Arnold Transit Company

The Mackinac Express catamaran—these ran until 2013, but no longer do

Arnold Transit Company was the longest running ferry boat company serving Mackinac Island in Michigan. Also known as "Arnold Line," the company had docks in Mackinaw City and St. Ignace, in addition to the docks on the island. Today, the company continues as Arnold Freight Company and operates only two vessels with no passenger service.


Arnold Transit Company was started in 1878 by George Arnold (1846-1921). Coal-fire steam boats transported passengers and goods for almost 70 years to various Michigan ports and islands.[1] Mrs. Arnold brought in Otto Lang and Prentiss Brown to manage the business.

After World War II, Arnold Transit Company, now owned by Lang and Brown, started to add modern diesel boats to its fleet. In June 1946, Arnold, which ran from Mackinaw City to Mackinac, merged with Island Transportation Company which ran a St. Ignace to Mackinac Island route. In 1987, the first of three catamaran ferries was added to the Arnold Line fleet.

In 2010, after decades of ownership, the Brown family announced the sale of Arnold Transit parent company Union Terminal Piers to James Wynn.[2] In 2014, the company suffered financially and the investment group backing Wynn foreclosed. The foreclosure resulted in the public auction of two catamarans. Competitor Star Line Ferry Company purchased one of the Catamarans, the Mackinac Express, while the other one, the Straits Express, remains parked on land in St. Ignace and still bears the Arnold Line name. Wynn was removed as president and from his position on the board of directors, and operations were taken over by the original investment group out of Cincinnati, Ohio.[3][4]

In September 2015, an agreement was reached to ensure the company's continued access between its Mackinac Island dock and Main Street, which had been lost in a land deal engineered by Wynn.[5]

In November 2016, competitor Star Line Ferry announced it would be purchasing the majority of the assets of Arnold Transit Company, including six boats, its boatyard, and some of its docks. The Arnold assets were incorporated into the Star Line fleet for the 2017 season and Arnold Line ceased operations after 138 years.[6]

Today, the company continues as Arnold Freight Company and operates only two vessels with no passenger service.


  • Traditional Ferries: Chippewa, Algomah, Huron, Ottawa, Straits of Mackinac II
  • Non-Passenger Freight: Corsair and Mackinac Islander
  • Catamaran: Straits Express
  • Catamaran: Mackinac Express


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