Michigan’s Upper Peninsula is rich with hidden histories. Concepts and ideas thwarted by the wilderness. Communities fading away, returning to what once existed before them. The Iron Range and Huron Bay Railroad is one such history. Today echos remain of what once almost existed.
“It was in autumn of 1889 that the October 19 issue of the Ishpeming, Michigan, Iron Ore newspaper first noted that a new railroad filed its Articles of Association with the State of Michigan.”The Railroad That Never Ran, researched and written by Robert D. Dobson.
Beginning in 1890, the Iron Range and Huron Bay Railroad began it’s development. It was expected to run from the Huron Bay to the Champion Mine.
The land fought hard with rough terrain causing higher expenses and illness struck down workers. By 1898 the company filed for bankruptcy and the railroad remained unfinished.
What had been finished was an unloading dock in the Huron Bay (now on private property), 35 miles of ties and rails, and rock cuts up to 60 feet deep. Aside from the history, what captured our interest was the 60 foot rock cut known as Summit Cut.
According to The Railroad That Never Ran, the cut was started in 1891 and finished on August 27th, 1892. It resulted in 40,000 cubic feet of rock being removed. Left behind was an amazing piece of history.
Using GPS and a good map, we had no problems locating the cut.
It was a very slow drive down the Huron Bay Grade/Peshekee Grade. The road was in decent condition most of the way and provided stunning views of the Peshekee River. Later we learned that this road was once part of the original railroad and was converted at a later date to a road.
We arrived in the general location of the summit cut and were excited to see that some of the rail ties were still there. We followed these up a muddy, creek-like flooded area to the cut itself.
The Summit Cut was filled with bright green moss and was very muddy. It reminded me of photographs of Ireland. In the center most point, the rockwalls seemed to stretch forever towards the sky.
It was difficult to image how much effort went into creating something this size in the late 1800s.
If you are interested in learning more about the Summit Cut or the railroad in general, the book The Railroad that Never Ran by Robert D. Dobson has some excellent information, including old photographs and GPS points for visiting different points along the railroad.