‘Driving Force’ sculpture to be dedicated July 14.

July 9, 2022

‘Driving Force’ sculpture to be dedicated July 14.

LUDINGTON — The Mason County Historical Society announces the dedication of the sculpture “Driving Force” at the Loomis Street Boat Ramp on July 14 at 6 p.m. The sculpture features the 14,000 pound propeller from the S.S. City of Midland 41 carferry. “Driving Force” joins three other maritime related works of art at this location and is part of the Sculpture Trail located throughout Mason County.

The public is invited to attend the dedication. The event will conclude with the arrival of the S.S. Badger back to Ludington at approximately 6:40 p.m. The Badger will sound a special salute to the people in attendance as she enters the inner channel. “Driving Force” was donated by the family of Don Clingan and Lake Michigan Carferry.

“The massive propeller was once the driving force of the City Midland – one of the most beloved car ferries ever to sail out of Ludington, and now it serves as a tribute to the thousands of employees who have been the human driving force of Ludington car ferries for more than 100 years,” said Rebecca Berringer, executive director of the Historical Society. “The sculpture was designed and fabricated by employees of the S.S. Badger.

The City of Midland 41 was built by Manitowoc Shipbuilding Company in Manitowoc, Wis. in 1940 at a cost of $1.75 million. It entered service for the Pere Marquette Railway in March 1941 as the largest Great Lakes carferry at the time. It was capable of speeds up to 20 mph (17.4 knots per hour) with a cruising speed of 17.6 mph (15.3 kn). The City of Midland and the other Pere Marquette Railway fleet was sold to the Chesapeake and Ohio (C&O) Railroad in 1947. In 1952, the S.S. Spartan, joined the C&O Fleet and became the largest carferry on the Great Lakes. A year later, the Spartan’s twin, the S.S. Badger, began its service. The C&O eventually became the Chessie System and sold all its carferries by the early ’70s except for the Midland, Spartan and Badger. The Spartan sailed for the last time in 1979 and has been laid up next to the Badger ever since.

In 1983, the three carferries were purchased by Ludington businessmen Glen Bowden and George Towns who formed the Michigan-Wisconsin Transportation Co., which continued to make its main focus on transporting rail cars across Lake Michigan. The Midland was the company’s primary carferry initially. In 1987, U.S. Coast Guard inspections showed that the boiler mounts on the City of Midland had deteriorated and needed replacement. M-WT opted to refurbish the Badger, which had been laid up in 1984, and the Midland made its last voyage in November 1988.

Following the bankruptcy of Michigan-Wisconsin Transporation Co. in the early 1990s, Ludington native and Holland businessman Charles Conrad formed Lake Michigan Carferry Service in 1992, and began operating the Badger as a vehicle and passenger service from Ludington to Manitowoc, Wis. In October 1997, LMC formed Pere Marquette Shipping and the Midland was converted to a barge, the Pere Marquette 41. In 2020, LMC was purchased by Interlake Steampship Co. which continues to operate the Badger and the Pere Marquette 41.

The ceremony will include a brief presentation of the historical background of Ludington carferries by Rebecca Berringer, and the future plans for the location, which will be designated “Maritime Heritage Park.” Other speakers will include Mark Barker, the president of Interlake Steamship Co. and Don Clingan, former co-owner of Lake Michigan Carferry.

The sculpture was installed in 2021, but due to Covid 19 and other scheduling challenges, it is being dedicated almost one year later. In the event of inclement weather, the dedication will be moved to Friday, July 15, at 6 p.m.

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