Copper Range RailroadHoughtonLocationsRails and Roads

The Copper Range Depot

When the Copper Range reached its northern terminus at Houghton it built itself a sprawling lakeside rail yard just west the city. It complimented that yard with a passenger depot, but not just any depot. While along the rest of its tracks the company erected rather modest wood framed one-story buildings for its depots, at Houghton it built a building deserving its metropolitan location. The result was a grand two-story brick station beautifully accented with sandstone quoins, lintels, and belt courses. Of course it had to be beautiful as it also served as the railroad’s main offices; there was the railroad’s public image to keep in mind.

Fast forward a century and you find the old building still  standing, looking hardly worse for wear. Of course such a well built structure couldn’t pass into the night easily, as even after the Copper Range closed its doors and the rest of the rail yard surrounding it had been erased from the landscape the old depot managed to survive. After being vacated by the railroad the building would end up serving as a restaurant for some time, resulting in a large addition to its unseen backside. Today the building serves as a doctors office.

Of course a century ago it would be trains and not cars that would park in front of the building’s awning covered front stoop. Along here passengers would step up into cars for trips northward to Calumet or southward through connections with other railroads to almost any other point in the country. For a time the depot was known as the Copper Range Union Depot, for its shared use by both the Copper Range and the Chicago, Milwaukee, St. Paul, and Pacific Railroad, otherwise known as the Milwaukee Road. The Milwaukee Road offered daily passenger service from the Copper Country to Chicago (and vice versa) along DSS&A and Copper Range tracks.

The first floor of the building was divided up into four sections. To the west (right) was the baggage room, followed by a waiting room (probably for the ladies), the ticket office, and then a main waiting room at the building’s far eastern (left) end. Up on the second floor was various offices for the railroad. The attic space was used for storage.

Here’s a view of the main waiting room, the view from its large compliment of windows hindered slightly by the oversized support brackets holding up the building’s oversized awning. Here you can also appreciate the beautiful sandstone quoins accenting the building’s corners. Its a shame that the awning partially covered these up from the road.

More sandstone quoins can be found along the ticket office area, which protrudes slightly out from the rest of the facade. I would assume that you could purchase tickets inside as well as outside through the two windows seen along the face of the protrusion.

That ticket office protrusion continues up the entire front facade of the building, culminating in a gabled tower rising up above the roof line. Here you can make out even more great sandstone accents; you can also clearly see the effect of weather on the soft red stone. The color difference between what you see above and below the awning is pretty stark. Under the protection of the awning the sandstone (and brick for that matter) is a nice bright and vibrant color while those same elements up above the roof line have been darkened and blackened to a harsher tone.

Up on the second floor we find a good supply of windows just like down on the first floor. Behind these would have been various offices for railroad officials and workers.

Up on the third floor we find a couple of these small wood-framed dormers also graced with a few windows. I believe this third level was just attic space and not used for anything specific. It looks as if that space has been converted into living space at some point in the building’s past, however, and is probably home to office as well now.

Turns out those dormers are actually new additions, added to the building some time after 1917 – when the picture above was taken. Oddly enough the dormers to appear on the old postcard seen at the top of the post. Also different is the landscape in front of the old depot, which was originally covered by a sea of tracks and switches. Things look a bit different today.

Today only a large parking lot covers the landscape today, removing any evidence of what the old building was once used for. Instead of trains its cars that are the transportation method of choice, bringing with it all the baggage that accompanies it.

While the old tracks may be gone, there does remain one other piece of infrastructure that once accompanied the old depot. You just have to look behind the depot into the tree line…

To Be Continued…

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  1. Indoor waiting room probably for the ladies? Or maybe the 10 month polar vortex winter? ;)

    Great post though. I remember when it was the old Bonanza restaurant. You could eat in the vault which was light colored brick and the old safe door was still in place – however rigged to keep patrons from being locked in or out.

    Was sad when it closed but would have been amazing to see it in use as it’s original train station.

    1. What I meant to say was that there was two waiting rooms, one on either side of the ticket booth. One for the ladies and the other for everyone else. I really wasn’t trying to be sexist…

  2. Would have been pretty tough to be at this station and get onto the Copper Country Limited. About all you would see is the train crossing the bridge and hearing the flanges on the cars squealing around the sharp curves on the bridge and watching the marker disappear in the distance. Then realizing you were at the wrong Houghton Depot.
    The Copper Range ran a passenger train originally called the Copper Range Limited with the Milwaukee Rd, 1913 the name was changed to the Northern Michigan Special. The train ran until 1923. It ran from Calumet to Chicago also, just like the Copper Country Limited.
    Copper Range passenger service ended in the mid 1940’s, last passenger train was a wartime special from Houghton to McKeever meeting a Milwaukee Rd train, started in 1944 and ended in 1946.

    1. Ugh! I thought I had that thing figured out too. Thanks for the correction Gordy and the extra info, I was hoping one of my rail fans would drop in to help me on this one. I’ll have to make the correction….

  3. I believe in the early 20th Century, 19 ’00s and teens, the Chicago & North Western ran a train between Chicago and Houghton using this depot. They had a very complicated route using trackage rights. It was here that the Citizen’s Alliance deposited Charles Moyer on “the North Western train to Chicago” after they shot him in December 1913.

    1. I did some reading in the DSS&A book, DSS&A ran a couple of things with the CNW, one was a sleeper from Chicago to Calumet which was added to the DSS&A’s Chicago Mail train.
      1910 a new train was added, the Iron & Copper Country Express, DSS&A took a train from Marquette to Negaunee, dropped its train and picked the CNW train and took it to Calumet I assume, it shows a diner operating as far as Houghton, that’s why I assume it ran to Calumet. Doesn’t say which depot although I can’t believe the DSS&A would go to the Copper Range depot with it.
      Before that they had the Peninsula Express which looked to be the same thing as the I&CC Express.

  4. I was looking through photos that I have saved from online over time. I found I have that postcard that you mention. It actually has a date on it of May 17, 1911 signed by S.E. Scarlett. It’s actually a daylight photo. But it leaves a question of the date when the dormers were added.

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