Scrapbook Fridays: Rails New and Old Edition

With our recent look at the old Q&TL rail yards I thought we’d dig into the old mailbag to tell a few more stories relating to the Copper Country’s railroad history, via a few reader’s contributions. We start our journey with the Q&TL No.6, and a look at its restoration thanks to Paul Meier whose been assisting with the efforts for the past year and has photos to prove it.


This is the very same engine we featured just a few days ago during our ten year revisit of the old Quincy and Torch Lake rail yards. She was in top form then, due mainly to the tiresome work of volunteers. This May the work done on the loco included adding a few pieces of missing equipment including an air tank, steam dome (the dome to the right seen in the photo above) and sand dome shell minus the dome part.


These photos are courtesy Paul Meier, who lends a rather artistic eye to the events of the day. Here fellow volunteer Chuck Trabert works on the engine’s coil hangers whatever those are.


The main work of the day involved giving the iron machine its more organic touches which included maple running boards along with the floor of the cab itself (which would sit to the right of the boiler in the photo above). Seen above are the masters at work – Chuck Trabert, Dave Wiitanen, and Chuck Pomazal. The boards were milled and custom cut at Copper City and planed in Dollar Bay. After being fitted they were then painted black to match the rest of the loco.


Finally some work was done on the restored tender as well, which was brought out of the roundhouse for the occasion. Here it is being filled with coal, though not completely. The coal is just for show (since the engine won’t run), but was placed atop a fake floor in the tender to give the impression it was filled with coal. Seen atop the tender is Chuck Pomazal and Dave Wiitanen.

This work was done in the spring, but in late summer both the tender and the locomotive was pushed back into the roundhouse where they will sit permanently as the central exhibit in a future railroad museum to take up residence inside. Last step will be the addition of the cab itself, which will be built within the dry and warm interior of the building.


Next we continue showcasing Paul Meier’s photographic work, but this time from a time a bit further back – the 1960s. Here we find the Calumet Depot open and in use with of all things a diesel train out front. This is the famous (at least locally) Copper Country Limited, which provided honest to goodness passenger service from Calumet to points all across the region. Here it sits awaiting its departure from the Calumet Depot.


Turning around Paul points his camera down the tracks and takes in all the glory of the Calumet rail yards. Most of this is gone today, save for the old rail bridge seen in the distance which still stands. I love how the mine shaft in the distance is perfectly framed within the bridge’s superstructure. From the angle this picture was taken that shaft must have belonged to the Osceola, probably the No.6.


Taking a slight turn to the left from our previous vantage point we find the old beer depot and warehouse. Paul notes this use to be the original Calumet Depot, but was later turned into a freight depot when the new brick structure was built. Never heard of Blatz beer however.


We move away from the Mineral Range (DSS&A) line and head over to the opposite end of Calumet and take a look at the old Copper Range rail yards. At this time those yards had largely been overtaken by the Keweenaw Central tourist railroad, as the Copper Range had largely abandoned this section of track. Here the scenic railway sits dormant along the track awaiting its next excursion.


Here the engine is fired up and ready to go, with some curious tourists getting a personalized tour by Clint Jones.


We finish up with a look at this old poster. After our last feature on the Keweenaw Central Reader Hans Schlegel provided me with a photo of a poster advertising for the tourist line. $1.25 seems pretty cheap – though apparently the price was only good for men and the Tech ladies had to pay more.



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  1. Blatz was somewhat popular around here in the late 70’s.Worked for a well driller during high school that must have owned stock in the company.

    1. Blatz holds a special place in my memory, caused some adolescent insanity. I can walk into a local beer vault and it’s there…

  2. Thanks Paul for the pics and Mike for the naration. That ’60 Chevy sittin under the Blatz sign is way too cool! They just don’t make battle cruisers like that anymore.
    Great job guys!

  3. Blatz was around for a long time, it was one of Milwaukee’s cheaper brews and one of the first to end production as the beer city ceased to be the beer city. Like its neighbor, Schlitz, Blatz often had its name degraded to suit the crude opinions of its detractors. The Blatz trademark sign was very common in the upper Midwest.
    Even back in the ’60s, the Mineral Range/DSS&A/Soo Line yards were just a shadow of the boom days. The open area in photo #6 once was covered with tracks and businesses. See the panoramas shot from Swedetown hill that have appeared in CCE.

  4. blatz beer….a most forgettable brew! anybody from the copper country who was anybody, drank Bosch, Gilt Edge or the smaller cousin Sauna Beer! personally, I liked the Detroit barley pop, Strohs or that other beer from cheesehead land, PBR! My hometown, Hancock had its own brewery but I think that was Bosch also? Great article about trains! in my 1969 HCH yearbook we had a” these we remember page”: The “Copper Country Limited”, the S.S. South American & some other things. My buddy Matt & I used to snag a ride on the Copper Range freight train out of Houghton as it passed by the old Michigan Smelter across Portage Lake from where I grew up on Quincy St in Hancock. We used to go partridge hunting along the tracks & camped out a time or two in the valleys above the tracks. Good times!!!

  5. One other comment: The “coils” mentioned above are cooling “coils” for the air compressor. (The common railroad term is air pump.) These were really just a long pipe between the air pump and reservoirs (tanks) used to dissipate the heat of compression. The heat would further dissipate in the first tank on the left side of #6 before traveling to the second tank on the right side. From there the compressed air was put to use in the brake system and a few auxiliary appliances. The system pressure was maintained by a pump governor which was a steam valve held closed by air pressure. When air pressure dropped, the valve would open and feed steam to the pump until the pressure setpoint was reached. The air to the governor needed to come from a point after the reservoirs where the working pressure needed to be maintained. The object of the system was to provide cool compressed air at a certain pressure free from any pulses from the pump to operate the brakes and appliances. Long answer for what the coils did, eh.

  6. What Tech ladies? When I was a freshman there in 1970 (yikes) there were approximately 5000 students, of which maybe 500 were women. Of those, about half were already married to Toots, leaving maybe 250 single ladies. Sadly, many did not last out the winter quarter, making single females a seriously endangered species. They bused them in from Northern for Winter Carnival and organized transportation from downstate for girlfriends/fiancées. Wadsworth Hall was a very large, tense bachelor residence. Lotta Blatz consumption….

    1. It was much improved by the time I got to the scene, which was about 20% female in the mid 90s. A quarter of McNair Hall was filled with females no less. Still not great odds, but I was lucky enough to find my future wife there none the less.

      Funny thing is that after twenty years together Tech still sends us cards on Valentine’s Day reminding us where we met and asking for money – like we owe them for getting us together or something.

  7. 3rd photo from the bottom where you said the railway is dormant waiting for the next excursion, it looks more like the train is backing into Calumet, nice little puff of smoke and a slight haze from the stack and someone is in the cab of the locomotive. Also they would have run the locomotive around the coach getting it ready for the next excursion when they returned from Lake Linden.
    Also the photo with the Osceola #6 showing under the C&H bridge, Osceola #13 is also showing right at the end of the building that was behind the beer warehouse.

  8. I’m sure others will know better than I, but I believe the diesel at Calumet is an EMD FP7. Looks like there is one “B” unit helping too.

    1. Karl,
      104A is a FP7 as you surmised. It was part of a 16 set order in 1950-51 for passenger locos. Many, if not all were in Hiawatha service. By the mid-’60s when the photo was taken, 104A and its sisters were in pool service. The Copper Country Limited in its later decades never really had dedicated equipment. The Milwaukee Road made up the train with what ever was available in Chicago on departure day. E units were used also. In the steam era the CCL most often had a Pacific for the Milwaukee road portion of the trip. Sometimes a Baltic (Hudson) was used as far as Green Bay where a Pacific replaced it. Milwaukee Steam went as far as Champion where the DSS&A/Soo took over. They would use almost any power. Their light Pacifics, 63″ drivered Consolidations, and in heavy weather, a Mikado. The DSS&A dieselized early so a RS-1 might be used. Once the Milwaukee dieselized, power was run through with only a crew change at Champion. The CCL always kept a train watcher entertained!

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