Reminders of the Milwaukee & Northern - Champion Branch

Fifty-eight miles of track were laid from the Menominee River to Champion, Mich., in 1887. From then until January of 1893, Champion was the northern terminus of the main line. After the line to Ontonagon was completed in 1893, the section from Channing to Ontonagon became the main line. The section from Channing to Champion then became the Champion Branch.

The M&N became the Superior Division of the Chicago, Milwaukee & St. Paul (CM&StP), or Milwaukee Road (MILW), on 1 July 1893. It reorganized as the Chicago, Milwaukee, St. Paul & Pacific (CMStP&P) in 1928.

The Escanaba & Lake Superior (E&LS or ELS) uses the line from Channing to the Michigamme River (between Floodwood and Witch Lake) for car storage. The section from there to Republic still has rails, but it is quite overgrown and some grade crossings have been removed. The rails between Republic and Champion have been removed, and that section is now the Republic/Champion Grade Trail.

Channing (originally Ford Siding), Mich., was Milepost 232 on the M&N.

ELS 503 and ELS 402 rest in front of the former M&N depot at the E&LS yard at Channing, Mich., on 26 June 2021. I believe this to be the 1893 M&N depot, with the newer, larger MILW depot hiding beyond it. I haven’t found much information regarding the two depots here. One reference states the older depot was built in 1888, but that is almost certainly erroneous. In 1892, when the name was changed from Ford Siding to Channing, the depot was an old box car, as J. Parke Channing (the namesake of this community) later recalled. A newspaper article from 27 July 1893 proudly proclaimed that “a new and neat depot has just been completed.” The newer, larger depot was built by the MILW later, in or prior to 1907, the earliest photograph I have seen. This view is looking northward. Photograph by Tom Bruss.

Republic, Mich., was Milepost 254 on the M&N.

The former MILW bridge over the Michigamme River at Republic, Mich., on 26 July 2022. Photograph by Tom Bruss.

Looking southeast from the Republic Mine Overlook, Republic, Mich., on 26 July 2022. This mine was served by the M&N (later MILW), as well as the Duluth, South Shore & Atlantic (DSS&A), Chicago & North Western (C&NW), and Lake Superior & Ishpeming (LS&I). Photograph by Tom Bruss.

Champion, Mich., was Milepost 263 on the M&N.

The former site of M&N depot at Champion, Mich., on 26 July 2022. This portion of the M&N main line is now the Republic/Champion Grade Trail. The active rails are Canadian National (CN), historically Duluth, South Shore & Atlantic (DSS&A) rails, originally laid by the Marquette & Ontonagon (M&O) in 1865. According to an article in the Spring 1993 issue of The Soo, the former M&N depot was sold to the highest bidder in 1975. It was dismantled and the lumber was used to frame a house in nearby Clarksburg. Photograph by Tom Bruss.

The former MILW roundhouse at Champion, Mich., on 26 July 2022. We are not sure if this is the original M&N roundhouse, or one built later by the MILW. This portion of the main line, beyond the tree line to the right, is now the Republic/Champion Grade Trail. Photograph by Tom Bruss.

Is this a roundhouse or an enginehouse? Some references refer to this structure as an enginehouse. Some people, including this web site’s administrator, share the belief that if the building is rectangular, with 90-degree corners, it’s an enginehouse. If the back wall of each stall is longer than the front wall of each stall, like on this building, it’s a roundhouse.