The Trolley in the Field

The high plateau on which the great Calumet metropolis resides drops quickly and somewhat precariously down towards the lowlands along the Traprock River. This sprawling ridge has many names, depending on where along its length and from what perspective you find yourself. To the east of Laurium’s village limits the ridge is known as St. Louis Hill, named after the short-lived mine that once called this hillside home. Just past the scattered remnants of that old mine an old two track heads out onto abandoned farmlands found along the hill’s crest, providing an impressive view out across those Traprock River lowlands obscured in a slight haze far down the hill.

That impressive view includes somewhat of an incongruity in the form of the sun-bleached skeleton of an old interurban trolley car. How complete and intact that skeleton is depends on when you managed to have arrived to this hillside field – as today there is probably little more than a collapsed pile of debris largely buried by grass. Fifteen years ago – when I first came upon it myself – there was a good amount of it left. When I returned a decade later, there was about half as much left as there was before. Of course it really shouldn’t be there at all – considering the closest interurban line is more than a mile away.

This particular street car was moved here, probably in the 1940s, to serve as some type of cabin or home – a precursor to the “tiny house” craze of the last few decades. When the interurban line went out of business in the 1930s its inventory of trolley cars – around 40 in total at the time – were sold off. At least three of them were bought up by locals – one of them having later been towed out to this field where it remains to this day.

this post first aired in October of 2006. Though its content has been updated, some of the comments seen below are original to that first version

Michael Forgrave

CCE is written, photographed and illustrated by Mike Forgrave. After having graduated from Michigan Tech, Mike spent 16 years in the Copper Country exploring the remains of the great industrial empire that was. In 2007 he began to document those explorations through the pages of CCE, hoping to share the beauty and majesty of the region to the rest of the world. Since then Mike has written over 1300 articles and a dozen books on the subject, creating one of the largest on-line resources for Copper Country history in the process.


  1. For a more detailed history of the trolley in the Copper Country, check out the excellent article at Kevin Musser’s Copper Country Historical page on the Houghton Country Traction Company.

    Now the question to why this trolley car is sitting in the middle of this field. In the previously mentioned article, it was noted that two trolley cars seemed to have been spared the cutting torch. One of these – #40 – was “used as a cabin near Laurium”. This must be that cabin, long abandoned and left to rot in this field. There was a line of poles the led to the car, which might have once carried power to it. Either way, finding it sitting here was very odd and unexpected.

  2. Molly! You’re alive! Anyway, thanks for stopping by. St. Louis hill is the “technical” name for the hill on which Calumet sits – known as Lake Linden Hill but down in the valley you probably call it Calumet Hill. Same thing.

  3. I’m amazed that you were able to discover this old trolley car’s remnants after all the years it’s been sitting out in that field. You must have been spending a lot more time exploring than you were going to school. I was a little surprised that you didn’t have any photos of the old railroad depot in Calumet. My friends and I spent a great deal of time while we were there exploring the country for our own amusement. It’s a little disappointing to see the “progress” that’s occuring that is wiping out a lot of history. I was priveleged to perform in the old Kerredge Theatre in Hancock before it burned. We used to hold the Winter Carnival Skits there. Having been under the stage, I can vouch for the fact that it smelled like it was about to spontaneously combust, so it’s surprising that it lasted as long as it did. A lot of famous personalities appeared there and at the Calumet Opera House back in the early 1900’s. I have more remenisences, for what they may be worth, if you’re interested.

  4. The trolley car was more or less a complete accident really. Near this field is a mine that we were exploring, and we could see the trolley car from a poor rock pile. Its a good thing I wasn’t doing this much exploring while I was at Tech… or I probably would still be there!

    The Calumet Depot is on my long list of things yet to feature here on these pages, but its condition has quickly deteriorated over the years. The owner is trying to sell it (he even listed it on Ebay recently) but isn’t having any luck. Rumor has it that the one of the basement walls has collapsed and its structural integrity is questionable.

    By all means continue to share all you can with the rest of us on these pages. The ruins and remnants of the past that I feature here is only a small part of the Copper Country’s history – people with a connection to that past (recent past of course…) like yourself make an excellent contribution to this site. If you come across anything that strikes a bell or stirs a memory – put it down in a comment!!

    Thanks for stopping by!

  5. A starting point to locate the old grade is the runway at the Houghton County airport. About 225 yards from the end of runway 31 you will see the old road bed. This old grade is shown on recent topographic maps. The best way to find it is to look directly to the north of Boston Pond. You will see a trail that runs west to east across the top of Boston Pond. Once it passes the pond it makes a 45 degree turn to the northeast.

    I used the 1925 map from Professional paper 144 to locate the right of way.

  6. Dave – We found the old grade by stopping by Electric Park, which sits on the end of Electric Park road off US41 between Hancock and Calumet. The old platform still sits next to the trail – now just an overgrown path in the woods.

    The trolly found here sits between Florida Loc and Lake Linden. I’m not sure where the old line ran here, but I think it was on the south side of M26, parallel to the old Hecla and Torch Lake grade.

  7. Electric Park has such a nice ring to it. Sounds like it was a happening place at one time. Now it sounds like it’s a park no more. Years ago I camped out on my motorcycle on an old RR grade I think south of the Oceola Mine. Kept thinking all night about encountering a ghost train coming down the old rails!

  8. Electric Park is still a park…sort of. The township owns it and has plans to fix it up and make it a public park again. Presently there is a nice sign marking the site, but little else. If they’ll ever get a new pavilion up there, I doubt it. I always thought it would e great if they could bring the interurban back (for tourism of course) and people could take a ride from Houghton to Calumet and back, with a stop at Electric Park if they so chose.

  9. The Ed Grey gallery (Calumet) just opened a one-man show for Jack Oyler. One of his pictures is a made of wooden cut-outs showing a collection of lines vaguely in the shape of a trolley skeleton, with a little girl playing in it, and some landscape. It’s called “See you at St. Louis”. I had to stop myself from laughing in the middle of the gallery when I saw it. There aren’t many people who will see the image and understand what it is. (It’s a neat exhibit, all around. Many of the images have a similar sort of connection which I really like.)

  10. I wonder then if this skeleton was his inspiration for the piece. I always thought this thing was ghostly and haunting – specially sitting out in the middle of this lush green field backed by the wide expanse of the Traprock Valley. Picture Perfect.

    I’ll have to go check out the exhibit.

  11. Grant, not enough of the car is there to know what number it was, about the only way to know is to find out what car numbers were sold and to who.

  12. The St. Louis Mine ruins are at the end of Laurium Dump Road, and sit just up the hill from this guy. I’m not sure if the hill or mine was named first however.

  13. Hi Mike, I put this guy on my list of must finds for this summer. And I have not found it yet. I’m usually pretty good at finding these gems, and I know the area pretty good. But now I noticed you put some comments on in July. So it looks like I’ll be going to the dump this weekend. I hope I am assuming correctly that the trolley is in the vicinity of Laurium Dump Road.

  14. Gordy – It is in worse shape now. I got new pictures that I’ll put up here shortly.

    Jim – I emailed you a more detailed set of directions on how to reach this spot, using the email you provided CCE for commenting. Hope you got it!

  15. The trolley is still there, found it on Sunday. Only one side and an end cap are still standing, but leaning very much. The top of the trolley is almost non existant. Just the iron braces that went across the top is all that is left. I would never had known that this was an old trolley car without the info from the website. I was imagining all the people who rode on this trolley during its life and what it must of been like the first day it went into service, and how I was part of its history by seeing it in its very last days of existence. I just love this kind of stuff. I was also only expecting to find the trolley. But what I got was a trolley and a mine site. Sure beats dinner and a movie anytime.

  16. Jim..

    Glad you found it. Unfortunately the scrappers have been to it since I took this pics. The pole connector (seen in the 4th photo above) is now gone along with the pole hook. Someone ripped it off since I featured this.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published.

Back to top button