Copper Range RailroadRails and Roads

Bridges at Woodside

Looking down the Mineral Range towards Woodside

After such a long (and exhausting) long form exploration at Baltic and the Stella Cheese Factory, I figured I’d take a break and throw up some short subjects for a few days. Today we take a trip back north, to the town of Woodside. Just north of Dollar Bay, the town of Woodside had the unfortunate distinction of being home to the Hancock Chemical Company – a manufacturer of explosives for the local mines. The plant was later replaced by the larger (and much safer) Atlas Plant at Senter, but for a spell the little town was quite the hotspot.

The town of Woodside and explosive plant sat along one of the region’s major transportation corridors connecting the ports of Houghton and Hancock to the mill towns up along Torch Lake. Along this narrow strip of land ran two major rail lines (Copper Range and the Mineral Range) along with a well travelled county road (now M26). It was over a year ago now that I had taken a trip down this vary corridor to see what there was to find. What I found as bridge – and a lot of them.

Taking the snowmobile trail south of Pt. Mills Junction. I found myself coming across two small bridges in rapid succession. The railings and surface were new, added for the sake of snowmobiles, but the structure was much older.

The creek bed over which this bridge crossed had dried up for the season and I was able to crawl underneath to get a closer look. Supporting the bridge on both banks were a series of heavy timbers, which by the looks of things served as the creek’s channel as it passed under the bridge. Spanning across the gap were a series of similar large timbers atop of which was attached the road deck. (click on the image to get a larger look)

A few details…

Those cross timbers were simple set atop the abutments, held in place by a set of brackets on either side. These brackets were probably in place to keep these timbers from shifting laterally more so then to keep them down.

A closer look at the bolts holding those brackets on reveal what I believe is a US Steel stamp. Compared to other bridges I have come across, this hardware is somewhat small. Most likely that’s due to the short gap this bridge had to cross.

Unlike under the first bridge, the second still had water running underneath it. This would be Gooseneck Creek I believe, which has its origins up the hill above Woodside. This bridge was similar to the first. Following the water upstream I found myself yet another bridge, this one just a few hundred feet way closer to the road..

That second bridge happened to belong to the Copper Range railroad, which ran a parallel line to the Mineral Range up from Hancock. Interestingly, the snowmobile trail which rides along the Copper Range for the majority of its run, takes a slight detour here along Woodside and uses the old Mineral Range grade instead. I decided to take a walk over there and investigate…

Right away I could tell that this bridge was different then the two I had previously encountered. Though similar, the timbered abutments here were much more heftier and broad. Also there appeared to be a concrete channel poured along the creek bed here, creating a small waterfall as the creek flowed off its top.

Looking down the Gooseneck as if flowed past me I also noticed a small man-made wall along the opposite channel. Crudely built from concrete and rock, it currently ran a good foot above the creeks level. This was probably a flood control measure, used to keep the creek from threatening the railroad grade during spring thaw. Interestingly we hadn’t seen something similar along the Mineral Range end.

Turning back to look down the old Copper Range grade it looked rather open to me. I’m not sure why the snowmobile trail was run along the Mineral Range next door instead of here, but the railings along the bridges would suggest that it perhaps once did. Why it was moved is yet another mystery.

With the bridges documented, it was now time to see how they fit in the big picture…

Here’s an aerial look at the Woodside area. On this map the Copper Range is in red while the Mineral Range is in Yellow. Just to the north-east (right) of this photo is Pt Mills Junction. Park of the Junction’s Wye can be seen sprouting off the Mineral Range line in this map. As for the Copper Range it supposedly had a spur out to the old Chemical plant, which I also added to the map.

Check out the rest of the Torch Lake rail corridor (including a large detailed map) HERE. You can also take a look at the remains at the nearby Pt. Mills Junction HERE. To learn more about the Woodside plant, I suggest checking out Mr. Haller’s excellent photo gallery HERE.

NOTE: Technically the rail line running along Woodside is the old Hancock and Calumet Railroad. The H&C later merged with the Mineral Range, after which time both railroads retained their individual identities but were run concurrently. For the sake of simplicity I group both railroads together under the Mineral Range moniker

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  1. dcclark…

    Not particularly, but I have a feeling that spring flooding dumps a lot of moisture in between those railroad grades. Those horsetails are also very prevalent down at Pt. Mills Junction as well. But considering the fact that this entire area sits between Torch Lake and Portage Lake its possible that its all a little wet most of the time.

  2. South of those bridges heading for Dollar Bay, I remember that as being a very wet area, more like swamp. I would guess a beaver dam somewhere, as I am sure when the railroad was there, they wouldn’t let the water be so close to the track, doesn’t make for very good track. Of course it could just be the ditches are filled in and nothing drains.
    I would guess the snowmobile trail was moved to allow the property to be used along M26. Slightly bigger lots.

  3. Good guess on the reason for the trail move, specially down in Dollar Bay it would seem to be the case. The area is pretty flooded, but as you note I saw remnants of some of the drainage systems so that might not of always been the case. Man moves out nature moves in I guess…

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