferry slips.  There was one noteworthy summer trip from St. Ignace to Mackinaw City which used all three engines, a total of 4,500 hp.  The occasion was a race against the first built new automobile/truck ferry to operate at the Straits.  It was a Diesel powered boat and replaced clapped out, older railroad ferries in that service.  The Captain advised the crew that both boats would be leaving St. Ignace at the same time, which did not normally occur.  The firemen piled coal soaked with oil next to the six boilers' fire doors.  The Diesel ferry was double ended, so it had an early lead on the Chief which had to back out and wye before it took off in pursuit.  I talked to some of the crew who either told or were working at the time that the Chief caught up about midway.  The Captain ordered a course correction so the Chief would pass upwind of the white painted auto ferry.  The firemen were over firing the boilers and the stacks were pouring out black smoke.  It was the claim of the Chief's crew that the state boat was never as white afterwards.

The forward engine is the one preserved at the maritime museum.  It is big enough the museum had to expand its building.  Now chain driven by an electric motor, when visitors push a button the crankshaft rotates and the connecting and piston rods move up and down.  The pistons of three different diameters lie nearby.  At a lower level, the propeller shaft sticks out through a wall.  Attached is a fiberglass replica of the forward prop.  It is a bit eerie to see it suddenly begin to turn.  
Alex Huff         

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