CannonRide - The Railroad That Never Was

Discussion in 'Ride Reports - Day Trippin'' started by Cannonshot, Sep 28, 2020.

  1. mrtroyman

    mrtroyman n00b

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    I just did some exploring in this area 2 weeks ago and it left me wanting to learn so much more. Thanks for the brilliant article, this is exactly what I have been looking for.
    #21
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  2. scarysharkface

    scarysharkface Broke it/Bought it Supporter

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    Exceptional, as always!

    I can still smell that muck water!

    John
    #22
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  3. Cannonshot

    Cannonshot Having a Nice Time Administrator Super Moderator

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    Location:
    SE Wisconsin
    Heading south toward the McCormick Wilderness.

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    Once you return to the main road from that side trip to the big cut, you'll find another cut right beside the road.

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    With the vegetation, it is difficult to see into the cut. I tried getting closer to the edge but with the drop off it was a bad idea.

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    Here is where the cut leaves the road to the right. It is pretty grown in and easy to miss.

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    They planted some moose in this area years back and they are doing pretty well.

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    A while back I was leading a group through the area up this way when I saw fresh moose tracks on the road. I stopped to show the others. When I looked further ahead, I saw the source of the tracks. By the way, don't mess with moose as they can be pretty dangerous. I wouldn't try to ride past them on a road.

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    More railroad cuts. They must have used a lot of powder on this project.

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    There are some old pilings in the river here from a railroad crossing. Hard to pick out with the vegetation. But it is a landmark as far as the path of the grade.

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    I keep a point and shoot on a retractable lanyard so I can take pictures on the fly. It works pretty well. After a while you get pretty good at orienting the camera on the move.

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    This bridge used to be an old railroad flatcar. It has since been replaced.

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    #23
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  4. Cannonshot

    Cannonshot Having a Nice Time Administrator Super Moderator

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    Heading toward McCormick, continued.

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    I enjoy the solitude of riding in the back country, but I also like seeing some others in the area from time to time. Nice to know that there is a little other activity in the area - at least on weekends.

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    Another cut.

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    And another. Notice the steep grade (for a railroad).

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    These are working forests. It amuses me when I hear some people say that we shouldn't have motorized trails in working forests because they detract from the landscape.

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    A fun road to ride on a dual sport.

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    #24
  5. N-Id-Jim

    N-Id-Jim Long timer

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    Wow, looking at some of those rr grades, i wonder just how much timber they could have possbly hauled out of there by the trains of the day..? I think the rail builders in big timber days in the PNW herld it all under 4% ?? They had big runaway wrecks on steep grades too !

    Love da yooper stuff! Thx.
    #25
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  6. Cannonshot

    Cannonshot Having a Nice Time Administrator Super Moderator

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    Location:
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    A stop at the McCormick Wilderness.

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    Sometimes the surface on these bridges grate on a few riders.

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    Heading south, the road turns to pavement along here. That said, it is nothing to write home about. This is the good part. There are a lot of rocks (and even railroad ties) being shoved up through the surface. It can be pretty rough.

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    After the railroad went bust (which we'll get into later), Marquette County bought the portion of the grade within their boundaries for $1,600 and converted it to a roadway.

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    The North Country Trail passes through here.

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    Cyrus McCormick, the inventor of the reaper, bought this 16,850 acre tract of land in the wilderness back in 1904.

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    The McCormick family used the place as a vacation retreat from 1906 until 1987.

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    Some wilderness retreat.

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    The McCormick family donated the land to the USFS in 1967. Being that the land was going back to a wilderness state, all of the buildings were auctioned off and removed in 1986. Foundations are left to decay.

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    It is nice that Cy's purchase was given over to public use so that others could reap the benefits of his purchase.

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    #26
  7. Cannonshot

    Cannonshot Having a Nice Time Administrator Super Moderator

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    Location:
    SE Wisconsin
    Heading closer to Michigamme.

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    I'll tell you a little more about how the concept for the railroad came into being and some about how it went under.

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    A big problem was underestimating what it would take to cross this high and rugged route. The railroad wasn't the only group to do so. After the state took the right of way for taxes, a group wanted to turn part of it into a scenic roadway. The problem was that they too didn't fully understand what it would take on some sections to make a narrow grade into a road. More blasting, more trestles, and more expensive everything.

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    The granite here is part of the Canadian Shield and is some of the hardest granite there is. Very difficult to make so many cuts.

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    Anyway, back in 1889 some people from the Champion Mine got involved with some investors. They figured it would be immensely profitable to ship ore on "their own" railroad instead of relying on other established lines. Beyond shipping ore, they had already lined up some customers at the slate quarries and in the timber business that they could ship for as well. Once the railroad and Huron Bay port were in, the whole Huron Mountain area would be open for more development and rail shipping.

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    Seven investors (6 from Detroit) formed the Iron Range & Huron Bay railroad in 1890 and raised the $1.4M they thought they would need to get the job done. They also hired a Chief Engineer for the project. They thought that once the line was complete, they could sell it to other railroads that did not have ports on Lake Superior like the Chicago & Northwestern or the Milwaukee & Northern.

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    They started off working on the grade with 500 workers which were far too few. Eventually they ramped up to about 1,500 workers - a huge cost overrun. Problems like this and cost overruns with the big cut ran them out of money. I already described some of the hardships that came from that. Eventually they sold more bonds and put another $600K into the project driving it up to about $2M. At the end, they sold it all to a construction outfit in Detroit for $110,000. Many of the rails were used for inter-urban railroads downstate. Valuable lumber went to Detroit was well.

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    Completion of the line was held up by the big cut. Eventually the 42 mile line was completed in 1892. They never did score any ore contracts. First of all, their grades were too excessive to haul any profitable number of cars. On lines like this 3% grades are excessive and a 4.5% grade is the maximum for standard gauge adhesion. Beyond that you need cogs. Some grades here ran in the 5-8% range. Since they couldn't compete with other carriers there was nothing to haul. At the same time the Panic of 1893 hit killing off a large part of the demand for iron ore. The mines around Michigamme were closing or otherwise playing out as well. There was a whisper of hope to extend the line to Ishpeming where there was still ore being mined but the company didn't have the wherewithal to extend the line another 15-20 miles. It wouldn't have changed the other problems either.

    When the McCormicks wanted to get to their wilderness retreat, they ran the old rail grade after it was cleared by salvage. The ruts were bad enough that they really didn't need to steer - just get in the ruts and go. They had to pick their way across rugged rail bridges.

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    This part of the road is much better now.

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    In 1905 a railroad looked at the grade here as part of a project to run a line from Huron Bay to Madison, WI. They failed to find financing.

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    The railroad even published a train schedule. Leave Huron Bay at 0800 and arrive at Champion at 1145. Leave Champion at 1500 and arrive at Huron Bay at 1800. It took 45 minutes longer to get to Champion because of the steep uphill.
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    One of the big challenges was a swampy section that required 500' of rock and a mile of trestle. There were a lot of smaller sections like this as well.

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    Another cut. When the salvage crew came to pull up the rails they started at the top and worked their way downhill.

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    This rock structure was part of a railroad crossing for the line.

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    Now it is part of someone's driveway.

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    Immediately across the river is another steep cut to deal with.

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    #27
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  8. Cannonshot

    Cannonshot Having a Nice Time Administrator Super Moderator

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    They never ran a train on this line.

    They bought two large (at the time) locomotives and some rolling stock. They were twelve wheeled 80 ton Mastodons (4-8-0) from the Brooks Locomotive Works in New York. The engines were delivered by barge to the Huron Bay end of the line. The engines waited patiently for some work and were well maintained as they sat. Then someone decided to take one out on a test run on the 70 lb rails. The engine started up the grade until the roadbed collapsed and the engine went into a ditch. End of the line - literally.

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    I think the engines got sold for $14K and barged to Houghton where they were put on rails for the Algoma Central in Sault Ste Marie.

    What happened to the Chief Engineer for the project? Things got pretty hot with lawsuits, financial troubles, fraud allegations, people dying, and the like. He split for Mexico and stayed there.

    More to come.
    #28
  9. bikerfish

    bikerfish flyfishandride

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    WOW!!! Was so excited to see another Cannonshot ride report! This did NOT disapoint!! Wonderful stuff!!
    #29
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  10. 2000RSV

    2000RSV Go Fast, Go Long Supporter

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    Outstanding research and reporting.
    #30
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  11. Cannonshot

    Cannonshot Having a Nice Time Administrator Super Moderator

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    Location:
    SE Wisconsin
    Heading toward the end of the railroad line at Champion.

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    I wasn't able to get too specific with identifying the actual route of the railroad at this end. There doesn't seem to be a firm record of it. They dug a crossing to go under the DSSA railroad but I'm not sure what happened in the area of now Hwy 41.

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    Peshekee River

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    I rode over to look at a turnaround for another railroad that crossed through here. That line is now an ORV trail.

    The turnaround goes to the left. The mainline (now a trail) goes to the right.

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    Back end of the turnaround. Tracks ended before the hill.

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    Some think the grade followed this old wagon road that is now a hiking trail. No one seems too sure of the crossings with other lines here.

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    You can hike this hill for a scenic view.

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    This is Michigan's first concrete bridge.

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    Nearby rail bridge that crosses the Peshekee.

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    Pilings from an earlier version.

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    #31
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  12. Cannonshot

    Cannonshot Having a Nice Time Administrator Super Moderator

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    Champion, continued.

    I went looking for remnants of the Champion Mine. I found a bunch of waste rock.

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    This waste rock can be kind of handy for various projects.

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    Riding around these old mining towns can be interesting. Seeing some of the old company houses and the like makes you wonder what it was like. I also find some of the modifications made to these houses over the years quite interesting. Of course the first modification would be to add insulation.

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    I found this old stairway kind of interesting.

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    As you continue on the route to the west, you'll pass the Mt. Shasta roadhouse. Some of the movie Anatomy of a Murder was filmed here. James Stewart, Lee Remick, and Duke Ellington were part of the filming at this place.

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    You can read more about that in the Anatomy of a Murder Tour I did a week before this one.



    Next up, some sporty riding on the return trip.
    #32
  13. tomass

    tomass Been here awhile

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    Great RR, wonderful country, great pics and liked all the research into the history.
    #33
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  14. Cannonshot

    Cannonshot Having a Nice Time Administrator Super Moderator

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    Heading back to L'Anse to complete the loop - part 1.

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    This section has a very entertaining 11 mile section that my friend @2TrakR pointed me toward many years ago. It twists and winds and rolls with the terrain. Pretty sporty.

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    It gets pretty scenic along here.

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    As they said on the sign, it's a narrow road. It gets pretty rugged too with rocks poking up through the surface in some places.

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    I've got a thread that covers falls like this (and larger) in WI and the UP. Some of the falls in the area are pretty nice to visit.

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    This road can be a sporty ride.

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    It was getting dark in the woods. With the speed of the bike and the low light a lot of these pictures turned out a little blurry.

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    But you get the idea . . .

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    Some people might want to ride this loop twice. :D

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    Gosh that was a fun loop.

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    #34
  15. Cannonshot

    Cannonshot Having a Nice Time Administrator Super Moderator

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    Heading back to L'Anse to complete the loop - part 2.

    Oh yeah . . . in case you have been wondering: L'Anse (/ˈlɑːns/ LAHNSS)

    Heading back to L'Anse on the final stretch.

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    Like the previous stretch, this one is very entertaining as it twists and rolls through the forest.

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    It starts off mild . . . but looks are deceiving.

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    Pretty soon you're back into the good stuff. This road is in better shape than the last one though.

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    Sorry for the quality of pictures but it was getting dark and I was moving right along.

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    Gosh I was having a nice time!

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    Eventually we get to civilization and run out onto some pavement for the final stretch. You can see my typically high powered KTM headlamp on the road. :lol3

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    #35
  16. ernest t bass

    ernest t bass Been here awhile

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    Incredible.
    Thank You
    #36
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  17. Cannonshot

    Cannonshot Having a Nice Time Administrator Super Moderator

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    So, that's the story. I hope some of you found it interesting or entertaining and that maybe it inspires you to take a fun ride to check things out for yourself.

    I'll put a link to the GPX for download in the first post for others that might want to enjoy this entertaining ride themselves.

    I just reread the thread and now I'm anxious to go right back and ride it again. I had a great time on it and I know others will too.

    I've got a lot of threads about riding in the UP. For those that are interested in exploring a little more, here are three links that may prove interesting to some. I also keep a catalog of many of my GPS guided rides on my website.

    Eastern UP

    Western UP

    Upper Peninsula Adventure Trail

    Thanks for riding along and I'm looking forward to hearing from others that get a chance to enjoy this for themselves!

    Feel free to post here about your own experiences on the path. That usually proves helpful to others and it helps me keep things up to date.
    #37
  18. thadf

    thadf Been here awhile

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    What a great story. I loved the history lesson. Very interesting
    #38
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  19. bomose

    bomose Long timer Supporter

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    Always love your reports. History of these bygone days is very interesting.
    #39
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  20. c1skout

    c1skout Long timer

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    Well done, bravo. That's some beautiful country!
    #40
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