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Eastern Railroad Discussion > The UP is scenic place to railfan...if you can find a train.


Date: 12/01/19 14:35
The UP is scenic place to railfan...if you can find a train.
Author: retlaw121

I never really have been into still images of trains, until now. Now I need a non-video camera.

Last week before winter happened all at once, I ventured south (from my college home in Houghton) in Michigan's Upper Peninsula to catch CN L539, otherwise known as the L'Anse Local.
I've chased the train between Herman and L'Anse before, but this was the first time I had the time/patience/luck to chase it on the majority of it's trip. The UP never fails to amaze me. While much of it is forest, therein hide hidden gems all over, many of which are hidden in plain sight. I stumbled upon one such gem while chasing the train on the CN (WC) Mineral Range subdivision; now a mere branchline. The whole line is pretty scenic actually, and with mostly FRA excepted track, there is plenty of time to scope out locations on the fly. 6-axle power is common for the usualy short train due to the slow speeds and steep grades. Unfortunately, the train is hard to catch initially and it requires a bit of luck. It runs pretty much as-needed, although Tuesdays and Wednesdays seem popular. The crew goes on at 0700 meaning a 10:00ish arrival in L'Anse.

L'Anse features the northernmost active rail line in Michigan, as well as a 3% grade into town, which is possibly the steepest in the Great Lakes region. Between L'Anse and Nestoria (15ish miles), the line is features what look like on Google Earth to be some amazing filming locations, but it's pretty much inaccessible by car albeit for three grade crossings; two in Herman and one in the middle of absolutely nowhere. One of these days in the summer I might go on a hike to get some cool shots but that's an iffy proposition to do by yourself with no cell phone coverage, and a train that might not even be there. I thought I could get good shots in Nestoria and Three Lakes, but it turned out that seasonal roads and shooting across a highway without any decent altitude advantage tend to yield less-than hoped for shots. At least I know where the good places are now for when the snow melts in May. This video shows one of the better locations, crossing Beaufort Lake Rd along the Spurr River near Michigamme.

There is a much longer video of the whole trip on YouTube (search CN L539) if you want to see more of it.
~Walter



Edited 1 time(s). Last edit at 12/01/19 17:30 by retlaw121.

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Date: 12/01/19 16:24
Re: The UP is scenic place to railfan...if you can find a train.
Author: DJ-12

Thanks for a look at one of those far corners of the map that we’d otherwise never get to see. What kind of industry keeps this line open? Lumber mill?

Posted from iPhone



Date: 12/01/19 16:39
Re: The UP is scenic place to railfan...if you can find a train.
Author: callum_out

You want scenic and backwoods, try the line from Channing to Wells which I think is still in place!

Out



Date: 12/01/19 17:21
Re: The UP is scenic place to railfan...if you can find a train.
Author: retlaw121

DJ-12 Wrote:
-------------------------------------------------------
> Thanks for a look at one of those far corners of
> the map that we’d otherwise never get to see.
> What kind of industry keeps this line open? Lumber
> mill?
>
> Posted from iPhone

There are two customers in L'Anse, which both use the same industrial lead. The primary customer is the L'Anse Warden Electric Company, which takes old railroad ties and woodchips to burn as fuel to generate electricity for the villiage. The second customer is CertainTeed Ceiling Tiles, which gets it's raw materials by rail, but mostly ships out product by truck. The track actually continues a few miles into Baraga, where there is a third industry with a railroad spur but they haven't used it in years. There is also a lumberyard near L'Anse with a spur track but not enough comes out of there to justify the cost of rail transport. On this particular trip, the boxcars that went in are the exact ones that came out, so I don't know what happened there.



Date: 12/01/19 17:53
Re: The UP is scenic place to railfan...if you can find a train.
Author: P

Anything from the UP is always welcome!

A little Google Earth research reveals the tracks to Houghton are gone as well as the tracks to Ontonagon.  How recent was that?  GE shows freshly rebuilt crossings near town, but the aerial view shows tracks are gone.  Looks like a big industrial site on the laskeshore was recently cleared out.  What was that?



Date: 12/01/19 18:27
Re: The UP is scenic place to railfan...if you can find a train.
Author: callum_out

Ontanagon has been gone at least five years since the Stone Container plant shut down. There was some of that line that was
retained for car storage. Houghton, don't know, haven't heard much in probably ten years.

Out



Date: 12/01/19 19:55
Re: The UP is scenic place to railfan...if you can find a train.
Author: RuleG

Thanks for sharing the video.

I traveled to and within the Upper Peninsula once.  The shoreline along Lake Superior is one of the most beautiful places I've visited and I'd sure like to get back there.  If I don't see any trains, I can always enjoy perch, walleye and pasties!



Date: 12/02/19 07:32
Re: The UP is scenic place to railfan...if you can find a train.
Author: inCHI

Thanks for posting this, it is really neat to see. Seems like a line CN could stop service on if even one more customer closes.



Date: 12/02/19 10:34
Re: The UP is scenic place to railfan...if you can find a train.
Author: retlaw121

Houghton and the rest of the Keweenaw hasn't seen rails since the 70's. They were ripped up in the early 80's. The Escanaba and Lake Superior RR has branch lines all over the place that it uses for car storage. The ELS line to Mass City still sees an occasional loging train.

A most all the rail has been removed, but there are plenty of historical markers and remnants of what once was the greats copper mining industry in America.

There is a narrow gauge tourist RR in Lake Linden, but it is entirely on private land and is not on any former right of ways. I volunteer there often and it's a cute little operation, with a working steam locomotive (which now needs significant funding for a boiler rebuild).

There is also a short cog railroad on quincy hill for sight seeing.

Posted from Android



Date: 12/03/19 06:24
Re: The UP is scenic place to railfan...if you can find a train.
Author: RailRat

Love that echo sound, and that jointed rail sound also!
Nice video, and congrats on VOTD!

Jim Baker
Riverside, CA



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