The Manistee & North Eastern
The history of the Manistee & North Eastern spans 68 years, from its inception in 1887 until its merger into the Chesapeake & Ohio in 1955. During its final 24 years, the M&NE was controlled by the Pere Marquette.
Originally chartered to build between Manistee and Grand Traverse Bay, it took five years to complete the line between Manistee and Traverse City, by way of Interlochen and Solon. This circuitous route was chosen to maximize the amount of dense timber which could be felled and shipped. In 1909, construction began on the line from Kaleva along the Manistee River to Grayling. Ten years later, the M&NE leased the Leelanau Transit Company trackage from Hatch's Crossing to Northport. By this time, carferries no longer called at Northport.
The major traffic on the M&NE was, first and foremost, lumber. Its major function was originally to haul lumber from the northwestern Lower Peninsula to the mills and port at Manistee. As the line matured, it began to depend more upon produce, largely the Grand Traverse region's bountiful cherry crops, and salt from the Manistee area. The freight car fleet consisted mainly of box cars and flat cars. In later years, these were hand-me-downs from the PM, as were several of the M&NE's cabooses. Passenger service was minimal, utilizing either a drover's caboose, #9, or, in later years, one of two ex-PM steel-sheathed wooden combines, #425 and 426 (ex-PM #537 and 538). The body of #9 has been enclosed, insulated, and is now used as the tender's shack at the swing bridge in Manistee.
At its greatest extent, the M&NE interchanged with six railroads:
- Ann Arbor RR - Copemish
- Arcadia & Betsey River RR - Copemish
- Empire & South Eastern RR - Honor
- Leelanau Transit Company - Hatch's Crossing
- Michigan Central - Grayling
- Pennsylvania RR - Traverse City
- Pere Marquette - Honor, Manistee, Traverse City, with a connection, also, at Copemish
Motive power during the steam era was largely second-hand and sketchily-documented. The M&NE used locomotives originally from a number of roads. A partial roster is shown below.
Builder First On
Notes 0-6-0 27 unknown 1929 1937 Purchased used. Sold to Ludington & Northern 474, 481 ALCo-Brooks 1933 1948 Ex-PM 2-6-0 3 unknown 1889 unknown Built for the M&NE 8 Baldwin 1900 unknown ex-Kansas City, Wyandotte & Northwestern 12 Baldwin 1899 1947 Built new for M&NE 18 ALCo-Cooke 1904 1947 Built new for M&NE 19 Baldwin 1907 unknown Built 1891 for Manistee & Grand Rapids 2-8-0 2 Pennsylvania RR 1909 1925 Built by PRR in 1888. 21 Pennsylvania RR 1909 1925 Built by PRR in 1888. 26 M&NE 1926 1935 Built by M&NE using parts from #2 and #21 325 ALCo-Brooks 1933 1948 Built for PM in 1903 4-4-0 4 unknown 1890 unknown Built new for M&NE 7 unknown 1900 unknown 10, 14, 15 Rogers 1898-1899 unknown Built in 1881 and 1886 for Northern Pacific predecessor St. Paul & Duluth 4-6-0 11 Mason unknown unknown Built for Lehigh Valley 16 unknown 1900 unknown Built 1890 for ATSF 17 unknown 1900 unknown Built 1891 for P&LE
All steam was retired by the end of 1948, with the arrival of the M&NE's last two diesels. The Spring, 2005 issue of Locomotive Quarterly magazine contains an illustrated 14-page article on the M&NE's locomotives.
Three diesels were purchased in the 1940s: a GE 44-ton switcher, #1, purchased in 1946, and two EMD NW2s, #2 and #3, purchased in 1948. All three locomotives were painted similarly to the PM's later NW2s, in blue, with yellow lettering and yellow nose and sill stripes trimmed in red. Number 3, as it happens, is now the sole remaining PM-related NW2 in existance, #2 and all fourteen of the PM NW2s having been scrapped.
We can account for four cabooses owned by the M&NE: #10 (shown in the photo below) was an ex-Northern Pacific wood caboose, and numbers 15-17 were three ex-PM wood cabooses purchased from the Chesapeake & Ohio in 1948.
In 1924, the line from Kaleva to Grayling was abandoned. Ten years later, the M&NE and the PM, which in 1931 had purchased controlling interest, consolidated their lines between Kaleva and Interlochen, resulting in the abandonment of the M&NE's trackage between these points. They also abandoned the track between Interlochen and Solon at that time. In 1944. the branch from Traverse City to Provemont (Lake Leelanau) was abandoned
The Manistee & North Eastern was finally merged into the C&O on November 30, 1955. After the C&O abandoned much of its Northern Michigan trackage in the 1980s, only the M&NE yard trackage and a few of its customer sidings in Manistee remain. For a few years in the early 1990s, the Leelanau Scenic Railroad operated the ex-M&NE trackage using ex-M&NE #3 and an ex-C&O SW9 between Greilicksville (northwest of Traverse City) and Sutton's Bay. The assets of this line were sold at auction in late 1997. Sections of the former Leelanau Transit Company right-of-way are now a recreation trail.
M&NE #3, the last remaining M&NE locomotive, is preserved at the depot museum in Kaleva, Michigan.
Manistee Yard, 1949
From the Art Million Collection
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