Railroads, Manistee County

No matter when you travel this way, Manistee County is a beautiful place to relax, unwind, and explore. It’s also a destination that’s just as rich in history for visitors to discover. If you’re a history buff with a passion for pursuing the past, the following landmarks are sure to thrill the next time you’re in town.

Railroads Expansion in the Name of Lumber

Historically, Manistee grew on the foundation of the lumber industry and required an extensive network of railroads in order to thrive. As logs were hauled out of local forests and to various sawmills surrounding Manistee Lake, the railroad network was designed to keep pace. While there were four major railroads that were originally used for lumber transport, some would go on to be transitioned to passenger service by the turn of the 20th century. It was a move that would solidify Manistee’s prime place in the lumbering industry across Northern Michigan.

The Northeastern Railroad

Construction on the Northeastern Railroad running through Manistee began in May of 1887. This logging railroad was pushed forward by The Buckley and Douglas Lumber Company. Eventually, the monetary value of passenger service came to light, and in 1889 the first official run of the Manistee and Northeastern debuted. More track was laid up until 1892 allowing this railroad to run to Traverse City as well as destinations like Chief Lake, Bear Creek, Kaleva, Lemon Lake, and more. With the arrival of automobiles, train service on this line dwindled over time however, the railroad’s legacy would continue on through 1982 as a route for freight.

The Luther Railroad

The longest-lived railroad in the area was the Manistee and Luther Railroad. Construction on this line started in 1885 at the Peters Mill in Eastlake and operations would continue through 1913.

Grand Rapids

The Grand Rapids railroad came into operation in Manistee County not long after the Northeastern line was up and running. The railroad was incorporated by local stockholders who had interests in the lumber industry. This line rang its way through Filer City and crossed into Mason and Lake counties. While initially used to haul logs exclusively, the line would eventually transport passengers too.

The Flink and Pere Marquette Railroad

The fourth major historic railroad in Manistee County is The Flink and Pere Marquette Railroad. This post-Civil War railroad would end up providing vital passenger service for 80 years and freight service through the area for no less than 125 years.

Where to Learn More

The history of Manistee County railroads is vast and fascinating. To learn more about the tracks that elevated the area’s status in the lumber and transport industries, take some time to check out the in-depth exhibits and displays at the Manistee Historical Museum the next time you’re here. Beyond railroad history, Manistee County hosts 28 historical sites including the Manistee Iron Works at 254 River Street that was built in 1907. The Manistee Northpier Lighthouse at Fifth Avenue Beach dates back to 1927 while the Ramsdell Theatre on Maple Street is a testament to entertainment and architecture specific to 1902.

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