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“These Little Rigs Go To Market” on a Nicholson Transit Co. Double Decker

“These Little Rigs Go To Market” is the title for the press release accompanying this April 17, 1946 photo taken in Detroit, Michigan. At the time this image was shot in the spring of 1946 the ice had broken up in the Great Lakes allowing the vehicle shipping companies to place their automobile freighters back in service on the water.

This batch of 1946 Plymouth cars are being driven on to the “Charles Donnelly” Double Decker steamer for delivery to Cleveland, Ohio, and Buffalo, New York area distributors and dealers. Once there and prepped for sale, the automobiles were quickly snapped up by eager buyers ready to purchase some of the first new automobiles offered on the open market since cars became unavailable to the public due to the outbreak of World War II in 1942.

The Nicholson Transit Company was established in February 1928 by William Nicholson and William F. Deane. At the time Captain Nicholson was a notable navigator on the Great Lakes, who with Deane’s assistance enabled him to form the new business into one of the most successful lines that plied the chain of rivers and lakes. Eighty years later, the Nicholson Terminal & Dock Company is still in operation.

Share with us what you find of interest in the expandable photograph (below) courtesy of the Free Library of Philadelphia.

15 responses to ““These Little Rigs Go To Market” on a Nicholson Transit Co. Double Decker

  1. Back in the early post war days when automakers couldn’t build them fast enough; literally every one sold to a hungry returning vet or family eager for a new set of wheels.

  2. Just looking at some pictures from an auto wreckers yard and thinking that some of those types of pictures might be of interest to people here, if some were available.

  3. I see only 2 station wagons, one a woodie in the front of the line. Also no converts at all. I guess they were in a later run? Ship looks like a converted ore freighter. Did the exposure to sea (salt?) air effect the cars? Very interesting concept.

    • Although many consider the 1946 Willys Jeep wagon to be the first all-steel wagon, I give that distinction to the 1950 Plymouth. Before that, wagons were very, very expensive and it would be a surprise to see more than a very few here.

    • The Charles Donnelly was a converted packet freighter built in 1898 and originally named Troy. It was built in Detroit and ran from Duluth to Buffalo, carrying flour, copper, iron, shingles, and lumber.

      Originally owned by Western Transit, it was sold in 1916 to Great Lakes Transit, which renamed the ship in 1926, then sold it in 1937 to Larson Shipwrecking, who sold it the same year to Maxim Cohen, who sold it in 1940 to Nicholson Transit. Nicholson owned the ship until they ceased operations in 1961 due to competition from the railroads, and the ship was broken up that winter.

        • In this case, it was all Google searches.

          I started with Charles Donnelly and Nicholson Transit as search terms, which got me to Bowling Green State University’s webpage Great Lakes Vessel Online Index. That had the ship listed under Troy, and had the ownership and name changes listed.

          A couple entries down was a web page for Nicholson Terminal, which I looked at to see if they were related. That page mentioned Nicholson Transit closing in 1961. It also mentioned that they shipped to Buffalo, which gave me another avenue to search.

          Looking up Troy, Charles Donnelly, and Buffalo together got me to a page run by the Alpena County George N. Fletcher Public Library’s Great Lakes Maritime Collection, which listed her cargo.

  4. Cleveland, OH and Buffalo, NY are ports on the great lakes which are not bodies of salt water . The distance from Detroit is relatively short.

  5. Reminds me of the time in the service we loaded a aircraft carrier with everyone’s cars when we went into the yards in Portsmouth Va. for 6 mos.If a storm blew up and washed your car overboard the Navy took no responsibility,it was understood,we didn’t sign a release.Tough Toodies.

  6. Chrysler used to operate an assembly plant for Plymouths here in Evansville, Indiana, until it was closed in the late fifties. Evansville is on the Ohio River and new Plymouths were routinely barged down the Ohio, with some of them going down the Mississippi. In June, 1952 a barge full of new Plymouths sank upstream from Paducah, Kentucky. My uncle used to swear that the barge was refloated, the cars taken ashore and dried out, and they were then shipped far, far away to be sold as new cars. I don’t know how much truth there is to this story as my uncle was known to stretch the truth on occasions. I can no longer find a link online to this event.

  7. I would posit that the Woodie, since it is not in line for the ramp, is used to shuttle drivers back to wherever, to bring another batch of car to be loaded. Remember, each car on the ramp, plus many in the queue have a driver on board.

  8. In view of Steamers on the Great Lake, the Car Ferry who runs from Manitowoc is a Steamer and puffs a Hell of a Smoke when fired up. The Coal loading is interesting to watch. You can see the Departure as well from the Second World War Submarine Museum, through a Periscope going through the Roof of the Museum.

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