2012-09-27 / Front Page

Chief Engine To Be Moved Wed.

The engine of the Chief Wawatam car ferry is to be moved by a restoration group this week, most likely Wednesday morning, September 26, from the Mill Slip. To transport the 65- ton engine, movers will use the Arnold Line boatlift to pick up the bottom part and set it on a trailer belonging to Maverick Construction. The group will drive the piece down State Street to The Feed Station on US- 2.

They will take the bottom portion of the engine, weighing around 25 tons, off the trailer. The same process will occur for the top section of the engine, also weighing around 25 tons.

The center part of the engine is at the City Garage near Dock 3. The group plans to leave that part at the garage until they put the engine back together for an exhibit.

Building plans to house the engine after restoration are in the works. Engineer Gary Nitz sketched an enclosed structure to look like a ship. Viewers could walk up a flight of stairs and look down on the engine from a glass roof. The cost estimate is between $50,000 and $200,000.

Three engines powered the Chief Wawatam, a railroad ferry operating between Mackinaw City and St. Ignace, from 1911 to 1984. One of the engines was demolished when Purvis Marine bought the Chief Wawatam and sold the engine for scrap. Another is at the Wisconsin Maritime Museum at Manitowoc, Wisconsin, where it is restored and is operated pneumatically as a display. The third is in St. Ignace and now in the possession of the preservation group, Friends of the Chief, which intends to restore it.

In early September, the city announced the engine would be sold for scrap, but Friends of the Chief Wawatam (now shortened to Friends of the Chief) was formed as a nonprofit group to save the engine, and the city sold it for $1.

Information about the Chief is available at www.chiefwawatam.com.

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