Sunday, July 19, 2020

The Traverse City Leelanau and Manistique Railroad

The Traverse City Leelanau and Manistique Railroad was a railroad line built by the Grand Rapids & Indiana Railroad to built north from Traverse City, MI. Service ran north to Northport, MI beginning in 1901, and via a railcar ferry over Lake Michigan, connected to Manistique in Michigan's Upper Peninsula, with ferry service starting two years later in 1903. The ferry used a ship known as the Manistique for its journey between Northport and its namesake city.

Sutton's Bay Depot, c.1920. Image via ExploreVistas


In January, 1908, the Manistique sank in the harbor. It was temporarily replaced by an Ann Arbor car ferry but the ferry operation was discontinued in 1908. (Michigan Railroads)

A picture of the Manistique Ferry. Image: Michigan Railroads

In 1919, the line was reorganized as the Manistee & Northeastern Railroad, which served passenger and freight operations until 1955, when those were assumed by the Chesapeake & Ohio. Freight service declined over time, and passenger service ended in 1975.

Between 1989 and 1995, the Leelanau Scenic Railway ran along the branch to Sutton's Bay, MI. After the tourist operation folded, the line was abandoned. Today, the Leelanau Trail preserves the right of way between Traverse City and Sutton's Bay, with the line completely abandoned north of Sutton's Bay.

A switcher engine of the Leelanau Scenic Railroad showing the old M&NE livery. Image: Eddie Gross
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