PositivelyMichigan.net Update on Project #1 Saving the Chief’s engine and also Project #2 Saving the Chief’s Uprights from her loading apron.
A tribute to the train ferry “Chief Wawatam” which served the Straits of Mackinac in Northern Michigan from 1911 through 1984.
Original Song – “Last of the Hand-Bombers” by Rob Kneisler
NEW INFORMATION VIDEO: Since the Chief has been gone for so long and having no videos of the steam engine operations we have substituted a YouTube Video from the S.S. Badger which still sails out of Ludington, Michigan today. Most controls of steam ships were done with this form of time proven control (chadburn to engine room) This is also the way the S.S. Titanic was operated as well. (This video is very informative)
On March 4, 2013, Maverick Construction removes debris of collapsed Chief Wawatam’s Elevator. Chief’s Demo Photos
The Chief’s Engine was moved on Wednesday September 26, 2012 from Arnold Lines Mill Slip to The Feed Station. Chief’s Engine Moving Photos
Chief’s Engine Saved:
On September 17, 2012 the City Council of St. Ignace had planned on scraping the Chief Wawatam’s Engine, but with persistence from Doug Taylor and Chuck Cullip from the Friends of the Chief Wawatam convinced the City Manager and City Council that it should be saved. The council voted unanimously to sell the engine to The Friends of the Chief for $1.00. The friends of the Chief plan on sandblasting and painting the engine to be put on display on the waterfront in a protected building. All of this will be done with donations and a possible grant. Gary Nitz a local Civil Engineer has provided a rendition of the Chief’s Engine Building on short notice, to show what can be done to display this Icon Relic from the elements. The Friends of the Chief are planning a host of fundraising events to procure money for this project.
Chief Wawatam Dock Collapsed 8-5-2011
The Chief Wawatam’s Loading Apron is an Iconic Relic from the past and it’s the only visual remnant that’s left that connects St. Ignace to the R.R, Car Ferry Service. The very first thing you would see in the Bay coming down the hill into St. Ignace was the Loading Dock Upright’s, until the dock collapsed into Bay at 3:00 AM on August 5, 2011.
Once this Iconic Relic is gone, it’s gone forever. It will be a sad day when it happens, because it was part of something that supported so many families over the many years it was there.
Historical Society members Cheryl Schlehuber said, “Down the road, were going to wish we had saved some of that stuff, Prentiss (Moie) Brown also concurs strongly for the preservation of the Dock.
Doug Taylor an Historian, who has been working a grassroots effort to save the uprights from day one, has been presenting various ideas for rebuilding the entire structure to rebuilding the structure as a cosmetic restoration, the later, seeming the best solution.
One of many solutions was generated by Gary Nitz, (G.D. Nitz Associates, Inc.) a local civil engineer Taylor recruited, as an authoritative, if any of these ideas are doable or not, from an engineers outlook. Gary has come up with a whole bunch of very good ideas, in a letter (Link to Letter) to the Historical Society, which Doug Taylor read at the June 18, 2012 Council Meeting.
S.S. Chief Wawatam
SS Chief Wawatam was a coal-fired train ferry and icebreaker that operated in the Straits of Mackinac between 1911–1984. Her home port was St. Ignace, Michigan, and she shuttled back and forth during her entire working life between that port and Mackinaw City, Michigan.
The Chief Wawatam was designed by Great Lakes marine architect Frank E. Kirby. She was launched in Toledo, Ohio by the Toledo Shipbuilding Company on 26 August 1911, and went into service for the Mackinac Transportation Company on 18 October 1911. The Mackinac Transportation Company was a joint venture of the Duluth, South Shore and Atlantic Railway, the Grand Rapids and Indiana Railroad, and the Michigan Central Railroad, the three railroads that serviced the Straits of Mackinac.
Year-round train ferry service in the Straits of Mackinac was a significant challenge because of the heavy ice buildup experienced by these straits in winter. The Chief Wawatam was designed to break ice floes with her bow propeller, which could both maneuver the boat and suck water out from underneath the ice to enable it to be broken through force of gravity.
The Chief Wawatam was 338 feet in length and had a beam of 62 feet. Her three propellers, two in the stern and one on the bow, were driven by coal-fired triple-expansion steam engines. The Chief is believed to have been the last hand-fired, coal-burning boat in commercial service on the Great Lakes. Other coal-burning vessels that survived longer in revenue service, such as the SS Badger, had automatic stokers.
Need by shippers for the Straits of Mackinac train ferry service provided by the Mackinac Transportation Company declined following construction of the Mackinac Bridge in 1957. After cross-Straits of Mackinac railroad car ferry service ended in 1984, the Chief lay in mothballs for several years in Mackinaw City. She was towed to Sault Ste. Marie, Ontario in 1989 and cut down at that port to serve as a barge. In November 2009 it was reported that barge Chief Wawatam was being scrapped. At the time of this final scrappage she was one of the last survivors of the Great Storm of 1913.
One of the three Chief’s triple-expansion engines was withheld from salvage and, after being restored to operating condition, was placed on display in 2005 at the Wisconsin Maritime Museum in Manitowoc, Wisconsin, a second one is in the presents of the City of St. Ignace where the future is not known of this rare gem. Other artifacts from the ferry, including the whistle, wheel, telegraphs, and furniture, are preserved by the Mackinac Island State Park Commission in Mackinaw City.
Click Below to Hear the Chief’s Whistle:
The S.S. Badger a Railroad Car Ferry much like the Chief Wawatam is offering a Bed and Breakfast Special: http://www.ssbadger.com/news-media/badger-boatel.html
S.S. Badger’s Website: http://www.ssbadger.com/
Special Maritime News
- S.S. Keewatin
On Wednesday June 6, 2012 at about 11:45 AM the S.S. Keewatin was towed by tug boat Wendy Anne under the Mackinac Bridge. This vessel is a 1905 luxury steam ship, the only one left like it in the world. It is being berthed in one of the State Car Ferry Docks at Mackinac City until it’s departure for it’s original home where her career began at Port McNicoll, Ontario, Canada, for restoration and permanent display as a maritime museum and event facility. See stories at these Links: http://sskeewatin.com/ http://maritimematters.com/2012/06/104-year-ss-keewatin-departs-douglas/ http://www.saugatuck.com/Keewatin_skycam.asp
Bring Her Home: YouTube 8:11