While on an expedition to the upper peninsula of Michigan, namely to Pictured Rocks National Lakeshore, I stumbled across two abandoned railroads.

As a slight background to the region, the upper peninsula was home to extensive cooper and iron ore deposits, along with hardwoods. Much of the development in the area occurred during the late 1890s and early 1900s, with an almost endless stream of branches and spurs being built to individual mines that connected to an almost endless network of mainlines. Today, most of that network has been dismantled and some of the mainlines have been converted into rail-to-trails for cyclists and snowmobilers.

The first railroad I came across was in Deerton, a timber town along the Duluth, South Shore and Atlantic Railway (DSS&A). The earliest beginnings of the DSS&A trace back to 1879-1881, when venture capitalists led the construction of the Detroit, Mackinac and Marquette (DM&M) from St. Ignace to Marquette. But by 1886, the DM&M was in receivership, and was reorganized into the DSS&A in December 1886 by James McMillan of Detroit. McMillan had purchased many of the upper peninsula’s railroads and consolidated them into the DSS&A. In 1888, the Canadian Pacific Railway (CPR) took control of the DSS&A. In 1892-1894, the CPR funded construction of the DSS&A west from the Keweenaw Peninsula to Duluth.

At the height of the DSS&A in 1911, the railroad operated 623 mile of track, of which 517 were mainline and 106 were branches and trackage rights. Freight operations peaked in 1913 when nearly one million tons were shipped, with over 50% of that being forest products. In January 1958, with the opening of the Mackinac Bridge, the DSS&A ended all passenger operations. In 1961, the CPR merged with the Minneapolis, St. Paul and Sault Ste. Marie, and the DSS&A became part of the Soo Line – later part of the Canadian National Railway (CN).

In early 1997, the Marquette to Munising Junction line (at the junction with the Lake Superior and Ishpeming Railroad), then operated by the Wisconsin Central, were taken out of service – including the portion at Deerton. The tracks were dismantled beginning on December 22, 2001. The below two photographs were taken at Deerton.

The crossing over Rock River must have been great for fellow railfanners.

I later came upon the Lake Superior and Ishpeming Railroad (LS&I) at Chatham. The LS&I was the combination of the Lake Superior and Ishpeming Railway Company, the Munising Railway Company and the Marquette and South Eastern Railway.

On July 23, 1979, the LS&I was abandoned from Little Lake east to Munising Junction, where there was a junction with the DSS&A. The remaining trackage to Munising’s Kimberly Clark Paper Mill was handled by the Soo Line. Below are three photographs at Chatham.

Further Reading