Rails and Roads

Copper Mining is a very segmented process, involving three separate and distinct steps in production. Each step was constrained by several geographical conditions, which precipitated where it had to be located. A mine of course had to exists along a rich ore body. The mills had to be placed near large bodies of water, required by the stamps and necessary for the elimination of waste. A mines smelter and docks had to be located along a navigable water way – for a time the only method of getting materials to and from the region. All there of these were almost mutually exclusive, often separated by several miles of wilderness.

Connecting all these various stages of production was the railroad. While some mines were large enough to afford the construction and operation of their own short-line railroad, many relied on regional carriers which served several mines and mills at once. The demand was great, and with it came the establishment of more than a dozen railroads which criss-crossed the peninsula in a spider-of tracks and bridges.

The Trestle Brothers

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The Falls River is an aptly named ribbon of water which tumbles and cascades its way to Keweenaw Bay from the rugged foothills of the Huron Mountains. There are dozens of waterfalls along the route including four named falls – Powerhouse Falls, Lower Falls, Middle Falls, and Upper Falls. Of …

The Parks of Cliff Drive

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The road began its life as a mine access road, a rather narrow and rugged trail meandering its way from the port of Eagle River up to the mines cropping up along the rugged cliffs of the peninsula’s bony spine. Luckily one of these early mines – the Cliff – …

Ten Years a Ruin

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CCE has been exploring the Copper Country for ten years now, documenting along the way the ruins and remnants of the region’s great Copper Empire. Those ruins we find today have been shaped by the passage of time – formed by decades of abandonment, weather, and the indifference of man. In …

Top 10 Railroad Remains of the Copper Empire

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Its time once again for yet another installment of CCE’s Copper Country Top 10 list. With yesterday’s post detailing a few old railroad remnants found at the Quincy Mine, I thought it would be good to take a look at a few other great old railroad remnants to be found across the …

Forsaken No Longer

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The ruins at the Quincy Mine are incredibly diverse, running the gambit between massive rock houses and hoisting engines to small steam engines and underground rock cars. No matter the size or complexity, though, the Quincy Mine Hoist Association and its teams of like-minded volunteers work hard to preserve these …

Homeward Bound

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An integral component of any mining empire was the railroad. These iron beasts of burden worked tirelessly to transport materials between not only mines and mills but also between city and countryside and region to region. Though indispensable, they were not  immortal. As the empire died so too did the railroads, and …

Bridging the Gap (p2)

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The tall rocky precipices lining the walls of the Hungarian Gorge were an impressive obstacle for any transportation route hoping to bridge the communities of Torch Lake to the mining towns to the north or the port cities to the south. While the impressive Copper Range trestle continues to cross …

Bridging the Gap (p1)

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The rugged spine of the Keweenaw drops precariously and quickly from its heights atop the Calumet Plateau down to the deep and dark waters of Torch Lake some several hundred feet below. Along the way the landscape is broken in two by the passage of the Keweenaw Fault, a deep …

Random Railroad Remnants

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Its hard to picture it today, but at one point the landscape of the Copper Country was dominated by the iron rail. A half dozen major railroads criss crossed the region, while dozens of smaller mine railroads carried product from mines to mills found all along the Lake Superior, Portage …

Snow and Ice

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Photo courtesy Superiorland Library Cooperative, Andrew C. Curto Collection The Houghton County Street Railway was not incredibly remarkable , it was just one of  hundreds of such street railways that were being put into service all across the country. Like the steam railways before it and like the automobile to …

A Trolley Ride (p11)

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After leaving Mohawk it took us another hour to make the return trip back to the Calumet metropolitan area. As we once again approach the Albion Station wye our car makes a right turn, and slows to a stop at the northern side of the station. From here our car …

A Trolley Ride (p10)

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Over the course of the summer of 1908 a five mile extension of track was built along the Houghton County Street Railway, connecting Mohawk to the rest of the already established system. It was the last section of track to be built for the line, but the first for the …

A Trolley Ride (p9)

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Moving past the Florida car barn and substation the street railway enters the population center of the entire peninsula – the sprawling metropolis known collective as Calumet. In reality Calumet is a smorgasbord of communities, villages, and mining locations scattered around the great C&H Mine which anchors Calumet’s center. In …

A Trolley Ride (p8) – The Substation

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With our journey along the Lake Linden Branch finished, our return trip back up the hill to Laurium took another half hour. It was slightly before 10 am by the time we arrived at the top of the hill and Lake Linden Junction. If we were to return to Houghton …

A Trolley Ride (p7)

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Having made our way down the steep hillside our street car finally enters the village limits of Lake Linden, though at its far northern end. We roll past a few homes along 13th Street before making a right turn onto the village’s main thoroughfare – Calumet Ave. This street runs …

A Trolley Ride (p6)

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The Lake Linden Branch was first proposed by the Houghton Country Street Railway Company in 1901, used as a bargaining chip in its attempt to acquire franchise rights through Laurium’s public thoroughfares. The ploy worked, but the line itself wouldn’t come to fruition for another two years. By then Torch …

A Trolley Ride (p5)

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Photo courtesy Superiorland Library Cooperative, Andrew C. Curto Collection After our brief stop at Electric Park, our motorman once again starts up the street car again and we continue along our journey. North of the park our car passes through a narrow tunnel lined with trees and brush on either …

Scrapbook Fridays: Electric Park Memories Edition

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Back before I had even begun my 14 part opus on the Houghton County Streetcar, I received a nice email from reader Robert Muraski whose wife had written a short historical reminence  on Electric Park several years ago. While she had planned on publishing it, she never got around to …

A Trolley Ride (p4) – Electric Park

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While it may be nice to envision the rise of electric railways in terms of  private companies investing in the public good, in most cases electric railways were attempts by electric light companies to create additional demand for their power. At the dawn of electricity, the new  power source was …

A Trolley Ride (p3)

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Moving past the Hancock Car Barn, our Lake Linden bound street car turns eastward towards the collection of mining communities located atop Quincy Hill. Along the way we pass by the towering rock house of the Hancock Mine and its equally impressive surface plant. Here we leave the surface streets …

A Trolley Ride (p2) – The Car Barn

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Photo courtesy Superiorland Library Cooperative, Andrew C. Curto Collection The car barn was a street railway’s home, its center of operations and the point which all the line’s cars would find themselves at the end of the day. Cars would be stored here during the night hours, uncoupled from the …