In Search Of America – The Great Lakes Freighters

I had the privilege of touring a Great Lakes Freighter a few weeks ago. It is permanently docked at the National Museum of the Great Lakes near Toledo Ohio. I think I saw my first one in the late 1960s. Since that was when steel and autos were king of that region. There were hundreds of them on the Great Lakes bringing ore from Minnesota to the mills on Lake Michigan and Erie. They are still around but just not in the numbers they once were.

It’s hard to give you the magnitude of these ships with photos. The Col. James M. Schoonmaker is about 600 feet long and via a self-guided tour I had free reign to almost every area of the ship. I spend a lot of time in the engine room and the crew’s quarters above them. Of course the Captain’s and VIP’s quarters were in the front. 🙂

It was interesting to see the status that the head cook had in the hierarchy of the crew. He and his sous chef, so to speak, had their own quarters while the crew was four to a room. Being that I worked my way through college in a dormitory cafeteria and then many years later spent eleven years volunteering in a local soup kitchen, that area of the ship also got a lot of my attention.