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Official Railroad Map of Wisconsin

Railroad Commission of Wisconsin

The Age of Railroads
As railroads stretched across the continent, they competed with—and occasionally cooperated with—Great Lakes shipping.

Railroads dominated shipping in 1912, when this 15th biennial railroad map of Wisconsin was published. Intrastate, interstate, and city railroads provided a reliable means of transportation for people and cargo. Yet the continuing importance of waterborne transport is illustrated by the many railroads serving port cities on Lakes Michigan and Superior.

Railroads and shipping companies often fought bitterly for contracts to ship regional products, but sometimes they worked together in the Great Lakes region. Car ferries carried railroad cars across Lake Michigan between Milwaukee and Ludington, Mich., between Milwaukee and Grand Haven, Mich., and from Kewaunee and Algoma, Wis., to Ludington and Frankfort, Mich.

The ferries allowed trains to avoid the long haul around Lake Michigan and the busy terminals in Chicago. The S.S. Badger car ferry was one of these. Today it carries passengers and automobiles on its historic route between Manitowoc and Ludington, Mich.

Railroads also recognized the scenic beauty of the Great Lakes and advertised transcontinental packages featuring journeys aboard trains and excursion boats. In fact, railroad companies built the Grand Hotel on Mackinac Island in the strait that separates Lakes Michigan and Huron as a stopping point for excursion boats. The Grand Hotel is one of the few large resorts in the Great Lakes area that survived the heyday of railroads and excursion boats.