Reminders of the Milwaukee & Northern Main Line – Menominee River to Ontonagon
The Milwaukee & Northern (M&N) reached the Menominee River (the border of Wisconsin and Michigan) in 1886.
Fifty-eight miles of track were laid from the Menominee River to Champion, Michigan, in 1887. This section was completed, or opened, on 20 November 1887.
Construction of the main line continued northwestward, until the M&N reached the shore of Lake Superior at Ontonagon, Mich., in 1893.
Technically, the M&N reached the shore of Lake Superior on 1 October 1889, when the Ontonagon & Brule River (O&BR) extended their line from Rockland, Mich., to Sidnaw, Mich.
The O&BR had been controlled by the M&N almost since its inception, since at least 1881. Several M&N officers were major stockholders and officers of the O&BR. It was purchased by the M&N on 16 June 1890.
M&N passengers and freight could then travel from Champion, Mich., to Sidnaw via the Duluth, South Shore & Atlantic (DSS&A), and then from Sidnaw to Ontonagon via the O&BR. The year of 1893 is given here as the year the M&N reached Lake Superior because that is when their passengers and freight could make the entire trip from Milwaukee to Ontonagon via their own rails (after their main line was extended from Channing, Mich., to Sidnaw). Scheduled train service commenced on 1 January 1893.
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 majority of this portion of the main line is still active, operated by the Escanaba & Lake Superior (E&LS or ELS). The section from Rockland to Ontonagon was abandoned in 2009 and the rails have been removed.
Iron Mountain, Mich., was Milepost 208 on the M&N.
ELS 501 leads a train past the former CM&StP, or MILW depot as it heads north at Iron Mountain, Mich., on 23 July 2021. This depot was built in 1914 at a cost of about $25,000. It replaced the original circa 1887 M&N depot, which was moved one block to the south and converted into a freight house. It is awesome to encounter a former MILW locomotive plying former MILW rails. Photograph by Tom Bruss.
Looking south along the former M&N main line from E. H St. at Iron Mountain, Mich., on 3 November 2018. The tracks curving off to the left are a rare remnant of the former Wisconsin & Michigan (W&M) line. This remnant is about 6,000 ft. long. A short section of track bridges the gap between the spot where the W&M rails were truncated long ago, and the western end of the truncated former Chicago & North Western (C&NW), now Canadian National (CN), line from Powers, Mich. I didn’t realize the significance of this junction at the time. If I had, I would have to capture a better photograph. Photograph by Tom Bruss.
The C&NW Crossing at Antoine, Mich., was Milepost 209 on the M&N.
Randville, Mich., was Milepost 221 on the M&N.
Park’s Siding (Parks Siding, Park Siding), Mich., would have been Milepost 263 on the M&N.
We have not, yet, found this location listed as a station on M&N, but it was a station on the MILW, since at least 1899.
Sidnaw, Mich., was Milepost 279 on the M&N.
An E&LS train, led by ELS 503, parked on the former M&N main line at Blaine St. at Sidnaw, Mich., on 25 July 2022. I played cat-and-mouse with this train for 3 days. The mouse won. The tracks to the right were part of the interchange with the Duluth, South Shore & Atlantic (DSS&A). Photograph by Tom Bruss.
Looking northeast along the former Soo Line (SOO) right-of-way from Blaine St. toward the remnants of the junction with the former M&N main line at Sidnaw, Mich., on 17 October 2021. The former 1909 union depot would be visible in the background, if it still stood. The SOO, historically Duluth, South Shore & Atlantic (DSS&A), rails were laid in Sep. 1888 by the Marquette, Houghton & Ontonagon (MH&O). The E&LS tracks, laid by the M&N in 1892, bisect the scene. Photograph by Tom Bruss.
Looking northeast from Ontario St. toward the site of the former MILW/Soo Line (SOO) 1909 union depot at Sidnaw, Mich., on 17 October 2021. This view shows the SOO side. These rails were laid in Sep. 1888 by the Marquette, Houghton & Ontonagon (MH&O), a predecessor of the Duluth, South Shore & Atlantic (DSS&A). To the far right you can see the former M&N main line, laid in 1892. Photograph by Tom Bruss.