Car Ferry No. 2J.D. MarshallMaterial ServiceMuskegon
Car Ferry No. 2
Type: Train Car Ferry
Builder: James Davison
Built: 1895, West Bay City, MI
Length: 309.9 feet
Beam: 44.2 feet
Draft: 12 feet
Weight: 1548 gross tons
Date Sunk: September 29, 1906
Depth of wreck: 45 feet
The Car Ferry No. 2 was constructed in 1895 by James Davison and was built at West Bay City, Michigan. Mr. William J. Wood, a former draughtsman with Globe Iron Works and former employee of the Cleveland Shipbuilding Company, was hired to oversee the design and construction of Car Ferry No. 1 and Car Ferry No. 2. A. J. Prescott was the master mechanic for the building of both the car ferries. This ferry/barge was owned by the Lake Michigan Car Ferry company throughout its service life and at the time of its demise. This ship was used to carry train freight cars from Peshtigo and Milwaukee to Chicago in association with the Wisconsin & Michigan Railroad. The Car Ferry No. 2 was a massive wooden, open-deck, and unpowered rail ferry with the capacity of being able to transfer a train of cars. It had no engine or propeller of its own. However, it had steam boilers for operation of the steering engines, winches, and steel hawser from the towing tugs. This Car Ferry No. 2 was typically towed by one of two tugs owned by the Lake Michigan Car Ferry Transportation Company, the J. C. Ames or the S. M. Fischer.
The Car Ferry No. 2 sunk in 1906 when it capsized off the entrance to the Chicago harbor. Captain O. C. Olsen was in command when the Car Ferry No. 2 started taking on substantial water in its hold during strong winds from a northeast gale. The captain of the J. C. Ames, concerned for the safety of his vessel, released the cable connecting the Ames to the Car Ferry No. 2. Another tug, the Perfection, came to the assistance but not before the Car Ferry No. 2 overturned and three crew lives were lost. The vessel reportedly remained afloat, with its keel upward, for a short time after losing the train cars to the bottom of the lake. When the vessel capsized the cargo included 28 rail cars weighing over 1000 tons, of which half contained iron ore and the other half contained telegraph poles and lumber. The next spring, the Car Ferry No. 2 was towed farther out onto the lake by the U. S. Army Corps of Engineers who then subsequently dynamited part of the vessel in August 1907.
Train Car Rails
The Car Ferry No. 2 was designed to have four sets of tracks with the capacity of six cars on each track and up to 24 cars. However, historic documents state that the Car Ferry No. 2 was able to carry a maximum of 28 to 30 train cars on board.
The hull timbers are very large with planed, flat tops and bottoms. The Car Ferry No. 2 reportedly had improvements, considered modern at that time, which included a powerful deck engine and large boiler for working the steam pumps, steam windlasses, and steam capstans. The barge also was reportedly fitted with large anchors and steam towing machines.
Metal Cable Tie
Several metal cables used to brace the train cars are still present. Additionally, a steel cable, reportedly 200 fathoms long, was reeled in at the bow by a patented towing machine. The towing machine was manufactured by the American Ship Windlass Company from Providence, Rhode Island.
Sidewall Support Timbers
The sidewalls show timbers used as cross bracing to add strength and reinforcement.
Large-link chains were used, in combination with metal cables, to secure the train cars and cargo to the ferry.
Keel or Keelson
Several keels or keelson were part of the structural features of the Car Ferry No. 2. This keelson is exposed at part of the wreck site.
Center Support Timber
Photo shows an archaeologist measuring the center support timber. Additional architectural features of the Car Ferry No. 2 included a pilot house and Texas forward, as well as cabins and apartments for the crew.
Notch in Timber
There are several examples of timbers near the stern with notches. Notching allowed two different timbers to be joined. The train cars were reportedly taken on and off from the stern.
A piece of metal pipe on top of hull planking may be a remnant from a railing or other structural feature.
Joint in Sidewall
The sidewall sections have several areas with joints or scarfs. A scarf is a way of joining or aligning two pieces of wood. The scarf joints in the sidewalls are recessed and rectangular in outline.
Photo shows a sidewall section of the vessel that became detached, likely as a result of the sinking event.