Railroad ferry docks

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Railroad ferry docks

Unread postby EWRice » Thu Jul 19, 2018 8:45 pm

Lately I have been taking an interest in the car ferries of the GTW, PM, and AA. In my research I have been looking at the locations of the ferry docks. I know where the docks are/were in Grand Haven, Muskegon, Ludington, Alberta, Manitowoc, Kewaunee and Manistique. I have not been able to pinpoint where the docks were in Milwaukee. Any info?
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Re: Railroad ferry docks

Unread postby Tom Train » Thu Jul 19, 2018 9:13 pm

The C&O dock was in an area known as Jones Island on the left side of the river on the left (I do not re call the name). The GTW dock was further up the river.
You did not mention Menominee. The AA dock was just inside the breakwall.
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Re: Railroad ferry docks

Unread postby EWRice » Fri Jul 20, 2018 11:12 am

I forgot about Menominee. That one I have been to. I am trying to figure out where on Jones Island the C&O dock was. From what I can tell the rivers edge has been highly modified in the last 30-40 years eliminating any trace of the dock.
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Re: Railroad ferry docks

Unread postby Standard Railfan » Fri Jul 20, 2018 12:48 pm

PM Ry. Dock is shown on this 1939 nautical chart

https://historicalcharts.noaa.gov/historicals/preview/image/743-6-1939
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Re: Railroad ferry docks

Unread postby EWRice » Fri Jul 20, 2018 3:45 pm

Thank you thank you. That is exactly what I needed. I was pretty close in my guess as to where the C&O dock was. They have filled in, or cut out a lot of the shoreline right there. The GT dock is still there, kind of. Looks like all the pilings are there, but the approach and apron are gone.
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Re: Railroad ferry docks

Unread postby bratkinson » Thu Oct 18, 2018 11:55 pm

Actually, the C&O/PM had two docks in Milwaukee when I was kid and my family crossed every year to go to my grandparents cottage near Traverse City.

Looking closely at the 1939 nautical chart referenced in the post above, the 'Maple St' C&O dock was across the channel from the GTW dock. I was told I took my first trip across the lake while still in the womb in 1947 and every year thereafter for 20 years or so. Living on the north side of Milwaukee, we'd usually book the 8PM or so departure from the Maple St dock, and have dinner before hand at Sauers restaurant on First St a block or so north of Greenfield, as I recall. I was always fascinated watching them carefully back strings of RR cars into the boat and always got a kick out of walking down the leaning hallway to the stateroom I shared with my big brother. In the 50s, there was enough car ferry traffic to justify having two docks in Milwaukee. In looking at the departure board in the waiting room (depot) to board, there was always at least 1 'SAL' (soon as loaded (unscheduled, as fast a turnaround as possible)) in the schedule, so things were really 'popping' in those days. In the early 50s, Milwaukee usually had the City of Midland and both Pere Marquettes 21 & 22. One time, we got the City of Flint - it's better days were LONG gone! When the Badger and Spartan were built, maybe half their runs were to Milwaukee, but not always.

Before they built the 'bridge' into Jones Island (1958 maybe?), we sometimes departed from or returned to the Jones Island dock...directly next to the Milwaukee Sewerage Treatment plant...complete with wonderful aromas. Sometimes, while waiting to board, they'd pull a couple of dripping gondola cars of 'waste solids' from the sewerage plant to be hauled to the Milorganite fertilizer factory somewhere nearby. I think I was maybe 10 or 11 at the time, and my Dad talked our way into the wheelhouse on the Spartan before we departed Milwaukee. My grandfather was a weekly passenger during the summer (he was born and raised there, and his 6 siblings never left the area), leaving his office on the 'fringe' of Jones Island every Friday evening and arriving back on Monday morning, and go directly to work, and the captain remembered him well...they sometimes drank their way across the lake together. The captain made it a point to show us all the fancy instruments in the wheelhouse. As we were still up there at departure, and he pointed out the cable from the bow that stayed attached to the fixture on the ground as we started to move. That cable literally pulled the bow around the corner and the 'dogs' or whatever they pointy things on the ground fixture were angled such that it would automatically drop the cable once we were most of the way around the corner.

By the late 1950s, business was off and the Maple St dock was abandoned and sold off. Milwaukee Solvay Coke bought the land and used it for more of their piles of <whatever>. In the late '70s and early '80s, I frequently went by on Amtrak and never saw anything that suggested the Maple St dock ever existed. Aerial photos/Google Maps confirm everything is gone. Maybe it was the captain that gave us the tour said he was happy to not go there any more as the swing bridge in the channel just before the dock made for difficult maneuvering when docking at and departing from Maple St. About the same time, there suddenly appeared a ramp up to the top of the boat at the Jones Island dock. The City of Midland had a parking deck created and cars parked up there, according to my older cousins, who crossed regularly as well. I think it was a year later when we crossed, the Badger or Spartan we were on also had a parking level, above the dining room (still RR 'first class' dining car settings/staff/ambiance). My big brother was happy we had his boat in tow every year, so our car never went up there. But I still recall being frightened while watching the crew backing cars UP the ramp, that they would go off the side, especially at 90 degree curve at the top! I'm not aware any of them did, though.

I don't recall the exact year, maybe 1977 or 1978, but I was there photographing the last departure of the C&O ferry (then MWT or some other company) from Milwaukee. In looking at Google maps, there's no evidence that dock ever existed. But I recall seeing the tracks, apron, and car ramp for a good 10 years or so after the last boat left. I still remember the many trips across the lake, and even a couple to/from Manitowoc and Kewanee in later years on AA boats, and one on the City of Midland the year or so before it was idled and later converted to a barge. Maybe some day when I'm back in the area, I'll take the Badger one last time...
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