Manitowac, Wisconsin: Chief Wawatam Engine and SubmarineA giant, old ship engine and propeller, mounted indoors, that you control at the push of a button, plus a World War II sub that you can tour.
Wisconsin Maritime Museum
- 75 Maritime Dr., Manitowac, WI
- At the Wisconsin Maritime Museum. I-43 exit 152. Take US 10/Waldo Blvd into town all the way to the lake. Turn right onto Maritime Drive. Museum is one mile, on the left.
- Daily 9 am - 6 pm, off-season 9 am - 5 pm. (Call to verify)
- RA Rates:
- Worth a Detour
Visitor Tips and News About Chief Wawatam Engine and Submarine
The engine is part of the Maritime Museum, which contains a WWII submarine that you can tour. Well worth the trip.[Dawn, 07/04/2012]
USS Cobia (SS-245) World War II fleet submarine is moored alongside the Wisconsin Maritime Museum in downtown Manitowoc, WI. Even though it was built in Groton, CT, it still represents the maritime heritage of Manitowoc, where 28 similar GATO class submarines were built.[Mark Bertieri, 03/05/2008]
A super stop along the shore of the Wisconsin side of Lake Michigan is the Wisconsin Maritime Museum, home of the "Chief Wawatam" engine. The engine, which dates from when this Michigan straits ferry was completed in 1911, was removed from the ship when she was unceremoniously scrapped about 10 years ago, her parts scattered to museums all over the Great Lakes region. For those who delighted in the engine room scenes of the movie Titanic, this is as close as you can get to being there (although on a much smaller scale). The Chief's engine was built at the same time as the fabled liner, and of a similar design.
What makes this display unique is that it is not static -- it moves and you control the speed.... and, as an extra bonus, it does include the bells and whistles. When you punch a button to change the speed, you hear the bell as if the order was sent from the ship's bridge. You also hear the sound of steam escaping from the cylinders. It is absolutely fascinating to watch all the machinery on this colossus move. Yet, to have a ship's engine moving for absolutely no purpose would be a waste of time, so if you follow the propeller shaft to the other side of the wall, you will find a two-story room with the ship's massive propeller turning.
Manitowac was a shipbuilding center, producing a number of submarines during WWII. One of these, the USS Cobia, is docked outside the museum and open for tours.
And for those "roadies" wishing to experience a bit more of traveling the way it once was: You can put your car on the last coal burning steamship on the Great Lakes and take the four hour crossing of Lake Michigan on the 1953 built "Badger" from Manitowac to Ludington, Michigan (Or vice-versa). On a pleasant day, an awesome trip; on a bad day, you are in for an experience not soon to be forgotten.[Richard Weiss, 03/11/2005]