SS City of Milwaukee

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SS City of Milwaukee at Elberta, Michigan in 1990
SS City of Milwaukee at Elberta, Michigan in 1990
United States
Name: SS City of Milwaukee
Owner: Society for the Preservation of the SS City of Milwaukee
Route: Muskegon-Milwaukee; Elberta(Frankfort)-Kewaunee/Manitowoc
Builder: Manitowoc Shipbuilding Company
Yard number: Hull number 261
Launched: November 25, 1930
Status: Museum ship
General characteristics
Tonnage: 2942
Length: 354 ft (107.9 m) (LPP)
Beam: 56 ft (17.1 m)
Installed power: Steam
Propulsion: Two triple-expansion steam engines
Speed: 14.5 knots (26.9 km/h; 16.7 mph)
Capacity: 30-32 rail cars
City of Milwaukee (Great Lakes Car Ferry)
SS City of Milwaukee is located in Michigan
SS City of Milwaukee
Location Manistee, Michigan
Coordinates 44°15′34″N 86°18′54″W / 44.25944°N 86.31500°W / 44.25944; -86.31500Coordinates: 44°15′34″N 86°18′54″W / 44.25944°N 86.31500°W / 44.25944; -86.31500
NRHP reference # 90002221[1]
Significant dates
Added to NRHP 14 December 1990
Designated NHL 14 December 1990[2]

The SS City of Milwaukee is a Great Lakes railroad car ferry that once plied Lake Michigan, often between Muskegon, Michigan and Milwaukee, Wisconsin. She was built in 1931 for the Grand Trunk Milwaukee Car Ferry Company and is the only pre-1940s ship of this type to survive. She now serves as a museum ship, bed and breakfast, and event venue on the waterfront of Manistee Lake in Manistee, Michigan. She was designated a National Historic Landmark in 1990.[2]


The City of Milwaukee is a steel-hulled ship with a carrying capacity of 22 modern railroad freight cars. It was powered by four steam boilers producing 185 pounds of pressure, driving twin screws with 185 horsepower. She has a relatively shallow draft, determined in part because ships carrying railroad vehicles needed to have a flat deck. The hull is divided into eight compartments, with the boiler room and engines in the first two holds, followed by a hold with some crew cabins. Rear hold areas contain space for ballast water and steering mechanisms. The car deck is mostly covered an sheltered on the sides by the hull. There are four pairs of rails, with extra rails outside each pair to which the cars being carried were anchored by chains. The main crew quarters, including dining area and cooking galley, is located in an aft area. It retains original woodwork, brass, and other features.[3]

City of Milwaukee at berth in Manistee

The ship was built in 1930 and launched in 1931 at Manitowoc, Wisconsin to replace SS Milwaukee, which sank with all hands on October 22, 1929 during a gale. Car ferry service had been introduced to the Great Lakes in 1892, and there was many as 14 vessels operating on the lakes at the system's peak. These specialized vessels were capable of carrying up to 24 railroad cars across the often stormy and ice-packed lakes at any time of year.[3] City of Milwaukee sailed for the Grand Trunk until 1978 when, as the last of their fleet of three to be sailing, she was chartered to the Ann Arbor Railroad. She sailed for this road until 1982, when she was retired permanently. She is currently preserved in Manistee, Michigan as a National Historic Landmark museum. In addition to being a museum to tour, she is also operated seasonally as a bed and breakfast. She is the last unmodified traditional railroad car ferry afloat upon the lakes, still with her triple expansion steam engine, original woodwork and brass fixtures.

See also[edit]


  1. ^ National Park Service (2008-04-15). "National Register Information System". National Register of Historic Places. National Park Service. 
  2. ^ a b "City of Milwaukee (Great Lakes Car Ferry)". National Historic Landmark summary listing. National Park Service. Retrieved 2008-06-27. 
  3. ^ a b Herd, William. "National Historic Landmark nomination S.S. City of Milwaukee" (pdf). National Park Service.  and Herd, William. "Associated Photos" (pdf). National Park Service. 

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