Reminders of the Milwaukee & Northern Main Line – Menominee River to Ontonagon

This portion of the M&N main line was constructed between 1887 and 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.

The current depot was built by the CM&StP, or MILW, 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. That building no longer stands.

An E&LS train, led by ELS 502, passes the former CM&StP, or MILW, depot as it heads south at Iron Mountain, Mich., on 11 April 2024. Photograph by Tom Bruss.

An E&LS train, led by ELS 502 and ELS 501, crosses C St. as it heads south via the former M&N main line at Iron Mountain, Mich., on 11 April 2024. It is awesome to encounter a former MILW locomotive plying former MILW rails. Photograph by Tom Bruss.

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. It is awesome to encounter a former MILW locomotive plying former MILW rails. Photograph by Tom Bruss.

The former CM&StP, or MILW, depot at Iron Mountain, Mich., on 3 November 2018. Photograph by Tom Bruss.

The former CM&StP, or MILW, depot at Iron Mountain, Mich., on 3 November 2018. 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.

ELS 402 and ELS 502 lead a train across the former Chicago & North Western (C&NW) right-of-way as they head southeast via the former M&N main line at Antoine, Mich., on 19 October 2021. Photograph by Tom Bruss.

Merriman, Mich., was Milepost 216 (some references state 215) on the M&N.

ELS 402 and ELS 502 lead an E&LS train across Merriman Rd. as they head south via the former M&N main line at Merriman, Mich. on 19 October 2021. Photograph by Tom Bruss.

Looking northwest along the former M&N main line from Merriman Rd. at Merriman, Mich., on 26 June 2021. Remnants of the siding can be seen to the right. Photograph by Tom Bruss.

Looking southeast along the former M&N main line from Merriman Rd.  at Merriman, Mich., on 26 June 2021. Remnants of the siding can be seen to the left. Photograph by Tom Bruss.

Granite Bluff, Mich., was Milepost 218 (some references state 217 or 215) on the M&N.

An E&LS train, led by ELS 502 and ELS 501, approaches Johnson Rd. as it heads southeast via the former M&N main line at Granite Bluff, Mich., on 11 April 2024. It is awesome to encounter a former MILW locomotive plying former MILW rails. Photograph by Tom Bruss.

ELS 501 leads an E&LS train approaching Johnson Rd. as it heads northwest via the former M&N main line at Granite Bluff, Mich., on 23 July 2021. It is awesome to encounter a former MILW locomotive plying former MILW rails. Photograph by Tom Bruss.

Looking northwest along the former M&N main line from Johnson Rd. at Granite Bluff, Mich., on 26 June 2021. Photograph by Tom Bruss.

Looking southeast along the former M&N main line from Johnson Rd. at Granite Bluff, Mich., on 26 June 2021. Photograph by Tom Bruss.

Randville, Mich., was Milepost 221 on the M&N.

An E&LS train, ELS 502 and ELS 501, crosses Carbis Rd. and passes the station sign on the former M&N main line at Randville, Mich., on 11 April 2024. It is awesome to encounter a former MILW locomotive plying former MILW rails. The depot stood to the right. Photograph by Tom Bruss.

ELS 501 slows to halt at the station sign on the former M&N main line at Randville, Mich., on 23 July 2021. It is awesome to encounter a former MILW locomotive plying former MILW rails. The depot stood right about here. Photograph by Tom Bruss.

Looking southeast along the former M&N main line from Carbis Rd. at Randville, Mich., on 26 June 2021. The depot stood to the right. Photograph by Tom Bruss.

Looking northwest along the former M&N main line from Carbis Rd. at Randville, Mich., on 26 June 2021. Photograph by Tom Bruss.

The former M&N/MILW depot at Randville, Mich., on 26 June 2021. It has been moved about 1/2 mile from its original site for use as a residence. Photograph by Tom Bruss.

Sagola, Mich., was Milepost 228 on the M&N.

An E&LS train, ELS 502 and ELS 501, crosses Hwy. 69 as it heads southeast via the former M&N main line at Sagola, Mich., on 11 April 2024. It is awesome to encounter a former MILW locomotive plying former MILW rails. Photograph by Tom Bruss.

An E&LS train, led by ELS 402 and ELS 502, crosses Sagola Ave. as it heads northwest via the former M&N main line at Sagola, Mich., on 19 October 2021. Photograph by Tom Bruss.

Looking southeast along the former M&N main line from Sagola Ave. at Sagola, Mich., on 26 June 2021. The depot stood to the left (east) of the main line, near that pickup truck. Photograph by Tom Bruss.

An E&LS train, led by ELS 402 and ELS 502, crosses Sagola Ave. as it heads south via the former M&N main line at Sagola, Mich., on 19 October 2021. A member of the crew offers a friendly wave. The Sagola Township Senior Center is in the background. It was built by the Laing Lumber Co. circa 1889 as a company store. In 1891 it became the Sagola Lumber Co. store and seems to be the last remaining structure of the old lumber industry in Sagola. Photograph by Tom Bruss.

Looking northwest along the former M&N main line from Sagola Ave. at Sagola, Mich., on 26 June 2021. Photograph by Tom Bruss.

Looking southeast along the former M&N main line from Sagola Ave. at Sagola, Mich., on 26 June 2021. The depot stood to the left (east) of the main line, near that pickup truck. Photograph by Tom Bruss.

Channing, Mich., was Milepost 232 on the M&N.

This station was originally named Ford Siding. The name was changed to Channing, in honor of J. Parke Channing, circa November of 1892. He had completed some surveying in the area for the M&N.

There are two depots, built side-by-side, at Channing. Reliable information regarding their construction has proven elusive, so far. We believe that the smaller, older, southern depot was erected in 1893 by the M&N. The newer, larger, northern depot was built by the MILW later, in or prior to 1907 (the earliest photograph we have seen). A couple of references claim that the depot and adjoining yard were built in 1888. That claim is almost certainly erroneous. There was nothing here in 1888, a year after the rail line had been completed. There was no need for a yard or a depot here. In 1892, when the name was changed from Ford Siding to Channing, the depot was an old box car and there was little else here, as J. Parke Channing (the namesake of this community) later recalled. But the next year, when the extension from Channing to Sidnaw was completed and a new village sprouted at the new, important railroad junction, the M&N constructed a yard and a new depot to replace the old boxcar. A newspaper article from 27 July 1893 proudly proclaimed that “a new and neat depot has just been completed.”

ELS 501 and ELS 502 approach the former MILW depot while working the former M&N yard at Channing, Mich., on 11 April 2024. It is awesome to encounter a former MILW locomotive plying former MILW rails. Photograph by Tom Bruss.

ELS 501 and ELS 502 shove a long cut of cars across Lake Ellen Rd. while working the former M&N yard at Channing, Mich., on 11 April 2024. They were sorting storage cars off of the Champion Branch. It is awesome to encounter a former MILW locomotive plying former MILW rails. Photograph by Tom Bruss.

Looking north from Lake Ellen Rd. at the former M&N yard at Channing, Mich., on 26 June 2021. The rails north of here are currently used for car storage. The track curving to the right is the junction with the original E&LS line to Wells, also currently used for car storage. Photograph by Tom Bruss.

Looking southwest toward the former M&N and MILW depots at the E&LS yard at Channing, Mich., on 19 October 2021. ELS 402 peeks out from behind the depot. Photograph by Tom Bruss.

An E&LS crew utilize ELS 402 and ELS 502 to work the former M&N yard at Channing, Mich., on 19 October 2021. Photograph by Tom Bruss.

Looking north from Lake Ellen Rd. at the former M&N yard at Channing, Mich., on 26 June 2021. The rails north of here are currently used for car storage. The track curving to the right is the junction with the original E&LS line to Wells, also currently used for car storage. Photograph by Tom Bruss.

ELS 503 and ELS 402 rest in front of the former M&N depot at Channing, Mich., on 26 June 2021. This view is looking northward. Photograph by Tom Bruss.

Looking south from Lake Ellen Rd. at the former M&N yard at Channing, Mich., on 26 June 2021. The track curving to the right is the north leg of the wye, which connects to the track heading toward Ontonagon. Photograph by Tom Bruss.

Looking north from Lake Ellen Rd. at the former M&N yard at Channing, Mich., on 26 June 2021. The rails north of here are currently used for car storage. The track curving to the right is the junction with the original E&LS line to Wells, also currently used for car storage. Photograph by Tom Bruss.

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.

Looking southwest along Wide Waters Rd. toward the former M&N main line at Parks Siding, Mich., on 24 July 2022. Photograph by Tom Bruss.

Looking northeast along Wide Waters Rd. toward the former M&N main line at Parks Siding, Mich., on 24 July 2022. Photograph by Tom Bruss.

Looking southeast along the M&N main line from Wide Waters Rd. at Parks Siding, Mich., on 24 July 2022. Photograph by Tom Bruss.

Looking northwest along the former M&N main line from Wide Waters Rd. at Parks Siding, Mich., on 24 July 2022. Photograph by Tom Bruss.

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 northwest along the E&LS, former M&N, main line from Blaine St. at Sidnaw, Mich., on 17 October 2021. These rails were laid by the O&BR in 1889. 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.

Looking northeast from Ontario St. toward the site of the former MILW/Soo Line (SOO) 1909 union depot at Sidnaw, Mich., on 24 July 2022. In the foreground you can see the former M&N main line, laid in 1892. Hidden in the vegetation to the left is a remnant of the former SOO main line. Those rails were laid in September 1888 by the Marquette, Houghton & Ontonagon (MH&O), a predecessor of the Duluth, South Shore & Atlantic (DSS&A). Both sets of rails are currently operated by the E&LS. Photograph by Tom Bruss.

Frost, Mich., was Milepost 289 on the M&N.

Frost was added as a station on the M&N in mid-1893, when a junction was formed with the Frost Shingle Company’s railroad. Some references list this station as Frost, others list it as Frost Junction. Some references list Frost and Frost Junction as two separate stations, about 9/10th of a mile apart. We will continue to search for additional information to share.

Looking northeast along FFH 16 toward the grade crossing of the former M&N main line at Frost, Mich., on 24 July 2022. Photograph by Tom Bruss.

Looking southwest along FFH 16 toward the grade crossing of the former M&N main line at Frost, Mich., on 24 July 2022. Photograph by Tom Bruss.

Looking southeast from FFH 16 along the former M&N main line at Frost, Mich., on 24 July 2022. Photograph by Tom Bruss.

Looking northwest from FFH 16 along the former M&N main line at Frost, Mich., on 24 July 2022. Photograph by Tom Bruss.

Ontonagon, Mich., was Milepost 325 on the M&N.

The current depot at Ontonagon, Mich., was built by the CM&StP, or MILW, circa 1896. This depot was built after the previous depot, along with most of Ontonagon, was destroyed when a devastating forest/swamp fire engulfed the village on 25 August 1896. This depot was expanded at some point. The previous depot was likely the original one built by the O&BR when the first 20 miles of that railroad were completed on 5 February 1882.

The southeast and southwest walls of the former CM&StP, or MILW, depot at Ontonagon, Mich., on 17 October 2021. The building in the background is Lake Shore Systems, Inc. The tracks used to run right to the shore of Lake Superior at the mouth of the Ontonagon River, to the left of the Lake Shore Systems, Inc., building. Photograph by Tom Bruss.

The southeast and northeast walls of the former CM&StP, or MILW, depot at Ontonagon, Mich., on 17 October 2021. Photograph by Tom Bruss.